Soap Opera Veterans and the Price of Honoring the Past

soap operaEach soap opera has a cast of talented veterans.

There are few things more comforting for soap fans more comforting than sitting down to watch your favorite daytime drama and seeing familiar faces you’ve been watching for years.

Unfortunately, economics have played a large role in shrinking the list of veteran players a soap opera can afford to employ. There was a time when soaps made so much they funded primetime, but those days are long gone and now all shows struggle to be fiscally viable to remain on the air. Sadly, we’ve seen many over the last several years that failed in that mission, but luckily the ones still on the air have found a way to make things work.

One of the big complaints soap viewers have is when a soap showcases the kids instead of the vets, because occasionally their acting skills are a bit green. The thing is, because they are green, they cost a lot less.

Soaps can hire four kids for scale (the lowest allowed salary) for the price of one adult. That allows for a lot more leeway with stories. Days of Our Lives has found a unique way to get around this budget concern by cycling in and out beloved veterans for short-term story beats – like having Charles Shaugnessy (Shane) and Patsy Pease (Kim) return to help usher their daughter out of town.

Their returns serve our sense of nostalgia for better days (no pun intended), whetting our appetites for more, and yet still remain somewhat satisfying. They still have plenty of fan-fave veterans like Stephen Nichols (Steve), Mary Beth Evans (Kayla), Deidre Hall (Marlena), Drake Hogestyn (John), Suzanne Rogers (Maggie), and John Aniston (Victor) who are around full time in storylines.

Other shows are also doing a good job of listening to fans and giving veterans a bigger role in story. The Bold and the Beautiful has enjoyed a ratings spike ever since it gave chronically back-burnered John McCook (Eric) a romantic yet dangerous new love interest in Rena Sofer’s Quinn.

General Hospital recently featured Jane Elliot’s Tracy as the one to solve the serial killer story, along with fellow vet Finola Hughes (Anna). Also popular is the very adult love story of Laura (Genie Francis) and Kevin (Jon Lindstrom).

Still, kids remain a focus because a soap needs to breathe new life into story. Keep in mind, yesterday’s kids are tomorrow’s veterans. Days of Our Lives stars Kristian Alfonso (Hope) and Melissa Reeves (Jennifer) started as teens over 30 years ago and are now both grandparents on the show.

On The Young and the Restless, Sharon Case (Sharon) and Joshua Morrow (Nick) began as part of the teen scene over 20 years ago and are involved in one of the hottest stories of the year. At the same time, Nick’s parents also remain vital since Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) will always be front and center with anything that happens in Genoa City.

Which veterans do you wish would return to daytime, or which ones do you wish had bigger stories? Let us know in the comments section.

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