"Success gives you more times at bat. It's as simple as that," Martin Short explained. In 1994, the delayed movie, 'Clifford', filmed in 1990 was finally released. Martin told Ian Spelling of 'The New York Times', "We kept it simple. It's a message that adults and kids will understand: If you act like a jerk people won't like you. Television is the best forum for comedy. Comedies are difficult. 

"Funny scenes are one thing, a full comedy film is another. Once I saw it, I got what the film could be. Films last forever and they're paid so much attention, but television is so immediate. Also, I'm Canadian, and Canadian actors seem to have a British actor's sensibility of desiring the freedom to bob between mediums. I do films, plays and television, so I don't think of myself as returning to television, because in my mind I never left." 

Television, films and plays converted the written word (script) to the spoken word (via acting) and through the use of emotion try to tell the audience the whole story. The first word was a spoken word. But the written word soon became the starting point. Back in January 1904, the Ven. Archdeacon Wilson in an address to followers in Manchester, England, made the comment, "Is the Bible the word of God? 

"When they called the Bible the word of God, to man they meant that God influences men through the Bible, as man influences man by the spoken word; but the method of such influence, its medium or channel, was wholly different. The point of resemblance lay not in spoken words or written letters, but in the action of some external influence on us."  

Student Sarah Benjamin made the observation in 1996, "Spoken words, while less permanent than written words, live a long life in memories. The words that are spoken by man have the most meaning to people and are much more powerful. For instance, Neil Armstrong said something as simple as 'This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' The simple statement has become known to men and women all over the United States and maybe beyond.

"When people hear words they think are well stated or they like the way they sound, people repeat them because they admire that person. Spoken words are very influential many times more than written words because people like what they hear, they are remembered and they wish to become like the person who first said it. Words can be influential when spoken, a lot of times, because of emotion. Emotion is probably the only thing that motivates. Emotion is a key factor in the power of spoken words. Emotion put into those words makes everything brighter and less dull when if they were written on paper." 

On television in the 1980s, Morgan Fairchild told 'United Press International' in May 1980, "Taste in TV shows is changing. Situation comedies have run their cycle. As a veteran of daytime soaps I know there's much more viewer identification with our dramatic kind of show than with sitcoms. Audiences seem to get off more on the day-to-day drama of life than with far-out comedy. People love the intrigue, the tragedy and suspense of soap operas and follow the story lines loyally.

"This is especially true when there's a recession or some other kind of hard times like today's (the late 1970s) runaway inflation. Viewers like to see rich people in expensive surroundings. Almost all successful soaps are about the rich. People enjoy looking at beautiful clothes, limousines and the use of power. They are tantalized by the fact that the rich have problems, too. Most soaps cover all bases – marriage, divorce, infidelity, abortion, childbirth, alcoholism, operations, murder and death.

"'Peyton Place' made the mistake of expanding to 3 shows a week. That's too much in prime time. People can't give up 3 nights a week just to keep up with a running story on TV all season long. In daytime it's different. The scripts are written so story progress is very slow. A viewer can miss a couple of days and not lose the thread. But I think they're making a mistake by expanding daytime soaps from an hour to 90 minutes ('Another World').

"The difference between prime time soaps and daytime is mainly that the nighttime shows have more production values and they get better scripts. I don’t think there is a big difference in the quality of the casts. Just wait and see, soap operas are going to come on strong (in the 1980s)." However by the end of the 1988-89 season, Jerry Buck of Associated Press was asking the question, "Is the prime time soap opera, one of television's most popular formats, an endangered species – or is it just changing form? Prior to the the soaps and serials, each episode of a series started from scratch. The characters never learned anything from the previous week's experience."

"They're not dying; they're just declining," John Sisk of J. Walter Thompson advertising agency insisted at the end of the 1985-86 season. "They're still powerful TV entertainment, particularly for women 18-49, who are the principal target for many advertisers. For reaching that group, the 4 soaps ('Dallas', 'Dynasty', 'Falcon Crest' and 'Knots Landing') have 35% higher ratings than the average TV program.

"These shows always take time to build audiences. We forget that 'Dallas' struggled on Saturday and Sunday before it finally clicked on Friday night." At the time David Jacobs acknowledged, "I don't know the difference anymore between the so-called soap operas and 'L.A. Law' and 'Wise Guy', except the story arcs are shorter. I think that the fading of the other shows…is just that they're old and old shows tend to fade."

David Poltrack of CBS begged to differ, "But these numbers (at the end of the 1985-86 season) are not indicative of any severe loss. There's no indication of any precipitous decline. What I think we'll see with these shows is a pattern similar to daytime serial dramas where changes in plot lines and key characters will cause fluctuations." Toward the end of the 1980s, prime time soaps were evolving into a new format: a strong dramatic narrative, ongoing stories and evolving characters.

Jeff Freilich believed, "Ultimately, you don't want to do 8 stories that involve different characters. You want to do 3 stories that involve everyone in the cast." Esther Shapiro reminded, "One of the things that people traditionally liked is the fact that you're building on a story, and people want to know what's going to happen. Generally, in an hour show (that is not serialized), you have to do a lot of exposition to introduce a new story, since each new character and story will need to be explained."

David Jacobs also recognized soap operas demanded an investment from the audience, "You are there not only to watch this week but next week and the week after that. That's why serials have never worked on Saturday night. People can't make the commitment. The biggest mistake some producers have made is beginning a show as a serial. You have to win the audience first. 'Dallas' and 'Knots Landing' didn't begin as serials."

It was reported the budget for a one-hour prime-time soap in the 1980s was around $1 million. Brandon Tartikoff told syndicated columnist Gary Deeb at the beginning of the 1987-88 season, "My firm desire is to put a weekly soap on the air with 40 fresh episodes each year, rather than the usual 22 or 24 or 26. Of course, that would be extremely costly if we did the show like most hour-long weekly series – so we're looking at ways to cut the costs and therefore make it financially viable to keep a show like this on the air just about around the calendar. What I want is to develop a series that would cost us around $500,000 per episode, instead of the usual average of $900,000.

"We (NBC) were never able to put together a successful prime time serial. Meanwhile, the soaps on the other networks (CBS and ABC) were rolling along and clobbering us week after week. So I know it's ironic that now (in October 1987) – just as all those nighttime soaps are running out of gas and the genre is supposedly dying – NBC is ready to come along and take a chance that the audience is ready for a new soap. I honestly think it could work.

"I'm real excited about this. I know the nighttime soaps are all declining right now in popularity, and a couple of them may get canceled by the end of this season (the 1987-88 season). But that's what makes this the right time to put these new soaps on the air. If 'Knots Landing' or 'Dynasty' or 'Falcon Crest' should get canceled next spring (around May 1988) because of low numbers, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of prime time soap viewers out there, it just means that those fans have grown tired of these particular programs that have been on for so long."

In January 1988, Leonard Katzman made the statement, "I'm not sure that the (serial) form has necessarily run its course, but all the shows that are in that genre that are on now have been on for quite awhile, and you necessarily use up a lot of material." Of the genre, Mark Dawidziak remarked, "Angela Lansbury described quite accurately the stilted soap style as one of reacting, not acting. A prime time soap has to deal with the rich and powerful. That's part of the rules."

Bibi Besch of 'The Hamptons' added, "I really didn't understand why that show ('Secrets of Midland Heights') didn't work until recently. Then some people explained that the characters in 'Midland Heights' were ordinary, and no one wants to look at ordinary characters on a prime time soap. When they come home from work, they want to see people who are fabulously wealthy and who do fabulous things."

Blog Archive