About 5 years ago, I wrote a piece about soap operas call “The Doctrine of Drama”. Like most other pieces, I wrote about my general observations on the subject. Like most Southern young men, I was reluctantly exposed to soap operas at the hand of my mother.
As a result, over the years, I began to notice some cardinal rules about soap operas. I will list them here for reference but will not elaborate as much as I did in the original (hoping that you will also read the original piece, of course).
1. Silence is golden while viewing the soap opera. Otherwise, you’ll hear a SHUSH that sounds like a school bus just lost its air brakes.
2. Viewers tend to have an allegiance to a particular network for their soap operas.
3. A Digital Video Recorder (or DVR) will have its hard drive dominated by soap operas due so that viewers miss NOTHING (except commercials).
4. Abandon all sense of reality all ye who view the soap opera. One character actually had a hysterectomy and then turned up pregnant several years later. Such turns of events are normal in the soap opera world and viewers DO NOT CARE.
5. Lastly, the soap opera is not a passing fancy. The soap opera has its origins in radio. Sponsors wanted to create a series that would cater to the consumers of their soap products (dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.). These shows and their sponsors and their viewers are not going away.
Now, 5 years later, I found that there was a potential addendum to this list. My wife found it odd that an evening drama show was referred to as a soap opera. My wife feels that a show can only be called a soap opera if it is aired during the daytime. My previous piece on this subject gives some weight to this line of thinking. Still, my wife’s point of view intrigued me. Therefore, I pose the following questions: Does the time slot truly dictate what can be called a soap. Is Grey’s Anatomy not a soap opera as opposed to General Hospital? After all, both are centered around hospitals and have a ton of inter-weaving relationships and storylines in their respective words. Is Victor Newman (The Young & The Restless) more of a soap opera patriarch than Robert Crawley (Downton Abbey)? Frankly, the only major distinction I see is that the night time shows of this genre tend to take place in real cities while the daytime locales are often fictional. Still, that may be due to a throwback to the radio days from which many soap operas derived. The primary audience of a daytime drama also tends to be a significant part of the night time counterpart audience. Also, they compete for awards on a (slightly) different platform. Think about this: how long would Susan Lucci have gone without an Emmy even there were more actresses competing for the coveted prize?
Since I wanted to get a more diverse viewpoint on the issue (and I truly have no stance in this debate), I decide to use social networking to get a poll amongst my friends. This did not help as it only revealed that there is an evenly divided camp on the issue. While everyone who responded was very respectful of those with differing viewpoints, they were pretty firm in their stance on the issue. Some simply stated that drama itself occurs at any time (day or night). One even stipulated that the term “soap opera” has been watered down over the years and therefore night time shows would fall under that watered down umbrella (You see what I did there?). Others, like my wife, simply state that a night time show is not a soap opera. The time slot makes all the difference in the world. Either way, no matter what you call the shows, they are here to stay. I will allow you, the viewer, to decide. I will let my wife and the rest of the world watch these shows and categorize them as they see fit. I, on the other hand, will watch something more grounded in reality (like Batman or James Bond).