classic soaps we'd watch

Image: ABC, CBS, NBC

Fans and stars alike are super excited about the renewed interest in soaps.

If there’s any good news to come out of the recent quarantine, it’s the rediscovery of soaps by audiences. To celebrate that resurgence, ABC cannily aired The Story of Soaps, a documentary that covered the history of the genre, and even brought up how reality shows have supplanted a lot of the space soaps used to occupy. But as the show aired, fans kept engaged on social media, and we discovered, there’s a real hunger to watch some of the classic shows they may never get a chance to watch again.

Need for nostalgia now more than ever

“I just turned on network tv.. and it was the ‘Story of Soaps’,” tweeted fan Shannon Wilkinson. “[T]hought I would change, but I couldn’t.. much needed nostalgia right now..” Added Beth Moore in a tweet, “Watching a special on ABC called The Story of Soaps, laughing & recalling so many ridiculous things. My family lived across the street from our high school and every single weekday my sister and I would run home frantically to watch All My Children with our mom and grandmother.” These fans aren’t alone – nostalgia and good memories are big contributors to loyalty for soap fans, who rarely get to see reruns of their favorite episodes. Yet thanks to the quarantine and the shutdown of production, several soaps have begun airing classic episodes, which may be fueling this desire to re-visit the storylines of the past.

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If they aired it, would you watch?

So what if there was a place – a streaming or cable channel – where they could actually see those shows? Actually, there was, back at the turn of the millennium: SOAPnet, owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group, which began airing in 2000. SOAPnet was home to reruns of ABC soaps including All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Port Charles; but also primetime and ended soaps like Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, The Colbys, Another World, Beverly Hills 90210 and Ryan’s Hope. There was also some original programming, like Soap Center and Soap Talk. The network, which might have really gone gangbusters as a streaming channel, was probably a little ahead of its time, though, and went off the air on January 1, 2014.

Perfect timing to reboot classics

The timing seems excellent for a reboot – not just of some classic shows, but of something like SOAPnet itself. Ratings for The Young and the Restless alone are drawing 1.6 million viewers, which is higher than some primetime broadcast shows. Plus, soap fans don’t really get over their soaps going away – they’re so entangled in the stories, which go on in real time and last for years or decades. As Merlisa tweeted, “How can you have the story of soaps and have so little of Guiding Light, which made the jump from radio and stayed on 70 years?” And Trisha Falotico gave shout-outs to even longer-gone shows: “Watching The Story of Soaps thanks @ABCNetwork @GeneralHospital miss my All My Children One Life to Live Another World Search For Tomorrow Ryan’s Hope Edge of Night.” Added Lil Giant, after pinging many All My Children actors, “Did u watch ‘The Story of Soaps’ tonight? It was so good,  and now I’m crying.  I miss #PineValley so much!!! I hope you all are well!”

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Execs speak out

And though nobody’s actively talking about how to revive a soap network, we’re all for it. At least executives are hinting about maybe rebooting some of the best-known former soaps. At last winter’s Television Critics Association’s press tour, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke spoke about bringing back some late, lamented ABC soaps, noting: “There might be some conversation about that. There might be.” And more recently, she added, “There have been more discussions, but I can’t tell you more than that.”

One Life to Live and All My Children were canceled (in 2011 and 2012, respectively), then rebooted by Prospect Park (with brief runs on Hulu and The Online Network that ended in 2013), neither aired on SOAPNet. But rights to both shows reverted back to ABC in 2017, and with luck the increase in ratings and fan response to documentaries like The Story of Soaps might just get them thinking along a new – but also familiar – path.

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