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Soap opera
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Soap opera

cover devoted to soap operas: Dated January 12, 1976, Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes of Days of Our Lives are featured with the headline "Soap Operas: Sex and suffering in the afternoon".]]

A soap opera or daytime serial is an ongoing, episodic work of fiction, usually broadcast on television or radio. This genre of TV and radio entertainment has been in existence long enough for audiences to recognize them simply by the term soap. What differentiates a soap from other television drama programs is their open-ended nature. Plots run concurrently, and lead into further developments: there is rarely a need to "wrap things up", although soaps that run in series for only part of the year tend to bring things to a dramatic cliffhanger. The soap opera form first developed on American radio in the 1920s, and expanded into television starting in the 1940s.

The term "soap opera" originated from the fact that when these serial dramas were aired on daytime radio, the commercials aired during the shows were largely aimed at housewives. Many of the products sold during these commercials were laundry and cleaning items. This specific type of radio drama came to be associated with these particular commercials, and this gave rise to the term "soap opera" — a melodramatic story that aired commercials for soap products. Though soap operas are still sponsored by companies such as Procter & Gamble;, the diverse demographic groups that soap operas attract have caused other advertisements for such things as acne medication and birth control, appealing to a much younger audience.

Table of contents
1 Soap opera characteristics
2 Current American daytime television schedule
3 See also
4 External links

Soap opera characteristics

Most soaps follow the lives of a group of characters who live or work in a particular place. The storylines follow the day-to-day lives of these characters, who seem similar to ordinary people on the street — except that soap opera characters are usually more handsome, beautiful, seductive, and richer than the typical person watching the TV show. Soap operas take everyday, ordinary lives and exaggerate them to a degree where they are still believable, yet they are more dramatic.

Romances, secret relationships, extra-marital affairs, and genuine love has been the basis for the vast majority of soap operas. The most memorable soap opera characters, and the most compelling and popular storylines, have usually involved a romance between two characters, of the sort often presented in paperback romance novels. Soap opera storylines weave intricate, convoluted, sometimes confusing tales of characters who have affairs, meet mysterious strangers and fall in love, are swept off their feet by dashing (yet treacherous) lovers, sneak behind their lovers' backs, and engage in other forms of adultery that keep their audiences returning to find out who is sleeping with whom, who has betrayed whom, who is having a baby, who is related to each other, and so on.

Remarkable (sometimes unbelievable) coincidences are used to enhance the drama in most soap operas. For example, if a young woman in a soap secretly has a one-night stand with her boyfriend back in high school, this forbidden affair will certainly come back to haunt her several years later...usually at the very moment that it would cause the most harm (such as on the day of her wedding).

'' was one of the most popular American soap operas in the 1970s and 1980s.]]

The USA soap opera Port Charles used the practice of running 13-week "arcs", in which the main events of the arc are played out and wrapped up over the 13 weeks, although some storylines do continue over more than one arc.

In the United Kingdom, soap operas are one of the most popular genres, most being broadcast during prime time. Unlike the rich, glamorous and good-looking characters typical of US soap operas, most UK soaps focus on working-class communities. The two most popular are ITV's Coronation Street and BBC ONE's EastEnders, which regularly attract the highest viewing figures for any programme.

In the USA soaps are mainly broadcast during daytime. Prime time serials were especially popular during the 1980s. The most successful included: Dallas; Dynasty; Knots Landing; and, from the 1990s, Beverly Hills 90210. The first real prime time soap opera was Peyton Place (1964-1969). Unlike the daytime programs, prime time soaps aired only once per week in a one-hour format and usually centered around episodic plots, with running story arcs in the background.

A few soap opera spoofs have been made. Two of the most famous U.S. spoofs were Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Soap. On British television, comedian Victoria Wood a long-running spoof soap entitled Acorn Antiques features on her sketch show (loosely based on ITV's Crossroads). In the United States, Carol Burnett frequently ran a soap opera spoof on her show, called As the Stomach Turns.

The soap opera's distinctive open plot structure and complex continuity was eventually adopted in major American prime time television programs. The first significant one was Hill Street Blues produced by Steven Bochco which featured many elements borrowed by soap operas such as an ensemble cast, multi-episode storylines and extensive character development over the course of the series. The success of this series soon gave rise to a variety of other serious drama and science fiction series which took much the same elements to structure their own storylines.

The BBC continues to broadcast one of the earlier radio "soap opera" programmes in Britain, the ever popular Archers, on Radio 4. It has been running since 1951 nationally. It continues to attract over five million listeners, or roughly 25% of the radio listening population of the UK at that time of the evening.

The American soap opera The Guiding Light started as a radio drama in January 1937 and subsequently transferred to television. With the exception of several years in the late 1940s when Irna Phillips was in dispute with Procter and Gamble, The Guiding Light has been heard or seen every weekday since it started, making it the longest story ever told. Other American soaps that have been telecast for more than thirty years (and are still in rotation) include As the World Turns, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, All My Children, and The Young and the Restless.

Current American daytime television schedule

The daytime serials in America air five days a week, Monday through Friday. Local affiliates have the right to air the serials whenever they wish, but this is how the networks schedule them. All times are Eastern and Pacific.

 12:30 PM1:00 PM1:30 PM2:00 PM2:30 PM3:00 PM3:30 PM
ABCLocal ProgrammingAll My ChildrenOne Life to LiveGeneral Hospital
CBSThe Young and the RestlessThe Bold and the BeautifulAs the World TurnsGuiding Light
NBCLocal ProgrammingDays of Our LivesPassionsLocal Programming

See also

External links