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Clark Still

How would you develop/write a soap for today’s society?

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Let’s say hypothetically, Netflix/Hulu/Amazon came to you with a blank check and said they wanna try a soap opera for today’s society on their services because they feel soaps are perfect for binge viewing . They will also leave you alone and give you creative control over it on the stipulation that the soap brings in viewers. 

 

With that said, how would you craft this modern soap and what writing style, tropes, location, character types, etc would you employ?

Edited by Clark Still

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The three things I would need-

 

Different income levels and realistic situations involving them.

 

Inclusivity.  People of color and LGBTQ representation.

 

Not every character is connected.  As much as I loved that homey feel watching the soaps of my youth, I think Bill Bell’s Y&R is the way to go as far as connectivity.  Not every character interacted.  Their stories didn’t all come together.

 

 

All that said and kind of contrary to my third point, the only soap I can see being remotely successful in today’s climate is a reboot of Edge of Night.  That show would revolve around the crimes, and could easily modernize the original characters Nd bring them to new stories.  

Edited by titan1978

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How are we defining “soap”? Does it need to be five days a week/multiple times a week all year round? Multigenerational core families in a community? Female point of view? Melodramatic? No definite endpoint?

 

I’m asking because a lot of dramas and sitcoms have “soapy” elements, and perhaps they are sufficient to scratch people’s itch for long term visual storytelling.

Edited by Faulkner

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4 minutes ago, titan1978 said:

The three things I would need-

 

 

 

Inclusivity.  People of color and LGBTQ representation.

 

 

No one seems to be able to do this one right. I have been watching a telenovela that features a gay couple but gave up on it pretty quickly. It took about a month for one of the gay characters to show up on screen and his bf/husband popped up. There was no dating or build up. They are a couple already but you couldn't tell until finally they appeared together at home. I am so tired of soaps being afraid to tell a great LGBT story/romance.

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I would not do a 5 episode a week model..too much investment required for today's modern day viewer... I always thought a soap should have been one or two episodes per week 52 weeks a year.. either 30 or 60 minutes depending on the story presented.

 

I would definitely do a lower/working class family, middle class family, and an upper class family... where they are connected, yet not connected.  Like mentioned above.. one of the best parts of old school Y & R was the bubbles everyone was in story-wise.. so if two characters randomly met up.. it was always a surprise and a joy (i.e. Victor/Nikki, Nina/Ryan/Victoria)

 

And I would employ writers that are minorities, liberal, and conservative.. to give the characters a distinct voice and personality.

 

And I think if a soap is to be rebooted... I would pick Edge of Night or Capital.

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I think I would just get back to basics: two families - one, wealthy, or at least upper middle class; the other, blue-collar, and perhaps headed by a single mother - living in "Anytown, U.S.A."  (Although, I'd probably set my soap somewhere in the Great Plains - Kansas or Nebraska.). It's been a long time since any soap featured true "have-not" characters, and so I'd want to bring back that element of class conflict, where you have a family that's fighting for economic survival.

 

There would be an emphasis on youth, because I do so love a good, old-fashioned, young love story, and I would always want to keep my eyes toward "growing the show" for future generations.  However, the younger characters' stories would not come at the expense of the older ones', or the familial, multi-generational element that USED to be the bedrock of this genre.

 

Moreover, I would strive to tell stories that touched upon contemporary issues, and cut away from the done-to-death tropes like baby switches and back-from-the-dead plots, but always with the caveat that a soap opera's (or any drama's) primary objective is to entertain.

 

And, of course, I'd also need a real good bitch - someone you just LOVE to hate - to keep everything interesting. ;)

Edited by Khan

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A new show is one thing and very valid, but I'm more interested in revival name value and reinvention at the moment as I suspect are various content providers. And I would bring One Life to Live back in a heartbeat because I think the brand identity works and is mutable enough to become any number of things. It's also a very socially and politically relevant show today. I can think of plenty to do.

 

Two things it would not feature as the leads again: Todd Manning or Victor Jr., the rapist twin brothers. That time has passed. They would be killed off or incarcerated and off the table for at least quite a long time.

Edited by Vee

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I would definitely go with the old school feel, I would set it in some fictional Georgia town. African-American family being the core family and running the town local newspaper. It’s time out for the Stefano DiMera, back from the dead stuff, so I will do away with that. I loved Bill Bell’s Y&R and Agnes Nixon’s AMC. Pine Valley was a story itself. 

