Musings from an Avid Soap-Opera Fan

Last Friday, the ABC soap opera All My Children aired its last episode on television after a 41- year run. In January, One Life to Live will broadcast its last episode, and though, it hasn’t been formally announced, General Hospital will follow suit in September 2012. Soap fans are angry and disappointed that their shows have been canceled from television after decades on the air. ABC declared that ratings dictated their demise, citing dwindling audiences and changing times as the reason. All My Children was replaced by a cooking show called The Chew, which airs its first episode today. General Hospital will be replaced by Katie Couric’s new program. Good luck with that, Katie. I am sure millions of GH fans can’t wait to watch NBC’s and CBS’s former golden girl try one more time to make her mark, this time with a talk show—a type of programming already glutting the airwaves.

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Summer Blockbuster: Daredevils of the Red Circle (1939)

This year’s summer movie season was inaugurated by the gentle guttural drawl of Vin Diesel in Fast Five, the latest iteration of the jokey car fetishist franchise. Listening to Diesel’s lazy growl battle The Rock’s aggressive, crystalline enunciation offers more diversionary pleasures than most Hollywood money-grabbers. But the most fun I’ve had this year is watching a minor hit from the summer of 1939, the movie serial Daredevils of the Red Circle, which I picked up a $.99 VHS copy of on Amazon. The history of the summer blockbuster is usually traced to Jaws and Star Wars – in which Steven Spielberg and George Lucas filmed B-movie scenarios with A-level budgets and cemented the studios’ preference for the holy teen demographic. Lucas has previously stated that the Flash Gordon serial was one of the influences on Star Wars, and both men further indulged their serial fantasies with the Indiana Jones franchise. While  Spielberg and Lucas continue their attempts to recapture their sense of childhood wonder, always undercut by a winking self-consciousness, the originals are still around, providing unpretentious pleasures their wildly successful descendents have never quite been able to match.

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