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The draw of the soap - 5 of the most watched soaps of all time
The soap opera has always been, and always will be, welcome afternoon entertainment - it should come as no surprise that the popular American soap opera is welcome afternoon enjoyment for those of us living here in Singapore as well. Love it or hate it - the fact remains that we find it hard to do without it in the afternoons. Some of the characters have, through the test of time, become beloved icons that audiences clamor for the sight of.
Scenes from The Edge of the Night
The history of the soap opera
The soap opera earned its name largely because early versions of the program were sponsored by soap companies like Proctor and Gamble. They became popular entertainment fodder in the 1930s when they were first introduced as afternoon radio programs. They became staple afternoon distractions - there were no prime time forms of entertainment on lonely afternoons - and soon skyrocketed in popularity.
So popular were they that they underwent media transformation - they became regular afternoon television pleasure. Soaps like the Edge of the Night soon took television by storm - with characters becoming fashionable television members of households!
So why are people so drawn to soap operas?
The soap opera is not everyone’s favorite form of entertainment - by any means, the long-drawn story lines and the countless episodes - and I mean countless - sends some on a frenzy because plots become distended and distorted. Indeed, there are many who get impatient with these hour - long - serials, hence pinning them on the things-to-watch-only-if-you-have-absolutely-nothing-else-better-to-do Pininterest Boards. The soap has a secure fan base though, explaining why they will not retire from our screens anytime soon.
Why, then, do they garner so much fascination?
A survey conducted in 1977 by Ronald Compesi, who gave survey recipients a sentence beginning with “I watch All My Children because.....” received 52 replies. While many said that watching this popular 1970s soap opera was a force of habit, many also indicated that watching the show had become an essential part of their daily routines.
The findings were telling - convenience played, and still plays a part in the decision to watch the soap. It is ever so available - soaps, unlike prime time dramas which are aired on a weekly basis, are aired daily. With such easy access, missing them would become almost unpardonable and inexcusable.
Watching these shows was also a form of escapism - watching the angst ridden lives of characters in soap operas became a way of breaking free from the mundanity of one’s own daily existence. These programs therefore were really relaxing - and they brought with them an insatiable desire for viewers to know what was happening. The program, indeed, becomes an inextricable part of life itself!
Suspense, too, is an all time draw - the scriptwriters of these homey dramas have the knack of generating the what’s-going-to-happen-to-so-and-so feeling. The ever present cliffhangers at the end of each day’s program make viewers want to return to them daily - and keep returning. programs such as General Hospital and Days of Our Lives have achieved this desired effect. We all wanted to know what happened to JR in Dallas - that unanswered question kept everyone, myself included, glued to this 1980s super soap.
Melodrama, like it or abhor it, is an element that makes soaps engaging. Viewers love it when characters just erupt in a burst of emotion. It is this play on feelings which have secured soaps scores of viewers.
I would term the soap an early form of reality television - people can relate to these characters and the ongoing plots because they are simply so true-to-life. Exaggerated though they may be, there are aspects of the characters that parallel those of the people who are part of our daily lives. We all can relate to the business politics that go on in the Bold and the Beautiful; and who has not developed that crush on handsome doctors such as those in ABC’s General Hospital? Very highly embellished drama (and characters) though these are, fascination with them will not die - they are so compelling that we want to see them every day!
My Asian Perspective
I am a Singapore bred Chinese educated in English - my primary language - but I do speak Mandarin fluently and can therefore completely understand the fascination with Taiwanese and Cantonese soap operas that have made their presence felt in Singapore and Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong. The play on feelings and the true to life characters parallel those in American soaps - fascination with the extended melodrama is indeed universal.
Included here is an excerpt from the Taiwanese soap Niang Jia ( My Maternal Home) which has had a run of almost a thousand episodes to date. For the benefit of readers and viewers who will not understand the dialogue - unfortunately it is in Hokkien (the Taiwanese home language), the plot is soapy and involves a family who run a restaurant. Like The Bold and the Beautiful and so on, business and love politics abound and characters experience love - hate relationships - it draws many a viewer who watches this Taiwanese program in the evenings. In this excerpt, characters are arguing over who helps out in the family business - and the resulting consequences of family rifts and squabbles.