 

I noticed someone above said have writers who are minorities, liberals and conservatives, 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 that’s a plus in my book! So many of the minorities on soaps today are just there and have no personality. 

 

I always wanted to do something centered around the Baptist Church but Greenleaf has that covered. 

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I would do multiple episodes a week (three, four, or five) but release them all at the beginning of the week, similar to how AMC/OLTL did back in 2013. That way, viewers maintain some of the control that is so important with binge-watching while major story points are less likely to be spoiled for large numbers of viewers.

Not too sure if I'd have a hiatus or not. Are we targeting soap watchers or the audience-at-large? We can watch 90-150 minutes a week year-round with no problem, but would people who never watched traditional daytime TV soaps keep up?

As far as content, it goes without saying that it needs to fit the times and include more realistic themes, but I think it would be extremely important to narrow the focus from what most of us are used to. I don't think "several families in a town" is going to be successful anymore by virtue of that requiring too many characters, settings, and storylines. The reason why the two soaps that have already mentioned as being best for this are EON and CAP is because they sort of had the makings of a more centralized show. Dark Shadows, Ryan's Hope, and The Doctors also fit because they all kept a small core of regular characters who interacted with others.

The only way you could make a "community soap" work these days, I think, is if you once and for all abolish the mindset that every "small town" has several multimillion dollar industries, tycoons, and mansions. A small town needs to actually be a small town, where the "rich people" are only relatively so.

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1 hour ago, All My Shadows said:

I would do multiple episodes a week (three, four, or five) but release them all at the beginning of the week, similar to how AMC/OLTL did back in 2013. That way, viewers maintain some of the control that is so important with binge-watching while major story points are less likely to be spoiled for large numbers of viewers.

Not too sure if I'd have a hiatus or not. Are we targeting soap watchers or the audience-at-large? We can watch 90-150 minutes a week year-round with no problem, but would people who never watched traditional daytime TV soaps keep up?

As far as content, it goes without saying that it needs to fit the times and include more realistic themes, but I think it would be extremely important to narrow the focus from what most of us are used to. I don't think "several families in a town" is going to be successful anymore by virtue of that requiring too many characters, settings, and storylines. The reason why the two soaps that have already mentioned as being best for this are EON and CAP is because they sort of had the makings of a more centralized show. Dark Shadows, Ryan's Hope, and The Doctors also fit because they all kept a small core of regular characters who interacted with others.

The only way you could make a "community soap" work these days, I think, is if you once and for all abolish the mindset that every "small town" has several multimillion dollar industries, tycoons, and mansions. A small town needs to actually be a small town, where the "rich people" are only relatively so.

 

+1

On 3/29/2018 at 1:37 PM, Soapsuds said:

No one seems to be able to do this one right. I have been watching a telenovela that features a gay couple but gave up on it pretty quickly. It took about a month for one of the gay characters to show up on screen and his bf/husband popped up. There was no dating or build up. They are a couple already but you couldn't tell until finally they appeared together at home. I am so tired of soaps being afraid to tell a great LGBT story/romance.

 

I mean, have you looked at the median age for viewers? :( We'll probably never be satisfied with how daytime handles the gays. Or any person that isn't white. (Which is slightly ironic because as Y&R showed in the 90s and early 2000s that if you write your "minorities" how they should be, like everyone else, people will watch, but what do I know?) I know it's shocking to execs, but people actually want diversity represented. And they'll tune in for it.

 

I love all the ideas in here. I think a modern soap could succeed. I wish soaps were allowed to be more progressive. Somewhere around 1997 and beyond (after mimicking Reilly and likely alienating their audience with whacky stupid stories and vets shown the door) they started playing it too safe. They don't want to alienate their core viewers now. So we get the same tired stories.

 

Soap viewers couldn't handle AMC and OLTL 2.0. I mean ... there was so much bitching. (obviously not here)

Edited by KMan101

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I think AMC and OLTL 2.0 came too early, but then, AMC and OLTL were cancelled too early to really benefit from what we have online now. Had they ended on ABC maybe four years later (2015-2016), they could have skipped the year/year-and-a-half in limbo and went straight to an online platform. Less turnover in between would have meant shows that were more closely linked to what they'd been when they'd gone off the air (which, I think most here would agree, AMC was not a horrible soap in any sense of the word in its last year on ABC - OLTL, we all know I wasn't watching). If they'd popped up on Hulu or Netflix and the goal was to downsize production while retaining as many ABC viewers as possible, things could have been successful.

