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Realism on Soap Operas


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On 2/16/2021 at 4:33 PM, All My Shadows said:

I was in favor of all soaps going back to thirty minutes in the mid-2000s when I still watched regularly, but I've never really agreed with the idea that they would benefit from cutting down the number of episodes per week. The UK soaps don't all air five times a week, but they're in primetime. US daytime television is stripped, especially on the networks, and if a person is going to be there to watch a show on MWF, then they'll be there on the Tuesday and Thursday, too.

If I had my way, instead of GL/ATWT/AMC/OLTL being cancelled, they would have been scaled down to 30 minutes, with each network being left with one hour-long soap. If the return to the half-hour was successful, then those hour-longs might have been reduced at some point, too.

Since this post was recently brought back up, I've been for and against reducing episodes for the daytime soaps. Reducing episodes in order for the networks to air something else on a day or two the soaps don't air could influence a quick cancellation if the other show does extremely well. At the same time, a reduced number of episodes per week could hold viewer attention spans better than a five-hour per week series can for those who aren't currently tuning in. That's where I do favor the half-hour format for the soaps as 2.5 hours is easier to digest than the aforementioned five hours. Plus, the networks or production companies that produce the soaps could sell them to international markets a lot easier or to a streaming service without much commitment from those who haven't been watching for 30+ years. "B&B" is as popular as it is due to its content as it is to its length. It's easier to showcase a marathon (or "binge" as today's viewers would say) for a half-hour show than it is for an hour-long.

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23 hours ago, Errol said:

"B&B" is as popular as it is due to its content as it is to its length. It's easier to showcase a marathon (or "binge" as today's viewers would say) for a half-hour show than it is for an hour-long.

Very true, and that’s a big reason why I find it so easy to go down the rabbit hole watching TD, RH and SFT. If soaps had stayed at half an hour - and maybe only had hour episodes for special occasions like weddings and holidays, they may have survived. Maybe. 

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That's it. And I've always found a half hour show easier to get sucked into. Smaller cast, smaller scope. Fewer names to remember, tighter stories, and it leaves you with JUST enough at the end of 20-or-so minutes to leave you wanting more. IMO, it's a BIG reason why B&B has maintained its audience so well over the years in relation to many of the other soaps (quality of Brad's "writing" notwithstanding).

 

The other shows would do well to pare down similarly.

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7 hours ago, beebs said:

Smaller cast, smaller scope. Fewer names to remember, tighter stories, and it leaves you with JUST enough at the end of 20-or-so minutes to leave you wanting more. 

Besides, with only 22 minutes per episode they made every minute count. There was no time for filler.

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Even with ads, you could experiment with the sequence and whether to front-load or put more ads on the backend. Streaming services like Peacock, Roku and even YouTube (although YT is somewhat heavy-handed and clumsy with their placement of ads) do this.

Networks have shown us that they are not into trying anything different, whether it would be successful or not.

I had to guffaw when I read that article a few years ago, when P&G claimed to believe that 'Choose Your Own Adventure" would be the wave of the future, when they produced soaps, with the exception of a few years, here and there, they appeared to be one of the most risk-averse production companies I could think of.

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23 hours ago, beebs said:

IMO, it's a BIG reason why B&B has maintained its audience so well over the years in relation to many of the other soaps (quality of Brad's "writing" notwithstanding).

On the other hand, a lot of the problem with the writing comes down to the fact it is only 22min. The incestuous cast, the very bizarre pacing, the unbalanced way characters and stories are played...
I bet B&B would be a vastly superior soap if it did full episodes.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, FrenchBug82 said:

On the other hand, a lot of the problem with the writing comes down to the fact it is only 22min. The incestuous cast, the very bizarre pacing, the unbalanced way characters and stories are played...
I bet B&B would be a vastly superior soap if it did full episodes.

