The Conventions of the Soap Opera Genre with Reference to at Least Two Programmes
The soap opera genre originated in America in the 1930s as a radio
programme. It was targeted at housewives who tuned in while doing
their household chores. Soaps included many domestic issues to keep
the audience interested. The name “soaps” came from advertising slots
between programmes. As the soaps were aimed at housewives, the
adverts mainly consisted of products of a domestic nature.
“Coronation Street” was Britain’s second soap, following “The
Groves”. It began in 1960 and is set in Weatherfield, Manchester. It
is a successful soap that has been running for over 40 years.
“Eastenders” is a more recent addition to the genre that first started
in Britain in 1982 and is set in Albert Square, London.
Both “Coronation Street” and “Eastenders” soaps are about day-to-day
life in the city for working class citizens. They refer to real life
issues but are very overdramatic and plots are exaggerated. These
qualities keep the audience interested and make the programme more
exciting, addictive and enjoyable to watch.
The soap opera genre has been a successful genre. This can be
measured by the very high audience figures that the leading soap
operas regularly achieve. The fact that for instance “Coronation
Street” has been running for 43 years also demonstrates the success of
the genre. In this essay I will address the conventions of the soap
opera in the context of this high level of success having determined a
set of common characteristics that have resulted in a winning formula
for success: it is exactly because of the demand for success that the
makers of soap operas have tended towards the common adoption of the
conventions of the soap opera.
Continuity is an important factor whilst examining the conventions of
the soap opera genre. One aspect of continuity is the theme tunes
played at the start and the end of the programme. At the beginning of
all soaps there is a main theme tune. In “Eastenders” the programme
begins with the drum roll. It is loud and easily recognisable. As
this is playing, a large birds eye view of London is shown. It
gradually zooms in onto Albert Square as the soap begins. This sets
the scene effectively as the audience instantly know where the soap is
set. It also makes it seem more realistic as it is set in a real
location as opposed to the setting being in a studio.
In “Coronation Street” the theme tune is a violin melody. This also
has easily distinguishable shots of Weatherfield shown as it is
played. The theme tune is distinctive and one that the audience will
recognise when they switch on to watch the soap. Theme tunes help to
create habits for viewers who hear them and sit down to watch the
soap. They set the scene allowing the viewer...