soap ratings all time low
Credit: Images: Howard Wise/JPI (2); XJ Johnson/JPI (2)

Fans are thrilled that their soaps are back… but disappointed by the stories that are actually airing.

Since returning to the airwaves, ratings for The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful have taken a nosedive when compared to the numbers they were posting before being forced to air three months’ worth of reruns. General Hospital and Days of our Lives haven’t taken as severe a hit, but they’re not exactly doing gangbusters, either.

As reported by Daytime Confidential, the CBS sudsers are each down by about a million viewers based on ratings for the week of August 10. In overall viewers, three of the four shows are at all their all-time lows, with The Bold and the Beautiful being the only show to pick up eyeballs over the previous week. Yet even after gaining 240,000 viewers, the L.A.-set soap was still down nearly 900,000 from where it stood a year earlier.

It would be easy for network execs to blame the ratings decline on the fact that viewers had three months in which to break their soap habit. But should they want to know what’s really caused the erosion, they might want to look at what the shows are actually airing and how fans are reacting.

The fact that General Hospital had both the smallest week-to-week and year-over-year drop in viewers makes sense, given that the show seemed to understand the importance of quickly recapturing the attention of potentially lapsed viewers. While both CBS sudsers returned with what were basically recap episodes, General Hospital hit the ground running, immediately picking up the action with Wiley’s custody case, Cyrus’ reign of terror and Valentin’s hostile takeover of ELQ. Sadly, even when The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful began airing fully-new episodes, viewers weren’t exactly bowled over by the action… or distinct lack thereof.

That situation has not changed much in the weeks since. The Bold and the Beautiful spent an inordinate amount of time recapping (over and over and over) the events which led to Shauna and Ridge’s marriage, only occasionally cutting away to update us on Steffy’s story (which has largely involved her wincing while insisting she’s fine). Previously compelling villain Thomas has been reduced to Steffy’s talk-to, and we’ll give you one guess what it is they discuss the most: That’s right, somehow Taylor’s children have morphed into cheerleaders for Brooke!

The Young and the Restless, meanwhile, seems determined to remain practically plot-free, with Adam searching for answers about the one crime nobody actually cares he committed, while Phyllis and Abby continue to engage in a childish rivalry which has only served to remind us how much we miss the days of classic Katherine/Jill showdowns. (It doesn’t help that viewers have spent the past three months watching classic episodes featuring some of their favorite characters and actors, many of whom, while still technically on the canvas, are given little to do.)

Soaps are built on the notion that the continuing story will give the audience a reason to tune in tomorrow, and yet neither of the CBS sudsers is doing that. The Bold & The Beautiful’s endless exposition is essentially telling viewers they don’t need to watch each day (“No worries, we’ll fill you in on anything you miss… repeatedly!”) while The Young and the Restless feels as if it is drifting, rudderless, with no sense of direction, let alone urgency.

What’s particularly frustrating about The Young & The Restless‘ return is that the problems plaguing the show were being complained about by viewers months before the hiatus. Despite having all that time to right the ship, the show — unlike General Hospital — came back having apparently ignored the warnings that a ratings iceberg was dead ahead.

The good news is that these problems are not at all difficult to fix. Never was the saying, “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage” truer. Unlike Days of our Lives, which tapes months in advance, either of the CBS soaps could have completely new, captivating stories in place within a few weeks. But before that can happen, difficult conversations will need to be had behind the scenes. As the saying goes, “The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one.”

As lifelong soap fans, we want nothing more than to see our shows succeed. We’re forever fans, who watch through thick and thin. But not all members of the audience have that level of devotion or, in this day and age, the time to commit to something that isn’t willing to fight for their attention. We use this forum daily to discuss what’s working and what’s not, but now it’s your turn: Hit the comments to share your thoughts on the soaps… and what you think they could be doing better! Then visit the gallery below to relive what we think have been the sudsy highlights — and low points — of 2020 so far!