Friday, September 18, 2009

The Death of . . .

. . . Guiding Light.

For 72 years, first on radio, then television, Guiding Light followed the fictional lives of the residents of Springfield.

For 72 years . . .

I watched Guiding Light when I was in high school (just a few years back, ahem, ahem, in case you're wondering). I watched during the initial days of the Four Musketeers - Rick, Beth, Philip, & Mindy, the days of the Reardon clan (Annabelle and Tony - woo-hoo), Quint and Nola, Billy and Vanessa, Ed and Maureen (oh, the tears I cried when Maureen died) and the indomitable Beverly McKinsey as Alexandra Spaulding. Now that woman was a force of nature who brought to life some fascinating and dynamic characters - Iris on Another World and the short lived Texas, and Alexandra on Guiding Light.

The demise of Guiding Light, of the soap industry as a whole, has been the buzz of the Internet since April when CBS announced it's decision to cancel the longest running soap in soap opera history.

Boo! Hiss! Where are the torches and pitchforks when you need them? Let's slay the Executive Monster at CBS!

My personal theory about the demise of Guiding Light, and the rest of the soaps . . . audience. I think it all boils down to audience.

Audience, as all writers know (or should know, shame on you if you don't) plays a key part in the . . . sale of books. Go figure. If a book doesn't have an audience . . . well, it's going to sit on the shelves, gather dust, and eventually end up on the bargain book table.

We, as writers, must, at some point, consider our audience.

The executives in charge of daytime television also need to consider their audiences. They obviously didn't . . . and the longest running soap in soap history was cancelled (oh, on April Fool's Day to add insult to injury, because it wasn't a joke, it was reality).

So, today - Friday, September 18, 2009 - the light will cease to shine.

The light could have kept on shining, at least in my opinion, if the executives had bothered to pay attention to one key fact: audience.

The soap opera audience isn't getting any younger! No, it is my belief that the soap opera audience is getting . . . older.

The days of Luke and Laura on General Hospital and sky high ratings are gone. Bo and Hope on Days of Our Lives have grown up and have grown children. Erica Kane is still a serial-marrier on All My Children, but she is no longer the centerpoint of the show.

Every year the soap opera writers bring on a bevy of teens and teen stories for the summer . . . expecting kids to watch. They. Don't. Their. Parents. Do!


Yes, the parents were still watching the soaps, and the grandparents, and great grandparents. They didn't - again, just my opinion - want to watch the travails of Erica Kane's daughters, but the travails of Erica Kane. I didn't want to watch the travails of an endless generation of teens, I wanted to watch the lives of Philip, Rick, Mindy, and Beth as they grew older (ahem) with me. I wanted to say, yeah, I can relate! Yes, the children and grandchildren of core soap opera characters play a part in the role of the soap opera . . .


But, if the audience is growing older, the younger demographics are not all the rage any more, then you would think that someone, somewhere, might realize the soap needs to be written for the actual audience, and not the gee, I hope these teens will tune in audience.

Audience is key.

Audience was forgotten.

Guiding Light might still be shining today, had the people - allegedly intelligent - in charge considered what every writer, musician, artist, whatnot, must always, always consider: audience!

So, as you travel through the various stages of the writing process, as you edit, and tighten, map out, unravel, pull out your hair, bite your finger nails to nubs, over eat on chocolate ice cream, go through the highs and lows of the writing process, write for you first, audience second, send out your queries, suffer through rejection after rejection, and everything else involved in the writing process . . . in the words of Schneider from One Day at a Time . . . always remember and never forget . . . A-U-D-I-E-N-C-E!

Enough. Said.



ElanaJ said...

Ah, yes, the audience is important. Really important. I just put together a proposal for my book, and audience was one of the things I had to address. It's important for authors to know who their book will appeal to.

Scott said...

Elana - in the end, audience is really 'everything'! I know who my book will appeal to, and even went so far as to get opinions on whether it would work beyond my target audience. So, just another bit of info for aspiring writers.


Robyn Campbell said...

Never forget the audience! Got it! :) Ah, but some writers do forget who is important. They let it become them.

And I have watched a little Guiding Light. My mom and dad watched. So I was there and had NOTHING else to watch! Hehehe Had to. Just had to! :)

Scott said...

There was an article in the local paper today that mentioned the end of Guiding Light and made the following statement: Cold as it may sound, CBS canceled the soap opera partly because so many of its viewers are themselves closer to the end of life than the beginning, the equivalent of being personae non gratae to advertisers and the networks that cater to them.

Go figure. There was an audience, but not the 'right' audience. Yeah, in the end, it's all about money.

I watched the bittersweet ending of a soap that lasted long beyond all others, and will probably go down in the annals of history as the longest running show . . . EVER. I watched a part of my life end as well.