It all started with radio.
Originally, daytime drama could be heard across the USA via radio. Unlike the hour long programs you and I watch today, these radio broadcasts lasted a mere 15 minutes with the commercials in between the shows largely focused on selling laundry detergents and cleaning solutions. This in fact was where the term 'Soap Opera' originated.
Mid-way into the 40's, soap operas began their run on daytime television. They focused on family interpersonal relationships, marital strife, some form of legal drama and what all soap fans want to see - romance. Soap operas have since evolved over the years. They've developed into adventure story lines, producing 'super couples', (couples who stay together above all odds) along with high stakes business intrigue, miraculous resurrection, and the supernatural.
This is all in a day's work!
Soap Operas are serial dramas. Their ongoing dramatic story lines are part of the lure for a soap fan. Part of the captivation of soaps is caused by the stage set up. The lavish, yet darkly accentuated sets leave viewers daydreaming about what luxurious homes they could have, while the added touch of lighting technique ensures that all actors look their very best at all times, thus guaranteeing fans to fall for the gorgeous actors and actresses, making the show that much more exciting.
The first soap ever heard was on the radio, in the 1930's, in the United States of America. It aired during daytime hours, aiming the target audience at busy homemakers.
The term 'Soap Opera' was coined at this time, because of the nature of the commercials being aired, during the shows.
In the 1940's, the airing of soaps had evolved, airing on television with the debut of "Faraway Hill." Short lived, it was followed by "These are my Children," and then "Hawkins Falls," which began its run June of 1950.
The longest running soap is actually the longest running drama in broadcast history, The Guiding Light. The soap started in 1937 and held strong for nearly seventy years! [Editor's note: The show's run ended in its 72nd year, in 2009.]
Guiding Light started on radio in 1937! (CBS)
Guiding Light (1952 - 2009) (1937 on radio)
As the World Turns (1956)
General Hospital (1963)
Days of Our Lives(1965)
One Life to Live (1968 - 2011; online 2013)
All My Children (1970 - 2011; online 2013)
The Young and the Restless (1973)
Bold and the Beautiful (1987)
Passions (1999 - 2008)
Soaps.com notes television isn't the newest media used to broadcast the soaps. Soaps can now be broadcast via a newer technology called podcasting. Those who miss the latest ups and downs of Guiding Light can now download the 30 minute episodes as podcasts, and listen to them on their Apple iPod, or other portable media player.
Why do fans stay tuned?
The most simplistic reason could be that it's as entertaining as any prime time drama, or film, but what draws fans is how the characters practically become family.
Watching soaps seems to be a tradition passed down from mother to daughter, from grandmother to granddaughter. When asked, a few of our esteemed writers will regale you with stories about how they love being able to provide entertainment for their beloved grandmothers' 'story', or how their moms are boasting about their son or daughter's new job within the soap industry.
Millions of people all over the world have respect for the gifted writers, actors, and backstage crew that make our soaps what they are - remarkable! The actors learn 20 - 30 pages of lines per day and there isn't a lot of time for mistakes once in front of the camera. These actors are expected to get it right within one or two takes.
Whether you watch soap operas alone, with your moms, grandmothers, friends or lovers, remember there's more rich history not yet touched upon. Stay tuned for more.
UPDATE 09/09/06: Our Guiding Light writer found us this link: History of Guiding Light.