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The draw of the soap - 5 of the most watched soaps of all time

Updated on September 28, 2014

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!


Larry Hagman and Linda Gray of Dallas fame
Larry Hagman and Linda Gray of Dallas fame | Source

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?

See results

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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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      The soaps are a great way of breaking the routine for the day, though the plots may be overly dramatic! Thanks for sharing, Mary1

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      So very true Michelle! My mother started listening to soaps on the radio. When they moved to TV, at 15 minutes a day each, my Mom followed. I came home for lunch in elementary school and watched The Guiding Light and As the World Turns. That was in 1952 and 1956 respectively!

      Since then...I added Dark Shadows, then Y&R then B&B. Do I still watch them? Yes. Once or twice a week is enough to keep up with story lines and not be bored.

      Voted up, useful, interesting, and shared.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I loved that too! Soaps made the long afternoons. Thanks for sharing!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 4 years ago from Iowa

      My favorite was All My Children, but I hadn't watched it in years when it finally went off the air.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I guess soaps are interesting afternoon fodder. Dallas is still going strong, Rebecca!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Interesting info! I use to watch soaps all through high school and college, but never beyond that!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful hub Michelle ;loved it and voted up.

      Eddy.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      That's a fabulous point, DzyMsLizzy! I think that's when the addiction to these plots and characters kicks in. People actually take the characters as if they are part of their lives. And that's when it can get a little dangerous too. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Have to say, barbergirl, that it takes a lot of creative talent to keep a good soap going. It's not easy to keep the plot fresh so the writers have to be good. I love Days of Our Lives too! Thanks for coming by and sharing!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I guess I am weird. I never liked them; never understood the draw. One time, I was in the salon for a haircut, and heard several women talking about so-and-so's bad marriage luck..or some such thing...and they were soooooooo serious, and I was thinking, "OMG..that poor person..." ...and as the conversation continued, I suddenly realized they were talking about a soap opera, in serious terms as if these were real people that they actually knew. I simply shook my head to myself, not believing that Hollywood fabrications could be taken as if they were personal.... I don't "get it" to this day.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I love my soaps... Days of Our Lives is my show of choice. I have been watching it since I was in 7th grade give or take on and off. I absolutley love the characters. But I have to say, what I enjoy the most is the plotlines. There is always suspense and always something happening. Some of the best actors I believe are on soaps! And some of the best and most creative writers are there as well.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I guess television is dying off slowly, with the advent of youtube and IMDB on the net and all....so these are very forgotten shows. Soaps are addictive....no wonder you both loved them! The plots with the cliffhangers are what do it! Thanks for coming by, Cogerson, and the share! Next review coming up!

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

      I very interesting and informative hub on soap operas....I think it is sad that daytime soap operas are dying off....I remember as a kid ....that my mom used to watch them all the time.....one of my first girlfriends as an adult loved The Young and the RestlessIit has to be #6 on your list) and should would record the episodes while at work and then we would watch them at night....at first I did not pay much attention...but after a month or two...I was into the story lines....as Victor made a great bad guy or good guy depending on your viewpoint...I always liked Jack.

      How many of these shows are still on tv these days? How long do the ones that are still on...have left? Interesting and informative...voted up and shared.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I guess soaps are more of a lady's thing, Bill! Thanks for coming in!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice retrospective Michelle! I only saw Dallas; other than that I was not a big fan of soaps!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, as plots thicken they also become distended, Meldz. Like a bloated belly that doesn't know the way to go! Thanks for coming by!!

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      ignugent17 5 years ago

      Hi Michelle! Very interesting hub. It made me remember all those times that I will be in hurry to go home because of my favorite soap operas. We have so many in the Philippines . We even watch Mexican and Korean tele novelas.

      I also watched Days of our lives but I get confused when they changed actors. Sometimes they are already dead but still alive. So I stopped watching it.

      Voted up and more! :-)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      LOL! Oh dear! I can imagine, 2patricias. Actually, the way soaps can have such long drawn plots can sometimes be a bit disquieting. But it did make lunch hour fun! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Heh heh, tricky pic there, Mary! I also spent time watching soaps when I was really young and did my homework in front of the TV. (Ok, I'm guilty.) It was a memorable time, though...ordinary afternoons spent in such a way at home!

