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Tune In Tomorrow: No Soap Reruns for Now
Topic Started: Nov 10 2007, 06:17 PM (346 Views)
Steve Frame
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http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/arts/tel...gin&oref=slogin

Yes, Tune In Tomorrow: No Soap Reruns for Now

By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: November 8, 2007

While the sidelining of “The Colbert Report” until further notice is one of the more prominent repercussions of the film and television writers’ strike, there are other uncertainties: Will that passionate kiss shared this week by Marina and Cyrus after Cyrus nearly died signal a permanent reconciliation?

Those characters appear on the CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light.” And like their fictional brethren on “All My Children” on ABC and “Days of Our Lives” on NBC, those characters’ futures — or at least who will be responsible for scripting their futures — could soon become as unsure as the prospects of Ric surviving this week’s surgery on “General Hospital.”

Unlike late-night television shows or sitcoms, networks almost never show reruns of soap operas. They prefer instead to keep the interwoven narratives churning forward over the course of five new episodes a week, 52 weeks a year. For the immediate future viewers addicted to those shows can breathe easy: The producers of most of the shows possess finished or nearly finished scripts for episodes scheduled to be broadcast through January or even beyond.

But because the episodes of daytime dramas are mapped out so far in advance, the networks will soon have to confront the question of whether to entrust the intricacies of their forthcoming plots to the unseasoned pens of executives and producers, or writers who are not part of the union. That is what happened in 1988, when a strike by the same union, the Writers Guild of America, dragged on for more than five months.

“They won’t go dark,” predicted Stephen Demorest, 58, a writer for “All My Children” whose previous credits include “General Hospital” and “As the World Turns.” “They won’t put on game shows. They won’t do reruns.”

The networks themselves have said little more than that their daytime serials will go on, while refusing to discuss any contingency plans.

On its face, the labor dispute between writers and their employers — centered largely on potential royalties from DVDs and online ventures — would seem to have little bearing on soap-opera writers, whose wares are as perishable as a printed copy of a daily newspaper.

But as with so many of the traditional media, daytime dramas have already begun to migrate, however tentatively, to the Web. NBC, which had three soap operas on broadcast television as recently as 1999 — “Days of Our Lives,” “Passions” and “Another World” — now has only one, “Days.” (“Passions” lives on only on DirecTV, a satellite channel.)

NBC’s newest soap, “Coastal Dreams,” can be seen only online, at nbc.com. And its principal writer is not, as yet, covered by the guild contract, said David Rupel, a guild strike captain who is a writer for “The Guiding Light.”

“I think the strike is very relevant to us,” said Mr. Rupel, 44, who previously wrote for “General Hospital.” “‘Guiding Light,’ we celebrated our 75th anniversary this year, which is great. But the soap market is dwindling on TV. In five years, three years or even two, we could be on the Internet.”

Courtney Simon, a veteran writer for “As the World Turns,” noted that her series and “The Young and the Restless,” another CBS drama, had recently mounted a limited, online run of an amalgam of both shows called “L.A. Diaries.”

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” she said. “And it’s going to hit home very soon.”

But in expressing his solidarity with striking writers from other genres, Mr. Demorest, who has been writing for daytime dramas for more than two decades, gave a more basic reason: “We benefit from the same benefits, pensions and health plans.”

With no break for repeats or hiatuses, Mr. Demorest said he tended to think of himself and his fellow soap scribes as “the blue-collar part of the business. We work 52 weeks a year and get a check every week.”

The minimum salary for such work might run from as little as $1,600 a week (for a minimum of 13 weeks) for a script editor, to as much as $20,000 a week for a veteran head writer.

Typically such series are written by teams of experienced writers — it is not unusual for a soap writer to stay in the business 15 years or more — who bring vast institutional knowledge, such as it is, to pertinent questions like whether one character has already slept with another or is distantly related to a third.

Most shows are as well oiled behind the scenes as a General Motors assembly line. In a typical model the head writer roughs out the synopsis of a week’s worth of episodes, then gives those plots to another set of writers to outline individual scenes in more detail. Each episode is then divvied up among another team of writers, to supply the dialogue, before an editor provides a final gloss.

Ms. Simon of “As the World Turns” said there were probably some soap producers out there who have always wondered what it would be like to write an episode. While they may soon get the chance, she warned that it is not as easy as it must look.

“It really requires a relentless pace,” she said.

Alain Delaquérière contributed reporting.
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skiman1208
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I thought Guiding Light just celebrated its 70th anniversary not its 75th.
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juniorz1
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The Royal Stoner

skiman12082004
Nov 10 2007, 07:41 PM
I thought Guiding Light just celebrated its 70th anniversary not its 75th.

70th anniversary on television. Guiding Light started as a radio soap a few years before making the leap to TV.
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Y&RWorldTurner
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Sharongate, bitches!

juniorz1
Nov 10 2007, 08:03 PM
skiman12082004
Nov 10 2007, 07:41 PM
I thought Guiding Light just celebrated its 70th anniversary not its 75th.

70th anniversary on television. Guiding Light started as a radio soap a few years before making the leap to TV.

It's 75 years all together, it debuted on radio in 1937 and on television in 1952. This marks GL's 55th year on television.
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