The Year Ahead
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Here's What Will Happen On Daytime In 2006
By Elaine G. Flores
Casting coups, hardball negotiations and panic - expect as much drama behind the scenes as in front of the camera, according to industry-watchers and insiders.
Belt-tightening will continue. "With the ratings the lowest they've ever been, and danger of cancellation, the soaps are buckling down in terms of survival," notes talent agent Barry kolker, president of Carson-Kolker Organization, whose clients include ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Ilene Kristen (Roxy), Kristen and Eddie Alderson (Starr and Matthew), and DAYS OF OUR LIVES's Martha Madison (Belle).
We've seen stars walk over contract negotiations, and the trend will probably continue as paychecks get smaller. "The money is getting worse and worse and worse," says talent manager Michael Bruno, who is also a judge on I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR. "I'm doina deals right now that are just a joke - with name people. And the attitude of the network is: 'Take it or leave it. We have 10 other names that will do it.'"
Also look for more actors to be bumped to recurring. TV Guide columnist Michael Logan observes, "One of the ways to keep shows afloat is not to keep everybody on contract, paid and present when they are not given something of importance to do." Except for a select few, even popular stars are on the line. Logan continues, "It doesn't matter what [viewer] polls say, people have to be cut loose.They aren't croing to screw with [Susan] Lucci [Erica, ALL MY CHILDREN]. They're not going to screw with Maurice [Benard, GENERAL HOSPITAL's Sonny]. And then there's the next category..."
More stars will jump ship to rival shows. Bruno, whose client list includes
BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL's Lesli Kay (Felicia) and Ashley Jones (Bridget), and DAYS's Austin Peck (Austin) promises: "The basic thing you're going to see is the 'stealing' of established daytime stars from one show to the next. In this time period of panic there are going to be less gentlemanly ways of doiner things. There will be bidding wars, giving money and perks to get those people to leave to come to them. With shows that are on shakier ground, you are really going to see execs from other shows going, 'Find out when so-and-so is up.' 'She's up in June, let's get her and then write a character.'"
Former prime-time stars are coming to daytime. "Mark my words there will at least one or two nighttime names coming on to L.A. shows," promises Michael Bruno. "The philosophy of this is that anyone 45-65 who used to be stars in the '8os doesn't want to leave town. It's not about doing GENERAL HOSPITAL for $600,000 a year, which is much less than what they would normally take in their nighttime careers. What it is about is being in the game again. To go to hair and makeup; to have Soap Opera Digest go 'We need a cover with you'; to see the fans."
According to Vicki Beck, more characters will face major medical crises. Beck is director of Hollywood, Health & Society at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center, based at the Annenberb a School for Communication (whew!). The society worked with AS THE WORLD TURNS on the story of Lucinda's breast cancer and recently consulted with other shows. "Right now, we're doing briefings with daytime dramas in New York and talking to them about cancer and AIDS but particularly about health disparities: groups that are at higher risk because of certain circumstances."
Younger Stars, Longer Contracts
Shows will hire more young stars for front-burner roles. Kolker says, "Executives and writers are not thinking that viewers want to see the veterans who we've loved and watched for years. And this is a mistake. You're going to see younger, younger, younger."
And those new hires will have very long commitments or as Bruno puts it, "Jail sentences." He says, "At one time, it was a three-Year deal, now it's four years. I think the they're going to go five and six years."
Experimentation And Marketing
In addition to taking prime-time stars, shows just may try tweaking the format again, says C. Lee Harrington, professor of sociology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and co-author of Soap Fans. She is a1so writing an upcoming book on global television patterns and thinks domestic soaps are eyeing international trends such as limited runs and hiatuses."Format is the elephant in the room. ABC talked about this ... going to the telenovela format. They tried [definitive arcs] with PORT CHARLES. I believe there was some talk at the time of trying it with other ABC soaps and that never happened. That would be the bold experiment. To those who watch soaps and have done so for years, it's frustrating when shows like LOST and ALIAS and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES get all the kudos for serialized storytelling. They're poaching from daytime very successfully - we can poach back."
Like GUIDING LIGHT's podcast, shows will also drum up new ways to retain fans. "They keep finding different ways to market, market, market, and they don't seem likely to abandon that;" says Logan. "It helps their status reports: `Here's what we've done to increase our audience...: I think that's where resources and energy will continue to go.... It says these shows are alive, they're still moving, they're trying to figure it out That's not a bad thing, but it shouldn't be where all the emphasis goes."