Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I've often thought that the lack of realism on US soaps has allowed them to become odd relics of our times. They are often divorced from reality, science, or plausibility. As much as I love a good evil twin or baby switch, the soaps seem to have lost their way in terms of relating to their audiences. Upon watching a few old episodes of THE GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS, I had a feeling of community, being part of a larger world, and watching people you might know or see in town. I'm all for fantasy and escape, but isn't it possible to escape into well constructed realism, too? I'd love to know what you guys think, one way or another.

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

33 minutes ago, mikelyons said:

I'm all for fantasy and escape, but isn't it possible to escape into well constructed realism, too?

 

Absolutely!  I think you can reflect the average viewer's reality and still be entertaining.  If anything, by dramatizing their real-life, everyday problems, I think you can provide viewers with a sense that they're not alone and that, through perseverance and faith, they can work through their issues.  I've been thinking a lot about that lately, as we continue to make sense of everything that's been happening around us in regards to COVID-19.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Many people will say that what they value most in a daytime soap is the escapism that it offers. At least, that's what I often would hear on various messageboards before coming here-- that they didn't want reality to intrude on their fantasy world.

However, I am with you. I think the lack of keeping up with the times and these shows being so divorced from reality is why so many viewers decided to leave soaps behind. I know many will bring up societal change and more program and channel options, while ignoring that "Downton Abbey" seemed more progressive than Y&R ever was, and I grew up loving Y&R. Y&R 20, 30 years ago, with all its flaws was still a lot more grounded in reality than Y&R today.

Last year, I got a chance to watch and appreciate the Kat and David storylines on Guiding Light and its blend of romance, conflict and social justice and, do any of these shows even try to broach these sorts of storylines?

I often mention that ATWT had a storyline (relatively brief, though it was) that would not be out of place today in the BLM era.

And even putting aside social issues, you just had characters relating to each other on a hunan level-- wives broaching the uncomfortable topic of lack of communication, lack of desire, lack of sex in a relationship, people having money issues, some may take extreme measures to resolve their issues but the heart of the matter, what lies beneath the surface at the root was usually what people related to. Today's soaps seem to lack those qualities, one reason why I don't watch the current ones.

 

Just on a technical note, today's soaps feature characters that seem really insulated from a realistic world.

The drama feels fairly manufactured.

Even good sci-fi seems capable of producing conflict that seems organic to that particular world. Daytime Ssoaps seem to have lost this feature.

Edited by DramatistDreamer
Link to post
Share on other sites

Heightened human emotion has become a hallmark of almost all dramatic television, which was once the domain of soaps.  I don’t have a problem with soaps sometimes going off into flights of fancy.  But I also prefer them to be grounded in a sense of reality.  When the whole show is outlandish I often loose interest.  The change of pace can be thrilling, but you need to eventually get back to human emotion for me.

 

 

The GH Riche/Labine team took the sense of realism almost deadly seriously, but not so far that they didn’t have romantic comedy going on with Lois/Ned, and attempts at humor with Kevin/Lucy/Mac.  They had longer scenes that were often full of little things that added to relationships and character.

 

The thing about the show at that time was it felt so real to me, the characters were all so well defined and had a purpose.  Frisco even came back for the story with Maxie’s heart, which is what should happen.  There was a sense of danger and action with Luke, but it was grounded by the mob instead of WSB spies (which I loved when I was a kid), and had real stakes.

 

I watched a lot of Curlee’s GL when the lockdowns started, and I really appreciated how that show was realized during that time.  Community, history, realistic relationships and all types of characters were featured all the time.

 

As much as I have enjoyed Y&R, what I prefer is the almost more gritty realism I got from Riche’s first 6 years or so at GH with Labine and Guza, and the HW teams led by Curlee at GL.  I like it real more than I like the Reilly type of storytelling.

 

When you look at the best of Monty’s time in GH, my favorite periods often had the umbrella storyline that was the WSB/adventure stuff, and the other main story was balanced in more human affairs.  Ice Princess and Diana’s Murder in the same period is a good example.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The best soaps are the slow-moving ones with a pace that is true to life, IMO. Once you start getting wrapped up in the idiotic sci-fi and action/adventure crap, I'm out.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don’t even know what you would call the soaps these days. They aren’t particularly realistic. They aren’t really fantastical. They just don’t have much range at all. Part of it is budget. Part of it is just inertia—it’s so easy to take the path of least resistance when baby switches and endless shallow triangles have worked in the past. No need to frighten execs/advertisers with anything too out there or too potentially “depressing” like COVID. Patrick Mulcahey has talked about this stuff.

 

But they’ve also chosen to cater to a subset of Middle American Facebook Karens solely—possibly out of mere necessity—as their other viewers simply have too options to get more “realism.” The current daytime audience has been trained to want a certain thing out of their soaps, and we see how vocal and entitled those viewers become when they don’t get it. Those viewers don’t appear to be interested in a deeper exploration of life or anything that doesn’t validate their insular view of the world. 
 

But I’m also one of those naysayers who doesn’t believe soaps could really gain much traction again. The world has evolved past them, and other genres have stolen their tricks. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The lack of realism is due to writers relying on gimmicks to grab attention and also lack of creativity. On DOOL, Stefano's personality being micro-chipped into Steve is an example of too far of a reach of reality (DOOL has many of these example). Soaps were developed as realistic stories in communities with regular people. Sure the characters problems weren't always everyday ones, but they were somewhat believable.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In the early days stories were realistic. That is, the stuff that happened in soaps could and did happen in real life, just not to the same group of people with all the twists and turns. Though I have heard real life stories that rival any soap.

