Ever since the O.J. Simpson trial pre-empted the soaps back in the mid-'90s, the shows have struggled to gain traction in the ratings. Now, with several high-profile exits on the shows and a daily real-life soap opera capturing TV viewers’ attention, it’s a rough road ahead for all four daytime series.
Last week, Arianne Zucker of Days of Our Lives was the first to announce her departure. She decided not to renew her contract, which ends in late April.
“Two years ago, I was contemplating making the shift,” Zucker said to Soap Opera Digest. “I know there are a thousand girls who would take my job in a second. For me, it is my time to go.”
Zucker's exit may have been compounded by the attention drawn to her last fall, when an old Access Hollywood video was released during the presidential campaign. She became an unknowing victim of sexual harassment coerced by Billy Bush and Donald Trump.
The second major exit was announced on Wednesday by Daytime Confidential: Veteran General Hospital star Jane Eliott will not be renewing her contract. In April 2016, she spoke to TV Insider about her desire to retire.
“It will be very hard to leave GH. There are people in that building who have been a part of my life for 38 years and I will miss them dearly,” she said. “But I want to keep growing, learning new things, living in new places, in order to expand my mind.”
Eliot and Zucker's departures put a major black cloud on daytime TV when the Trump administration is playing out many dramatic scenarios in real life. Can soaps even compete with Sean Spicer’s theatrical press conferences from the White House every day?
The climate surrounding daytime TV is felt across the board. Former Bold and the Beautiful star Susan Flannery told TV Insider recently that she would never return to daytime.
"I have no desire to go back to daytime,” she explained. “In soaps, we’re in there giving it a thousand percent, because that’s how we are as professional actors, but with all the monetary constraints there is no polish. If you’re two beats off in a scene and you need to do it over again, there is simply no time. You have to settle for less than your best. To that I say, where is the art?”
For fans, there is a huge sense of loss because some of their favorite faces are no longer in their living rooms each day. The shows lose a sense of familiarity.
@nicholsevansfan I still can't believe Arianne Zucker us leaving days, I was totally shocked!— Rose (@Rose62022853) March 1, 2017
There is no magic elixir that will fix daytime TV. It’s up to the producers and writers to create strong storylines that will keep the fans coming back. Otherwise, the drama in Washington, D.C., is going to take over.
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