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Old 07-29-2019, 05:00 AM   #1
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Default COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History

https://www.welovesoaps.net/2011/09/blunders51.html

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Was it O.J. Simpson, women in the workplace, Reality TV, or did the soaps kill themselves with one bad decision after another? You decide. Our countdown of the 25 Biggest Blunders in Daytime Soap Opera History continues with blunders number 5-1.
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5. Firing Michael Zaslow from GL when he became ill

Soap opera actors have been fired or let go in many disrespectful ways over the years. For example, GENERAL HOSPITAL's Anna Lee, who had reportedly been promised a lifetime contract from a previous production regime, was fired in 2003, and she died a few months later. But the most disrespectful and disgusting casting move of them all was the way Procter & Gamble and GUIDING LIGHT treated Michael Zaslow. The word "blunder" hardly begins to describe it.

Zaslow had played soap roles before GUIDING LIGHT's Roger Thorpe, but it was his time as Roger that built him into a legend. He first joined GL in 1971, and fans fell in love with the character, and the actor, throughout the 1970s. The strong and devilish Roger was a villain like no one had ever created before. However, he "died" in 1980, and Zaslow went onto ONE LIFE TO LIVE to create another successful character, David Renaldi.

Zaslow returned to GL in full force in 1989. Roger's "death" was explained, and he fit back into the canvas immediately. He was a foil to the Bauers, the Spauldings, and provided endless hours of dysfunctional family drama with Holly, Blake, and Hart. In 1994 he was rewarded with the Emmy for outstanding actor in a daytime series.

It was in September 1996 that Zaslow began experiencing slightly slurred speech on the set of GL. Over the next few months, as he began to lose weight and the slurring escalated, he underwent a battery of tests (doctors suspected everything from myasthenia gravis to Lyme disease).

In April 1997, Procter & Gamble, which produced GL, took Zaslow off the air and shamelessly admitted that it was because of his condition (eventually, they replaced him with another actor, Dennis Parlato).

P&G exec Mary Alice Dobbins gained notoriety when she told TV Guide: "Roger is a powerful, active, sexual, multicolored villain. That's who we need him to be on the GL canvas. We do not need a wizened little old man. And that's what he would have to play in his condition."

Zaslow was a team player and GUIDING LIGHT champion. In turn, GL mocked him publicly and kicked him when he was down. In the September 1997 issue of People magazine, it was revealed that the unemployed soap star no longer received his full salary. He was in arbitration with P&G Productions about compensation. Zaslow stated that he had first suggested incorporating his condition "into the character, like a stroke," but GL executive producer Paul Rauch turned down the idea. "[Thorpe] has great strength and power," says Rauch. "It didn't seem characteristic for us to stop, then begin telling a story about whatever [Zaslow's] problem was."

The arbitration suit ended a month after his condition was finally diagnosed--Zaslow had ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). Zaslow called the settlement "fair" but was not allowed to discuss specifics.

Would GL have kept Zaslow on if his condition had been known at the time he was let go? Zaslow didn't think so, saying, "If I had been diagnosed with ALS while I was on GL, I do not in truth believe it would have gone down any differently. I think they would have booted me out of there even faster, out of fear. It takes brave people with a sense of fighting spirit and humanity to behave with dignity in a crisis. Those at the top [of P&G] were not up to it. I bought into [the idea of GL] being a family and I have been hurt."

Luckily, in 1998 ONE LIFE TO LIVE hired him to reprise his role as David, Dorian's ex-husband. First of all, what a classy move. Well done, OLTL. Second, this final role demonstrates, without a doubt, that GL could have kept him on. For six months, unable to speak or walk, Zaslow offered OLTL viewers a memorable and sensitive portrayal of a strong man afflicted with a life-changing illness. No doubt he managed to change a few lives himself in the process.

After his diagnosis, Zaslow and his wife since 1975, Susan Hufford, exhaustively campaigned for ALS research funds. She continued to do so after his death. In 2005 Hufford published "Not That Man Anymore: (A Message From Michael)" using his personal journals. Hufford passed away in November 2006.

Undoubtedly, GL missed a huge opportunity to educate viewers about the early warning signs of this devastating illness. Yet, firing Michael Zaslow did more than just damage the show creatively. It left the audience with a sad, disgusting insight into the politics at P&G, making it immensely challenging to support the show and its sponsors for quite some time.

