Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Marceline axiom

Some time ago, I mentioned the Jack Peyton axiom, which basically asserted that once a show lost viewers, they were never coming back.

I have frequently mentioned SON's Marceline here, and her "nostalgia" thesis. It is time it gets immortalized as the Marceline axiom.

As she writes it:

Here's the problem...the "loyal" soap fans, the "real" soap fans don't want to watch a bunch of newbies regardless of talent. I contend that you could bring on a heavenly host of actors with real, true dramatic talent and the people watching soaps now would hate them anyway because they aren't "vets." They'll let a few "core" or "legacy" characters through but in the end it won't matter because it will never measure up to the good ole days. That's nostalgia. It kills the very thing it's meant to preserve.
She goes on to amplify:

Actually the Marceline Axiom can be summed up by the words of Billy Joel in Keepin' the Faith : "The good old days weren't always good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems."
These ideas are not inconsistent with my recent blog post, which argued that a part of the problem of soaps is that they grow too old. Burdened with decades of history, they become unwieldy and filled with "saturated logic". There seems to be a pop cultural reality that new generations don't want to enjoy what previous generations did.

Soaps didn't always last forever. The Secret Storm, for example, gave way to The Young and the Restless--after a healthy 20-year run. I'm sure may SS viewers lamented the change, but in the end, something of new relevance had to be created. And Y&R has remained relevant for a long time.

The bottom line, for me, is that I wish the networks weren't too terrified to keep trying. If they have low-performing shows that no longer meet their needs, they should let them go (hopefully giving them grand goodbyes that reflect their long contributions). But they should make new efforts. Most of these will fail, but one fine day.... something will stick to the wall. While doing this they can explore different time slots, different platforms. Because keeping these soaps on during the weekdays for the "housewives" is another form of ridiculous nostalgia.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't knock nostalgia. It's often what keeps me watching when things are not going well on a soap. I remember how good a soap once was and how much I like certain characters. Thus, I keep watching, hoping it will improve, hoping it might one day get back to being as great as it once was.

On the other hand, the nostalgia factor also causes me and many other to bitch when the storylines aren't exciting. We keep saying, "It's nothing like it used to be."

By the way, it was Where the Heart Is that was canceled to make room for Y&R back in March 1973. Secret Storm lasted until February 8, 1974, just after its 20th anniversary.

MarkH said...

Yeah, that is why I think the best scenario is one where we're constantly retiring soaps and debuting new ones.

The best analogy I can give is primetime medical shows. I'm still watching ER, and I could never get into, say, Grey's Anatomy or House. That's fine...ER got to "sunset" as these other shows were on the rise. Now, as ER goes away, I'm ready to say a thankful goodbye...and that will make room for the next generation's medical show.

That is how it needs to be in daytime, I think.

GL moved from the middle to the bottom of the ratings in the 1980s! It has, some might say, limped along and struggled for survival ever since. (I am not saying there were not good moments). An argument might have been to sunset GL long ago--while it still had its core identity--and explore some new shows.

Nostalgia is 50% of the reason I love Y&R. But, honestly, new characters and situations is the other 50%.

Nostalgia is good...but these days, our YOUNGEST soap is over 20 years old. That certainly suggests there is a problem of innovation and orderly succession.

Mike said...

Mark,
I applaud your blog! It's insightful, intelligent and not just another fan's opinion. I welcome this academic approach to a genre I love so much!
I must say that I totally agree with the need for more new soaps... How can you keep a genre fresh with the same old...well, you know. Hell, even LAW & ORDER rejuvinates its cast every so often. Can you imagine if I LOVE LUCY or LITTLE HOUSE still ruled the primetime airwaves? That wouldn't be pretty.
Keep up those wonderful graphs!
All the best...