Soap operas are amongst TV’s most popular programs, with their own magazines and award ceremonies. The name ‘soap opera’ occurred because the original sponsors of the program genre were soap manufacturers, and they are dramatic, like an opera.
Soap operas are aimed at women, and are shown at prime-time most days. Some, like ‘Hollyaoks’ and ‘Neighbours’ are aimed primarily at teenage girls, and are shown when that group is likely to be watching. Similarly, ‘Eastenders’ and Coronation Street’ are aimed at working woman or elderly women, so they are shown at prime-time when most people get home from work.
Soap operas are designed to be slightly un-realistic, and have themes like love, passion and death, because they are exciting and will keep viewers ‘hooked’. They tend to be very long-running, and actors can stay in them for many years. People often think of the character as real because they watch the program so often. Soap operas are so popular that they are globally produced - ‘Neighbours’ is Australian, and very popular in Britain.
Soap operas share many characteristics, such as the scheduling –they have omnibuses at weekends so that people can catch up with episodes they have missed and can stay ‘hooked’. On public holidays there are usually special episodes- like the death of a popular character; again this is designed to keep people watching. Episodes switch from house to house/person to person, having many storylines running at once, and often end on a ‘cliffhanger’. This keeps people from getting bored with the same old story, and they stay tuned to see their favourite characters. Another common theme between soap operas is the storylines; characters are always getting married, divorcing, dying and having affairs, and when viewing figures are low old characters are sometimes resurrected from the dead! There is usually a central meeting place where all the gossip is exchanged, and all the main events happen.