AMERICAN SOAPS – ALEX, ALANAH & ABBIE

Definition and History
• A Soap Opera is a continuous or serial narrative in which a story is played
out through connected episodes.
• It was over 80 years ago, in the 1930’s that the term ‘Soap Opera’ was first
used by members of the American press to describe some of the first radio
shows being produced and sponsored by companies of cleaning products.
Since that time soap operas have certainly gone through many
transformations, from the early days of radio broadcasting to full one-hour
television formats, and more recently into a new online format.
• The first network television soap opera to appear in America was Faraway
Hill in 1946.
• Soap Operas became a regular part of daytime entertainment in the 50’s.

Definition and History
• By 1963, both NBC and ABC recognised the immense popularity of soap
operas and began production for their own networks. On April 1, 1963,
both networks premiered their new daytime drama, with NBC’s The
Doctors and ABC’s General Hospital.
• By the late 1960’s, soap operas not only demonstrated to be popular, but
proved to be very profitable for the networks that produced them. By
1970’s, the big networks competed in gaining their share for the soap
opera viewer of the 14 to 19 soaps, which were on the air during this time
period.
• In the 1980’s with the changes in viewers and more women in the
workplace, soaps opera began to focus their attention more on the
younger viewers, including teenagers and college students (90210).
Primetime soaps also became popular, with Dallas being the main hit.
Definition and History
• Between 1990 and 1999, there was an average of 10 to 12 soap operas
which continued to air on daytime television, and no significant down turn
was seen. However, the last daytime soap created for network television
was Passions in 99.
• The decline of soap operas has made a significant fall since the mid to late
2000’s, and today there are only four network soaps still on the air.
• Many factors contribute to the soap opera decline over the past few years
such as the popularity of reality programming, and other daytime
alternatives such as talk and game shows, which are also 50% cheaper to
produce compared to daytime dramas. Cable television and the countless
channels available to subscribers has also played a large part in the decline
of network soaps as more viewers look for new sources of daytime
entertainment.
• The return of Dallas as a new modern version may bring a new spark of
interest to the next generation of soap opera viewers however.
Famous Examples
Famous Examples - Dallas
• Dallas took the UK by storm in the 70’s/80’s as at
the time people weren’t as aware of over
exaggeration of scenes in Soap Operas. Mainly
because people believed these situations on the
screen actually happened in real life.
• Dallas was on once a week with nearly 400
episodes across the years.
• Dallas was built across the theme of the intense
rivalry between the families of the Barnes and
the Ewings.
Famous Examples
Famous Examples - 90210
• Not as successful in the UK as Dallas, but was
very popular in the US as it glorified teenagers
and reflected how they lived.
• Every teenager in the show was built to be a
pin up, attractive and cool in style. This was
the aspiration for American teens.
• There were pool parties, flash cars, smart
jackets and hair gel aplenty.
Famous Examples
Famous Examples – Days
• The series focuses on its core families, the
Hortons and the Bradys (much like Dallas).
• The series was created by husband and wife
team Ted Corday and Betty Corday.
• Days of our Lives has an incredible 49 seasons
and 12,420 episodes.
• From 1965-1975 it ran for 30 minutes but
since then it has an hour slot.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-os2J9bwP0
Extract from Season 2, Episode 5 of Beverly Hills 90210

Camera Angles – Lots of over the shoulder shots showing back and forth conversation, tracking shot showing
characters walking down the school hallway and rollerblading down the side of the beach, this shows the
relationships between the characters, they’re always chatting and having fun by rollerblading and being on the
beach, living an almost perfect life. Cinematography is rarely used though. The camera shows the action very
much as a casual observer would see it if they were watching from nearby. Scenes are generally short, to avoid
the audience becoming bored - two minutes or so is considered to be the maximum viewing time for one scene.
Exceptions to these rules occur if a character is going to depart in a spectacular way.

