The Frustrating and the Ignorant

A.J. Thomas

September 10, 2014

When I was younger, my babysitter imposed very strict rules for watching television. We were able to watch some morning cartoons, the last half of The Price is Right after lunch, and then the news. After the local news, every day Ruth had to watch her stories. So we could continue watching TV, if we were content with watching The Young and the Restless. In the summer, it would often be too hot to go outside so we stayed in the cool air-conditioning. In the winter, it was often too cold so we stayed in the heat. As such, we often partook in watching The Young and the Restless.

I stopped going to Ruth’s when she passed away of breast cancer, but I did not stop watching Y&R. When school was in session, I would catch the occasional episode but also kept up with recaps and information online. In the summer of 2013, I underwent heart surgery and had to spend a few weeks recovering in my chair. It had been a few years since I actually watched an episode, but one Tuesday at 12:30 PM I reentered the world of daytime drama. I was instantly hooked with the same Newman and Abbott families I had watched years before.

After an entire summer of watching, it was once again time to make the trek back to Ashland University. All of my friends were unaware that I watched Y&R as I hadn’t seen an episode in some time, so I was expecting some amount of jokes at my expense. I thought I would just roll with it and continue watching and ignore the jocularity. What I did not expect, however, was actually building a defense for the daytime drama.

One of the first criticisms offered is that the acting is bad. This is a completely false allegation and stereotype from ignorant people that have never watched daytime television. The acting is actually quite good. The actors put in numerous hours to put on shows five days a week for nearly every day of the year, not just 20-24 episodes for a single season. These actors are experienced professionals who know very well what they are doing. Most of these actors have evolved into a different form of acting. Doug Davidson has been playing Paul Williams on Y&R since 1978. The closest current primetime television star is Mariska Hargitay who has been portraying Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit since 1999, which is still short by over 20 years. These actors have evolved from portraying their characters and have essentially transformed into that character. Watching Y&R is basically watching real people, this makes the show that much better because it gives the show a better sense of realism.

This realism is more entertaining because the viewer becomes attached to the characters, not the plot. If a show is too plot driven then the plots are going to get exponentially unrealistic. For instance, on L&O: SVU it was shown as the finale of the 2012-13 season that the captain of the squad was drugged and put into bed with a dead prostitute in an attempt to have him framed for murder. Yes, this is an interesting plot, but it was solved in about three episodes and then forgotten. This type of storytelling accomplishes nothing other than an hour of mindless entertainment. Y&R features character-driven stories in these real life situations because it teaches us about our true human nature. This is because we do not see true human nature in the extreme scenarios in life, but the ordinary situations, which can be applied to real life. These situations are portrayed through the characters and there is a deep emotional attachment that provides the entertainment and gives the show its longevity. One cares deeply about the characters on Y&R and does not want to see the plot simply unfold, but how the plot unfolds and how it affects the characters.

The storylines are the next main criticism. Everyone always says they are unrealistic and therefore do not deserve to be watched. I’ll admit, sometimes the writers can get a little crazy, but it is nothing inconceivable. On the primetime show, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit an entire case is solved in the matter of an hour (about 43 minutes excluding commercials). Days and possibly weeks pass by in this entire hour. There is so much not shown in these primetime shows it calls into question the intelligence of the viewers. Primetime TV viewers want everything to be solved in the matter of that hour and are willing to believe that test results can be back in the matter of hours and are always just readily available when detectives go to the Medical Examiner. They also have to accept the notion that those detectives, or anyone else, only have that one case when, in reality, a detective would be working an average of 20 cases. How is any of that conceivable?

Y&R only lasts about 37 minutes without commercials and only about an hour happens in the show. This is the most realistic thing on TV. For instance a hit and run happened in early November 2013. It took the police a realistic amount of time to pursue the investigation and it was not solved until early February 2014. Primetime television has taken the attention span of people and dwindled it down to almost nothing. Most people would be squirming on the couch if they had to wait three months for a case to be solved. Primetime television has destroyed our patience, attention span, and intelligence.

Along this same argument, in primetime shows there is generally one or two storylines going on. On Y&R there can be as many as four in the same episode. Much like before, this would irritate people because it would get too confusing. Again, primetime shows have diminished the intelligence of viewers. Having several stories happening at once is actually more entertaining. Sometimes primetime shows can drag on for too long and the story gets old. This is not true on Y&R. The multiple stories are intermixed, so there is always anticipation of what is going to happen next because the scenes are relatively short. Also, almost all of the storylines come together at some point, so there is no “stand-alone” episode.

Another point is that, on primetime television, there is too much action. It is absurd how many times weapons are discharged and fired on police serial dramas. On Y&R, there is minimal action and the rest of the show is dialogue much like that of Socrates. People are too impatient to watch a show that is mostly dialogue. What is the difference between talking to someone and then watching a show of mostly dialogue? Some would argue that with the minimal action, the show is not entertaining. This is an incorrect argument because if the show is going to be mostly dialogue then it needs to be made entertaining, which it is. Then when there is action it is something special and very intense. The Young and the Restless has aired since 1973 and has been the top-rated daytime drama for the last 25 years. Primetime shows rarely last over 10 years and, if they last longer, they often sink in the ratings. Daytime dramas (specifically The Young and the Restless) are more intelligent, entertaining, and all around better than primetime dramas.

A.J. Thomas is a sophomore from Van Wert,Ohio majoring in Political Science.