Monday, September 12, 2011

COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History (5-1)

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 concludes today with the five biggest blunders.

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.

- COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History (25-21)
- COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History (20-16)
- COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History (15-11)
- COUNTDOWN: 25 Biggest Blunders In Daytime Soap Opera History (10-6)


  1. Great work on this latest list. Whether or not fans agree with the rankings per se, it's unanimous that all are definitely BIG BLUNDERS! Thanx, WLS!

  2. I don't understand how Drake and Deidre getting fired didn't make the list. That doesn't make any sense. At all...

  3. While I don't quite agree with Reversing Erica's abortion as the #1 blunder, it certainly was a doozie. They hired John James to play Jeff Martin and then he had like 3 scenes with his new 'older' son. And what made it worse was that they never managed to do anything with the character and after they killed him off, it was like he never existed, despite the fact that Kendall was given his heart. The fact that Zach shot him, probably deliberately, was never even addressed.

  4. Great list, but I think the firing of Labine/Mayer on Ryan's Hope in the early 80's (twice!) should certainly be on that list. ABC took their best show-possibly daytime's best show ever-and deliberately sabotaged it..

  5. I think you guys have brought up some great points but some of the stuff is too specific. I agree with retconning history as being an issue and Erica's unabortion was a huge one but there have been others. How about Luke Spencer fathering a child while married to Laura. As for families its interesting how no one mentions the Quartermaines on GH probably the most talked about family on daytime and how in a period of 3 years 8 core members of that family were killed off written off including all the younger generation characters. OVerall a good list, but I think more generalities and less specifics

  6. Why would firing Diedre Hall and Drake be on here. DOOL actually didn't suffer in the ratings when they left in fact the show prosperred for 2 years without them. Personally I thought it was the bravest move Corday made and bringing characters like Maggie and Victor to the forefront helped ease that transition. I am a DOOL fan and am not excited at all about those 2 characters coming back to hog up the screen

  7. Overall, a really good list. Very insightful and spot on in many ways. Of course, I disagree on certain things. For instance, I think the Ice Princess story on General Hospital did far more damage than the demonic possession storyline on Days. Had it not been for Ice Princess, the demonic possession story might not had happened.

    Also, fans didn't expect the Bauers to continue with Mike and Hillary after Bert Bauer's death. Hillary was killed off BEFORE Bert died (around September 1984) and Mike was phased out around the same time. While Charita Bauer passed away in February 1985, Bert didn't pass away until the following spring (around March 1986). Nonetheless, ridding the show of these central characters was a critical mistake.

  8. I love these post you do, been waiting all weekend to read the rest of countdown. for Michael Z. it was devastating to have Michael as Roger then Dennis. Long time viewers of GL like myself was PISSED off. You are so right about the Bauers..Paul R. and his handy work because he want a mob family in form of Danny & Carman Santos and bye bye Bauers.

  9. Excellent list. Very comprehensive and well thought out.

    I've certainly enjoyed reading it and appreciate the time you took compiling it.

    While Erica's unabortion was certainly a huge blunder, I don't know that it was the #1 blunder in all of soap history.

    Similarly, while firing Michael Zaslow from GL was horrible, I don't know that in the overall scheme of things, it ranks as #5.

    Still think Brian Frons did far more damage to the soap genre than either Zaslow's firing or Erica's unabortion. I'd put Frons in at least the top 3, along with destruction of core families.

    By the way, it's rarely remembered/mentioned these days, but when Zaslow came back to OLTL in 98, it was Jill Farren Phelps who hired him.

    JFP may have done a lot of damage to the soaps she executive produced, but she also did some things right, at least in this case.

  10. I think #1 on the list should of been fan bases and in-fighting among the genre--My soap is better than yours mentality or the fans who played favorites and only watched/supported those they liked.

    The Sci-Fi Genre has been going through a lot of fan bashing one show against another and you can see it's hurting the results are pretty much the same as what happened with the Daytime Dramas. Sci-Fi tends to be very soapy too and harder to find it on network tv.

    I don't think the story will ever end but, our in-fighting has to stop before we can see who's at fault and how to solve the problems.

  11. James

    Jill was also the one to fire Anna Lee.

    I think overall a good list but it seems like you folks are trying to garner attention by putting the Erica Unabortion story and OLTL's cancellation at the top of the list. Are you honestly saying these 2 acts caused the most damaage to the soap genre over the past 70 years? I mean come on.

    Lack of Diversity, Use of focus groups. loss of core families should easily be the top 3 and somewhere in the top 5 is Brian Frons

  12. Great list. I'm surprised and pleased that Zaslow's mistreatment is on this list. P&G's image (and CBS, for that matter) suffered a lot of damage with their callous treatment of Zaslow. I suspect it's one reason they were kind to Anthony Herrera, allowing him to come back to ATWT over and over again, so he could maintain his insurance as a working soap actor. They undoubtedly learned their lesson with the backlash from how poorly they treated Zaslow.

