The official end of ABC Daytime: Long live the soap opera

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The official end of ABC Daytime: Long live the soap opera
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The week of December 5, 2011
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The most hated man in daytime is gone, but even with Brian Frons exiting his role at the now-defunct ABC Daytime, there are questions that need to be answered. Will Frons ever tell the whole truth? That remains to be seen, but our Dan J Kroll has a list of questions that he wants answered.

In this current economy, every dollar counts. Last week, another name was added to the unemployment list as Brian Frons "stepped down" as President of ABC Daytime. Almost immediately, soap fans took to the Internet -- Facebook, Twitter, the Soap Central message boards -- to celebrate, brag, and share virtual high-fives. Have we forgotten that a man lost his job? I think it's inexcusable to take pleasure in... Who am I kidding? I was right there dancing in the streets myself.

I've spent the past few hours trying to add to my list of witty Frons-inspired puns. I've only got two so far -- but I am sure that you guys can help me add to the list. Send 'em over, and I will post them to my Twitter feed @danjkroll.

Frons with the wind. Ding, dong the Frons is gone. Fronshole and Gretel. Fronsie Days (to the theme from Happy Days.)

So let me get something out of the way right at the top of this column. If you were to ask me who I'd like to interview, Brian Frons would be somewhere near the top of the list. In fact, I've been asking to interview him for the past two years -- and I've been turned down. But I am nothing if not persistent, and will continue to push for the sit-down chat that I'm seeking.

For those of you who have fainted, thrown things at the monitor, or are just sitting there in sheer horror, let me explain. There have been so many poorly crafted decisions over the past bunch of years that I want to get the real story behind the decisions. I don't know that I expect to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but I think that I have enough working knowledge of how daytime operates to be able to get at least some of the answers. The "mainstream" interviews only scratch the surface. They have their buzz words "relocation," "cancelation," "lifestyle programming." I want the whole story.

The interview wouldn't be a nasty, hate-filled Q&A. If you've listened to any of the past 99 episodes of Soap Central Live, you'll know that's not what I do. I'm about finding the story and getting the answers. If you take a minute to let go of all the personal anger that we have about the state of our soaps, there are so many questions that have never been answered. In the words of the immortal Judge Judy, if something doesn't make sense, it's probably a lie.

With the exception of the NetFlix public relations disasters of the past year, and maybe that New Coke debacle, I've never seen one company have so many public relations disasters. Your personal opinions aside, I don't think Brian Frons is stupid. At least I hope he's not. So the fact that ABC Daytime has been such a bumbling mess for the past two or three years... it just doesn't add up. The network's daytime lineup was such a powerhouse for so long, and to completely jettison love in the afternoon for a bunch of talking heads is stupefying.

In a post on her official web site, the wonderful Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer, One Life to Live) also seemed to sense that something just didn't make sense. "I find it mind boggling that a company can spend 45 years building the strongest brand in daytime, launch a cable network to support it and then decide to cancel both broadcast, and cable airings leaving the beloved fans with nowhere to turn for that brand," DePaiva wrote.

In fact, with just one soap left in production, ABC Daytime is no more. The division has been shuttered and merged with another division that will focus on the creation of -- you guessed it! -- non-scripted "reality" and "lifestyle" programming.

In a recent interview, CBS president Les Moonves said that his network was able to turn a huge profit by slicing two of their soaps, As the World Turns and Guiding Light. According to Moonves, the network was losing $25 million on its daytime lineup when it had four soaps. Now, with two soaps -- The Bold and the Beautiful and The Young and the Restless -- plus its talk show, The Talk, and a revival of the classic game show, Let's Make A Deal, CBS is reportedly making a profit of $100 million a year.

It's a different situation over at ABC. CBS didn't own As the World Turns and Guiding Light, so their profit on those two soaps was smaller. ABC owns all of its soaps outright, and it makes a profit from rebroadcasting the shows on SOAPnet. Yes, SOAPnet is going off the air sometime in 2012, but I find it hard to believe that ABC's daytime lineup was losing huge amounts of money. Remember that accounting ledger that showed AMC's strong fiscal state that was reportedly shown to the AMC cast when the cancellation rumors first surfaced?

Now, I am much more willing to accept that AMC and One Life to Live were not making as much money as the network would have wanted. Those are two totally different concepts. Apples and oranges. So this goes back to what Kassie DePaiva said: Why tick off the two-and-a-half million viewers that are watching these soaps?

Why did he make hurtful comments about the physical appearance of some of the most popular stars on his network? What was that crack about his lesbians [being] cuter than [others'] lesbians" all about? Why did he feel the need to meddle in the soaps' stories and muck them up so that fans would be outraged? Which is it -- are you excited about the future of your network's soaps or excited by their bland replacements that cost less to produce? Why was production of All My Children relocated to Los Angeles if plans were already in motion to kill the show? Why lie about moving the show? Why pay to have One Life to Live move into AMC's old studio when it was only going to be canceled anyway? Why was there such a rush to pull All My Children from the airwaves? Couldn't AMC and One Life to Live have continued to run through the end of the season?

Gosh, this column turned into a game of 20 Questions. I'm sure Katie Couric is somewhere out there jotting down my questions so that she can ask them on a special edition of 20/20.

I'll wrap things up with this: soap fans don't like loose ends. Answering the questions probably won't bring any of our canceled soaps back, but at least soap fans would have answers... and then do what they want with that information.

I am sure I've suffered a setback in my Fifteen Stages of Grief. If you read last week's Two Scoops column, you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, click here to check it out. I've heard from so many of you -- and your messages were so moving.

In case you are wondering who else is on my list of people I'd like to interview (and never have spoken to before), here are five in no particular order (though the OCD side of me will probably try to alphabetize them in some way): Agnes Nixon, David Canary, Eva LaRue, Susan Flannery (Stephanie Forrester, B&B), and Tony Geary (Luke Spencer, GH).


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