Soap operas, often known as soap operas or soaps, are serial dramas broadcast on radio and television, typically set in a semi-realistic environment.
They have been produced in many countries around the world, with Argentina and Brazil producing the most popular ones.
In fact, Brazil’s Rede Globo is the largest producer of telenovelas. Soap operas can be loosely categorized according to their setting and style.
WHAT IS A SOAP OPERA
What Is A Soap Opera?
Soap operas are television dramas about the private and personal lives of a group of characters.
The term “soap opera” was coined by the American press in the 1930s to describe the original radio dramas that were sponsored by soap companies.
The term stuck, even after television assumed the mantle of America’s favorite source of home entertainment.
Soap operas have been around for over 80 years, but their format has changed considerably over time.
Early soaps, like Guiding Light (which aired both on radio and television) had relatively small casts and focused exclusively on family stories.
Today’s soaps, like General Hospital, have large casts and tackle social issues as well as family stories.
What Is A Soap Opera?
The North American or US soap opera tends to focus on younger characters (in their 20s or 30s) who are involved in relationships or family affairs.
Meanwhile, Latin American soap opera focuses on middle-class characters and themes of social change. Soap operas also tend to feature more humor than other dramas.
Soap operas use a combination of new storylines and musical pieces to communicate their message to viewers.
The different types of storylines can vary greatly; however, they all revolve around key elements such as love and romance.
Some notable US soap operas include All My Children and One Life to Live. Popular Latin American soap operas include Yo soy Betty la fea (“I am Betty, the ugly one”) and Rosario Tijeras (“Rosario blades”).
How Did Soap Operas Start?
The first soap operas were radio dramas that originally aired in the early twentieth century.
Often sponsored by consumer goods companies, they were designed to sell products to audiences.
The term “soap opera” was created by Glen A. Larson, who wrote and produced “The Guiding Light.” The name is meant to suggest that soap operas are boring; the play on words suggests that people can’t get enough of them.
The first soap opera was “Painted Dreams,” which aired on Chicago radio station WGN in 1931.
It told the story of a couple, Jim and Mary Barton, who got married and struggled to make ends meet.
It was quickly followed by “Ma Perkins” in 1932, which told the story of a widowed dressmaker in a small Indiana town.
Both shows became popular with their listeners, but it wasn’t until later in the decade that soap operas became widely popular on radio.
In 1938, Procter & Gamble sponsored a new radio show called “Bold Venture.” It also had a serialized storyline involving Jim and Mary Barton as well as characters named Doc Roberts and his daughter Sally.
In 1943, Procter & Gamble tried again with another radio serial called “The Guiding Light.”
On radio and TV in America, daytime serial dramas were called soap operas because the earliest shows were sponsored by soap-powder manufacturers, who advertised their products directly to viewers.
The first radio soap opera was “Painted Dreams,” which debuted on Chicago’s NBC Blue Network in November 1930. It was followed by “People’s Paths” on CBS in January 1931, and then by three more CBS serials.
On February 12, 1932, the first daytime drama broadcast took place when NBC presented a 15-minute drama entitled “The Romance of Helen Trent.” Helen Trent, played by Betty Winkler, didn’t know she was pregnant until she fainted in church one Sunday.
She woke up with amnesia and had to be reminded that her husband had died two weeks earlier.
The History Of Soap Operas
In the United States and the United Kingdom, soap operas are broadcast on terrestrial television or radio during prime time.
They are also shown online in some countries that do not have national broadcasting, such as Sweden.
Australia’s two national free-to-air networks, the Seven Network and the Nine Network, each screen an hour-long episode of a soap opera every weekday in prime time.
Soap operas first appeared on US radio in 1930s and early 1940s. The first daily soap opera broadcast was “The Guiding Light”, which premiered on NBC Radio January 25, 1937.
Early radio soap operas were primarily sponsored by soap manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive.
Early US television soap operas followed on radio and generally kept to similar formulas. In 1947 NBC launched a short-lived series simply titled “Asoap Opera”.
The first long-run survivor was “As The World Turns”, premiering in June 1956, and still on the air as of 2010. In 1949 CBS started a 30 minute serial drama called “Love of Life”.
