When Bridesmaids came out earlier this year, much cultural noise surrounded questions of box office success. Would men go see this? Could a comedy about women really make any money? Apparently, long standing wisdom suggests no; even if the finale hadn’t featured Wilson Philips, I would have delighted in the success it found.
It’s astounding to me that the entertainment industry asks questions like this, but I suppose it shouldn’t be. Back in the 1970s, Time magazine covered the move of the networks in expanding what were then half hour soap operas into the hour-long format I grew up accustomed to, and described them – programs which were born as advertising vehicles to housewives – as “TVs richest market.” Now, this very month, All My Children, which has been running for over forty years, will air its last episode, and it’s only the latest on the network chopping block. I find this endlessly curious, especially in light of that terrific Time piece (which, I confess, I located as a link in the Wikipedia entry on “soap operas”), which concluded that the market for soaps was no longer limited to blue collar housewives, but had since expanded to include college students (that’s when my folks got hooked), richer housewives, hippies and the unemployed. It was a “ghettoized” market, but man, did it bring in money.