The New York Times - Earlier this month, the ABC soap opera “One Life to Live” featured a scene in which Todd, the publisher of the local newspaper, and Tea, his lawyer, had a conversation about Todd’s legal problems, which ranged from being a murder suspect to being on trial for kidnapping.
Tea: I warmed up some soup for you. I don’t want you to go to the police station on an empty stomach.
(Already we are on new ground since characters in soap operas do not, as a rule, ever eat anything.)
Todd: What kind of soup is this?
Tea: It’s Campbell’s. It’s healthy, good for your heart.
Todd: (spooning away) Yeah, it’s good.
Before we go any further, let me just say that I understand soap operas are not high on your list of concerns, what with the economy flat-lining and all. However, the two things are somewhat related.
... Which I will explain after pointing out that I do not actually spend my afternoons watching “One Life to Live.” Do we have that clear? O.K., let’s move forward.
For some time now, characters in daytime dramas have been taking time from their normal activities, like having amnesia, to engage in animated discussions about the sponsors’ products. The ABC soap actors spent February talking about how Campbell’s soup and other assorted products are good for your heart. (And tasty, too!)
Lynn Leahey, the editorial director of Soap Opera Digest, pointed to an episode of “As the World Turns” in which Margo needed to get her hair fixed before a date with her husband (don’t ask) and reached for a bottle of Nice ’n Easy Root Touch-Up. “I feel like I took off 10 years in 10 minutes!” she exclaimed.
And here’s the thing. Viewers don’t complain. “Oh well... To keep the soaps on the air. To keep the actors paid,” wrote a philosophical e-mailer on a soap opera chat site.
Daytime dramas are swimming in choppy waters these days. Ratings are down. Shows are getting canceled. “They’re struggling to find a business model that works,” said Leahey, in a remark I have heard a time or two lately in other contexts.
So, the viewers acquiesce. In fact, for all the complaining about car bailouts and greedy bankers, people have become extremely tolerant of irritating behavior on the part of struggling corporations. Lines we never even bothered to think of as lines are being crossed. Last summer in Las Vegas, the anchors on the local Fox station started delivering the news with two prominently placed cups of McDonald’s iced coffee in front of them. A spokesperson called it a “nontraditional revenue source.” It’s only a matter of time before TV reporters conclude interviews with disaster victims by asking if they wouldn’t like a refreshing glass of V-8.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/opinion/28collins.html
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