These continued until the major primetime television networks began running daytime serials in the 1970s, most notably “General Hospital”, “Days of Our Lives.”
What Is The Distinctive Look Of Soaps Operas?
Soaps have a distinctive look on television. The lighting is usually fairly flat, and the colors are muted.
Lighting tends to come from a few sources (generally lamps or sunlight), as opposed to being only or primarily from the sun.
Telling shots in soaps always seem very carefully composed, even when the camera is handheld.
There’s often a sense that the director is showing you something, not just recording an action for you to watch.
That’s because soap operas are shot with a wide-angle lens, which stretches the image horizontally.
This makes it possible for viewers sitting close to the television set to see more of the room onscreen than they would otherwise, but it also means that any given object in the frame will appear bigger than it does with a normal lens.
The net result is that people tend to look big like they’re on stage instead of in real life.
The soap opera effect can be seen in a lot of other programs made for TV, but it’s most familiar from daytime soaps such as “Guiding Light,” “As The World Turns” and “All My Children.”
Why’s There So Much Melodrama In Soap Operas?
Why’s there so much melodrama in soap operas? It’s because it works for them.
People watch soap operas because of the melodrama. The more melodramatic it gets, the better their ratings are.
Soap operas have learned that their audience enjoys watching the melodrama, so they do everything they can to create it. They know what the viewer wants, and they give it to them.
Soap operas are characterized by their use of melodramatic storylines and emotional plots which often feature families who have an abundance of problems, most notably marital discord caused by infidelity, hidden identities, and other complex and dramatic personal relationships.
These elements may be found across the gamut of soap operas, from those set in suburbia to those set in the inner city. Soap operas have also been called melodramas, or “weeper” dramas.
Although many soap operas begin with a “whodunit” technique which reveals little information about a central crime until late into the storyline, they typically employ this structure and others only as a means to advance the plot or stories involving multiple characters and/or subplots.
How Are Soap Operas Filmed?
Soap operas are made much like any other television show. They’re filmed on a closed set with the audience watching the action from a control room.
Some soap opera sets are elaborate, often to accommodate the many scenes that need to be shot each day.
In one major soap, for example, sets were built to represent three different apartments and over 50 houses.
One of the things that makes these shows interesting is that they seldom use scripts. The actors have a general idea of where their character’s development is going, but it’s up to them to make those scenes come alive. W
hile the plot lines may sound unrealistic, there’s nothing fake about the emotions you see in a soap opera.
These actors are working hard at portraying their characters’ joys and heartache as if they were real.
Soap operas are filmed using a process called multicamera setup. This is different from single camera and three camera setups.
Taping of soap operas follow a certain format. The shows have a live audience who first watches the taping of the show for mistakes, then the show is recorded and then shown on television.
Soap operas usually have more than one camera with different angles to get a better shot of the actors.
Some soap operas that have been around for many years have been captured with only one camera.
The way soaps are taped are done in short scenes with no edits in between to keep it as live as possible.
The actors on your favorite soaps do not know what will happen next in the storyline because they are not shown the script ahead of time.
So they just react in front of a camera as if they were acting in a movie without knowing what will happen next or how their character will react to each situation.
There are times when scripts are changed at the last minute, which can be chaotic for the actors because they must adjust to new changes instantly and perform them correctly without any practice or rehearsals.
Classic Examples Of Soap Operas
When we hear the words “soap opera”, we think of the dramatic series that were popular in the early days of television.
There were shows like Guiding Light, As The World Turns, and General Hospital.
These shows were popular because they had elements from traditional serialized dramas. They also used multimedia techniques like short films to tell parts of the story.
Getting to know about these classic soap operas will help you understand more about the history of television programming.
Here are some classic soap operas from around the world.
Days of Our Lives (1965– )
Days of Our Lives is an NBC daytime soap opera set in the fictional city of Salem. It first aired on November 8, 1965.
The soap opera was created by husband-and-wife team Ted Corday and Betty Corday. Irna Phillips was a story editor for “Days of Our Lives” and many other soap operas.
