Soap operas quickly became a fixture of American daytime television in the early s, joined by game shows , sitcom reruns and talk shows.
They become like a family, and the viewer becomes emotionally involved. There seem to be two attitudes by viewers. One, that the stories are similar to what happened to them in real life, or two, thank goodness that isn't me. Wesley Kenney Many long-running US soap operas established particular environments for their stories. The Doctors and General Hospital, in the beginning, told stories almost exclusively from inside the confines of a hospital.
As the World Turns dealt heavily with Chris Hughes' law practice and the travails of his wife Nancy who, tired of being "the loyal housewife" in the s, became one of the first older women on the American serials to enter the workforce.
When Bert's status shifted to caring mother and town matriarch, her children's marital troubles were showcased. Even when stories revolved around other characters, Joanne was frequently a key player in their storylines. Days of Our Lives initially focused on Dr. Tom Horton and his steadfast wife Alice. The show later branched out to focus more on their five children.
The Edge of Night featured as its central character Mike Karr, a police detective later an attorney , and largely dealt with organized crime. The Young and the Restless first focused on two families, the prosperous Brooks family with four daughters, and the working class Foster family of a single working mother with three children.
Its storylines explored realistic problems including cancer, mental illness, poverty and infidelity. In contrast, Dark Shadows — and Port Charles — featured supernatural characters and dealt with fantasy and horror storylines. Their characters included vampires, witches, ghosts, goblins and angels. The American soap opera Guiding Light originally titled The Guiding Light until started as a radio drama in January and subsequently transferred to television in June Originally serials were broadcast as fifteen-minute installments each weekday in daytime slots.
All soap operas broadcast half-hour episodes by the end of the s. With increased popularity in the s, most soap operas had expanded to an hour in length by the end of the decade Another World even expanded to 90 minutes for a short time.
More than half of the serials had expanded to one-hour episodes by As of , three of the four US serials air one hour episodes each weekday; only The Bold and the Beautiful airs minute episodes.
Soap operas were originally broadcast live from the studio, creating what many at the time regarded as a feeling similar to that of a stage play. As nearly all soap operas were originated at that time in New York City , a number of soap actors were also accomplished stage actors who performed live theatre during breaks from their soap roles. Their success made the West Coast a viable alternative to New York-produced soap operas, which were becoming more costly to perform.
By the early s, nearly all soap operas had transitioned to being taped. Port Charles used the practice of running week " story arcs ," in which the main events of the arc are played out and wrapped up over the 13 weeks, although some storylines did continue over more than one arc. According to the Preview issue of Soap Opera Digest , it was briefly discussed that all ABC shows might do telenovela arcs, but this was rejected.
Early episodes of Dark Shadows were rerun on PBS member stations in the early s after the show's cancellation, and the entire series except for a single missing episode was rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel in the s. After The Edge of Night's cancellation, reruns of the show's final five years were shown late nights on USA Network from to Newer broadcast networks since the late s, such as Fox and cable television networks, have largely eschewed soap operas in their daytime schedules, instead running syndicated programming and reruns.
No cable television outlet has produced its own daytime serial, although DirecTV 's The Network took over existing serial Passions , continuing production for one season; while TBS and CBN Cable Network respectively aired their own soap operas, The Catlins a primetime soap that utilized the daily episode format of its daytime counterparts and Another Life a soap that combined standard serial drama with religious overtones , during the s.
Fox, the fourth "major network," carried a short lived daytime soap Tribes in Yet other than this and a couple of pilot attempts, Fox mainly stayed away from daytime soaps, and has not attempted them since their ascension to major-network status in it did later attempt a series of daily prime time soaps, which aired on newly created sister network MyNetworkTV , but the experiment was largely a failure.
Due to the masses of episodes produced for a series, release of soap operas to DVD a popular venue for distribution of current and vintage television series is considered impractical. With the exception of occasional specials, daytime soap operas are notable by their absence from DVD release schedules an exception being the supernatural soap opera, Dark Shadows, which did receive an essentially complete release on both VHS and DVD; the single lost episode is reconstructed by means of an off-the-air audio recording, still images, and recap material from adjacent episodes.
See List of longest-serving soap opera actors Due to the longevity of these shows, it is not uncommon for a single character to be played by multiple actors. Conversely, several actors have remained playing the same character for many years, or decades even. She is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records  as the actor with the longest uninterrupted performance in a single role. A number of performers played roles for twenty years or longer, occasionally on more than one show.
Erika Slezak played Victoria Lord 3 on One Life to Live from until the show ended its network television run on ABC on January 13, and resumed the role in its short-lived online revival on April 29, Evolution of the daytime serial[ edit ] For several decades, most daytime soap operas concentrated on family and marital discord, legal drama and romance. The action rarely left interior settings, and many shows were set in fictional, medium-sized Midwestern towns.
The first exotic location shoot was made by All My Children, to St. Many other soap operas planned lavish storylines after the success of the All My Children shoot. Croix in , the former show culminating a long-running storyline between popular characters Mac, Rachel and Janice, and the latter to serve as an exotic setting for Alan Spaulding and Rita Bauer 's torrid affair.
Search for Tomorrow taped for two weeks in Hong Kong in Later that year, some of the cast and crew ventured to Jamaica to tape a love consummation storyline between the characters of Garth and Kathy.
