Popular entertainment has seen many changes in the last few years. Cinema seems to have been taken over by better quality television series. Popular shows have moved to the Internet and binge-watching might be the favorite way to consume them. However, the format that has taken the biggest hit is the one I suspect to make the most important comeback.
In the last several years, soap operas that have been on the air for more than 50 years, have been canceled, and there hasn’t been widespread support for those that remain. However, their unique qualities – a new episode every day, a wide variety of storylines in each show – make them ideal for current television culture.
Netflix has proven to be a good servant but a terrible master. To some, it is a crippling addiction, and binge-watching is all too common. Soap operas might seem more dangerous given that there is a new episode every weekday, but the point is that you don’t have to watch every day. The slowly progressing storyline makes it easy to jump back in after days or weeks after not watching, and it would be futile to go back and overdose on more than 10,000 episodes of, say, The Young and the Restless.
The current soap operas are sometimes hindered by the same stilted dialogue and ridiculous storylines, but they often match the production value and plausibility of anything else on television. And keep in mind that those absurd storylines can be entertaining. Soap opera writers know the stigma they are working with, and self-aware irony sometimes makes its way into the dialogue to keep the audience engaged.
The truth is that just about all shows after a good season or two fall into a formulaic malaise. Even shows that benefit from their projected realism eventually need more convoluted plots to keep the audience glued. Soap operas, though, have learned to thrive with this difficulty, while other conventional series fail. The current soaps are always updating storylines to match the times. The Young and the Restless recently featured a story involving hacking and cyber security. The Bold and the Beautiful, centered around fashion and modeling, revealing one of the models, a main character on the show, was a transgender woman.
Attention to current events keeps these long-running shows going, but what if a new soap opera were to come along? Are there areas of life that would make for a good plot?
Soap operas might be disregarded in the United States, but telenovelas are the prime format for television in many parts of the world. Telenovelas differ from soap operas in that they do not run indefinitely, but the spirit is the same. Broadcasters in the U.S. have produced shows based on Latin American telenovelas before, particularly Ugly Betty and Jane The Virgin, but they did not follow the traditional format. Given the growth of the Latin American audience in the U.S., shouldn’t network executives feel encouraged to try new formats?
If not a cure for bad viewing habits, soap operas seem like a necessary medium for the times.