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The following piece of writing is based on the history and background of ‘Soap Operas. ‘ Commencing with where, when and why they were started. Who was the target audience. Finishing with the key conventions of the genre giving examples. Soaps first burst on the scene in America in the 1920s to the 1930s. This was when Radio stations sprang up all over the U. S. A. At that time they solely relied on advertising revenue to stay on air. Companies would sponsor whole programmes as well as using short burst adverts during breaks.
This practice would also be used by television companies later on when the first ‘Soap Opera was shown on T. V in 1964. This method of advertising has continued to be used to this day by both forms of media. The main target audience for these up and coming radio programmes was identified as being housewives. The reason for this is that back in the 1920’s very few women once married, ever went out to work. Instead they were expected to stay at home raise families and look after the house and all the responsibilities that went along with it.
One of these responsibilities was shopping. This audience was classed as the ideal one and companies took advantage of this in an attempt to supply household goods such as soap and detergents. Basically, the companies used the radio for commercial and consumer uses. The companies selling the goods needed the radio stations to produce a specific type of programme, which would attract a large amount of listeners from their ideal target audience. This was so that they could get as many housewives as possible to buy their product, enabling them to make vast profits.
They succeeded by making the programme a drama serial based on the home and various domestic situations within it. The serials were made to be melodramatic with touches of romance, tragedy and also with a touch of comedy thrown in for good measure. The title “Soap Opera” came about because of the fact that a “Soap” company sponsored the programmes. “Opera” was used because the programmes were very dramatic and larger than life. They became very popular in a short space of time. Two popular radio soap operas in the early years were “Ma Perkins” and “One Man Family.
” The success continued for quite a while. Then after the war in the 1950’s radio soaps lost their appeal. ‘Television’ had arrived and people turned their attention to this form of media for entertainment and information. As the soaps had been so popular on the radio, it was decided that they should be transferred to the television screen. The first television soap was aired on screen in 1964, the title “Peyton Place”. The audience yet again was housewives. It became so popular it ran until 1969, which was well beyond its life expectancy.
Britain’s first Soap was on radio which went on air just after the, 2nd World. It was called “The Robinson’s”. However the most famous radio soap in England, which is still on air today is ” the Archers” an every day tale of ” Farming Folk”. It started in 1950 and has been listened to by generations. Reservations by companies about the cost of setting up the first T. V. Soaps were soon allayed because they were very cheap to run. There have been several T. V. Soaps of different genres come and go over time, some more successful than others.
Emergency Ward Ten a Medical soap lasted only three years. United, was about a football club, which lasted two years. And, everyone will remember the disastrous Eldorado! This was about the lives of ex-patriots who lived in Spain. This was one of the B. B. Cs shortest run soaps ever. The most famous and longest running soaps are ” Coronation Street” made by Granada television company, “Eastenders” made by the B. B. C. and Emmerdale which made the transfer from its original early daytime slot to its current 7pm peak viewing slot. Good decision by the Yorkshire T.
V Company who makes the soap. There are various key conventions used in the common ‘Soap Opera, for example the very successful “Eastenders”,” Emmerdale,” Brookside”and “Coronation Street”. The first major convention is that there is a continuous storyline. This enables the viewer who regularly watch’s the soap to miss a couple of episodes, then, easily rejoin whilst still knowing what is going on. This rule also applies with the characters; there should be a regular cast. One of the old favorites characters in “Coronation Street” was Ena Sharples who was in “The Street” for 20 years.
The continuous storylines are usually helped to last by having “Cliffhangers” at the end of every episode. A “Cliffhanger” is a final moment that leaves the audience in suspense, wondering what will happen next? Current affairs are reflected in many of the “Soaps” story lines some more controversial than others, for example “Brookside” (a soap based in Liverpool) showed the first lesbian kiss years ago. But, it took “Coronation Street” until the year 2003 to show a kiss between two men. In reality “The Soaps” deal with realist issues. Issues, dealt with on a day- to- day basis by normal people.
For example people celebrating the birth of a child, birthday celebrations, marriages even deaths. Other storylines sometime aim specifically at the younger generation by dealing with drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancies. Also major storylines, which involve climatic events and deal with the aftermath. Spectacular events used are things like shootings, robberies, falls, car or train crashes, these events were added when soaps were transferred to the evening time. Thus pulling in the male viewers at the same time because this added action. Writers of “Soaps” often create conflicts between characters.
A good example of this was between ‘ Little Mo and her ex- husband, who used to verbally and physically abuse her. This storyline lasted for several months with lots of cliffhangers and the nation was gripped with its finale and his death in a fire. It was filmed in one small room with just those two characters amongst the flames, screaming and crying at the same time, wondering how it all came to this. After all they had loved each other at one time! Soaps are still the lifeblood of regionally based independent television stations as well as the commercial television stations such as Granada, Tyne Tees and Yorkshire.
They need to make profits to stay in business and pay their shareholders. Because after all that is what they are, business’s. So they continue to use advertising breaks during the good quality “Soaps” to keep the revenue coming in. This does not affect the B. B. C because it is a Public Service Channel and receives their money via the television License. What about the future? Who knows when the bubble might burst? But for now, the viewers, television stations and the companies who advertise are all winners.