For countless decades a passionately dedicated and huge following of mostly women and a few men could be found after lunch glued to their radios and later television sets under the spell of all sorts of sizzling soap operas! These never ending tales of love-lust-happiness-heartbreak and family affairs have captured the hearts of many generations, who just couldn’t resist tuning into these hot afternoon episodes of real life Hollywood madness. At their peak from the roaring 70’s into the 90’s the soap opera circuit was generating an amazing annual revenue of 79 billion dollars!
Soap operas began on the radio in the 1920’s, where the many regional stations relied solely on advertising for their revenue, encouraging companies like Cadburys to sponsor weekly programs like Coronation Street. Radio’s biggest audience in those days were housewives, with very few married women working, and most staying home to raise the children and do the housework! Obviously these hardy ladies were the ideal audiences for all those companies who supplied such everyday goods as soap, detergents, and cleaning supplies. Promoters realized that they would have to come up with a type of radio program that would entertain these busy ladies, and it was here that a host of very romantic and melodramatic series were born. They were referred to as ‘soap operas’ because companies like Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor and Gamble jumped on the bandwagon to sponsor them, and they were always very dramatic and larger than life.
Two of the most popular radio soaps on the National network in those years were ‘Ma Perkins’ and ‘One Man’s Family’, and many others followed. After the war the glitzy invention of television began to invade North American homes, and by 1950 the radio soap had been buried by a glittering spree of daytime red-hot dramas such as: All My Children, Days of our Lives, The Bold and The Beautiful, General Hospital, the Young and the Restless, One Life to Live, Guiding Light, and on and on! Over the past few ever-changing decades the ‘soaps’ have attracted a massive audience of all age groups, just because they dared to combine real life romances and family dramatics with such nasty subjects as teen pregnancy, gang violence, interracial marriage, all sorts of affairs, and much more, all packed into one glitzy hour from Monday to Friday!
The kids got me addicted to the soaps!
Personally, I would never knock the soaps or any other daytime shows as far as that goes! When I was on afternoon shifts at the Ponoka Complex and my wife was at work, yours truly had to baby-sit. Although I was never very good at changing diapers or making lunches, we amused ourselves by playing silly games and watching and singing along with those neat and noisy shows like Sesame Street, The Friendly Giant, Mister Dress-Up, the big pink guy, and all the rest!
After a usual messy snack and a walk I finally got the little duffers to take a nap, then for the lack of afternoon sports I somehow got involved in the soaps! Just like many of you, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to so and so tomorrow, which outlaws and in-laws were fighting, who would Victor marry next, and what would be the latest weekly rumour or wild fling? Needless to say I had to drop it all and head to work at 2:45 p.m. and even taped some episodes when I was on days, but of course I would never admit any of that to the rest of the family, friends, or to the gang at work!
I read the other day that ABC has decided to end the popular soap sagas ‘All my Children’ which started in 1970, and ‘One Life to Live’ (1968), which have both combined to bring over 10,000 juicy episodes into the living rooms of millions! The reason for shutting them down is that their ratings have been dropping rapidly because a whole lot more women have become a part of the workforce. I am sure they will be replaced by a bunch of cooking, game, or reality shows, but it is all just a sign of the times in our fast moving modern society. As far as the Hammer is concerned I quit the soaps when the kids went to school, and now that I am retired I still love to watch sports and a good movie! But then on the other hand, I would rather be outside enjoying nature, chasing a few stories, and trying to think young among family and good friends!
Have a great week, all of you!!