Thursday, September 22, 2011

The inevitable death of genres, or why isn’t the Cisco Kid still on TV every week?

I’ve been reading a lot about how soap opera fans are decrying network plans to cancel their stories, and I really think that they should just consider themselves lucky that things have lasted as long as they have.
When you think about it, the soap opera genre has had one of the longer periods of popularity than most other forms of entertainment. From their days as radio programming staples in the forties to their popularity as TV programs from the sixties to the nineties, they’ve been around for quite a long time. And what’s more, they’ve been around in virtually the same form, which is responsible for both that longevity and for their downfall.
People enjoy following interesting stories, and enjoy being able to do so often. Soap operas were a reliable source for that, giving folks five days a week of quality entertainment. But that only goes so far, especially as tastes and entertainment options evolve and expand. Right now, there are a lot more entertainment options for the typical soap opera fan than there were in the thirty years of their heyday. It’s not just young guys who are at war with themselves over choosing what to do at any given moment; Everyone, even the stereotypical bored housewife, can find a lot of interesting stuff to do besides watching soap operas.
One of the problems with soap operas is that they don’t really seem to reflect the times as they once did. Sure, they try, tossing in the occasional homosexual character or weather-controlling madman, and making sure everyone has an iPhone now. But adult situations really aren’t address with the propriety that modern society now allows. The selfsame sponsors who promote their products on these programs are very wary of being controversial. At least most programs allow such things as multiracial relationships now, since that’s a big demographic.
Soap opera fans should feel grateful that their genre has lasted as long as it did. For example:
·        The Cisco Kid, The Roy Rogers Show, Hopalong Cassidy, the Range Riderthe Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke.  The classic television westerns rode off into the sunset over thirty years ago. All western fans have now are sub-standard “modern” westerns guised as “family entertainment.” Rarely is a shot fired or a horse reared-up in the cause of action, adventure and justice anymore.
·        After the Kennedy assassination, cartoons went from the action-oriented likes of Space Ghost, Birdman and the Fantastic Four to mostly cute animals and adventures were Superman never throws a punch at a villain. Scooby Doo is fun and all, but solving the same basic mystery over and over gets real old.
·        CBS shut down all their rural situation comedies in the late sixties/early seventies just to try and put some gilt on their big bloodshot eye, even though shows like the Beverly Hillbillies were still getting top ratings.
Science fiction fans got lucky, since sci-fi is still such a big blockbuster box office draw, that genre is weaved into many a program nowadays. Most games shows are syndicated now, relegated to the bargain basement of reality television, which has taken over the small screen because of the low production costs.
Almost every genre of fiction has a period of unrivaled media popularity, before it gets into a sleepy lull and fades into nostalgia. Sometimes there are ways to keep things going fresh and new, but often or not, circumstances will just not allow that. I'm sorry, soap opera fans, but I think it's just about that time for your shows.
Popularity is a fickle mistress, and she likes to sleep around.

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