Phillips was also the wife of Ted Corday, who had been previously married to Betty’s sister, Helen.
The show has had a number of writers, including (but not limited to) William J. Bell and Margaret DePriest.
The Cordays and Phillips were the showrunners until the late 1970s when they both left the series.
In 1976, the show was then taken over by head writer James E. Reilly, who remained executive producer until his retirement in 1998.
Reilly was succeeded by former head writer Sally Sussman Morina, who was in turn succeeded by Dena Higley in 2007. Higley resigned from her post in 2009 and former head writer Ron Carlivati replaced her.
The Young and the Restless (1973– )
In 1973, The Young and the Restless became the first soap opera to air on a 24-hour network.
The show changed the way people watched soap operas. It was the first to have a single story over several episodes; characters were not used in just one episode and then discarded.
It also had a unique cast. Unlike other soap operas that aired at that time, The Young and the Restless focused on younger characters (twenty-somethings) as opposed to more mature characters (forty-somethings).
The original idea for The Young and the Restless came from an executive producer at CBS named Douglas Marland.
He wanted to create a soap opera that focused on young married life and would be very different from other shows at that time.
The show was originally titled “The Innocent Years” before it was changed to “The New Generation.” It was finally renamed “The Young and the Restless.”
The cast of The Young and the Restless included teenage stars like Traci Lin Wood, who played Traci Abbott, and Katherine Glass who played Nina Webster.
A few years later, Sharon Wyatt joined the cast of The Young and the Restless as Sharon Newman along with her real-life husband Michael Sabatino.
EastEnders (1985– )
The BBC soap opera, set in the fictional London borough of Walford, has been a British institution since its inception in 1985.
The show focuses on the interwoven lives of various households and businesses in Walford and its market square.
Its cast is largely working-class, although the show has featured many storylines involving affluent characters.
Tackling issues such as homosexuality, rape, incest, and murder, EastEnders has dealt with social issues that other British soaps would only touch upon.
It has also garnered a reputation for stories focusing on melodrama and sensationalist plots through a succession of creative story editors.
The premise of EastEnders is simple: to follow the daily lives of the residents of Albert Square, an East London council estate.
The show’s early success can be attributed to its gritty subject matter; at the time, soap operas were popular but had become formulaic and predictable.
EastEnders offered something new: an intimate exploration of ordinary life in a working-class community.
The show’s original creator was Tony Holland, who came from a background in working-class drama; his father had written Coronation Street for ITV.
Holland drew on his own knowledge for EastEnders, using the names of streets in his youth.
General Hospital (1963– )
General Hospital is the longest-running American television serial drama, airing on ABC. It is set in a fictional city, Port Charles, New York.
Created by Frank and Doris Hursley, who originally set it in a general hospital (hence the title), in an unnamed fictional city. In the 1970s, the city was named Port Charles, New York. The series premiered on April 1, 1963.
Dynasty was a prime-time soap opera that aired on ABC from 1981 to 1989.
The show, created by Richard and Esther Shapiro, chronicled the bitter feud between the wealthy Carrington and Colby families of Denver, Colorado.
Dynasty stars John Forsythe as oil tycoon Blake Carrington, Linda Evans as his former daughter-in-law Krystle, and later Joan Collins as his ex-wife Alexis.
Coronation Street (1960– )
Coronation Street, often referred to as Corrie, is a British soap opera created by Granada Television and shown on ITV.
The program centers on Coronation Street in Weatherfield, a fictional town based on inner-city Salford. In the show’s fictional history, the street was built in the early 1900s and named in 1902 after the coronation of King Edward VII.
Coronation Street is made by Granada Television at MediaCity Manchester and is shown in all ITV regions, as well as internationally.
On 17 September 2010, it became the world’s longest-running TV soap opera in production. On 23 September 2015, it was announced that Coronation Street would air its 6000th episode on 15 December 2015.
The program was conceived in 1960 by scriptwriter Tony Warren at Granada Television in Manchester.
In the show’s fictional history, the street was built in the early 1900s and named in 1902 after the coronation of King Edward VII. The first episode was broadcast on 9 December 1960.