This article was written by Gordon Davidescu.
At a Passover seder I attended this year, one of the people told me that they had once watched the soap opera Coronation Street while visiting England, and that it seemed interesting but it looked like it was poorly produced. When I asked what she meant she said that it didn’t quite have the same high quality production value as, say, Days of Our Lives or All My Children.
I gave it some thought and more recently, as I have been researching what it takes to put together a dramatic television program such as a soap opera, I have been watching Days of Our Lives and All My Children just about every day to see what I could gather from it.
I have come to the conclusion that American soap opera producers put
more effort into making the soap opera look and sound good and not as
much effort into getting good scriptwriting and acting.
In most every American soap opera, there is some sort of background
music at all times, to set the mood. When things get tense onscreen,
the music reflects this. When there is some sort of conflict, the music
reflects this as well. What is really happening is that the music is
masking the fact that the actors aren’t conveying the emotions as well
as they could, and the writing is not nearly as good as it could be.
You won’t find dramatic background music on English soap operas because
the writing and acting convey the drama properly.
In most every American soap opera, there are numerous flashbacks, even
where the flashback will reflect something that happened the previous
day or earlier in the episode. This doesn’t happen in English soaps.
People scoff at English soaps, pointing out that the average episode of
is “only” 29 minutes long. Take out the commercials and the unnecessary
flashbacks – and by that I mean most of them – and you come pretty
close to 29 minutes as well.
The reason that there are flashbacks in American soaps are twofold –
the first being that it is padding for the show, showing recycled
material. The second, a bit more sinister, is that producers assume
that the viewer needs to be reminded of the context of a given dramatic
situation to make them remember why the particular conflict is as
serious as it is. Lexie leaves her bracelet behind in the club and the
club owner finds it, and when Abe, Lexie’s husband, confronts the club
owner as to how the bracelet got there, we are given a flashback of
Lexie showing off her bracelet to said club owner. We obviously would
have forgotten this had occurred otherwise.
What is more important to dramatic television? Good dialogue or “higher
quality” production value? Good acting or good looking actors? You
won’t find too many overweight characters on American daytime dramas
but you will find plenty of characters saying the most asinine things
that real people just don’t say.