    I don't necessarily agree with all of the items on the list and/or the placement of particular blunders number-wise, but a list like this makes for healthy debate about the issues facing soap fans. I fear soaps will be but a distant memory in a few years.

  13. I am disappointed with the editors of We Love Soaps, as you are generally accurate with your information. Erica's abortion on All My Children did not occur in 1973, rather it happened in 1971. Why is this so important? Erica's abortion was the first legal one presented on dramatic television prior to the Roe vs. Wade decision. In 1971, abortion was legal in a handful of states, including New York, which is where Erica aborted while pursuing a modeling career. It would be another year and a half until Bea Arthur's character aborted on the sitcom Maude, a two-part story telecast on CBS in November 1972. Thus, All My Children not only set the precedent for legal abortion on television, it did so before the real-life debate culminated in a landmark legal decision. AMC did not just reflect the society in which it existed, it had its consciousness clasped firmly on the future. However, bravo for ranking it as a Top 25 blunder, one that effectively erased 35 years of history for a cheap, ineffective storyline.

  14. Great work on this list. Some additional suggestions:

    How about the shift in focus from veteran actors and generational families to young teens and inexperienced actors? General Hospital's complete takeover by the mob storyline? The use of weather events and crashes to influence plot instead of characters driving story? Recycling the same head writers and exec producers over and over instead of bringing in fresh blood? Dumping Denise Alexander from GH many years ago and replacing her with Judith Chapman. When Denise left, so did I.

    I totally agree about spoilers damaging the shows. I can recall major Friday afternoon cliffhangers which were so wonderfully done that I counted the hours until Monday's show. Now that we know everything that is going to happen beforehand, there is no reason to tune in on Monday.

  15. I love that this topic was tackled...that it is out there to be debated and added to...though I would have put Brian Frons being anywhere near the daytime drama industry at #1...since he is terribly guilty of everything from hiring Megan McTavish to write the rape of Bianca and the unabortion for Erica as well as destroying core families on GH...never bringing Genie Francis back to GH...and using focus groups and the whole young demo obsession to his advantage time and again.

    I have read so many people over the years question from a logical perspective as to why would Brian Frons ever want to kill the shows that he is in charge it makes no sense. Finally...finally...someone answered that question...and she did it so well. To paraphrase Ms Lucci...Frons is that perfect storm of ignorance and arrogance.

  16. First, Jon, you need to reread #1. It says "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." No where does it say that Erica's abortion was in 1973, it says that it occurred before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

    Second, I agree with many of the people here, Frons should absolutely be #1.

  17. Whenever Erica's abortion was is irrelevant. To undo it 30 years later was such an insult. Thanks for including this on the list. And for mentioning Michael Zaslow.

  18. Excellent list of the top 25 blunders. You may want to a list'honorary' blunders #26 - 50.

    Fascinating and well-resarched and written.

  19. great list guys. with so many blunders i know you had a time coming up with what you felt were the top twenty five. There just have been so many and i completely agree with the ones you have picked. Erica's unabortion was horrible and rather disrespectful to what that storyline represented. I thought Todd romancing amnesiac marty was bad taste too perhaps you need an honorable mention list ?

  20. There were SO many blunders on our initial lists! We could have counted down 100. I'd just like to see some of the mainstream media make the networks take ownership for their role in daytime's decline versus always blaming OJ or other things. Many things contributed but the biggest factors were their own blunders IMO.

  21. Where it the fact that soaps have become totally mysognistic over the past 15 years on this list. I think soaps starting losing credibility as soon as they decided that a genre primarily viewed by women needed to be all about men. Maybe women fled this genre in droves because they got tired of the male dominated storylines of the past 10 15 years.

  22. Michael Zaslow's firing was just the absolute WORST. Did you know he was offered Sam Waterston's role on Law & Order, but turned it down because Roger and Holly were *finally* starting to make it work on GL and he wanted to see it through? There are not many actors who would turn down a primetime series regular job to stay on a daytime soap, but MZ did because he believed in GL that much. For him to be treated the way P&G/CBS treated him... there are no words.

  23. I have really enjoyed the writing on the blunders. I am not sure that I agree with where you ranked some of the blunders. However, the entire piece shows great insight and knowledge of soap history. I vividly remember a lot of these mistakes and wholeheartedly agree with many of your observations.

    I read some of the other soap-related sites. Frankly, some of the writers don't appear to me to have a very good grasp of the entire genre. This piece clearly shows that you do.

    I'm still irked about the horrible treatment of Lisa on ATWT, which you correctly point out. I still miss that show (but not the version of it when it was cancelled!). I would KILL to see Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda) cast as Dina Abbott Mergeron on Y&R. Do you know any ears that would listen to such a suggestion?

