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Still Young, Less Restless: Good News for Daytime Dramas

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Maybe it was the Hoff. On Monday, CBS announced that it had renewed “The Young and the Restless,” the soap opera that launched the career of David Hasselhoff and thus can be blamed for transforming America’s cultural landscape into a dilapidated amusement park filled with dope fiends and abandoned babies. Hasselhoff recently returned to the show to reprise the role of Dr. William “Snapper” Foster. Is there a link between the Hoff’s triumphant homecoming and CBS' decision to pick up three more “Restless” seasons? God, let’s hope not.

The news comes just weeks after NBC ordered two more seasons of its daytime stalwart “Days of Our Lives.” Together, the renewals provide some encouragement for a corner of the acting business that was in great need of it. In 2009, as CBS announced that two of its long-running daytime dramas—“Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns”—would come to their ends, industry observers and insiders lined up to shed tears over the genre’s corpse.

“The writing was on the wall about daytime and that it was a changing market a long time ago,” said Holter Graham, president of the New York local of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, last December. “The economic crisis given to us by the Bush administration sped up that process and made that writing on the wall bright yellow highlighter.”

At the time, Graham’s East Coast constituency especially was covered in highlighter ink. Both “Light” and “World” were shot in New York, and ABC had just announced plans to relocate a third NYC soap, “All My Children,” to Southern California. Fewer than two years ago, four daytime dramas were shot in the city. Today only ABC’s “One Life to Live” remains.

But actors on both coasts who rely on the soaps for work can take some solace in the fact that 2010 was not 2009. The decision to ship “All My Children” west may have saved not only that show but also “Life,” which had been rumored to be next in line for the mercy seat. The move made the former series cheaper to produce and provided the latter with a larger studio space to shoot in.

But good news (or lack of bad news, rather) aside, the writing may still be on the wall for daytime dramas. Ratings continue to be a shadow of what they were just more than a decade ago, and competition from cable programming, new media, and cheap-to-produce reality shows is only growing. That said, though the end may be near, at least it didn’t arrive this year.

Pictured: David Hasselhoff and Trish Stewart in "The Young and the Restless"

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