How do Soap Operas work

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So i just read that General Hospital has over 60 seasons and the longest airing show ever is Guiding Light at 72 seasons.

So like are each season consistent with the last? Do they reference something that happened 10seasons ago? Do they use the same actor/actress for all seasons? Is soap operas just a dramatized version of real life?

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20 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

A defining feature of soap operas is a continuously running, open-ended narrative. Each episode will typically have multiple different storylines that intersect with each other due to shared characters and locations. They oftentimes don’t have well-defined seasons, and may reference narrative events from *decades* prior.

Anonymous 0 Comments

something like general hospital has a consistent group of people but someone coming in, someone leaving, is completely normal and expected. There are pretty generic reasons why ‘someone got into a fatal accident’ or ‘we hired a new doctor’ to explain a character shows up or leaves.

Yes there are pretty consistent references to prior episodes/seasons – keep in mind that allows for less writing ‘today’ and allows for the staff to take time off. It really isn’t hard to write ‘character x was in a car accident’ then 5 minutes of filming a handful of other characters around the hospital bed make a few comments and then using old footage to ‘reminisce’

Anonymous 0 Comments

In soap operas, you generally have new characters arriving and old characters departing with some regularity. Consequently, new plot lines start, and old ones are wrapped up. There are always a handful of storylines going on at any one time. While roles can be recast, especially with characters who depart for a long time and then come back, it’s not unusual for an actor to play a character for several years or even decades. Coronation Street has one guy who’s been playing his character since the show started in 1960.

Anonymous 0 Comments

While characters come and go, the core cast stays the same for years or even decades.

Every once in a while a character is recast, but usually if an actor departs, the character dies or moves away.

Key conflicts may play out over years or even decades.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Soap operas are kinda defined by their fast turn around rate. One camera, one take, minimal editing and fast writers. The goal was to produce a product as quickly as possible because it wasn’t about the show, it was about the advertisements.

True to their name, soap operas were initially design to sell soap, particularly to housewives who didn’t have much else to do during the day but clean and watch poorly made television.

Beyond that the story format is tailored to its goals, no character is central so that any actor can be easily replaced without hassle. They also make heavy use of cliffhangers to hook viewers.

Anonymous 0 Comments

To piggyback off this, how many seasons per year then? Say if there are 70 seasons, would it have been on air for 70 years, or?

Anonymous 0 Comments

*sigh* I’m gonna be that guy…

People keep saying Guiding Light was the longest running soap and was on for 72 years, which is completely accurate … **but** at the same time it’s misleading because it’s counting all the years it was only on radio (1937 -1952). General Hospital is now the world’s second longest-running *televised* soap opera, following only Coronation Street. It passed Guiding Light’s TV run about three years ago.

Anonymous 0 Comments

And the way they edit the episodes together is such a string along. At any given time, there will be 4 or 5 dialog scenes between characters. You’ll have a few lines in one scene and then it will jump to another one, give you a couple of lines and then jump to a new scene. By the end of the 45 minutes, you’ve got “resolutions” to each one that are really set ups for the next episode.

It’s a strangely addictive way to tell a very thin story and stretch it for 4 decades.

Anonymous 0 Comments

My dad (74) watched one, probably Guiding Light, since he was a kid on his days off of school until he was retired. He worked different shifts due to factory work and would only watch about 1 week per month, but he still knew the full storyline. Whenever I was with him when he watched he would tell me about what the characters, now in there 40s-60s were doing in their 20s. Who had relationships with who, or fathered elicit children.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Are the actors never allowed to take a long vacation? The show never has reruns or an off season. How do they do it?