A scene in the “new hit series” The Killing seemed déjà-vu familiar, until I realized it’s a standard moment in crime dramas. The victim’s parents are in the police station to answer some questions, and they accidentally come across the crime scene photos. The warm body of the daughter they knew and loved has become the cold corpse the police treat casually. Maybe they overhear a callous gallows-humor joke made by a detective. Their daughter’s dismembered body is cut into even smaller pieces by the police camera as it zooms in on her bound wrists, her broken nails left bloody stumps from trying to claw her way out of captivity, the petechial hemorrhage pinking the white of her eyes. The viewer is not allowed the same reaction as the parents. What they see as defilement, we see as aesthetics. When the body of the young girl is discovered, her body… More…

Rumor has it we’ve tired of trash. That people who watch soap operas — women between 18 and 49, married, at all levels of income — have become more sophisticated and are therefore less interested in melodramatic plot lines that revolve around tawdry love affairs and characters who disappear and reappear with little explanation. The soap opera is dying, some say, because court, talk, and game shows are cheaper to make; you can also syndicate and rerun these shows, which makes them even more profitable. The soap opera is dying because the influx of Spanish-speakers in America prefer Spanish-language telenovelas. So it makes sense that CBS has canceled Guiding Light, 72 years into its run; the last episode airs in September. And the bell surely tolls for others — All My Children, As the World Turns, General Hospital. The day of the soap is done.

Guiding Light first aired as… More…