Why has Grey's Anatomy succeeded where 80s soaps failed?

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Michael Torrance, Jul 21, 2017.

  1. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I understand this is not limited to Dynasty, so if someone wants to cross-post, feel free (nor sure how to :D).

    I am wondering whether Grey's Anatomy is truly a unique phenomenon as a prime-time drama or if other shows could have duplicated its ratings success and longevity. Grey's certainly had a huge number of disasters piling onto the characters (bombs, plane crashes, you name it) as well as soap staple after soap staple of personal dramas, so it's not like it is a different genre than Dynasty or Dallas or Knots or Falcon Crest. I don't know if we can even say "it doesn't focus on rich people" when some of them own a hospital, all of them are surgeons, and some are part of an international corporation.

    I think one important difference is that Grey's allows for the passing of the baton by slowly introducing new characters into the canvas, trying them out, and sometimes discarding them, whereas the 80s soaps only brought in new blood when they were forced to by the main cast leaving--and that may have been too late.

    Other thoughts?
     
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  2. Soapwriter12

    Soapwriter12 Soap Chat Fan

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    It also helps that Grey's has a huge Netflix viwershipamong the young. Grey's has the advantage of working with social media, and the streaming sevices.
     
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  3. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I haven't watched GREY'S in years, so I can't comment on its continued quality.

    But every show for the last twenty years has an entire sea of producers to brainstorm over every aspect of production to enhance the chances that a good, hit show remains good and a hit as long as possible (although, obviously, even that doesn't always work).

    With the big four '80s wealth-based soaps, production staffs were still much smaller. DYNASTY was one of the first shows to have a gazillion producers and was "very organized" but that still didn't help because they had drunken chimpanzees running the story department who flung their feces against the wall to see what stuck -- and then used what didn't.

    We've had these discussions before about why the '80s soap went into a death spiral midway thru the decade and midway thru their runs. If they'd ended in the Spring of 1985, which they almost seemed to cry out for, such a sense of finality there was to the cliffhangers that spring (DALLAS' death of Bobby, DYNASTY's Moldavian massacre, the return of Val's babies on KNOTS and the only time that show ever hit #1 for the week, and FALCON CREST's apparently delayed earthquake cliffhanger which was put back a year, until 1986, when the nazi plotline was dropped on the demands of a CBS executive) then perhaps it would have been for the best.

    But I'd hate to have missed S10 (per DVD count) of DALLAS, or S9 of DYNASTY -- thanks to Paulsen, in both cases.

    What caused them to tank? As almost my favorite genre, it rather hurt my feelings that all of them (except for KNOTS) collapsed as they did, and in the ways they did. People often chalk up the revival of sitcoms in the mid-'80s as to why, but that doesn't explain why DALLAS/DYNASTY/FC all started to suck donkeys of their own accord.

    To me, these shows began as essentially family dramas focused on character, but perhaps thanks to Aaron Spelling and his turning DYNASTY into a lifestyle, all the shows seemed to shift into attempting to "impress" the viewer -- whether it was with glitz or outrageous events or whatever. But all of them lost any sense of identity from that point forward and a tackiness took over. They just became unwatchable even for hardcore fans like me.

    Except, as I say, for KNOTS. KNOTS had its creator, David Jacobs, an objective dramatist, running the show, so its creative survival made sense. Post-'WhoShotJR?' DALLAS couldn't tell a tale without David Paulsen, but he only had whatever power on that show that Lenny Katzman or Philip Capice gave him -- and when Peter Dunne arrived and then Art Lewis returned, Paulsen took off. FALCON CREST's most inspired show-runner, Robert McCullough, was fired after three great seasons because a Lorimar executive didn't seem to like him. Show over. And while DYNASTY's Esther Shapiro was a capable producer, she was, like Spelling, a cynical businessperson at the end of the day, and turned control of the show over to pals who simply weren't up to the task.

    Who knows about GREY's ANATOMY?, but it's a different era in TV series production today -- one where shows never seem to be quite as well-conceived or cast, yet the productions are far slicker and the result of a more highly-competent assembly-line process.

