Four Soap Operas The CW Needs to Develop
When The WB and UPN merged into The CW in 2006, there wasn't much hope for the new network. And even after premiering a string of show with buzz including Gossip Girl, the ratings didn't match the rep. Now suddenly those shows are doing record numbers, indicating they are found consistently by their intended audience. This young, female viewership loves soap operas, and with the first season of 90210 and the recent greenlighting of the Melrose Place revival, it looks like they'll get them in spades. Here's four more from TV's past that deserve to be resurrected by the fledging network.
From its early days on radio, the soap opera has been the most successful dramatic formula in the serial medium. The buzz around the beautiful young people of Gossip Girl is now just off its zenith, and if there's one thing to know about soaps, it's that they can run hot and cold. (The OC went from must-watch to the Mischa Barton crazy show in under three episodes.) Midday soaps like Days of Our Lives and General Hospital may not last much longer, so it's even more crucial that the CW bring back a few of our favorites and soap us up.
The Show: Dallas Spin That Reinvents It For Today: Dallas had incredible longevity, running from 1978 to 1991. It was one of the most massive successes in the television medium, and yet you can barely find it today. Soaps slip more quickly from our collective subconscious because of their repetitiveness. You wouldn't want to watch the travails of a Texas oil family now, but how about a family that owns a bunch of windmills and really cares about the frontier of clean energy and has hot sex constantly? Chances Our Dream Comes True: In these times, the big southern family will be more pressed than ever. And since we're dealing with a strong and aggressive Russia that flashes us back to the Cold War period, Dallas is ready for a renaissance. (Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch recently chronicled the show's brilliance, calling it "a bourbon-and-sex-soaked caricature of free enterprise that proved irresistible and catalytic." Amen.)
The Show: Soap, the genre-crossing hilarious comedy that tested boundaries Spin That Reinvents It For Today: We really need a contemporary version of All in the Family, but that kind of humor isn't fodder for a sitcom. It's much easier to cross some lines when you don't have to do a comedy, necessarily, and Soap knew that. Created by Golden Girls scribe Susan Harris, Soap would need some changes — some of its backstory is out of date now, and it could use some prettier actors — but it's tailor-made for a revival. Chances Our Dream Comes True: As soon as it's made patently obvious to the TV industry that controversy=ratings, we'll be seeing another version of Soap to push the envelope about what we think we know.
The Show: Hill Street Blues, Steven Bochco's first successful foray into the soapy cop drama territory he'd later mine with NYPD Blue. Spin That Reinvents It For Today: While NYPD Blue is largely forgotten today, Hill Street Blues is essentially a cop soap that aged a lot better. But really, what new can be done in the police genre at this point? Commissioned by legendary NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff, Hill Street Blues is concept to skew young with. Make a bunch of up-and-coming actors into stars and then trade on their reputation later on — it's the Hollywood way. At its heart, HSB's focus on the ongoing human drama represented the first conflation of the soap concept with another genre ever done on TV. Chances Our Dream Comes True: Since The CW doesn't have a show that can stretch to entertain kids and adults, the story of young, beautiful cops should have fans in every home.
The Show: Saturday morning candy treat Saved by the Bell Spin That Reinvents It For Today: Since the TNT series Raising the Bar has about as much prayer of getting renewed for a second season as it does for winning an Emmy, Mark-Paul Gosselaar will be available for the gutsy Richard Belding role. And since everything in a Saved by the Bell would need to be more attractive, this could work as long as Dustin Diamond is kept as far away from the project as possible. Also, you're telling me Tiffani Amber Thiessen and Elizabeth Berkley wouldn't jump at the chance to work again? Chances Our Dream Comes True: The NBC spin-off Saved by the Bell: The College Years was the wrong direction for a show that needed to skew younger. The last good show about kids in high school was Freaks and Geeks, and while it couldn't attract an audience at the time, it was a critical success and a hit on DVD. Couldn't a similar mischievous revival mark another financial windfall in the Apatow portfolio? Maybe someday The CW will bring back Temptation Island, the greatest reality show in history, as a primetime-soap. You could just reenact the old episodes of the Fox series: it was that good. Journey to a Land of Temptation [Hulu]