I don't know about that. I think those problems could be resolved by making the Forrester world less insular, and by making the setting of LA more of a character unto itself. Brad doesn't seem to understand the basic principles of A-B-C storytelling patterns, something his dad mastered easily at both DAYS and Y&R, and even early B&B to a lesser degree. I mean, I think if Labine/Meyer could make RH work with NYC as a setting, Bell should be able to in LA. Giving him an hour will likely just put a spotlight on his shortcomings further, IMO.

Edited by beebs
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AMC and OLTL worked at a half hour in 2013. I wouldn't have a problem going back to that, but if they're streaming I'd want them to get the full 30 or close to it.

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9 minutes ago, beebs said:

I don't know about that. I think those problems could be resolved by making the Forrester world less insular, and by making the setting of LA more of a character unto itself. Brad doesn't seem to understand the basic principles of A-B-C storytelling patterns, something his dad mastered easily at both DAYS and Y&R, and even early B&B to a lesser degree. I mean, I think if Labine/Meyer could make RH work with NYC as a setting, Bell should be able to in LA. Giving him an hour will likely just put a spotlight on his shortcomings further, IMO.

This.    No one needs Brad Bell writing an hour of Liam crying.  Bell needs a writing partner to say "Wait. No.  Let's add  another three weeks to this drug addiction story.  No.   let's let Quinn and Carter talk in the office or Quinn actually have three scenes with Crypt Keeper before talking on her behalf."  The show running at 23 minutes should be tight considering the size of it's cast.  

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1 hour ago, FrenchBug82 said:

On the other hand, a lot of the problem with the writing comes down to the fact it is only 22min. The incestuous cast, the very bizarre pacing, the unbalanced way characters and stories are played...
I bet B&B would be a vastly superior soap if it did full episodes.

I completely disagree. The issues with B&B are a Brad Bell thing. Having watched so many half hour soaps past and present (the British ones), the half hour format is fine and you can tell multiple storylines with a decent sized cast. B&B is the only half hour soap outside of the 1960s that I've seen with such a narrow focus. This is why I long to see Brad find something better to do and let someone else control B&B. They've created such a good canvas of characters. I'd love to see a writer who is willing to write multiple stories for multiple characters. There's *so* much they could be doing, but he's been in auto pilot for years.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, FrenchBug82 said:

On the other hand, a lot of the problem with the writing comes down to the fact it is only 22min. The incestuous cast, the very bizarre pacing, the unbalanced way characters and stories are played...
I bet B&B would be a vastly superior soap if it did full episodes.

Me personally I don't think that is not a good enough excuse. The UK soaps our essentially half hour and they tell for the most part multiple stories. I think the pendulum swings back and forth at Brad Bell's feet. He needs a co head-writer who can be like "Brad, maybe this story shouldn't involve Liam." Or Brad, maybe we should add a new family with a fashion house that rivals Forrester and actually succeed." 

Edited by Forever8
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I hear the arguments and I think I didn't make my point well because I do agree that it is perfectly possible to write a balanced 30 min soap.
What I was trying to say is that Bell's worst instincts (the bizarre unbalanced way he tells stories and the pacing) comes from HIM not mastering the pacing.
As Chris B said, they created a good canvas of characters so it is not like Bell is a bad writer in itself. He has done great plots over the years. And I think HE - because B&B is his and he is not letting go - would do better with a full hour.
But in a vacuum it is absolutely correct there is no reason it couldn't work at 30min AND it is absolutely correct someone else writing the show could force a better way to spread out the stories.
My point was about B&B as is which is Bell's thing, and I stand that my belief that Bell has always had troubles with pacing in this format.
It has gotten more obvious now that the show is old and the stories weaker but this "only one story for a week with C-list characters eating time by idly talking about the A plot while ignoring every other story" thing has been going on since the beginning.

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My question about taking a hour-long soap down to a half-hour soap, given that scaling down doesn’t always give you as much bang for your buck: is it that much more cost-effective to do it, considering that the networks would, in addition, have to develop new programming that would need to get picked up by local affiliates to fill in the gaps (which has its own set of unique upfront costs including marketing)? That is, if they don’t want to give back time to the affiliates. How much would it affect ad sales? 
 

Just curious… @Errol?

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