A few weeks ago I threw myself back into the frothy world of daytime soaps. I’m a long time, on again, off again fan, a relationship that began in my early teens. I was a staunchly loyal viewer for a long time, loving with a passion the stories and the characters. But my love has been slowly strangled by the free-to-air chopping and changing of my favourite shows (General Hospital, DOOL, Y&R) so I’ve been away for a few years. But now I’m back!
Now I’m back and I launched my plunge into the pool of deception, intrigue and long forgotten twins given up at birth, by writing a freelance article for a magazine I used to work for, Soap World. Because, as I wrote in my pitch email to the editor, “I’m hoping to inject some enjoyment back into my paid writing gigs”. While there are certainly higher paying gigs to chase, I really want to enjoy the work I’m doing. And what could be more fun than writing about characters who bed hop, kidnap and plot to wreak havoc in each other’s lives with such gay abandon?
So, back into the sudsy soapies we go! There are many things to love about soaps – the melodrama, the outlandish plots, the crazy dialogue, the sets, the costumes, the make-up, the heavy reliance on coincidence. One factor that brings us back week after week is to see a villain vanquished – to see Stefano’s plans undone. But the thing I watch them for, the thing I suspect most of us watch for, is the love stories. We are in love with love and just want to see happy endings for a pretty girl and a handsome boy; we want to see love conquer all.
One of the first soaps I remember watching is one of the newest, The Bold & The Beautiful. I was introduced by my grandmother who would turn the TV on at 5pm (in Adelaide it was 5pm back then) and watch with her.
Then I started watching General Hospital, which used to be on MVQ6 at 3.30pm. Those were the early ’80s when Luke and Laura reigned supreme. Oh boy, I really loved Luke and Laura. They were divine. He was dashing and handsome, she was gorgeous and innocent. Theirs was an unconventional romance to say the least. It began when he raped her. And from there an unlikely love story blossomed that would put them on the cover of Newsweek and that would draw an audience of 30 million viewers to their eventual wedding.
Around the same time, Days of Our Lives was on and I started watching that too, usually just on school holidays because it was on at around 1pm. And that’s how I met Bo and Hope. And who wouldn’t fall in love with such a gorgeous couple? And what about the whole Horton, Brady and Di Mera tringle! Oh, and the Kiriakis clan! So much drama, so many awesome characters in one show!
And once you’re into two soaps, you may as well go the whole hog, so it was a short hop skip and a jump to Young & The Restless, As The World Turns and All My Children.
Now, when you say you like soap operas you find you’ll get the odd raised eyebrow, or if the listener is particularly badly brought up they may make a snide, ill-informed crack about how little you have going on in your life. But still the soaps are worth watching.
The reason soap operas were so popular in the ’80s is the same reason I like them now. Soap operas offer a simple escape, where rich people have all kinds of different problems but none of them are whether you’ll get the mould out of the bathroom grout. They’re problems are whether they’re doctor will discover the counter-drug to the mysterious chemical compound that they’ve been mysteriously injected with.
Yes, the problems are outlandish and even highly preposterous. But I’m pretty sure a team of superheros fighting a villain from outer space who wants to steal a tesseract for some unfathomable purpose is equally removed from reality.
Most importantly soaps are fun! Soaps still have a lot to offer audiences and for many it’s about finding the one that fits best. Some are lighter, with faster-moving plots, others move more slowly, developing characters more thoroughly as they go. Some focus on adventure and hijinx, others on love triangles and the emotional plotting of the lovelorn.
In this day and age, with digital recordings/Tivo/iQ boxes, we all have much better access to soaps than ever before. It’s easier to schedule your soap viewing to a time when it’s convenient. And in the internet age, it’s so easy to catch up on those storylines you missed. Wiki has a page for just about every major soap character ever created. And if that fails, simply ask me and I can answer just about anything.
Soaps can still offer that level of escapism that, for just half an hour or an hour a day, can lighten the load and, perhaps surprisingly, connect us with others who love the same things. Like you and me. And in a world where the news gets more depressing every day, isn’t a bit of light viewing with a happy ending once a month, just what the doctor ordered? So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
Days of Our Lives is on at 2pm, Channel 9, Monday to Friday. If you’ve ever watched before you’ll recognise a lot of the same faces – Sami Brady is still around, but she’s got a new man in tow, Rafe (Galen Gering, who used to be on Passions). One half of the Jack and Jen supercouple is still there, Jen, and she’s as sensational as ever. Stefano di Mera hasn’t changed a jot, and neither has Victor Kiriakis (John Anniston, Jennifer Anniston’s father).
The Bold and the Beautiful is on at 4.30pm Monday to Friday on Channel 10. While you’re watching it, turn Twitter on, follow me (@bold_au) and we’ll have a bit of a natter over a cup of tea while we watch Ridge sail off into the sunset (after he marries Brooke for the fifth time, of course). Yes, Ridge is leaving. After 25 years on the soap, he’s called it a day. Why not tune in for his final episodes which will be in the next few weeks.
What’s your favourite soap and who were your favourite supercouples? Do you remember your mum or grandmother watching it?