The soap opera originally emerged from radio soap operas in the 30’s and 40’s in the States and currently stands as the most popular form of television programming in the world. The term soap originates from the detergent manufacturers that use to sponsor the earliest forms of the shows and the term opera is used to highlight the dramatic appeal of the genre.
Originally targeted at stay at home lower-class housewives, they were designed to be mindless distractions from a harsher reality. As the stay at wife has slowly began to vanish the soaps have still remained popular for over 50 years. They can be regarded as some what of a guilty pleasure today.
Soaps are slow moving, poorly written and generally have an atrocious standard of acting. So how has this formula remained so successful over time? It comes down to a number of things. They are generally centred on relationships and families which are relatable topics to everyone. The production costs are low, so they are easy to produce in bulk amounts for a cheap budget. Their time slots are early so they become almost a daily routine. With this routine comes a loyal fan base. In a sense the characters almost become like family members or friends. They are there everyday for you after a hard day at work. And of course there is always the cliffhanger that leaves the viewer in suspense for the following night.
Here is a hilarious clip of the English due Fry & Laurie impersonating an Australian soap: Fry & Laurie