With all eyes on primetime during the first few weeks of the new season it has been easy to lose sight of everything that is happening in daytime, a day-part that is either falling to pieces or rebuilding itself, depending on one's point of view.
A lot has changed in a relatively brief period of time, and there will be more seismic shifts in the months ahead. But one big development has already had a huge impact; the loss of The Oprah Winfrey Show. As expected, daytime television feels empty without it. The right guest or guests on Winfrey's show could instantly improve even the most unremarkable of days. Now, nothing comes close. Ellen DeGeneres can only manage so much of the burden, and her sense of humor can sometimes wear thin. Anderson Cooper's shiny new talk series has been sadly underwhelming, perhaps because even though Cooper says he has put his heart into the show, it seems to be lacking in the same. (Consistent emotional engagement is essential to the success of any daytime program, scripted, unscripted or otherwise.)
I wish Winfrey would leave the business of running her new network to executives who know how to run new networks and dash back to syndication. Failing that, I suggest she revive her daily daytime talk show on OWN. While she's at it, I'd like to see her move Rosie O'Donnell's lively new program into daytime where it belongs. It's one of the new season's best new shows, and it's too good to be allowed to flounder in the twilight zone known as early prime. With a little creative thought, OWN could rock the day-part Winfrey and O'Donnell once dominated.
There isn't much to be said about soap operas right now, except that ABC's recently terminated All My Children was so satisfying in its final weeks that it reminded us why so many millions of viewers fell in love with it (and all the ABC soaps) in the first place -- and also why so many of them bailed in recent years, when the storytelling on most soaps (including those on CBS and NBC) became so consistently terrible. The very smart producers of NBC's Days of Our Lives took full advantage of AMC's unfortunate departure, effectively re-launching the show on the Monday following AMC's Friday finale by bringing back a host of long-gone fan favorites (Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn among them) and powering up a number of new stories that are character and history driven. (They also wisely added multiple Daytime Emmy winner Sarah Joy Brown to the cast.) Romance has returned to the show, as well. I could do without all the goofy guest appearances by personalities from the NBC Universal family, including Patti Stanger of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker and home décor expert Nate Berkus, and I think the appealing younger players on the show have been pushed too far into the background, but overall Days is once again a splendid soap.
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