4. ABC canceling ONE LIFE TO LIVE

Beloved soap operas had been canceled before, including the 35 year-old (or older) SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, ANOTHER WORLD, AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT. Even though we hated these decisions, and boy did they hurt, at least, from a business perspective, the networks could justify them to a degree because of declining ratings, evaporating creativity, and usually, a last-place standing in that network's soap ratings.

SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, for example, was a shell of it former self when it left the airwaves in 1986, and although we still claim replacing the show with WORDPLAY was a blunder in and of itself, at least there was a shred of logic.

But ONE LIFE TO LIVE was actually on the rise in the ratings at the time of its cancellation. It was ABC Daytime's top-rated daytime drama, a first for a canceled soap, and it was a top 3 program in the important Women 18-49 demo. It even finished #1 in the coveted demographic of women 18-34 for two weeks in a row (August 22-26th, August 29th-September 2nd)! Who cancels their most watched soap?

Since the news was released on April 14, along with word that the show's replacement would be lifestyle-talker THE REVOLUTION, ONE LIFE TO LIVE has actually soared in the ratings even more, gaining more than half a million viewers year-over-year for several weeks. That's huge in terms of daytime ratings in 2011. We're sad about the cancellation of ALL MY CHILDREN as well, but let that fall under our #9 blunder (hiring Brian Frons and all the mistakes associated with that). It was in last place in the ratings at the time, like the other, aforementioned soaps.

OLTL has once again become must-see-TV, and it's the network's top soap in total viewers. It is up in every single demo from a year ago. Why is it going off the air in January 2012?

ABC and Brian Frons blew this one big time. We hope Prospect Park's pick up of both ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN for airing on the internet will someday make our "best decisions" list. Until then, we mourn the loss of this successful, popular institution and, also, the loss of network management's sanity as well.

3. Elimination of Core Families

From the Ames' on THE SECRET STORM and the Matthews on ANOTHER WORLD, to the HUGHES/LOWELL/STEWARTS on AS THE WORLD TURNS and Bauers on GUIDING LIGHT, the elimination of core families on the family-based soaps helped lead to each of the programs' decline, as well as a decline in the genre as a whole.

Can a show survive, thrive and maintain an audience when founding families are diminished or completely wiped out? This once worked successfully on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS as the show changed focus from the Brooks and Foster families to the Abbotts and Newmans. That transition, however, was executed by the delicate and thoughtful pen of original head writer Bill Bell. GUIDING LIGHT also lost core families when transferring from radio to television, but the Bauers were the center of the CBS version of the show.

In general, losing the main core family, can turn a soap opera into what is functionally a brand new show. AS THE WORLD TURNS originated with the Hughes and Lowell families in 1956. Over time, the Lowells and Stewarts sort of merged into one bigger family. ATWT's attempted to keep the Stewarts alive in its final decade involved having Susan use her ex-husband's last name again (the long dead Dan) even after having been remarried to another man. Her daughter from that marriage, Alison McDermott, would be aged and call herself Alison Stewart. Strange! Susan's maiden name would be understandable, but an ex-husband's name who died before Ali was born? Emily Stewart was the last remaining Stewart/Lowell when ATWT ended in September 2010.

ANOTHER WORLD went on the air in 1964 as a show about the Matthews family. 20 years later, most of the Matthews were gone. Even a return by Jacqueline Courtney for the show's 20th anniversary fizzled, because the landscape had change so much by them. Better writers could have made it work, but that wasn't the case. Years later, having Josie turn out to be the daughter of Russ Matthews was a stroke of genius, but a revival of the Matthews family was not to be.

After Bert Bauer died on GUIDING LIGHT, fans expected the show to continue with Ed and Mike front and center, and even Hillary. But Mike and Hillary weren't long for Springfield, and Ed was on the canvas off and on by the late 1990s. Bringing on Mary Stuart as Meta was wonderful and Michelle and Rick had storylines, but the missing Mike and his daughter, Hope, left a gaping hole felt until the very end.

Would keeping the core of these beloved families together have saved these canceled shows? With all the other blunders made on our list, it is debatable. But we are willing to bet that more longtime, multi-generational fans would have stayed tuned-in longer. Never underestimate the loyalty of a soap fan who grew up loving their soap's family along with their own family.

2. WIPING (Decades of soap history destroyed)

Want to watch Joan Crawford's appearance on THE SECRET STORM? Want to watch the entire Steve-Rachel-Alice triangle on ANOTHER WORLD? Want to watch about any soap episode from the 1950s to the late 1970s? Well, you are out of luck due to WIPING, a term used for action taken by radio and television production and broadcasting companies, in which old audiotapes, videotapes, and telerecordings (kinescopes), were erased, reused, or destroyed after several uses.

