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Soap Bubble Bursts? 'AMC' and the Death of Daytime

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Well, that was a short party. Any encouragement that actors may have felt after CBS renewed “The Young and the Restless” and NBC ordered two more seasons of “Days of Our Lives” late last year was likely washed away this week when Deadline reported that ABC is close to scaling back its daytime-drama lineup, with the long-running “All My Children”—otherwise known as “that show with the lady who didn’t get an Emmy for a really long time”—most likely to face the executioner. “Children” has seen its viewership decline sharply in recent years and routinely comes in last in the ratings among the six network daytime dramas. Half of those six reside at ABC. Deadline attributes the network’s continued commitment to the format, at a time when its rivals have been moving toward reality and talk-show programming, to the existence of corporate cousin SOAPnet, which rebroadcasts ABC’s dramas. But SOAPnet, like the soaps, is not long for this world. Next year, the station will metamorphose into Disney Junior and will likely have little use for stories about illicit affairs, serial killers, and demonic possessions (except maybe for that Disney animated musical version of “The Exorcist”). But hey, you never know.

The renewals of “Restless” and “Days” provided welcome news for a sector of the acting community—those who work regularly in daytime—unaccustomed to it. Audience fragmentation, brought on by cable and the Web in the last decade, led to declining ratings across the genre, which in turn brought the cancellations of “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns” at CBS and “Passions” at NBC. In a cost-saving move, ABC relocated “Children” from its New York studio to a Southern California facility in 2010, a move that was credited with saving the show but which also left New York, formerly home to four daytime dramas, with only one. That show, “One Life to Live,” may itself be headed westward. TVSquad.com reported this week that “Life” could be moved to the studio currently occupied by “Children” should the latter show indeed be axed. (An ABC rep issued a tepid rebuttal to the Deadline piece, telling the New York Post that the report is “just another story in a long line of stories about this same topic.”) For those New York actors without a calculator at hand, one minus one equals zero.

Discussing the daytime-drama market back in September 2009, Holter Graham, president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ New York division, told Back Stage, “You’re seeing there’s a lack of health in that genre, and it’s hitting New York.” That was close to 18 months ago, and any observer would be hard-pressed to look at those 18 months and say that network daytime hasn’t become an even less hospitable place for actors in that time. The party may not be quite over, but the host has turned the lights up and pulled out the black trash bags. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

Pictured: Michael Nouri in "All My Children"

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