    And, of course, a much, much smaller audience is required today for a series to still be seen as a hit.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
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  4. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    When one Important Doctor goes away, another Important Doctor appears. The difference is that new characters on GA don't need a storyline, at least not a storyline to introduce the characters. They only have to be a doctor or patient.
    New characters in family sagas need more relevance (history or future), and I don't think they were only added to fill the void left by other characters. True, some changes were painfully obvious, like new daughter Amanda.

    A continuing story that focusses on a relatively small group of characters (the family) is a limited concept.
    Like Susan Sullivan said when she had left Falcon Crest: I had suffered all the sufferings, there simply wasn't anything left.
    Many of the 80s soap characters were both the "doctor" and the "patient".

    Btw, I think GA became a hit-show because they had all these freak-y and gore-y accidents, not necessarily because it was a soap.
    I loved Meredith and Christina's cleverness, and how they always found a way - no matter how obscure - to cure the patient. In essence, it was the "hospital version" of L.A. Law.
     
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  5. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Well, they were added because the storyline possibilities of the old characters had maxed out, or because core Ewing or Carrington cast actors were leaving and the shows were looking ahead to bringing in some characters to replace them, or for both reasons.

    But that is the same with many of these characters--every single tragedy has happened to them, and when nothing is left they write them off. Maybe Grey's will not go on without its main character, but I think the Ewing/Barnes feud could have been the main driving force for ongoing seasons, same as in Dynasty the continuation of the Carrington dynasty could have worked the same. And Knots with its cul-de-sac residences could have residents moving in and out for decades.
     
  6. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    Granted, Grey's has succeeded in some markets, obviously America, but for some like Australia it had overstayed its welcome...and that was long ago. It also has that added benefit of tapping into social media platforms to further enhance viewers ownership of the series.

    I did attempt to watch the early episodes however found it a tad labor-some for my viewing though this could have been the fault of being hungover from "ER" so wasn't ready for another medical drama.

    80's soaps failed due to how ridiculous the scripts became and the viewing public drifting to sitcoms like The Cosby Show. Aaron Spelling became drunk on the success of Dynasty and believed he could replicate that again with The Colby's. Both Dallas and Dynasty started as adult contemporary drama but Dynasty in particular quickly became the show about fashions, austere makeup and bitch fights - something the viewing public lapped up. Then the silliness really crept in. Alien mother-ships kidnapping characters, A character so drunk in love she slept through an entire season and told us it was all a dream. Multiple characters splayed with automatic machine guns only to arise the following season with their coiffed hair and Nolan Miller gowns still intact.

    The writers must have been getting hard-on's creating scripts, believing this is what the viewing public would clamor for. The race was on between Dallas, Dynasty, The Colby's, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing on who could develop the most bizarre plots. Then it all came crashing down, pure and simple.
     
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  7. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Ironically I had the reverse experience: I tried to watch a few episodes of ER and found it too boring.

    I of course agree with you about how soaps shot themselves on the foot. But I don't buy the "viewing public taste shifts" theory. 90210 and Melrose Place, both Spelling shows, had ratings and buzz in the 90s only a few years after the big 80s soaps tanked . Of course Dynasty and Dallas could not continue being the #1 and #2 shows, but with decent ratings (and of course decent storylines) they could have been in the top 30 and remain viable even if sitcoms caught the top spots.
     
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  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    Except that they don't have to "soap" in every episode. Sometimes all they have to do is being a doctor, doing doctor stuff. The 80s PTS characters had to "soap" 24/7.
    And that's a different way of writing a story.
     
  9. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yet why did KNOTS prevail for 14 years, tying BONANZA is longevity -- when KNOTS also had to "soap" 24/7?

    Because it stayed focused on character. That's the key, then and now.
     
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  10. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    That is true. Grey's is still the same show at its core. And, which the 80s shows never did, past events actually shape the characters and help them mature.

    yes, and as @Soapwriter12 and @Rove mentioned, netflix and social media help, which I had not considered. One can binge-watch and catch up on the new episodes, whereas it was harder to do with soaps in the 80s--syndication was in the summer I think and late at night.
     
