Liz Hendrickson

Here’s today’s question: Is social media turning some soap fans into haters? Or were they angry all along and now just have a wider forum?

When I got my job at Soap Opera Digest in 1992, I was shocked by how many letters the magazine got every day from fans. Each editor was assigned a show that they covered, watched faithfully, and read all fan mail for so they could summarize it in the mail report. That’s right – we had a weekly MAIL REPORT that tallied how many letters came in for each show, character, couple.

SOD Cover KMcMy show was General Hospital, so I would read all the GH mail. Fans wrote long, thoughtful letters about what they liked and didn’t like, who they wanted to see on our cover, etc. Of course there was the occasional person who thought the action was real (“Tell Felicia that Ryan is stalking her!”) but for the most part these were intelligent missives from people who cared about their shows.

Where are all those people today? Yes, I see many well-written, positive comments on Twitter about each show but I see far more negative ones. And what’s with this “I’m never going to watch my show again if _______________ happens”? Those letters were few and far between back in the day.

Recently, a number of high-profile actors left Y&R. Michelle Stafford, Michael Muhney and Billy Miller all had strong fan followings that are upset they are gone. (Never mind the upcoming exit of Liz Hendrickson and the incalculable loss of Jeanne Cooper.) I saw many threats of “I’m never watching again!” all over Twitter, yet the most recent ratings report for March 3-7 shows Y&R up 478,000 total viewers from this time last year – when all of those actors were on screen. (For a complete ratings report click here: http://www.soapoperanetwork.com/2014/03/ratings-all-soaps-up-in-total-viewers-5)

Were those just empty threats? Or was that 11 people in a garage creating 1000 Twitter handles to try and be heard?

Look at Kimberly McCullough’s return to GH as Robin. All parties were very clear that it was a short-term return (McCullough, who literally grew up on GH, prefers to direct now) yet some fans were outraged by her recent departure. I saw lots of negative tweets including the chronically overused “I’m never watching GH again!” Some even said Robin’s exit to cure Jason made no sense and they wish Robin had never returned. Really? GH talked Kimberly into a short-term return to wrap up a bunch of loose ends and launch new storyline for the characters in Robin’s life and you’re mad?

This is a character who had a childhood friend from the planet Lumina… put baby Emma in a tree during a blizzard while suffering from post-partum depression… and most implausibly has lived with HIV since 1995 without taking any visible medication or suffering any symptoms. Is it really so farfetched to think that Robin – A DOCTOR – would leave town to try and bring her best friend out of a coma?

Here’s the thing: If we’re lucky, our soaps never end. The stories go on and on with a million twists and turns based on who is on-screen at the time. Robin is gone for now, but there are lots of other great stories being told to keep us tuned in until Patrick moves on, or Robin returns again (with Kimberly back in the role or a recast).

It’s perfectly fine to tell Y&R you miss Phyllis, Adam, and the old Billy, or tweet to the GH honchos “I miss Robin!” But it’s another to say you’re tuning out until they return.

Because the one thing I can promise you is that if your show stops airing, your faves will never come back.