If A Gay Character Enters A Daytime Soap And No One Is Watching, Does It Make A Sound?

On Thursday, June 23, Freddie Smith joins the cast of Days Of Our Lives as the show’s first gay character. Before that he played a short-lived love interest to 90210‘s now-downsized/departing gay character Teddy (played by Trevor Donovan).

That’s good. It’s always nice when a series decides to expand its worldview and acknowledge that gay people exist. And yes, it’s a little late–okay, a lot late–for Days of Our Lives to catch this bus; especially when you consider that the first gay characters began appearing on other American daytime dramas in fits and starts back in the 1970s. Since then there’ve been way too many gay characters for anyone but the devout to keep up with since.

Occasionally they’d make news, like when The Young and The Restless got itself a gentle lesbian stalker in 1977 or when All My Children recruited Saturday Night Fever/Angie star Donna Pescow in 1982 to play a lesbian doctor.

Later, Ryan Phillippe took an early career role as a gay teenager on One Life to Live (thrill to his awesome coming-out clip above). And most recently, Olivia and Natalia and Luke and Noah were Guiding Light‘s and As The World Turns’ hottest ratings-grabbing couples, respectively.

So yeah, it’s been done, but that doesn’t make it any less welcome. Now if only the welcoming committee weren’t disbanding. Consider this: In the 1960s there were 19 daytime dramas on television. Today there are four not currently scheduled for execution: Days, General Hospital, The Young and The Restless and The Bold and The Beautiful (All My Children and One Life To Live, both still airing, are due to end in the coming months). And  that’s it. As late as the 1990s about six million people were still tuning in. Now? About one million. Neither Olivia, Natalia, Luke or Noah saved their shows from the discard pile, so  it seems unlikely that finally leveling the playing field for gay romance on another show is going to turn the situation around.

If you’ve clicked on this post and read this far, you probably have at least some interest in the endgame being played out here. Maybe you’re just morbidly fascinated by the death of a cultural institution and want to witness the slow decline. Maybe the first gay anything on a show is enough of a novelty to get you to watch Days this week. Maybe you’re a longtime viewer and you have strong opinions about all this. Maybe you think it’s too little, too late and that even suburban grandmothers who watch are used to gay guys by now and won’t bat an eyelash.

Or maybe you just think Freddie Smith is hot and you’re going to tune in to a soap for the very first time. The networks won’t mind if you do that.

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  • Kit

    Actually, there are currently SIX daytime dramas on the air. “All My Children” doesn’t go off the air until September, and “One Life to Live” will have its final air date in January 2012.

  • Dave White

    @kit. i will clarify. thanks

  • christopher di spirito

    Once all the “soaps” are gone, Daytime TV in America will be nothing more than hours and hours of infomercials and mindless chat shows staffed by out-of-work female actresses and models.

    I’ve watched CBS’ ‘The Talk” once. I will never watch it again. What the hell is it with Sharon Osborne? Can’t she just stay home in Malibu and spend Ozzie’s millions? The other yapper on “The Talk” is Leah Remini. She never stopped talking, didn’t listen and frankly, displayed an IQ lower than my dog.

  • TexMike

    Actually Days had a gay character(Harold or Howard?) some years ago. His father owned the newspaper and he was fixed up with Jack when he was pretending to be gay.

  • Mike

    This week Days of our Lives had 2.3 million viewers, placing it fourth out of the six soaps on the air right now. Now those aren’t encouraging numbers, but “about one million” isn’t accurate either. Days scored three million viewers per week as recently as late March.

  • Dave White

    @mike: according to advertising age, average viewership overall in 2009-2010 was about 1.3 million. obviously, there will be some ups and downs for individual shows

  • Mike

    @Dave White: Thanks Dave for responding. I googled that Advertising Age article and they misquoted the ratings of “As the World Turns,” which was going off the air at that time and was the lowest-rated show. I remember when ATWT was going off the air and they quoted not only the 1.3 number but also the 6.5 number for 1993. In 2009-2010 Days averaged a 2.2 rating (with 1 point translating to 1.1 million households). Here’s the most recent ratings:

  • Mike

    @Dave White: The only show in 2009-2010 that approached levels as low as a 1.3 was ATWT so I am just convinced that Advertising Age quoted the wrong facts about that.

  • lizcivious

    It’s a tragedy that soaps are going down the drain (sorry). It’s all because of money and Procter and Gamble not wanting to be bothered with them anymore. It’s so much cheaper to produce game shows, talk shows and crappy non-scripted drivel. I watched Guiding Light for most of my life, mainly due to the stream of hot actors appearing through the years: Gregory Beecroft, Vincent Irizarry, Ricky Paul Goldin, Tom Pelphrey and Zack Conroy were my big loves. Soaps were/are a great training ground for young actors. It will be a shame if they become extinct.

  • Daez

    @christopher di spirito: Ozzie’s millions? You mean the ones she made for herself by marketing Ozzie better than any PR person ever has in history. Think about it, Ozzie is basically a washed up has been hair band rock star from the 80s. Exactly how many of those are still around today? Hmmm! Who has been his manager and PR person for the last 20+ years…oh yeah, his wife!!! I think that makes her qualified to talk on a great deal many subjects.

  • christopher di spirito

    @Daez: So because Sharon Osborne — a limey with a bad, Henna dye job, who happens to manage her husband’s career, this makes her an interesting and compelling talk show host? Whatevah.

  • CodeBlaze

    okay Luke and Noah were the first gay male Couple. lot of fans fought for them. after their first kiss the ratings went up. the TPTB had a lighting in the bottle with them and they fucked it up.

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