  24. I´m not sure why digitizing and putting the old soap episodes online would be a bad thing. We are living in a different world and all episodes of all soaps could be easily stored on one server with a bunch of terabyte disks in it. It´s like 0.0000000001 of diskspace youtube needs every hour to store all what people upload. Putting it online is the best way to protect it and save it because there will be thousands of fans who would download it and store at home. So even when the originals or bunch of copies gets lost there will be many others.

    For example I have the last few years of DAYS stored on HDD and in good (full NTSC) resolution and you only need around 400 MB per episode using DivX compression, that´s around 110 GB for an entire year (260 episodes). You can easily store around 18 years of the show on one 2 TB disk which costs like 100 bucks. If someone released older episodes I would definitely download them too. I would even pay a reasonable price (what about 0.99$ per episode) to have access to them. And I´m sure I´m not alone.

  25. I would've included Jill Farren Phelps not reading Beverlee McKinsey's contract.

    Also, while I won't defend P&G's financial handling of Michael Zaslow (probably my favorite soap actor of all time), the reality is that it was GL was in a very tough spot creatively with his character. Roger was a villain, unlike OlTL's David, and its much harder to tell a terrible illness story with villains - in fact, I don't think any soap opera has ever told such a story. Making it even harder was that Roger's then-current story had reverted him to sadistic, thanks to writer Megan Mctavish, who never had a problem ignoring ten years of character development. And no one knew exactly what was wrong with Zaslow yet. Plus there was significant story already written

    By the time Zaslow started on OLTL, his condition had been diagnosed. David Renaldi had been a hero on the show and there were no continuity problems in bringing him back. And the writers had plenty of time to write him in.

    Someone mentioned how P&G later treated Anthony Herrera, but the two situations have almost nothing in common. Herrera's diagnosis was known, and there was no need to write the illness into the storyline. If Herrera had developed ALS, there's no way that ATWT would have continued to write for him.

    I've always believed that if their roles were reversed, OLTL would have treatment Zaslow as GL did and GL would have treated Zaslow as OLTL did.

  26. Liked reading this list and the passionate responses each part inspired!

    While I also wouldn't have ranked the unabortion #1, I'm glad that McTavish's final hack-tacular job on AMC is getting the "credit" it deserves for AMC's cancellation.

    And I agree with others, Frons definitely should've been ranked higher, especially since he was the one who canceled OLTL. Combine those two and add Guza's toxic last GH tenure for my list.

  27. @Greg Andrew

    You are not wrong. Roger's story made it extremely hard for GL to work around MZ's illness. McTavish should definitely take the blame for that one. I believe she took over right around the time Holly had revenge sex with Fletcher as a response to Roger's "cheating." The way the story *should* have played out was that R/H would have a very rough time of it and would've questioned whether or not they should be together since they have obvious problems, but in the end, they'd have eventually gotten married. There's no way in the world that a Holly in the hands of real and sensible writers would've married Fletcher if Roger was a viable and available option. Now, had this worked out, GL would've been able to work with MZ's illness. Roger might've been disliked by a great many, but if he'd had a family--a real family, not just a wife-of-the-moment like Dinah--then at the very least, the Thorpe family would've gone through Roger's ALS. It also would've been a much more interesting story because soaps somehow only give the "good" people illnesses and everyone in the town laments that nice people shouldn't go through such pain. But Roger Thorpe was the world's biggest asshole and in the eyes of many of Springfield's finest, he would've deserved his suffering.

    Now, all that aside, P&G firing MZ was unacceptable because of the way it was handled. If they had simply thrown up their hands and said it couldn't be done (re: Roger getting sick), it maybe could have been forgiven. Like you said, it's hard to give a villain, especially one of Roger's wicked calibre, a terminal illness. But the name calling and excuses and crass behavior were what made the whole thing deplorable.

  28. I'm shocked that the 1975 Courtney/Reinholt/Dwyer firings from AW weren't mentioned. That proved to be far more disatrous for the show in the long run than anyone realized. The addition of Jacqueline Courtney and George Reinholt to OLTL gave the show a ratings boost, and in time the show rose to #2 by the early 80s as the once might AW sank like a stone.

    The backstage war going on at AW has been well documented, but in NBC agreeing to P&G's decision, it was the beginning of the end of NBC's golden era in soaps. DAYS suffered after the departures of writers Bill Bell and Pat Falken Smith, and "The Doctors" never recovered after Doug Marland left for GH and help begin the most spetacular ratings comeback story in soap history. AW's own decline was hastened with the unwieldy 90-minute expansion in 1979.

    Back to the Reinholt situation: P&G could have saved face and kept two of its most popular stars by moving them to the ratings-challenged "Somerset" with a bigger salary and star billing. Adding Steve & Alice Frame to that show may have been just the thing that could have saved it. Instead, both actors wound up at ABC and helped that network's slow yet steady rise to daytime dominance. In its haste to get rid of two 'difficult' stars, NBC and P&G made a tragic mistake that would have effects for years to come.

