Each day fans tune in as they have for years to watch Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, and The Bold and the Beautiful. Devoted show enthusiasts appear to know even more about their favorite shows than the writers do at times!
However, the history of daytime’s most interesting format is long and storied, so it’s unlikely anybody knows everything. Whether you’re brand new to the sudsy fun or you’re a decades-long soaps fan, here are five fabulous facts about the dramatic genre that you might not know!
A Rose By Any Other Name. . .
The daytime favorite moniker “Soap Opera” originated because soap manufacturers sponsored the dramas in early days! Initially, women actually used soap while they cleaned their houses and listened to the melodramatic tales of happiness and heartache.
Later, when they started airing on TV, many women continued to do household chores while watching. Can you remember sorting or folding laundry with your mom or grandma or with the children in your life?
Taking the First Steps
First on the scene, Painted Dreams was the debut “soap” broadcast in the U.S. It premiered regionally on Oct. 20, 1930, on Chicago’s WGN radio station. As far as the first nationally broadcast serial program, Clara, Lu, and Em earned that honor when the NBC Blue Network first aired it on Jan. 27, 1931. The first daytime TV soap in the U.S. was These Are My Children (which received bad reviews). It began and ended in early 1949.
The longest running story ever told in broadcast form was Guiding Light. It began on the radio in early 1937 and made the switch to TV in June 1952. Did you know that this beloved story was off the air for a few years in the late 1940s while the show’s created Irna Phillips dealt with a Procter & Gamble dispute?
From Riches to Rags?
As recently as 1976, daytime TV in America was described by Time magazine as “TV’s richest market.” In fact, these daytime sudsers often brought in more viewers and revenue than primetime offerings!
Goodness how things have changed with soaps! Now they’re struggling to remain part of the daytime niche, which has been almost fully taken over by game shows and talk shows. The reason? Those formats cheaper to produce, which mitigates lost revenue if they pull in a somewhat smaller audience.
Can We Get This To Go?
While daytime fans would jump for joy if they could own their favorite “stories” compiled on DVDs, this soapy daytime wish isn’t likely to ever happen because of the number of episodes produced for each popular, long-running, daily serial. This type of distribution is considered impractical due to the sheer volumes of data each set would contain.
Down from its heyday of 19 soap operas airing in the 1969-1970 seasons, at times it feels as if Daytime may be on its last legs with just four total daily shows airing on three networks. However, there’s plenty of hope that our favorite daily installment format could evolve to maintain its relevance well into the 21st Century and beyond!
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