When I was a toddler, my mother and grandmother both watched soap operas. By the time I got to first grade, I knew all the characters on the soaps that they watched ("Search for Tomorrow", "Edge of Night", "Guiding Light", and "As the World Turns"). Over the years, I started following the soaps myself. I lamented the loss of "Search for Tomorrow" and "Edge of Night". I picked up "Capitol", and lamented its death in just a few short years. While in college, I tried to get into some of the ABC soaps (Luke and Laura fever), but didn't stick with them. I also picked up "The Young and the Restless" and then "The Bold and the Beautiful". I even got one of my roommates into watching "As the World Turns" with me (Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and Meg Ryan were all on during that era).
In grad school I bought a VCR and taped my soaps during the afternoon and watched them when I got home (much to the chagrin of my live-in boyfriend). In later years, I started reading synopses of the soaps in TV Guide and then on the Internet. I rarely actually see the shows, but I still try to read the summaries a couple of times a week. Sad, huh?
Today I read that the longest running soap, Guiding Light will end on Sept 18. This makes me sad. The original main family, the Bauers, have not been seen on the show in probably twenty years. The mainstay families since have been the Lewises and the Spauldings. The perennial vixen (bad girl, good girl, misguided girl) has been Reva Shayne Lewis. Her on-again off again romance with Josh Lewis always kept viewers coming back for more. The evil business man, Alan Spaulding, could always be counted on to inspire everyone to route against his evil plans and to pray for his opponents.
Maybe the days of the soap opera are numbered. Some say it's the economy. However, I would think that more unemployed people would equal a larger pool of potential viewers. However, soap watchers are from a different generation. Soaps were big when many women stayed home. They really started to wane when cable, VCRs, and DVD players gave those who were home during the day more options for mindless entertainment.
Perhaps the decline of the soap opera is yet another testament to the declining attention span of the American public. Soaps rarely resolve a conflict in less than a month. After all, they need you to keep coming back day after day to watch their sponsors' commercials.
I am very sad that the days of following the exploits of Reva & Josh, Alan and his son Philip, and the rest of Springfield will soon be coming to a close. It makes me wonder how much longer "As the World Turns", "The Young and the Restless," and "The Bold and the Beautiful" will be around. Though I can't watch, I will still read the summaries, and I will lament their inevitable passing.
Farewell Reva! Maybe some of the Bauers will show up in the final months. That would be fitting. (Kind of like the prodigal doctors returning to ER's final episode tonight!)