      Thanks for dropping in again!!

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      I don't watch soaps now, but when I was a high school student (in the USA) in the 1960s I used to watch "As the World Turns" during my lunch hour. Most of my classsmates had lunch at school, so I was very popular as I could keep them up to date. The joke title for that soap was "as the stomach turns".

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      When my children were young and took afternoon naps, that was MY time to watch the soaps. They are SO addictive! I don't have the time to watch them anymore, and I don't want to get "hooked" again.

      I did love Dallas, but haven't seen the new one since I don't have cable anymore.

      Great Hub although I thought it was a Hub about soap (the kind that cleans).

      I voted it UP, etc. and will share.....

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      That one was one of my favorites, Rema! Ridge's antics usually served to fascinate. Was fascinated by the Bold and the Beautiful as well! Thanks for coming by!

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi midget38,

      An amazing hub written so beautifully. I don't get to watch any of the soaps here in India though 'The Bold and the beautiful' used to be a popular soap screened on TV once.

      Anyway, this has been very informative and interesting. Sharing and tweeting. Cheers, Rema.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kai0224lu. I do enjoy Taiwanese soaps for the evening's entertainment! Will pop by your blog, and I've given you a follow too.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Yep, Relationships, the plot would have become even more distended! Things do come markedly different after a week of non-watching. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it gives them something to look forward to after a long day of work! Thanks for coming in, Vellur!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Soaps are for when we need something a little less tiring to occupy the mind. These keep you involved without you having to do much thinking! Thanks for coming in, my friend!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      All My Children is one of those lasting soaps, Sunshine!! Kelly must be doing a fun show! Glad that you are able to catch it, waste that we don't have it over here. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Jools, I have been told that Coronation Street is a great soap, though I don't think it's being screened here. It has that salacious draw....plot twists...all these will keep the viewers coming!

    • Kai0224liu profile image

      kaikai 5 years ago from TX

      I was borne Taiwan, studied in England, right now livein the USA, so I can totally related your articles, it's funny you put a Taiwanese tv programme over there, please visit my blog, I have two blog written in english and Chinese. Thanks, already follow u.

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I'm a Day of Our Lives girl. I've watched it for over 15 years. I couldn't stop if I tried! It's probably sad, but I feel like I have missed out on their lives if I don't watch. Some people say it never changes, but if I don't watch for a week - everything seems to be different!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, you are right they are a source of escapism. Some people follow them with great enthusiasm and discuss each and every detail. Enjoyed reading your hub, voted up and shared.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      I really don't watch soaps because I'm always so busy and I'm glad I never got addicted to them. The plots, in my mind, do become too complicated to follow and you're stuck thinking about it for hours after the show was done and I have other things on my mind already haha! Overall, I thought this was pretty interesting, michelle! Definitely sharing this :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Yay! All My Children made the cut! I was an addict for many years. I stopped watching about 15 years ago, but I always kept up with the latest gossip of the characters. I now get to watch Kelly Ripa every morning on her own talk show! :) Fun hub!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Stephanie, thanks for coming by! Yes, soaps are terribly addictive. Story lines also stay fascinating because they revolve around the salacious! Usually the formula's the same. Glad this hub was a reminder!!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Back in the '60s most of the young mothers I knew were stay at home moms and watching the soaps was a ritual. The characters popped up in daily conversation as if they were our neighbors down the street. Since I had said so many scathing things about soaps, I never let anyone know that I secretly watched "As the World Turns" every day for about 4 years! It is addictive, but I beat the habit! :) Enjoyed your hub immensely!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, very interesting hub. In the UK we have 3 standout soaps, Coronation Street (set in Manchester and been on TV since 1960), Eastenders (set in the East End of London) and Emmerdale (formerly Emmerdale Farm) set in rural Yorkshire; all very different but all getting more viewers than any other programmes on TV. I think the themes of soaps all tend to be pretty universal no matter what part of the world they come from.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Sandonia! I see that you're a music and entertainment fan....will be looking forward to reading your music hubs!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Yep, Josh, the soap does seem to be more of a gal thing. Thanks for the comments on the layout - been working on that and am really glad that you like it!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      TT - indeed, it's the drama that keeps the viewers, though. Too much of it can be rather negative, I'll say!