In general terms of what I'd like to see as far as characters, settings, stories, etc... there are so many parts of our country that have not been fully explored and celebrated in dramatic television, and it's insane. I'd strive for regional culture in a new soap. Look at how revered Friday Night Lights was and still is, and no one thought that a drama set in the world of high school football in small town Texas could be so good. The most important thing, though, is that this can't come from people who know nothing about the topic. Give some of those regional authors a chance. They're hungry for an opportunity to put those colorful characters on a bigger stage, and they'd do it with dignity and complexity.

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I think some of these ideas sound a little to European to me, specifically I don't believe there would be that much interest for a Hollyoaks or an East Ender's light kind of series within most online viewing platforms. At least not with the position to go viral and create a cultural zeitgeist around. I think there is a reason why shows like Grey's Anatomy, The Hand Maiden's Tale, Game Of Thrones and Westworld are such huge behemoths, and why they became such huge hits - and it's not because there are different social economic backgrounds but it's the novelty, characterization, and larger themes that connects the story together with the appropriate amount of game changing "sweep" like events.

 

It's not enough to feature different social stratifications anymore - it has to mean something in terms of characterization and larger story-telling (think Jon Snow of Game Of Thrones), Inclusivity doesn't mean anything if the correct stories aren't connected to the larger characterization (see This Is Us or Grey's Anatomy for evoking experiences of Diversity in tangible ways that makes it apart of the character and thus a fuller show).

 

I would say more than anything else a soap needs to be defined and connected in a core way or premise. It needs to be done in a way that the story itself is larger than life. It needs to be done in a way that the characters represent more than what they are. That's what makes Primetime series interesting, and that's what makes all these "connected universes" Marvel is doing so grand in scope and nature. There are bigger things, and people are interested in seeing them all come together. The characters themselves are  symbols of bigger things, as such I don't think a "on the town" or "hometown" story will really work to capture an audience in the way that we are seeing Netflix, HBO and other online viewing/subscription giants are.  I think a soap needs to be agile and it needs to do multiple things at multiple times to feed multiple niches. I think that's the one thing that Marvel is doing well - they have a vast array of different genre's within their films, same with the other giants: GOT's they are able to master different narrative stories and paces and more or less juggle them at the same time and there are threads all connecting them together for larger pay-offs down the line. 

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shoot 156 episodes a year

release them 3 episodes each week

I would do a model of production like PP had with 5 weeks on 5 weeks off

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The logistics of how many episodes, etc. could be worked out with a producer, so that would be negotiable once the actual spec script and/or bible was created.

 

As for ideas for the story/series, I would have to have mine grounded in actual reality and logic.  I think I would have it in a smaller town, probably East Coast since I'm more familiar with that location and the cast must be diverse, not just ethnically but soci-economically. 

Maybe it would be an East Coast town/small city that is in the process of re-inventing itself after a period of economic struggle.  Maybe start out with a character who returns to the town where he or she was born and raised after "making good"  in either Silicon Valley or some other sector and has all these ideas on how to further revitalize the town/city but runs up against resistance from mainly the older generation (including some family members) who have been slowly and steadily working to rebuild the city/town's industry.  Some want a return to the 'good old days' and some want a total break from old traditions and an embrace of what's new.

As new changes are set in motion, old problems, old feuds and old battles resurface.

Everyone has a motive for their actions, some are altruistic and some are not.

 

Having said that,

If I had a crack at a classic soap, I'd give As The World Turns a fitting end by wiping away the most ridiculous stories of the last decade and writing new story arcs over a season.  I'd bring back a few previous characters from seasons past and tie up stories that were never resolved and 'un-knot' the threads of some very poorly written stories, not to mention redeem some characters who were ruined by poor writing.

 

 

Also, given the political climate in the U.S., I think a more grounded reboot of Capitol would not be outside of the realm of possibility.

Edited by DramatistDreamer

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I've said that over the years on this board, but a 5 day a week soap is past due. Fans just don't have time for it anymore. I suggest 2-3 episodes a week with a finale in early Dec. The show would then pop back up in mid January. I think for budget reasons, this would be the best model. 

 

A new soap nowadays would need to be centered in reality. Time to go back ripping stories from the headlines. It's sad how shows like Grey's Anatomy, This is Us, etc. are ratings hits for simply doing topical stories--something that soaps prospered for, for years. 

 

Of course, as everyone highlighted, these shows need to be heavily diverse. Representation matters. No more can these shows be "white bread." Especially, when you have movies like Black Panther and shows like Empire are huge successes. 

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