Mise-en-scene – The characters wear very casual and cool looking clothes as this links to American teenagers
aiming to impress and climb the social ladder. The main social hubs seen are the beach, the school and the
houses of the characters. The weather is always sunny and the characters are often seen in swimwear.
Characteristic of setting include the domestic, contemporary world, frequently set in middle, lower-middle and
working class settings, urban or suburban, and with an emphasis on leisure activities rather than work settings.

Sound – The beach scenes usually have quite upbeat non-diegetic music with romantic music being played also.
The conversations the characters have are quite formal, even though they are teenagers they aren’t the ones we
associate with today, they speak well and clear throughout with little slang or regional dialect. Fast paced music
when in red sports car shows lifestyle. Cliff hangers may have a 'stock' piece of background music that will then
continue into the closing theme, or else the music is in the background being played on a radio or jukebox.
Occasionally, the production team might select a particularly well-chosen song for the purposes of dramatic
irony.

Editing – Slow faded cuts showing the fantasy of a female character with again the use of non-diegetic music in
the background. This shows the romance of American soaps, with usually the rather timid and quiet girl having a
‘crush’ on the high school pin up.


Storylines
• Love Affairs - Husband (JR) has an affair with his wife’s
sister and the wife becomes an alcoholic in Dallas, when
the sister is dumped she shoots him. (Who shot JR?)
• Tragedy and Controversial Subjects - Teenage boy
(Brendan) begins to drink, takes out a car and crashes
before being arrested in 90210.
• Dramatic absurdity - Man (Bobby) ran over and killed but
the audience wanted him back in Dallas by popular
demand, the writers came up with the story that his death
was all just a dream that his wife (Pam) had dreamt. Most
of the characters from the period he was out were fired to
compensate.
• Real life situations – Woman (Ellie) had breast cancer in
Dallas.


Themes
• Marriage and affairs

• Controversial subjects (alcohol and drug use)

• Corrupt business dealing and authorities

• Kidnapping, blackmail, crime, and murder

• Falling in love

• Family situations (births and deaths)

Dallas
The main themes in the American soap opera “Dallas” are relationships, marriage, family conflict,
divorce and deaths, which most of the episodes are based around. One of the most famous storylines
of the 1978-91 original series was “ Who shot JR” based on the theme of death. When John Ross was
shot viewers didn’t know if he was dead or alive. As he left his office, 3 gunshots rung out and he fell to
the floor. This was known as the biggest cliff hanger in television history. However in the more current
series 2012-14 the themes are based more over family conflicts and the plot to take control of South
fork.
The plot to take control of South fork gets complicated when two-timing affairs and blackmail arise.
Enemies are developed and the series becomes based up on conflict and revenge.
JR Ewing
• Professional
• Sharp
• Hat and suit
suggests wealth
• Flashing cash
suggests confidence
and authority
• His character had
the majority of the
power
Bobby Ewing
• Smart
• Good Posture
• Looks relaxed
• Leaning on
Mercedes
suggests
wealth
• Personalised
number plate
The stereotypical characters
are rich, obnoxious, wealthy
and usually high in power and
status.
Brandon Walsh
• Looks gazingly
into eyes of
audience
• Hair perfected
• Female attraction
• Wears smart shirt
and watch
• Looks very
relaxed showing his
personality
Kelly Taylor
• Seductive
• Has a reputation
of sleeping around
with guys from the
school
• The main
popular girl but
known as a ‘school
slut’
The stereotypical
characters are
portrayed as being
cool, trendy and
stylish, this is the
appeal for the
audience and the
look to strive for.
Dallas (2012)

Channel: 5 in the UK/ TNT in the US
Broadcasted in: Texas
Broadcasting times: 10pm

The updated Dallas show got nearly 7 million viewers for its premiere
showing in the United States on TNT, easily beating out all
competition in its time slot.
In new plans to capitalize on its success Warner Bros is set to roll out the
show to 170 other countries across the world.

Warner has highlighted countries that the show was
originally successful in when it first aired between the
late 1970's and early 1990's.
The U.K. will be the first outside America to get the
show, and it is planned that a September premiere
will be aired there.