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2009 What Will Change In Daytime?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The new year will bring smaller casts, new faces and maybe a little kumbaya.

The good news is that suddenly soaps are generating headlines. The bad news is, well, it's all bad news. The end of 2008 was rife with bombshells. November brought word that DAYS OF OUR LIVES heavyweights Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall (John and Mar-, lena) will be written out in Jan- uary. And Executive Producer Ken Corday told Digest, "There will be other changes. The cast has to be pared down and all of production is going to have to be downsized." Not long after that stunner came a report from Advertising Age, which noted that even daytime's biggest name, Susan Lucci (Erica, ALL MY CHILDREN), is taking a substantial pay cut. In the year ahead, fans should expect more of the same.

Behind the scenes, there is nail-biting. "I heard there are 40 percent cuts across the Lk1 board at ABC. Take it or leave it," whispers one East Coast insider, adding, "The attitude when everyone is being cut back so severely is going to be really rotten. I have no idea what the unions are going to do about it. I kind of think SAG [the Screen Actors Guild] should strike; we're not in a good position anyway."

On his MySpace blog, Tristan Rogers (Robert, GENERAL HOSPITAL) wrote: "Right now Daytime has probably been hit the hardest with budget and salary cuts and the firing of [frontline] artists. But again, we haven't seen the end of it. In a genre that already has a question mark over its existence, anything that creates a ripple, in reality creates a wave."

"No one has anything positive to say," sighs an actor at a West Coast soap who fears that all the belt-tightening will impact the quality of the shows. "We are cutting back like nobody's business. It's frighten- ing. We're cutting scenes. We're cutting days out [of the taping schedule] for the sake of saving money. If days keep getting cut, well end up doing five shows in three days. That's crazy, but that's what they're doing and what's going to happen is, the show is going to suffer. And that's not going to help anyone"

Despite the turmoil. TV Guide columnist Michael Logan commends the stars, saying the challenges they face aren't go- ing to be obvious to fans. "The actors really, really amaze me:' he praises. "They're just such champs of staying really on their toes with all the cuts. all the changes, reduced rehearsal, all things the budget cuts mean. And they're still delivering the goods and you can barely tell [about the changes]. Every once in a while, you can see. 'Boy, that looked a little under- rehearsed.' but they're basically putting rehearsals on the air. They're like Olympic athletes, they're able to just do the job faster, quicker, better, longer; they're just able to go the distance and set records for what an actor can accomplish. It's just an awesome job. As a result, the audience isn't seeing how tough it is."

Daytime viewers probably won't notice a reduction in production quality, but they will have to brace themselves to lose some familiar faces in the coming year. And they'll likely see an increase in actors they recognize from prime-time — especially on West Coast soaps. Talent manager Michael Bruno, whose roster includes BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL's Lesli Kay and Brandon Beemer (Felicia and Owen) and AS THE WORLD TURNS's Julie Pin- son and Austin Peck (Janet and Brad), pre- dicts: "As they have been, and I've said in the past, they'll be going for fallen nighttime TV names. These people who have made their money in nighttime TV, they still want to be in the game. Their kids are in private school in Pacific Palisades, they don't want to sell the house, so if a Los Angeles show like Y&R or GENERAL HOSPITAL came up, it's not even so much about the money as being in the game again and being 'a star' again. So you will be seeing those kinds of names. I think that you will be seeing much more shocking cast cuts of bigger names. It used to be. *Someone left, okay we can bring some body on; rob Peter to pay Paul.' Now it's not that way. Now if you lose two or three. then it's 'Okay, now we can bring someone else on.'

Audiences will also get more young newbies. -It's not necessarily casting young [for demographic reasons]," ex- plains Bruno, "it's just that they cost a dol- lar. For one of these big stars, you could get five kids, five 25-year-olds."

Though the atmosphere in the soap world is largely gloomy, Logan anticipates massive mobilization. think we're going to see a lot of people coming together as a whole," he says. "Everybody is in the same boat. Nobody's special now. I think every- one will have to stop just thinking about just their own show and look at things from an industry-wide perspective. Look at the bigger picture and realize that it's a very serious situation. It's not just AMC's budg- et cuts, it's not just DAYS cutting cast. Everyone is going to have to make sacri- fices and be a team player. I don't think you're going to have anyone refusing?'

Marj Dusay (Alexandra, GUIDING LIGHT) also foresees a major attitude adjustment. "I tell you one thing, there are going to be no divas," she laughs. "All divas are done."

Logan urges the industry to keep fighting. "We need to believe that the future's positive and full of possibilities and that things are going to turn out okay. Maybe these shows are never going to be what they were, maybe the audience can't be reclaimed in huge enough numbers to matter, but you can sure as hell keep things going for a while longer and yay everybody who's willing to try."

By Elaine G. Flores
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