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  11. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    :floor:at the conclusion after the dash.
     
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  12. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Star

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    I dunno
    I also think it's far easier to get new characters into a work/place setting rather than something that is focused on family like Dynasty/Dallas/Falcon Crest (which is why I've always argued that Melrose Place, if well-managed, could've gone on to 15+ seasons). With focusing on a setting you can write characters in and out without having to explain too much. People quit jobs, they move away etc. You don't quit family as easily. Long-lost family members showing up gets stale.

    This is why Greys succeeds and why Knots outlived all 80s soaps.
     
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  13. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    I agree.
    But a soap has to do more character stuff than a medical show.
     
  14. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    A never-ending slew of long-lost characters, family or not, tends to get stale. And the '80s shows just got into bringing in too much new blood, sidelining the core characters.

    A little of that is okay, but when "the new kids" and their stuck-on plotlines begin to overshadow the principals, there is always a problem and it usually smacks of desperation from a writing team that doesn't know or remember how to weave a narrative web which still focuses on the leads.
     
  15. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    But of course viewers tastes had changed. This is why 90210 and Melrose Place were the success they were. 90210 was slanted more towards the teenage market, it was fresh, something a little different though not my cup of tea. Melrose Place was a format developed for a slightly older market, I'm guessing mid 20's to mid 30's. It was addictive in it's early seasons. Funny how what can work one minute doesn't work the next, remember Models Inc? Goes to show not even the great Linda Gray could carry that show.

    The problem with Dallas in particular was they didn't grasp the change which was occurring in the 80's. Suddenly the youth unshackled those hideous browns and old school thinking left over from the 70's. Welcome Madonna! I'm gonna scream "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time." Parents were horrified, teenagers embraced her shocking antics. Even now when I re-visit Dallas (and I'm in the process of watching it again) as time moved forward Dallas didn't seem to grasp that change until that annoying Charlie began dating Randy (Brad Pitt). Watching them sashay down the stairs to the beat of Billy Idol's Mony Mony had me in stitches. Was Dallas suddenly wishing to be hip? Watching the reaction of Ray and Jenna, suddenly looking more like grandparents just enforced my opinion Dallas had also become tired and boring.

    Though the plot lone involving John Ross's conception and ultimate daddy reveal was interesting and pushed the story further I just wonder if Dallas (when it began in 1978) could have been best presented if JR and Sue Ellen had children already several years old so by the time we reached 1985 those kids would have been approaching late teens. Would have been interesting to watch JR interact with a daughter.
     
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  16. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    I often think as this was David's pet project prior to Dallas, he took great care in the product. From what other posters have discussed the actors could also offer their opinions in what direction their respective characters could take. This tells me David was inclusive which can work wonders in any environment.
     
  17. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    It can be blessing or a curse. Larry Hagman ended up having too much control over Dallas, and John Forsythe started diluting his character right from the start; and don't get me started on his and Evans' insistence that Blake and Krystle stay together no matter what.
     
  18. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    Krystle had to have a reason to stay with Blake after season 1. And at least he mellowed gradually (he was still "the enemy" during Danny's custody trial).
    Marry, divorce, re-marry, re-divorce...so many other couples had done it already (not just on Dynasty).
    "Blake & Krystle Forever" itself is not a bad thing imo, after all it was the most important decision she's made after Matthew told her to go back to Blake (because he didn't love her, which was a lie of course otherwise he wouldn't have returned in the season 7 finale).
    I'm sure many DALLAS fans would have loved to see a happy ending for Bobby & Pamela, so why not Blake & Krystle?
     
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  19. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    The lobotomy the writers gave her was reason enough.

    I forget--did Bobby rape Pamela like it happened with our own romantic "forever" couple on Dynasty?
     
  20. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    In season 2 already?
    The Carringtons are upper class, therefore different standards apply.:p
     
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