Pop Rocks: Good-bye, SOAPnet. You Will Be Missed.
On December 31, 2013 the world will lose a hero. The Walt Disney Co. announced that after 13 years, it will finally pull the plug on SOAPnet. I am heartbroken.
SOAPnet, which was created in 2000, was an effort on Disney's part to extend the air times of its daytime soaps. By re-airing them at night, people who weren't able to view their stories during the day had a second chance to catch the day's drama. In addition to current soaps, programs such as Knots Landing that had been put to bed ages ago found new life.
But as soap operas began to see their own demise, so too did the network. In 2012, Disney announced it wanted to focus its efforts on Disney Junior, a channel for the little Disney kids. Disney had wanted to pull the plug on SOAPnet all the way back in 2010 but was scared of the hordes of soap fans already in anguish over the disappearance of their daytime dramas.
Linda Marshall-Smith, the founder of soapdom.com has even blamed the downfall of daytime soap ratings on the cable channel. Basically, Marshall-Smith thinks that because viewers no longer relied on watching episodes of Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives during the day, the ratings of such shows slipped. SOAPnet was a cancer and a cure!
But Disney has waited long enough and as of New Year's Eve, the channel will be no longer. I will be toasting its accomplishments.
I will admit that I am saddened by this news. While I may not be a traditional nor typical SOAPnet viewer, this loss still has a profound impact on me for one particular soap: Beverly Hills 90210.
In January 2005, to fill up programming time, the network began airing reruns of the '90s teen drama. When I finally got cable in 2007, the first thing I did was to find out what channel SOAPnet was. I have been DVRing this show since. My obsession with this program is bizarre, maybe even comical. I hold an advanced degree and critique "quality" television, yet for some reason I cannot shake my adoration for this show.
SOAPnet airs BH 90210 in the evenings and twice on the weekends (Breakfast in Bed) and I record every airing of it. Sometimes, they do special weekend-long thematic programming, "Life's a Beach" or all the Christmas episodes in a row; these too I record. My favorite part of every week is folding my laundry on Sunday afternoons, watching my DVR'd episodes. Let's be clear, like other obsessive soap fans, not only have I already seen every one of these episodes, but I have seen them multiple times. The rare occasion that I run across an episode I have never seen is marked with shock and joyous cries of disbelief. I'm sure there is an episode or two in their arsenal waiting for me to view for the first time. And like other soap fans, I don't care if David and Donna's relationship goes in circles or if the love triangle between Brandon and Dylan and Kelly is at times forced (remember when Dylan decided Kelly was his soul mate because he went to a hypnotist that sent him back in the future... of his mind!), I still watch with the same pleasure.
I should also note that I have most of the episodes on DVD, but there is just something more pleasing about watching it over SOAPnet: I think it's the randomness. Their programming manager is either blind or has a really good sense of humor or couldn't care less about his/her job because the order in which the episodes air is all over the place. One minute Kelly will be a coke head and the next she'll be back in high school yelling at her mother over her own addiction; the irony is lost on all parties involved beside me. One minute Donna will be blond and flat-chested, the next she'll be a D-cup red-head. One minute Andrea is a bright-shiny teenager with a solid future, the next minute she is 40 and pregnant. One minute David Silver is a rapping geek, the next he is a rapping geek. It's like a weird roulette of clothing, personalities, significant others that never appear again and hairstyles; you never know what you will get.
There is something incredibly comforting about soap operas. As with sitcoms, you always know what you are going to get but with soaps this reaches absurd levels. The plots of soaps are so transparent, so absurd, so incoherent, yet they reel you into their ridiculousness. How is it possible that so many soap characters have gotten amnesia, when in reality apparently 100,000 people are afflicted with this problem per year? On a soap it's like one in every two people. At least one character (and usually more) on any soap opera you can name have come back from the dead. Yet the real statistics of people dying and coming back to life are far fewer... like none.
My fellow soap fans understand me, and the desire to keep these illogical shows alive has been well documented through fan pages, blogs, news reports, I even found a few petitions on change.org trying to "Save SOAPnet;" good luck with that.
For now, I will continue to record my guilty pleasure and hope that some other channel eventually picks it up. Or I may just have dust off the old DVD player and watch a season straight through.