Our daily fix of daytime drama is at risk because of the coronavirus-related Hollywood production shutdown
Sand isn’t the only thing running through the hourglass during these scary days of our lives. Network soap operas shot before the coronavirus forced all Hollywood productions to shut down last month will soon run out of original episodes — and are scrambling for contingency plans.
This month, ABC’s “General Hospital” and CBS’ “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” began airing repeat or “classic” episodes on Friday, a move intended to slow down the speeding train when they run out of original episodes as early as this month. And “General Hospital” is now interweaving flashbacks into new episodes to stretch out its stockpile of already-shot material, while also giving lapsed viewers a chance to catch up on current storylines.
The two CBS shows run out of new material next week, with the last original episode to air Thursday, April 23. To keep soap fans engaged, “Y&R” and “B&B” are resurfacing vintage episodes (dating as far back as 1970 for the former) for “memorable theme weeks,” which will begin airing Monday, April 27. For “Y&R,” the first will be a tribute to the iconic character of Katherine Chancellor (played by the late Jeanne Cooper).
In its first full week of reruns, “B&B” will feature episodes shot on location in the Mediterranean paradise of Monte Carlo between 2013-2017. It will also air two “Becoming Bold and Beautiful” documentary-style episodes with never-before-seen footage of the cast and crew at work in Monaco.
Meanwhile, NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” may be in the best shape of the four remaining daily soaps on the broadcast networks, with new shows in the can and prepared to air through mid-October. The show was very close to taping its Halloween episode before the pandemic forced the shutdown of all film and TV production in March, an insider said.
The coming drought of new episodes comes just as viewership for all four soaps has soared after years of steady decline, according to TV Line. (There’s one upside to all of those Americans sheltering at home all day.)
The week of March 23, “B&B” averaged 3.66 million viewers, up nearly a quarter-million compared to the same week last year and its best number in two years. “General Hospital” drew 2.574 million total viewers, up 103,000 from the week before (and up 286,000 from the same week in 2019) and, once again, its best number since 2018.
“Days” logged in 2.24 million, an increase of 152,000 from the week before (+134,000 from last year) and its best in more than a year. Although “Y&R” continues to have the highest ratings of the four soaps, it was the only soap that dropped 195,000 viewers from the same week in 2019 but drew an amazing 768,000 more viewers than the week of March 16 this year.
Earlier this week, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti extended the city’s “safer-at-home” orders to May 15, and there’s no guarantee that production could resume even then. Before Mayor Garcetti’s most recent order, the cast and crew of “GH” were scheduled to return to work on April 30, but actor William deVry (who plays Julian on the soap) told fans on Twitter that is “def not happening.” He added, “When [executive producer Frank Valentini] has something it will be shard [sic]. I doubt there are answers yet.”