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'The Young and the Restless': Fans' power could save the show

The power of YR's seasoned audience can't be ignored forever.
The power of YR's seasoned audience can't be ignored forever.
Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images

In relatively ancient times, soap opera fans were receivers of fictionalized fare that was initially beamed to them through radio signals. Eventually daytime dramas were seen through properly positioned antennas that were perched on rooftops throughout the land. The 'Big 3' broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) are still benefiting from this genre in the modern age. But, behind-the-scenes forces at 'The Young and the Restless' must understand that the power of their seasoned audience can't be ignored forever.

The author of this digital space knows through eyewitness experience that professional baseball players supported daytime's daily offerings when he worked in the front office for the Philadelphia Phillies' former Triple-A team. Many hours before games were played in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a variety of young prospects were glued to certain storylines. Those statistics weren't printed on the backs of their baseball cards.

The notion that males have never comprised a sizable segment of the soap opera audience remains healthy and alive. That's because most guys never (or rarely) admit to watching, with, or without, their girlfriends, or wives.

If YR made as many cast changes back then, as it has now, some mild remedies would have been available within the old school: Write a letter by hand on paper and send it through the United States mail to CBS. Use a corded phone to call fellow devotees and ask them to do the same. Contact a variety of print magazines in hopes that those soap story editors would provide one's words to all subscribers.

Far more fans, representing every advertiser segment, watched soap operas in past decades. However, that mass audience had no real way to harness and then channel its power into any consequential form.

The Nielsen Ratings' system still dominates weekly eyeball counts, which are then translated into money slots that the networks use for corporate advertising rates. However, the unfathomable power of the internet is greatly affecting that old order in still-developing ways.

Everyone knows that advertisers care deeply about targeted audience members. CBS' still-number one show has recently fallen toward the four million daily viewer line. That ongoing downward trend began after Michael Muhney's reviled exit from the show in January. Other key cast member maneuvers and storyline shifts have surely damaged this 40-plus year sudser as well within the last year.

Many people watched a list of shows from all three networks to varying degrees when this author was a boy in the 1970s. Today, with half his career and a disco-era hairline gone, one scribe among many wonders if this particular show, or the entire genre, will survive until, or past, this decade? If one, or both, don't the ideas, actions and passion of many would surely have been ignored along the way.

All has not been lost just yet. As long as fans continue to consistently project their collaborative power onto the world's stage through their personal digital devices, it's possible that familiar theme songs will still be heard and that many beloved actors and as yet undiscovered stars will be able to display their talents through many future episodes.

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