    • sandonia profile image

      sandonia 5 years ago

      I have never been a fan of soaps. In fact, I thought this article was going to be about soap of the cleaning sort, but I am pleasantly surprised at how well you've put together this hub. Really good job!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I have to honestly say that I have never had the problem of being addicted to soaps, bu then again I am a guy, and the first one to comment here it looks like! :) But, even still, I did enjoy your informative and creative approach! I enjoyed your hub layout and design for this one Michelle! Great job!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I just never could get into soaps. All my girlfriends loved them. Just not enough explosions and action for me. And the drama...had too much of that in real life, didn't really want any more. :) Great hub, though! VUM!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      T4An...and that's a somewhat flimsy attempt at getting a viewer's attention!

    • T4an profile image

      T4an 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      The loved the Y&R too but the storylines have become so ridiculous I have actually stopped watching it on a regular basis. How many people can come back with plastic surgery looking and sounding identical to someone else. How many weddings where someone been shot at? Just very poor writing.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Lovedoctor,I know what you mean! Guess it's the stress and all. Check out Larry Hagman...he has aged so much! Aren't we lucky to look young! Lol! Thanks for stopping by!

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      lovedoctor926 5 years ago

      I was a big fan of the Young and the Restless several years ago. I know time flies and people age, but the characters look so different. I mean, I look at myself and I haven't changed all that much. lol. A very good hub. thanks for sharing

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      No problem and anytime. I will try to post more recipes very soon. Thank u too for everything.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for dropping in, Linda! My faves are General Hospital and the Bold and the Beautiful. Am quite a fan of JR....guess once a soap is resurrected it can lose a little of its effect!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I was a huge fan of All My Children while in high school and for about 10 years afterwards. It's nice being able to watch Live With Kelly (Ripa) since she was my favorite character on the soap. I also watched Dallas. I watched the new Dallas series for about 15 minutes, but I didn't care for it. At all. Nice recap of the soaps!:)

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Enjoyed writing this as well ,Janine! was enjoying the soaps as I added the videos. Glad it helped tap into some great memories! Thanks for your votes and sharing... means a lot. Look forward to more recipes from you!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Ah, yes. Should've featured that! Forgot all about it! Thanks for the reminder, Tom!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      I love Soap Operas and have always loved them. I watched them from the earliest age with my mom. My mom always tells me how she got into Soaps, when she left her job and had me. We have loved and watched All My Children, General Hospital, One Life to Life, Young and The Restless, and the list goes on for daytime. Primetime, Dallas of course was big in our house and the new show on TNT is on my DVR and watched every week now. Thanks for bringing back some great memories here and am sharing and voting up too.

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      TommyGuns 5 years ago from Blakeslee, PA

      I used to like the soap called Soap. It had a great cast!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, thanks for stopping by, T4an! Yup, the problem with these soaps is that the characters can indeed look a little too perfect, hair all in place, at home dressed in suits, etc, etc. Will catch Coronation Street! Why don't you go ahead and do the hub....and I'll definitely drop in and read it!

    • T4an profile image

      T4an 5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Hi midget38. Very good hub. I have been watching them all my life. The only problem is, you are missing the best one. I know a lot of people will disagree with me but after years of watching American soaps, I started watching Coronation Street from the UK. It is the absolute best. It has drama with comedy mixed it. The actors look like real people, not the perfect actors that every hair is in place. I am serious, it makes The Young & Restless look like it is produced by kids in highschool. I have watched The Y&R for over 30 years. If you get a chance watch Coronation St. I was planning on dedicating a hub to the show.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks so much! My favorite was the Bold and the Beautiful. Love GH too, a really social drama! We can get together for some soapy gossip!

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      iamaudraleigh 5 years ago

      I love soap operas! GH is my fave and Days is watched daily! I like your spark...great hub!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      We do enjoy the soap opera - it's trials, tribulations and glamorous yet true-to-life characters. Here's my take on the Good Old Soap.