  29. As a Cbs viewer here are some of my choices as blunders, ATWT's pushing Elizabeth Hubbards Lucinda to the back ground, Gl's hireing of Claire Labine as head writer, she quickly made the show unwatchable and the show never recovered from her term as head writer.,Y&R killing off of John Abbott need I say more, B&B's killing Taylor off not once but twice thankfully shes back, ATWTs letting Eilleen Fulton leave in the early 80's..NOBODY else could or should have played Lisa, GLs leting the Bauer family become non existant in the early 80's., Y&R current blunder letting Melody Thomas Scott go is unbelievable, AtWT letting Hogan Sheffer go as head writter,, he gave the show an updated feel but keep the old feel to it too. I could think of many more in 40 years of watching but I'll stop at that.

  30. I think your list is well thought out and brought back many sad memories. There is just one head scratcher to me. I am not sure why the unabortion took #1 spot when Brian Frons took #9 - when the unabortion took place under Brian Frons' reign. It seems to me that Brian Frons is the much bigger issue - showing no regards to history at all, including the unabortion and hiring of Charles Pratt is basically told everyone to wipe out what came before and trust him - and we know how that turned out. I am still wondering how Brian Frons got his job to begin with. He was a failure from beginning to end with no shinning spots at all.

  31. I do agree with a lot of these posts that Brian Frons' involvement in soaps should be #1 on this list. Why would you hire someone who hates soaps and doesn't understand the genre to oversee daytime programming and SoapNet? His canceling of SFT, not once but twice is almost laughable. The enormous potential of SoapNet was never realized.

    The points about focus groups and cliched stories are well-taken. The writers should be writing interesting stories - so much in the last 10 years (arguably more than that) feels like the writers are just going through the motions. Then the writers go from show to show with the same old stories and there's no new blood brought in.

    I found the mention of the canceling of radio soaps an intriguing point, and not one I've seen mentioned elsewhere. A few years ago, I lived in an area where I could pick up ABC-tv on my radio and would listen to the soaps in my car while running errands. I really liked this and wish the soaps were broadcast on the radio - you catch your soap at work, in the car, talking a walk, etc.

    In the end, I fear the soaps (with the the help of the networks) destroyed themselves by not thinking out of the box to try to reach the audience in new ways and cut down costs. Shorten the shows, air (or replay) them in the evening, only air 3 new shows a week, try the 6 week story arc, etc. When I win $200 million in the lottery, I will be starting my own soap channel. I hope you all will watch.

  32. Excellent list, extremely comprehensive!

    I do disagree with Frons barely cracking the Top 10, (his entire career really should have been in the Top 3,) but Erica's aborted abortion was just to big a screwup to ignore. Only the Freeze Machine and Swamp Girl are anywhere close to how bad this was.

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  34. I agree with most of you list.

    Fronz should had been no. 2 without question. I'm a loyal CBS daytime/Days fan at heart but what he did to the ABC soap lineup was downright deplorable. He/JFP/Guza told masculine, macho storylines with the Sonny and Jason - where they always won and cops/Feds were viewed as the villians - for a whole decade. They trashed heroine characters like Liz Webber's character often to prop up Sam McCall as the show's Brenda-bot replacement and they even went as far to firing Rebecca Herbst! These three along Chuck Pratt on AMC were destructive forces at ABC. The fact they continue to be recycled hires for soaps along with Dena Higley on Days is mind-boggling! I guess the show runners won't learn til the soaps all die completely.

    I also see the possession of Marlena on the list being in the top 10. While Reilly got blamed for ruining the genre I don't agree with it. Networks panicked coming off the OJ trial and wanted to get their 10% viewing audience back but the damage was done. Networks, writers and producers should have not done a monkey see, monkey do because Days was successful with the tomfoolery. Plus soaps even pre-OJ were doing ridiculous stories like Andre/Tony on Days and The Ice Princess story on GH. Had these tropes never started the floodgate to foolish storytelling and character developments would had never begun.

    Lastly I'm right with you on merchandising for soaps. I been saying this for years that soaps shot themselves in the foot when they didn't try to capitalize on the genre when it was hot during the 80s - 90s. Soaps probably would had been the most profitable and bankable genre if they understood and cared enough with marketability for the genre.

  35. Enjoyed reading this list and agreed with most of the entries. A lot of mistakes were made that contributed to declines in soap viewership. But, soap fans have to concede that industry execs are right about one thing. Changes in technology and the faster pace of life today hurt soaps in appealing to younger viewers. Soaps move slowly; the best stories that we all remember so fondly took months and even years to tell with lots of twists and turns. Not sure that young viewers today would be as patient.

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