 

GH was the first turning point with the whole Ice Princess stuff in the early 80's (Was there a story before that that was a bit whacky?) but most of the soaps managed to adapt and still keep a somewhat realistic tone, or at least balance things out.

 

In 1995 JER's DOOL/MP and even the OJ Simpson trial took soaps to a place that they have neve recovered from. The wacky, campy and down right insulting stories caused soaps to lose whatever small amount of respect they had gained and many of them became a circus and soon it was clones, possessions, unabortions, evil twins and a myriad of so many other things I can't keep track. 

 

Demo chasing became more of a thing than it had ever been and execs were bending over backward to capture that audience. Problem is young audiences can be fickle and when the fun stops, they head for the hills. Soaps should have continued chasing a similar audience it had always gone after. Stats show more women between 2000 - 2005 were choosing not to enter the work force than previously (in effect the start of millennial gen coming of age) had been. Recording options were in abundance and the ability to build and maintain an audience was there. There is a reason ratings were tanking and it wasn't just a sign of the times. TPTB had no idea what they were doing and the old guard was being tossed aside for creatives that in many cases had never worked in daytime before.

 

Your fave show may have still had its good moments, but for me, the more I look back, the more I realise soaps were done in 1995. I held on another 10 years and haven't watched since. 2001/02 may have been the absolute death knell as I can't watch anything from any soap past that point.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One piece of realism that is missing from US soaps and is slowly fading from UK soaps are the celebration of birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, etc. I've always felt that marking those life events in terms of a daily story helps ground the soap in terms of place and time. Characters aren't vaguely 35 forever. Life happens. People grow and evolve. I suppose it's hard to say Character X is 35 when they've aged their child from 5 to 25 in five years. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mikelyons said:

One piece of realism that is missing from US soaps and is slowly fading from UK soaps are the celebration of birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, etc. I've always felt that marking those life events in terms of a daily story helps ground the soap in terms of place and time. Characters aren't vaguely 35 forever. Life happens. People grow and evolve. I suppose it's hard to say Character X is 35 when they've aged their child from 5 to 25 in five years. 

Yeah, GH just showed Carly mourning at Morgan’s grave, and his grave showed him as born in 1994. That sort of wacky discrepancy is something soap viewers have become accustomed to—we know Carly hadn’t even arrived on the scene until 1996—but it’s understandable why they aren’t more specific. I suppose they could still celebrate birthdays each year and not specify an age, but they’d rather focus on keeping their plots moving instead of muddying things up with those sorts of annual obligations.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2021 at 4:12 PM, All My Shadows said:

The best soaps are the slow-moving ones with a pace that is true to life, IMO. Once you start getting wrapped up in the idiotic sci-fi and action/adventure crap, I'm out.


Agreed.

 

That’s one of the main reasons All My Children was always my favorite.

By and large, AMC shied away from those types of stories.

The characters were so strong that they rarely had to degrade the show with those cheap tricks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/1/2021 at 7:31 PM, Faulkner said:

But they’ve also chosen to cater to a subset of Middle American Facebook Karens solely—possibly out of mere necessity—as their other viewers simply have too options to get more “realism.” The current daytime audience has been trained to want a certain thing out of their soaps, and we see how vocal and entitled those viewers become when they don’t get it.

 

These soaps have left so much money on the table by refusing to adapt.

Again, I use Downton Abbey as an example as it is a period piece that can't exactly tell the most modern of stories, yet still found ways to be relevant to a contemporary audience. And do you realize how much merch they sold?! They never left one single dime on the table.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/8/2021 at 3:13 PM, Faulkner said:

Yeah, GH just showed Carly mourning at Morgan’s grave, and his grave showed him as born in 1994. 

 

This is hilarious. We saw Carly give birth to Morgan in 2003, during that panic room storyline with Ric. 

 

I personally think there is a sliding scale here on the spectrum. I recognize that soaps overall, have to compete with quarterly ratings 'sweeps' numbers that command them to do something to bring soap viewers in which is why you get these 'event' storylines such as fires, storms, illness viruses sweeping the canvas, serial killers, and more. You have to find a way to get people to show up continuously every three months (February, May, July and November) for the all mighty advertising dollars.

 

But honestly I felt soaps would try to accelerate this even more than every other month, and they were trying to do it weekly with all the Friday cliff hangers, then they would try to do it daily, then they would do it in almost every scene. You can't keep viewers on the edge of their seats in every moment of every episode, every week, until infinitum. At least not with lower staked stories (and especially if you don't bother to build them up with pay off - which takes time). As such they went with these outrageous storylines that almost pre-baked itself with so much drama that it was sensational but not at all realistic (possessions, time travel, supernatural elements, etc.). 

 

There are tons of soaps that are successful by being grounded in the day to day, but they also don't have the "burdens" that soaps do. Soaps have to create 200+ episodes of programming a year, while a lot of primetime series just have to fill 10-22 episodes within 9 months. Bridgeton, Grey's Anatomy, ER, Desperate Housewives, and so on are all soaps. Just different kinds of them. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just don’t understand dates in soaps.  Just don’t include it!

 

A headstone could simply have the name and inscription, you could even wink at the audience with a plant or a vase filled with flowers covering the date born. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy