History Of Soap Operas.

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History Of Soap Operas

Soap opera was a phrase that people used in the 1930s in USA. It was to describe radio series. The opera came from the fact that they were about dilemmas and real life situations that people have on a daily basis.

As the radio series popularity grew, they became televised in the 1950s. Soon it was spread around the world and it grew and grew.

Coronation Street is the longest running TV soap in the world, but it is predated by a radio soap, The Archers, a rural soap opera that was broadcasted on BBC Radio 4. After the successes of Dallas (among others) in America, soap started to suddenly became more popular in the ‘80s. This caused the beginning of new British soaps such as Brookside and Eastenders. Also, the success of Australian soaps like Neighbours and Home and Away caused British soaps to reconsider their target audience and therefore, their characters. These Australian soaps tended to be aimed at teenage viewers with characters and plots suitable for that age. British producers decided to follow suit, for example, the British soap Hollyoaks is aimed at young people. This change in the target audience proved to be a very clever move.

Consequently, soaps are now more popular than ever.


A soap opera always has the following conventions:

  • It is a serialised drama that usually runs all year and carry on doing this forever, so it’s never ending.
  • It features continuous storylines dealing with domestic themes and personal or family relationships.
  • It generally has a well-known theme tune and start sequence, which change little over the years.
  • There is a limit to the number of characters, allowing the soap to focus on a smaller number, this is to allow more time to be spent on each character so that the audience knows them better and the storylines can be more detailed.
  • The plots are open-ended and usually many storylines are featured or even interlinked in an episode. Often they follow the same issue, for example, two separate characters dealing with the break-up of a relationship. Therefore the storylines run in parallel.
  • They are often set around a small central area such as a square (as in Eastenders) or a cul-de-sac (such as Brookside). If this is not the case, there is usually something else connecting the characters.
  • Soaps often have special episodes for events in the real world such as Christmas or the millennium.
  • British soaps most often feature common, ordinary, working class characters, whereas American soaps often deal with richer characters.
  • Soaps are realistic.
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Soaps often begin with a ‘hook’ in which one or more of the storylines from a previous episode are continued. The episode will definitely end with a ‘cliff-hanger’ (a suspenseful, undeveloped piece of dialogue or action – for example, a character finding out that their fiancé has just died).

Three, four or even five storylines will be in progress during any one episode, with the action switching between them. As one storyline is resolved, another completely different from the previous one with other characters begins. The characters go from quiet, harmonic (but uninteresting) periods to chaotic, confusing (but interesting) dilemmas. ...

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