The practice was prevalent for decades, until the late 1970s, and it's astounding how much of our soap opera history was lost because of it. Most soaps transitioned from live broadcast to videotape during the 1960s, and it was a common practice to wipe and reuse the tapes. At the time, it was an expensive proposition to save that footage, to be sure, but didn't anyone have any foresight about wanting to see these shows later? Did no one understand the history they were destroying?

Most soaps began routinely saving their episodes between 1976 and 1979. When you see classic episodes aired on SOAPnet, or if you watched the Classic Soap channel P&G had on AOL a few years ago, you probably noticed that most of the episodes were from the late 1970s and later. Some soap operas have saved recordings of all their episodes, or they have put together collections thanks to fans. DARK SHADOWS has its entire five year run on ABC from 1966-1971. RYAN'S HOPE has its 1975-1989 run intact. But think of GUIDING LIGHT, SECRET STORM, AS THE WORLD TURN, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, EDGE OF NIGHT, and so many more classic and short-lived soap episodes that are lost forever. The number of surviving monochrome episodes recorded on kinescope outnumber color episodes for most of these programs, but the number we have is still small compared to what is gone.

Agnes Nixon and ABC were wise enough to save ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN episodes from the beginning--but in a cruel twist of fate, a fire destroyed most of the archives until the late 1970s. Different circumstances? Certainly. But they had an eerily similar outcome.

The Paley Center and the UCLA Film & Television Archive have some of the episodes that were spared from the wiping practice. We highly recommend checking out both to see some of the soap history that survived. And although it's a long shot, we implore any readers that, somehow, may have some kind of access to what may be a recording of a lost episode to please let us know.

Who is to blame for this blunder? Many people from P&G, as well as the other producer/sponsors and the networks themselves. Is there anything we can do? We must work as a community to locate, identify, and preserve any media that is part of our soap history, from audio tapes to scripts to books and magazines. And we must be vigilant: when soaps are streamed over the Internet, once again we will be vulnerable. The "hard copies" will be on servers somewhere, where they will be open to hacking, flooding, theft and so on, as well as more fires. And of course, data storage and maintenance is expensive; as episodes age, in the years and decades to come, can we be sure that a short-sighted corporate penny-pincher--all it takes is one--won't start wiping again?

1. Erica's unabortion

This is the most repugnant story line rewrite ever. ALL MY CHILDREN made television history by having Erica Kane become the first woman on TV to have had a legal abortion, even before the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. This storyline choice made headlines, and it was perceived by feminists as a defining moment in women's history as well. Furthermore, it proved daytime television's ability to address complex social issues that were relevant to its audience, as well as demonstrating the sophistication of that audience.

Erica, then married to Dr. Jeff Martin, did not want to end her modeling career. She chose to abort her pregnancy secretly, without Jeff's consent. Her secret didn't last long, as she contracted an infection from the procedure, and word got out. What makes the abortion particularly controversial is Erica's reason for doing it: not for reasons of health, but so that she can keep her job. In the end, the controversy did not hurt ratings, either. They rose from 8.2 to 9.1.

In May 2005, Dr. Greg Madden came to Pine Valley. He was soon followed by his son, Josh, first played by Scott Kinworthy, then replaced three months later with Colin Egglesfield. Head writer Megan McTavish set off controversy when the abortion storyline, now part of television history, was retconned in order to establish that Erica's aborted fetus was transferred into another woman's uterus.

Her son, Josh Madden, would eventually learn of his true parentage. Erica hired Josh to produce her talk show, “New Beginnings.” Josh lined up his father, Greg Madden, a well-known fertility expert, to be one of the first guests. Erica couldn’t place where she had met Dr. Madden until a bizarre series of events revealed that Dr. Madden had not only performed her abortion a few years back but developed a creepy obsession with her and implanted her aborted embryo into his own wife using a revolutionary new technique.

Megan McTavish "unaborting" Erica's fetus in this offensive story alienated and offended loyal viewers in droves. In an attempt to correct the error, the writers killed "Josh" in 2009, but it was too little too late. The damage was done, the shark was jumped, and AMC has only hemorrhaged viewers ever since. With equal parts historical ignorance, political inanity, and creative ineptitude, McTavish gave birth to what is officially the number one greatest blunder in daytime soap opera history.


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Old 07-29-2019, 09:54 AM   #2
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I stopped watching GL when Zaslow was fired. It was despicable.
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