The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era

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The soap opera, one of U.S. television's longest-running and most influential formats, is on the brink. Declining ratings have been attributed to an increasing number of women working outside the home and to an intensifying competition for viewers' attention from cable and the Internet. Yet, soaps' influence has expanded, with serial narratives becoming commonplace on most prime time TV programs. The Survival of Soap Opera investigates the causes of their dwindling popularity, describes their impact on TV and new media culture, and gleans lessons from their complex history for twenty-first-century media industries.

The book contains contributions from established soap scholars such as Robert C. Allen, Louise Spence, Nancy Baym, and Horace Newcomb, along with essays and interviews by emerging scholars, fans and Web site moderators, and soap opera producers, writers, and actors from ABC's General Hospital, CBS's The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, and other shows. This diverse group of voices seeks to intervene in the discussion about the fate of soap operas at a critical juncture, and speaks to longtime soap viewers, television studies scholars, and media professionals alike.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604737165
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 10/15/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Ford, Bowling Green, Kentucky, is a research affiliate with Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Convergence Culture Consortium and Director of Customer Insights for Peppercom Strategic Communications.

Abigail De Kosnik, San Francisco, California, is an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Berkeley Center for New Media and the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.

C. Lee Harrington, Oxford, Ohio, is professor of sociology and a Women's Studies Program Affiliate at Miami University. She has been conducting research on the daytime industry and soap fans since the late 1980s and is author of many published academic works on soaps, including Soap Fans with Denise D. Bielby.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Section 1 Challenges To The Future Of Soaps

Introduction: The Crisis of Daytime Drama and What It Means for the Future of Television Sam ford Abigail De Kosnik C. Lee Harrington 3

Perspective: Scholars Barbara Irwin and Mary Cassata on the State of U.S. Soap Operas C. Lee Harrington 22

Perspective: Historian William J. Reynolds on Memories of The Edge of Night Sam Ford 29

Perspective: Writer Patrick Mulcahey on Changes in Soap Opera Writing Contracts Giada Da Ros 31

Perspective: Actor Tristan Rogers on Changes in Soaps' Industry, Audiences, and Texts Abigail De Kosnik 34

Daytime Budget Cuts Sara A. Bibel 38

Agnes Nixon and Soap Opera "Chemistry Tests" Carol Traynor Williams 44

Giving Soaps a Good Scrub: ABC's Ugly Betty and the Ethnicity of Television Formats Jaime J. Nasser 49

The Way We Were: The Institutional Logics of Professionals and Fans in the Soap Opera Industry Melissa C. Scardaville 58

Section 2 Capitalizing On History

Perspective: Scholar Horace Newcomb on the Pleasures and Influence of Soaps Sam Ford 81

Perspective: Scholar Robert C. Allen on Studying Soap Operas C. Lee Harrington 83

Growing Old Together: Following As the World Turns' Tom Hughes through the Years Sam Ford 86

Perspective: Writer Kay Alden on What Makes Soaps Unique Sam Ford 101

Perspective: Scholar Nancy Baym on Soaps after the O. J. Simpson Trial Abigail De Kosnik 104

Of Soap Operas, Space Operas, and Television's Rocky Romance with the Feminine Form Christine Scodari 106

The Ironic and Convoluted Relationship between Daytime and Primetime Soap Operas Lynn Liccardo 119

Perspective: Scholar Louise Spence on Comparing the Soap Opera to Other Forms Abigail De Kosnik 130

Perspective: Scholar Jason Mittell on the Ties between Daytime and Primetime Serials Sam Ford 133

Preserving Soap History: What Will It Mean for the Future of Soaps? Mary Jeanne Wilson 140

Did the 2007 Writers Strike Save Daytime's Highest-Rated Drama? J. A. Metzler 154

Section 3 Experimenting With Production And Distribution

"The Rhetoric of the Camera in Television Soap Opera" Revisited: The Case of General Hospital Bernard M. Timberg Ernest Alba 163

Its Not All Talk: Editing and Storytelling in As the World Turns Deborah L. Jaramillo 175

Guiding Light: Relevance and Renewal in a Changing Genre Patrick Erwin 180

The Evolution of the Production Process of Soap Operas Today Erick Yates Green 187

From Daytime to Night Shift: Examining the ABC Daytime/SOAPnet Primetime Spin-of Experiment Racquel Gonzales 191

"What the hell does TIIC mean?" Online Content and the Struggle to Save the Soaps Elana Levine 201

The Evolution of the Fan Video and the Influence of YouTube on the Creative Decision-Making Process for Fans Emma F. Webb 219

Section 4 Learning From Diverse Audiences

Soaps for Tomorrow: Media Fans Making Online Drama from Celebrity Gossip Abigail De Kosnik 233

Soap Opera Critics and Criticism: Industry and Audience in an Era of Transformation Denise D. Bielby 250

Hanging on by a Common Thread Julie Porter 265

Perspective: Fan Site Moderator QueenEve on Fan Activity around and against Soaps Abigail De Kosnik 272

The Role of "The Audience" in the Writing Process Tom Casiello 275

The "Missing Years": How Local Programming Ruptured Days of Our Lives in Australia Raoha O'Meara 279

As the World Turns' Luke and Noah and Fan Activism Roger Newcomb 293

Constructing the Older Audience: Age and Aging in Soaps C. Lee Harrington Denise Brothers 300

References 315

Index 331

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