This too, has characters that have their relational pull - they are easy-to-reach characters that many a viewer can relate to.
5 of our all time favorite “soapy” soaps
These are the soaps which have drawn many a die - hard viewer - and we know them all!
Dallas 2012 Trailer
The oil rich Dallas
Set, of course, in Dallas, this super soap centers around the Ewing family - all Texas oil multi millionaires. The fascination with the dysfunctional family dynamics, the ornate settings of the Southfork Ranch and the glamour that surrounds the three sons - JR,Bobby and Gary - all contribute to this programs ready viewership.
Larry Hagman became an icon as JR Ewing - he played the character so well that his nefariousness was a magnet for viewers. Indeed, many wanted to know what happened to him after the last episode of Dallas was aired - who the strange character who called himself Adam was - and whether he indeed was shot. The fate of JR played on the minds of many for years to come - long after the 1978 soap, which also starred Charlene Tiltion, Belle Geddes and Patrick Duffy - ended its run. It remains a “soapy” icon till this day. JR, for die hard fans, , is still his scheming,wheeling-dealing self in the 2012 resurrection of Dallas.
The scandalous All My Children
Starring Cameron Mathison, Michael E Knight and Alicia Minshew, this melodrama is set in the fictional East Coast suburb of Pine Valley. The melodrama has an all-time draw - a wealthy heiress with a long line of husbands. Angela Nixon came upon a winning formula when she created Erica Kane - and 42 long years of rivalries, fairy-tale romances kidnapped babies and questions of sexual orientation.
The drama had producers clamoring to decide on a satisfying conclusion for its viewers. In it, Angie finally gets her sight back, with Tad and Dixie, finally united (another welcome draw), confronting David about who else he had pulled back from the dead. The story, like Dallas, ends with several cliffhangers, cleverly tantalizing viewers to come back for more.
Pick your favorite soap and view it on this hub!
Which is your favorite soap opera?
The socially aware General Hospital
This has got to be my favorite soap of all the five. Set, of course in a hospital, this story has its pull in its elements of romance, unrequited love and intrigue. The main characters revolved around the 7th floor of the hospital, Dr. Steve Hardy and his nurse, Jessie Brewer.
As the series progressed over the years, events took place out of the hospital, with younger and more magnetic characters introduced to boost charisma and charm. The plot soon delved into realm of adventure - and would change the face of soap operas forever.
This series has had a record for the most Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama series and keeps viewers hooked with the exploration of social issues like AIDs, cancer and single mothers - issues we all can connect with.
The Bold and the Beautiful - Nicole Marone's death
The Bold - and the ever so Beautiful
This drama secures viewership with a plot that is not unfamiliar to viewers - the battle between rich and the poor. Set against the backdrop of the fashion world in Los Angeles, the drama has kept viewers fascinated with the ongoing Forrester versus Logan saga.
It has true-to-life characters as well - the arrogant Ridge Forrester, the handsome and neglected Thorne Forrester and their involvement with members of the Logan family - Kirsten, the sexually frigid older daughter and Felicia, the recalcitrant wild child. And there is the loud and brazen Sally Spectra, who has stolen many ideas off Forrester fashions. These characters are real and their interaction almost comic - it has kept viewers glued to the goggle box every afternoon.
Whether it provokes positive reaction because of its fascinating characters or negative feedback because of the fluctuating storyline - the Bold still remains Beautiful.
Remembering the Days of our Lives
Set in the midwestern town of Salem, Days of Our Lives revolves around the Horton and Brady families - and the ongoing tussle will always be a crowd teaser. The radical plots help secure viewership as well - over the years, there were serial killings, baby swappings and demonic possessions.
The show, like all other soaps, is kept fresh with the inclusion of younger and newer characters and families - something that will ensure its continued presence in the minds of many.
The soap opera will be a perennial television favorite - we will always need to wash our hands, will we not?
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