Events, commentary, reports about Long Lake NY. Real Adirondack Experience

Soaps’ demise a boost to Long Lake By TOM KEYSER Staff Writer Published: 12:00 a.m., Friday, October 1, 2010

(excerpt from the Times Union)

LONG LAKE — When Alexandra Verner Roalsvig was a child of 8 in this Adirondack town, her family’s television got two stations, and they were both CBS affiliates. So she grew up watching “As the World Turns.”

Now, as director of tourism in Long Lake (population 850 year-round, 6,000-8,000 summers), she has organized a two-day event this weekend called “An Adirondack Affair.” A panel discussion tonight will address the question: What happened to our shows?

“Our shows” are soap operas, specifically “As the World Turns,” where Roalsvig worked for 17 years as production assistant before moving last year back to Long Lake, 130 miles north of Albany. She has invited five former colleagues — a writer, director and three “As the World Turns” actresses (two-time Emmy-award-winning Martha Byrne, Ellen Dolan and Yvonne Perry, who lives in the Capital Region) — to participate in a panel discussion, acting and writing workshops, and a cabaret performance. (See box.)

Much has changed since 1978, when Roalsvig began watching “As the World Turns.” Then, it was the most-watched daytime drama with 10 million viewers. Two weeks ago, it went off the air after 13,858 episodes. It debuted in 1956.

With the demise last year of “Guiding Light,” only six daytime soap operas are left, down from a peak of 19 in 1970. You can blame O.J. Simpson for that.

After Simpson’s murder trial in 1995 pre-empted daytime TV for months, ratings for soap operas never returned to their pre-trial numbers, says Fritz Brekeller, a director who has worked more than 20 years in soap operas, helped write histories of leading soaps and is conducting research for a documentary about soap operas.

“The Simpson trial was a real-life soap opera unfolding on TV,” says Brekeller, one of the participants at Long Lake. “By the time it ended, a lot of people who were in the habit of watching soaps discovered that they didn’t need to watch them as much anymore.”

They found other options for their daytime-drama fix. Simpson’s trial led to talk shows “jumping on the real-life bandwagon,” Brekeller says. “They began dealing with the same kind of stories that the daytime dramas were dealing with,”

In addition, the Lifetime network was gaining in popularity by airing shows geared to 18-to-49-year-old women, the demographic that had bolstered soaps for decades. More and more women went to work. More cable channels sprang up — then soap-inspired prime-time dramas such as “Peyton Place” and “Dallas,” then the Internet, then reality shows.

They all sucked viewers from the soaps. And as ratings declined, the soaps started downsizing, reducing casts, cutting salaries and compromising creativity.

“It really is all about downsizing in corporate America,” says Byrne, the award-winning actress who spent more than two decades on “As the World Turns.” “It involves a lot of different aspects of how the world is changing.

“Something that’s worked for 54 years, why is it gone? What changed, not just in the world and the genre, but what happened behind the scenes to affect those changes?”

She and Brekeller say TV executives made some bad choices that contributed to the soaps’ demise. They will talk about those with colleagues in the panel discussion and throughout “An Adirondack Affair.”

“We’re living in an age where people are just busier,” Brekeller says. “Everybody has to work. Everybody’s trying to balance so many responsibilities. I just don’t think people have the time anymore to commit to watching a show five days a week.”

Tom Keyser can be reached at 454-5448 or by e-mail at tkeyser@timesunion.com.

‘An Adirondack Affair’

Friday

Long Lake Town Hall:

7 p.m. panel discussion: “What Happened to Our Shows?” (Participants: Actresses Ellen Dolan, Yvonne Perry and Martha Byrne from “As the World Turns,” writer Tom Casiello from “The Young and the Restless” and director Fritz Brekeller from “All My Children.”)

Admission: $15, $10 members of Adirondack Lakes Center of the Arts

Saturday

Long Lake Central School:

9:30 a.m.: registration

10-11:30 a.m., 1-2:30 p.m., 2:30-4 p.m.: acting workshops

10-11:30 a.m.: writing workshop

Admission: $20 per session, $55 for three sessions

Location to be announced:

5:30 p.m.: VIP reception (benefit for Adirondack Lakes Center of the Arts)

Admission: $50

Long Lake Town Hall:

7:30 p.m.: Cabaret performance by Ellen Dolan and Martha Byrne

Admission: $15, $10 members of Adirondack Lakes Center of the Arts

Info: 624-3077, http://www.anadirondackaffair.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s