It seems to me that the current virus crisis has affected our lives in many ways that are not apparent but most certainly have managed to disrupt long-time routines that have brought enjoyment for untold millions of folks in this country.
I’m not referring to those visible activities such as going to the movies, athletic events, bars, restaurants, theaters, and similar events. Nope, those I’m thinking of are known as “continuing daytime dramas” or some variation thereof but are more commonly called “soap operas.”
Yep, shows of this type, which originated on radio scores of years ago, have provided not only entertainment but a sense of “belonging” for their loyal followers that is probably unique in show business. One reason for this affinity is that some of the actors on these shows have played the same role for many years —20 or more is not uncommon. As a result, viewers have observed the physical aging as well as the change in the lives of the characters as they face the challenges this world presents them with. It’s almost like observing friends, family, and other authentic folks as they struggle with resolving the difficulties of everyday life.
One thing non-viewers might not realize is that plot lines may well address real-world situations such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, alcoholism, domestic violence, and drug addiction. The way in which these and similar subjects are treated is probably more educational than entertaining — providing an insight into the effects these situations inflict on individuals and families. Thus, since viewers likely have personally experienced or observed friends and family who have had similar ordeals, this kinship can be strong.
Well, the virus with its accompanying restrictions on our movements, such as “social distancing” and wearing masks, have disrupted the weekday dosage of these shows. No “new” episodes have been available for several months. It’s like the shows have been put on “pause” with everything kinda frozen in place. To fill the time slots, preserve advertising income, and also partially satisfy viewers, the folks who produce these shows have been rerunning episodes from the past — some of a decade or more ago. Kinda interesting to see how the characters and the actors’ portrayals of these characters have changed through the years. Unfortunately, unlike other reruns where each episode is a “stand-alone” event similar to a short story, these excerpts are part of an ongoing chronicle — so it’s something like opening a book and reading just a few passages with no context.
OK, so I admit to watching one of the soaps. I’ve looked at some of the others but have decided only one was of interest. Frankly, I’m impressed by several aspects of this one. For one thing, the plot lines are truly impressive in that several are in play at a time: usually one is finishing up, that is, reconciling whatever instigated that line; one or two others are in various states of development; while yet another may be just beginning with some incident or activity that could develop into a full-blown story line. I have tried for years to outguess where these plots are going and have finally given up. I can’t do it so I simply accept what’s happening.
I find the writing itself is remarkable. The way the scripts are written with the language and interactions between and among the characters being quite believable — and that leads to the third point. The actors portray the characters so well that I sometimes wonder to what degree their own personalities have merged with the part they are playing after having been in the same role for decades.
Well, there you have it — another casualty of the virus. I suppose for lots of folks this is a trivial matter and in the larger scheme of things, that’s undoubtedly true. However, for the multiple millions of viewers whose everyday lives have included these daily interludes, this interruption is similar to losing old friends who are greatly missed. In fact, some of the recent reruns have featured actors who have actually died suddenly so the viewers once again relive their real-world passing as well as in their soap opera world as writers have had to account for their deaths.
Whether or if those beloved soaps will ever return is problematic, but one thing for sure. The story lines will not be simply a continuation of where they left off when the virus restrictions hit. Too much has changed since then.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]