During the s, perhaps as a reaction to the evening drama series that were gaining high ratings, daytime serials began to incorporate action and adventure storylines, more big-business intrigue, and an increased emphasis on youthful romance. Luke and Laura helped to attract both male and female fans. Even actress Elizabeth Taylor was a fan and at her own request was given a guest role in Luke and Laura's wedding episode. Luke and Laura's popularity led to other soap producers striving to reproduce this success by attempting to create supercouples of their own.
With increasingly bizarre action storylines coming into vogue, Luke and Laura saved the world from being frozen, brought a mobster down by finding his black book in a Left-Handed Boy Statue, and helped a Princess find her Aztec Treasure in Mexico.
Other soap operas attempted similar adventure storylines, often featuring footage shot on location — frequently in exotic locales. During the s, the mob, action and adventure stories fell out of favor with producers, due to generally declining ratings for daytime soap operas at the time, and the resultant budget cuts.
In addition, soap operas were no longer able to go on expensive location shoots overseas as they were able to do in the s. Other social issues included cancer , rape , abortion , homophobia , and racism. Some shows during the s incorporated supernatural and science fiction elements into their storylines. One of the main characters on the earlier soap opera Dark Shadows was Barnabas Collins , a vampire, and One Life to Live featured an angel named Virgil.
Both shows featured characters who traveled to and from the past. Traditional grammar of daytime serials[ edit ] Modern U.
The duration and format of storylines and the visual grammar employed by U. Stylistically, UK and Australian soap operas, which are usually produced for early evening timeslots, fall somewhere in between U.
UK and Australian soap operas move through storylines at a faster rate than daytime serials, making them closer to U. American daytime soap operas feature stylistic elements that set them apart from other shows: A construct unique to U. This is the most significant distinction between U. There will be no dialogue for several seconds, while the music builds before cutting to a commercial or a new scene.
This kind of segue is referred to in the industry as a "tag. This is useful in programs like soap operas, which are shot on videotape in small interior sets. The backlight is frequently more subtle on filmed productions shot on location and in larger sets.
Domestic interiors are often furnished with stained wood wall panels and furniture, and items of brown leather furniture. This is to give a sumptuous and luxurious look suggesting the wealth of the characters.
Daytime serials often foreground other sumptuous elements of set decoration; presenting a "mid-shot of characters viewed through a frame of lavish floral displays, glittering crystal decanters or gleaming antique furniture". Often an outdoor locale is recreated in the studio. Australian and UK daily soap operas invariably feature a certain amount of exterior shot footage in every episode.
This is usually shot in the same location and often on a purpose-built set, with new exterior locations for particular events. The visual quality of a soap opera is usually lower than prime time U. This is also because soap operas are recorded on videotape using a multi-camera setup , unlike primetime productions that are usually shot on film and frequently use the single camera shooting style. Because of the lower resolution of video images, and also because of the emotional situations portrayed in soap operas, daytime serials make heavy use of close-up shots.
Programs in the United States did not make the full conversion to high definition broadcasting until September , when The Bold and the Beautiful became the last soap to convert to the format; One Life to Live was an exception to this, as it continued to be produced and broadcast in standard definition — albeit in the Soap operas have idiosyncratic blocking techniques. This allows both characters to appear together in a single shot, and both facing the audience.
This is unrealistic in real life and is not frequently seen in film or on television outside U. Until the s, these series listed only a few of the principal actors at the end of the episode in certain episodes airing on Monday through Thursdays. Because of the aforementioned reasons, an extended credit sequence featuring a complete list of the show's cast members — listed alongside the characters they portray — typically airs at least once per week usually on the Friday show; although since the s, most soap operas — with General Hospital as one of the few exceptions — have randomized the day the cast list is shown.
The Young and the Restless became the first American daytime soap to include the names of its contract actors in the opening credits in although due to the large number of actors on contract with the show at one time, it utilizes different versions of the title sequence with a randomized list of about six actors ; The Bold and the Beautiful began listing its entire main cast as well as some actors appearing on a recurring basis from to , with General Hospital following suit from to No new major daytime soap opera has been created since Passions in , while many have been cancelled.
Since January , four daytime soap operas — General Hospital , Days of Our Lives , The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful — continue to air on the three major networks , down from a total of 12 during the —91 season and a high of 19 in the —70 season.
This marks the first time since that there have been only four soap operas airing on broadcast television. The longest-running drama in television and radio history, Guiding Light , barely reached 2.
All My Children, another New York-based soap, moved its production out to Los Angeles in an effort to reduce costs and raise sagging ratings; however, both it and One Life to Live, each with a four-decade-plus run, were cancelled in New generations of potential viewers were not raised watching soap operas with their mothers, leaving the shows' long and complex storylines foreign to younger audiences. Now, as viewers age, ratings continue to drop among young adult women, the demographic group that soap opera advertisers pay the most for.
The rise of cable and the internet has also provided new sources of entertainment during the day. Simpson murder case , both preempted and competed with an entire season of soaps, transforming viewing habits and leaving soap operas with 10 percent fewer viewers after the trial ended.
A network may even prefer to return a timeslot to its local stations to keeping a soap opera with disappointing ratings on the air, as was the case with Sunset Beach and Port Charles. Compounding the financial pressure on scripted programming in the — period was a decline in advertising during the Great Recession , which led shows to reduce their budgets and cast sizes.