Change was the operative word in the 1970s, and it was reflected on daytime soap operas as they addressed potent social issues, added ethnic characters, and incorporated comedy into the mix.
Soap Opera Top 10 Facts — 1970s
Take a look at these top 10 facts about 1970s soap operas.
1. Soap Swan Songs
Daytime underwent a brutal massacre in the early ’70s as The Best of Everything, Bright Promise, Dark Shadows, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, A World Apart, Return to Peyton Place, The Secret Storm, and Where the Heart Is were all canceled. Networks turned to game shows to fill their time slots.
2. Kane Mutiny
All My Children presented television’s first legal, post-Roe vs. Wade abortion in 1973 via Susan Lucci’s character Erica Kane. When the fashion model found herself with child, she opted to terminate her pregnancy without telling her husband.
3. Daytime Superman
Future Superman star, the late Christopher Reeve, made his daytime debut as Ben Harper on Love of Life in 1974. It was his first major acting role and came shortly after his graduation from Cornell University. He remained with the soap for two years.
4. Drama Expansion
NBC’s Another World became the first daytime drama to expand to an hour in 1975. The move was a success and paved the way for 60-minute soaps to eventually become the industry standard.
5. Cash Cows
In a 1976 article, Time magazine described daytime dramas as “TV’s richest market,” citing a number of shows’ expansion to an hour in order to maximize ad revenues. At a time when primetime series were losing money, soaps were raking in big bucks.
6. Location, Location, Location
American soaps went on location outside the U.S. mainland for the very first time in 1978. All My Children’s Erica and Tom (Richard Shoberg) were the lucky travelers, who embarked on a honeymoon to Saint Croix. Other shows planned lavish storylines following the success of the shoot.
7. Out of the Kitchen
A woman’s place slowly started to shift. On As the World Turns, Nancy Hughes (Helen Wagner) grew tired of being a loyal, stay-at-home housewife and became one of the first older women on daytime to enter the workforce. Bit by the feminism bug, she took a job as a secretary.
8. Game Changer
The Young and the Restless broke the rules when it debuted in 1973. In addition to swirling background music and imaginative lighting effects, it amped-up soaps’ sexy factor. Leading men strutted around in boxers and towels, while women donned more provocative apparel. By 1975, it snagged the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Series.
9. From Daytime to Primetime
The success of daytime soaps spawned some nighttime ones. While some thrived, like Dallas and Knots Landing, which debuted in 1978 and 1979, respectively, others flopped, like the short-lived 1976 entry, Executive Suite.
10. Revolutionary Road
Gloria Monty revolutionized soap operas when she took over the reins of General Hospital in 1978. She introducing shorter scenes, new editing techniques, lavish sets, regular location shoots, and fast-paced action stories. Coupled with the creation of supercouple Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis), it helped the soap rise to the top of the ratings’ heap where it stayed for five years.