During the Tuesday, May 19 broadcast of “The Story of Soaps,” Andy Cohen stirred an uproar on social media from comments he made during the ABC and PEOPLE magazine special when he said that soap operas have been “replaced” by “The Real Housewives” franchise.
“The goals of reality TV and soap operas are pretty similar: It’s to educate sometimes, entertain always,” Cohen said in the special. “Once you’re telling the people who were watching soaps, ‘Wait, watch this, this is compelling,’ it was pretty easy to get sucked into that. And then you’re starting to consider Court TV or CNN as a viable alternative to ‘All My Children’ or ‘One Life to Live.'”
Cohen later said, “We’re voyeurs, but we also love stories. We want to be entertained, and I think that the ultimate expression of voyeurism is reality television. I know [Susan] Lucci doesn’t agree with me, but I think that the ‘Housewives’ have replaced soap operas because [the] truth is stranger than fiction. Soaps became kind of unnecessary because you could do it with real people, and they’re writing the drama themselves.”
In February, Lucci responded to previous comments made by Cohen about “Real Housewives” replacing soap operas. She told Page Six, “I don’t think they are the modern-day soaps,” referring to the reality franchise. “There’s no storytelling. There’s a lot of editing. It’s, like, they cut to the chase all the time, and I think it’s different.” She added that reality stars are “great at entertaining,” but reiterates “I don’t think they’re the same.”
When a fan called Cohen’s involvement as a “shameless promotion” for the reality TV producer, he responded and said, “I went to the interview as a soap fan prepped to talk soaps, and they asked about reality tv and I answered their questions. Sue me!”
Across social media, Cohen’s comments and the emphasis on reality television in which the special took during a later segment of the two-hour broadcast received much criticism from industry insiders.
“So now this is about reality shows? Why can’t we just have nice things?” said veteran daytime writer Michele Val Jean.
“I love Andy, and obviously have a deep love and respect for soaps,” commented Chrishell Stause (ex-Amanda, “All My Children”; ex-Jordan, “Days of our Lives”). “They’ve employed me for a very long time. But as someone that is also in the docusoap reality space with ‘Selling Sunset’ with respect, I don’t think it will ever make soaps obsolete. Strongly disagree.”
“A lot of people felt hurt and insulted after the Andy remarks aired. I won’t discount a little bait-and-switch for production narrative, but usually when one’s words have unintended consequences, it’s better to respond with, ‘Oh no! I’m sorry; not what I intended!’ not ‘sue me!‘ said Benjamin Bryant, a veteran writer and TV broadcaster.
“Fair point Andy. But you had to know saying ‘The Housewives have replaced soap operas’ would not fly with soap fans. There’s room for both! Watch today’s ‘GH’ or ‘DAYS’ and tell us those stories aren’t better than Sonia falling down drunk… again,” said veteran soap columnist Carolyn Hinsey in response to Cohen’s tweet. She earlier said, “Well ‘The Story of Soaps’ gave us a solid 90 minutes before taking a wrong turn with Andy Cohen bragging, “The Housewives have replaced soap operas.” Never! Good stories need heroes and Reality TV has none. But kudos ABC for the fantastic walk down memory lane.”
I went to the interview as a soap fan prepped to talk soaps, and they asked about reality tv and I answered their questions. Sue me!
— Andy Cohen (@Andy) May 20, 2020