Friday, 9 November 2012

Not happily ever after - and that's exactly the point

Does anybody remember the TV show Soap?

Way back in the early 80s (or was that late 70s - surely I'm not that old) it was one of my favourites. But there was one thing about it that used to always really annoy me.

I really got into that show. I really liked the characters - really cared about them. Whatever tribulations were occurring - whether it was this one charged with a murder they didn't commit, or that one's baby being possessed by the devil, or another one being kidnapped by aliens (yes, it was that kind of show), I would get really concerned about them. Then, when things finally got resolved (the real murdered was her adopted father, the devil got exorcised, and Burt escaped from the aliens with the help of Saul, the man who had been held captive for several thousand years), I always felt totally relieved. At last, things were good. Everything had worked out and now everybody could be happy.

Except it didn't happen like that. Everything didn't work out, and everybody wasn't happy. No sooner had one plotline been resolved than something else happened, and suddenly all sorts of new problems had been thrown up.

Looking back now, it's kind of funny to think that I had that attitude. Obviously, I totally didn't understand the significance of the title. Soap was a parody of a traditional daytime soap opera - and a very funny one too. If the characters were ever allowed to resolve their problems and achieve peace and contentment, then there wouldn't be much of a show left.

As a writer, I look at programs like Soap and think about how much fun it would be to be part of that writing team. I like to believe I'm a compassionate person, who would do what I could to ensure all the characters had an easy and satisfied life. Then I think, hell no, where's the fun in that? Let's see what else we can throw their way.


  1. The thing about soap operas is that week by week everything seems so reasonable but when you take any single character that has been around for a while and go a little bio of all the things that have happened to them you start to see how preposterous they are; every single one of them should be an emotional wreck. And it's not just soaps. Just look at Mulder and Scully and everything they went through over those very long nine years. Soap wasn't really the first parody of a soap. A while ago I dug up a few episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and, okay, it's probably more of a satire than a parody but the seeds are there. It's more deadpan than Soap.

    I was a fan of Soap too. I think I came to it a bit later—it ran for four seasons—but I watched it faithfully although I seem to recall it was shown late at night.

    Do you watch Modern Family? The last episode we watched had a fun bit in it. Gloria Pritchett is a Columbian who faithfully watches a Spanish soap and in this episode tags along with her stepson and his partner to help translate (they're adopting a Latino baby) but when they get to the hospital it looks like they have literally walked onto the set of a Spanish telenovela. Very funny. Not original—is anything on TV original?—but still well done and reminiscent of Soap because it was so caricatured.

    Another episode that jumps to my mind was the last episode of Dark Skies. The writers had got wind that the show wasn't going to be renewed and so tied up all the loose plot threads in a single episode. Never have so many coincidences and conveniences come together since the big bang. Wonderful stuff.

  2. Hi Jim,

    I guess if things in a soap opera are preposterous, maybe my stories could qualify.

    Who knows - maybe that's where I'll end up.
    Have a great week.