The Three Soap Cancellations (and Then Some!) That Make New Year’s Eve One of the Darkest Days in Daytime History
SOAPnet/Courtesy of the Everett Collection, NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection (3)
Sigh. Remember when General Hospital faves Patrick, Jason and Robin got their very own show?
Well, here we are. Another year under our belt (thank God!), and a bright, shiny new one about to be born. After the dumpster fire that’s been 2020, that alone is cause for celebration. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little nervous. Sure, there’s all that stuff about uncertainty around the future, but here in the soap world, we can’t help but walk extra gingerly when New Year’s Eve rolls around. Because forget Friday the 13th, December 31st is our unluckiest date!
Why? Let us count the reasons.
In 2013, We Lost SOAPnet
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since SOAPnet ceased broadcasting. An entire channel dedicated to showing current soaps, classic soaps, daytime soaps, primetime soaps… Was this heaven? For a while, that certainly seemed to be the case.
In its early days, the Disney-owned SOAPnet almost exclusively aired current and classic ABC shows — though they did also snag CBS’ sequin-laden ‘80s gems Knots Landing and Falcon Crest. And as the channel’s popularity took off, it expanded its own programming, giving us talk shows like Soap Talk and reality shows such as I Wanna Be a Soap Star. They even produced two seasons of the weekly primetime sudser General Hospital: Night Shift, featuring characters from the daytime soap in stories that were largely unrelated to those unfolding on the mothership. (Look hard enough on sites like eBay, and you’ll likely find DVDs of the series.)
But while the channel did pick up Another World reruns along with same-day episodes of Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless, there were still so many soaps we wished they would have shown over shows like The OC. Then, in 2011, ABC ended All My Children and One Life to Life. That’s when it became pretty clear that in the House of Mouse, at least, soaps were no longer king… or even all that welcome.
By 2012, Disney began switching channels which had been carrying SOAPnet over to Disney Junior in large swaths of the country. And in 2013, SOAPnet lost the rights to The Young and the Restless. So it certainly wasn’t a surprise when at 11 pm on New Year’s Eve, SOAPnet aired its last episode of General Hospital. As the ball dropped in Times Square, the network went dark, taking one of the last refuges for classic-soap lovers with it.
In 1999, NBC Sent Sunset Beach… Well… Into The Sunset
Twenty-one years ago today, NBC pulled the plug on the relatively new Sunset Beach, less than a week shy of its third birthday. The show had always been something of an experiment, so it wasn’t exactly surprising. Still, it also wasn’t anything to celebrate. NBC had already cancelled our beloved Another World earlier that year, but at least in that case, they replaced it with Passions. When they got rid of Sunset Beach, the network went back down to having only two soaps in its daytime lineup.
This short-lived third NBC soap came about back in 1997, when the network turned to primetime soap king Aaron Spelling to craft a new daytime sudser that would be specifically designed to reel in younger viewers. It… didn’t work. With that said, it was still a campy good time. In fact, a little while back, we thought it might be fun to review the first episode over two decades after it aired!
In their efforts to draw in eyeballs and keep people from switching channels, the writers tried everything from riffing on classic movies like Scream and The Poseidon Adventure to rolling out a whole mummy-centric plot because… hey, why not? After all, the whole supernatural thing was working for Passions. But Sunset Beach never picked up enough viewers to justify keeping it around, so on New Year’s Eve, NBC sent everyone packing with (mostly) happy endings.
In 1982, Texas and The Doctors Got the Axe
That’s right, 38 years ago, we bore witness to a double soap killing when NBC cut both Texas and The Doctors loose on the same day.
Spearheaded by Another World executive producer Paul Rauch in 1980, the original idea for Texas had been to create a soap that took place in the Antebellum South. That sounded good to NBC, so long as the creators dropped all that historical junk. Instead, they wanted to hop on the Dallas bandwagon. And really, who can blame them? That show was on fire.
That’s when Rauch decided to tie the project to Another World by having Beverlee McKinsey’s mega-popular schemer, Iris Carrington, travel to Houston and anchor the new sudser. And it worked! At first. McKinsey, though, only stayed a year. And the viewers had largely been sticking around for her. (See why in the clips below.) Texas limped on for another year but like Sunset Beach, could never quite make it.
The Doctors, on the other hand, had been around for almost two decades, though it spent its first year as an anthology series before switching to a more familiar soap-opera format. More hospital-y and cutthroat than General Hospital (which also debuted on April 1, 1963), the show peaked in popularity in the mid-‘70s when it cracked the Top Five soaps. But once you peak, there’s really nowhere to go but down.
By the time Texas came along, The Doctors was struggling, having already slid in the ratings even before Another World’s expansion to 90 minutes (yes, 90!) bumped it out of its decades-long timeslot. In a last-ditch effort to save their struggling shows, NBC lumped The Doctors and Texas together in a block. But that just ended up dragging them both so far down into the ratings basement that NBC figured since they were already underground, they might as well just throw dirt on them and have a burial. So on December 31, 1982, that was what happened.
For those curious about Texas, sadly, aside from the random episodes found on YouTube, there’s no way to really enjoy this slice of soap history. Although SOAPnet aired reruns of Dallas, the daytime version never made that network’s cut. Neither did The Doctors, but that’s fine because that show has found new life in other venues. Episodes air daily on Retro TV (check your local listings for details). And if you don’t get the channel? Watch live on myretrotv.com, or, if you want the episodes at your fingertips, sign up for watchthedoctors.com!
And hey, whatever else 2020 may have thrown at us, we avoided another New Year’s Eve soap massacre. Heck, things are even looking pretty bright. The four soaps are weathering the pandemic storm just fine, and instead of a cancellation, we got news that All My Children is returning to us as the primetime drama Pine Valley!
Speaking of Pine Valley, why not check out this gallery of All My Children characters we need to see back on the new show. That alone is enough to leave us feeling like our luck might finally have changed.
Video: YouTube/Sunset Beach