Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Flashback: Schism in the world of the Grand Old Soap Opera

There's a schism in the world of the Grand Old Soap Opera.; Life can be beautiful/relevant Soap Opera

New York Times
By Anthony Astrachan
Mar 23, 1975

There are 14 soaps on the air, watched every weekday by 20 million to 30 million people. Although each soap has been half an hour long since 1956, ANOTHER WORLD recently expanded to an hour and DAYS OF OUR LIVES will follow suit next month - possibly initiating a trend the others will follow. The average program has 6.7 million viewers according to the A.C. Nielsen research organization., and the number is growing as recession keeps more and more unemployed people at home.

More than 11 percent of viewers are men. The households breakdown economically and educationally in proportions similar to the population as a whole - 51.4 percent with household incomes under $10,000, for instance, and 23.9 percent with incomes over $15,000. About 24.8 percent of household heads have only an elementary school education, while 56.2 percent have a high school education or better. The 14 serials cost more than $50 million a year to produce; actors make a minimum of $211 per half-hour show and go up to a maximum of $100,000 a year, while a writer makes a minimum of $3,000 a week after paying his subwriters. The programs gross more than $300 million a year from the makers of soaps, deodorants, cake mixes and other household products, providing a disproportionate share of network profits through nighttime budgets are much larger.

This money pays for an art form from the prime goal of which is dramatic entertainment, whether it mixes realism with its fantasy or keeps the fantasy pure. Paul Rauch, once a vice president at CBS and now producer of ANOTHER WORLD at NBC, refuses to admit that classical soap opera is fantasy, however. He worked in the Midwest for 10 years - for Proctor & Gamble, which sponsors six daytime dramas - and insists that his program "truly reflects middle class, Middle West culture. Its characters are realistic, believable, do things that a lot of the viewing public do."

In the reflection of reality on ANOTHER WORLD, only four of the 14 women characters have jobs, only one of them because she needs the oney she earns. Sex is frequent enough but seldom talked about, and social issues are seldom mentioned.

A poll taken by the Screen Actors Guild in 22 daily newspapers in different parts of the country drew 10,079 responses. More ethan 86 percent who responded said they would like to see actresses portraying women in professions. More than 68 percent said they did not think that the images of women presented on TV were truthful and believable, and more than 85 percent said they did not identify with women on soap operas. They wanted more realism.

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