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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Like a (Soap) Virgin: Are the One Life to Live and All My Children reboots appealing to new viewers?

Two weeks ago TOLN made soap opera history with the launch of the online versions of One Life to Live and All My Children. I was among the many fans that started setting their alarms early to watch the first episodes.  Both shows had a very good couple of weeks and audience reviews have been favorable. (You can read more about that here.)

The shows have had their critics though. Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times is one of those individuals.  His review of the soaps was pretty scathing to say the least. (link) While it is obvious that Ganzlinger is not nor ever has been a soap fan, I don’t think his harsh criticism should be totally dismissed.  His hate for the shows did seem to be rooted more in an odd dislike for the housewives that he stero-typically assumed were the only viewers of these programs.  However, I think under the vile he spewed there were some good points that were made.  Most importantly that the shows as they are may not appeal to new viewers.  I believe the shows deserve to have a more caring critique than the one Genzlinger provided.  

My viewing experiences were different for each show.  I am a long time fan of One Life to Life and decided to watch it daily.  I like how the show felt like it was taking off where it left us and had a feel that it had never been off the air.  The changes are easy for me to adjust to and everything seems very recognizable to me.  With All My Children, I am a new viewer and I decided to watch in a marathon during the weekend.  I think this worked best as I could spend two hours learning the show instead of only half an hour at a time.  I would recommend it to those unfamiliar with the shows.

As an All My Children novice, it was a little confusing at first to get the hang of who’s who and how everyone relates.  I do wish that TOLN would have some better guidance for new viewers.  I am not a fan of exposition typically but when it is done right it can be very helpful. Some of the gaps did get filled in from one episode to the next but vague references to him, her, that day, and five years ago were a little frustrating for me.  The five year jump for All My Children did make it a little easier for me to feel as though little historical knowledge was needed for some story lines though.

While I am knowledgable about One Life to Live’s characters and history, after being a new viewer of All My Children it was clear that that some of the stories were probably only understandable by those who were already familiar with the series.  I doubt a lot of the Two Todds storyline makes sense to those who have never watched.  I think having a narrator for the first episode as One Life To Live did on its last television airing would have been a good idea.  The show could have used a voiceover telling us “this is the story of Victoria Lord Gordon Riley Burke Buchanan etc. and this is her brother Todd...”  This approach would have been helpful for All My Children as well.

I had originally thought that having the character names in the opening credits of All My Children seemed silly but it helped me learn who is who.  This probably helped long time viewers as well as with some of the new characters.  I think adding this information to the official website would also be useful.

I would really like to see TOLN worked on is its website.  For a network that is producing online programing you would think that it would have a better website. Currently the website is just links to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Hulu.  The site needs a lot more meat to it than that.  There should be cast and character bios available so that new fans can easily learn about the shows.  They could have a few of the actors or characters write a blog.  Several actors already have blogs that would be easy to move over or link to the site.  There should also be a message board and place to give viewer feedback.  I would love for fans to be able to get information on the shows' fashions so they know how they can look like their favorite soap character.  It could also have a list of the songs in each episode complete with links to where fans can buy the music and learn more about the artists.  In a nutshell, the website should be a one stop shop for everything One Life to Live and All My Children.  Don’t make the fans go elsewhere for this information!

The Friday episodes of More One Life to Live and More All My Children are a great way that TOLN is providing some viewer education.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I would want to watch these episodes every week.  The first ones left me bored outside of the actor and executive producer interviews.  The most recent ones though felt truly interactive.  Fans got to ask questions and we got a nice look at some behind the scenes stuff.  It felt like I was watching a DVD extra instead of a talk show.

Being an experienced soap viewer it was easy for me to get caught up on the happenings of Pine Valley.  I am concerned that the shows could have been a bit hard to get into for newer viewers.  Behaving as if soap fandom is an exclusive club for members only isn’t the way to go.  I feel it is important to the survival of soap operas to look at how soaps can appeal to new viewers.  The new medium opens up a lot of possibilities for the genre.  Being online isn’t just a fall back plan for programs that television networks carelessly cancel.  It is an opportunity to refresh the genre and bring in new viewership.

For me, soap viewership has primarily been done via VCRs, DVRs, and websites.  I have always been an anytime viewer.  Getting me to watch a show anytime is easy.  It’s those who are not already soap fans that will be the challenge.  Do I think that these shows are appealing to viewers unfamiliar with the genre?  I'm not sure if they are but I believe they have that potential.

1 comment:

  1. The one thing that also bothers me about the TOLN site and signing up for their emails is strange. I feel like the news they send is always late, like Soap Opera Digest seems to release the news before TOLN does. You bring up a lot of really good points though.