I don’t watch TV soaps much anymore. I used to, in those dark, early days of my life, but I managed to get out of that life. Say what you want about soaps they are pretty addicting if you spend too long watching them, especially if the group of people you live with like them. However, now my only contact with TV soaps is when I accidentally flick onto a channel with them on, or when I tune into the last two minutes to wait for the programme after. And, combining my memory of them and the little snippets I watch of them, they always have the same flaws. It isn’t really the kind of flaws you can fix, however, without changing the entire dynamic of the show, so soaps will always be cursed with them.
3 – WE’VE SEEN IT ALL BEFORE
Soaps are quite good as mindless TV. It’s a little bit like gossiping by where no one gets insulted by you talking about them behind your back and there’s always something going on, rather than just speculation. Seriously, I’ve seen people talk about some female character, as if they literally were bitchy to them personally. Although it seems trivial to outsiders, if the show can cause that kind of reaction in its viewers, the writers deserve some respect.
Sadly, there becomes a point where soaps have to rein it in. Sure, every now and again there is a good murder or two, but they can’t over-do it. One point, five years back, Eastenders became a gangster drama, where the local nightclub owners ending up trying to fuck each other over, until one of them was thrown off a bridge. That doesn’t sound like Eastenders, it sounds like the Sopranos. Another time, a storyline about a crazy baby-stealing couple got a bit out of hand, where they kidnapped one of the characters and she had to punch her way out of their villa. That isn’t soap material. Soaps are stuck in this rut, where people complain it is mundane, but when it isn’t mundane, it just seems really silly.
2 – TOO MANY WRITERS IN THE POT
This is another flaw that is pretty understandable, because you can’t have one guy being asked to write all of ‘Emmerdale’. He would commit suicide within the month. However, that means that instead we get tens of writers writing the episodes, so there ends up being a disjointed effect to the characters. In ‘Coronation Street’, I noticed characters losing their original charm, because a particular writer didn’t truly understand the character. Therefore one week your favourite character could suddenly do some completely random, because a writer didn’t fully come to terms with the job.
Part of me thinks it would be amusing to write a show with that format though. You could turn it into a game. You write an episode and leave a terrible cliffhanger for the characters to get out of. Then give it to your workmate and say “Get out of that one, buddy!” It might destroy the entire programme, but god, could you have some fun in the writer’s room.
1 – IT IS ALWAYS RUSHED
Part of me admires TV soaps for bringing out half hour episodes almost every day of the week. There is a certain talent to that. Anyone that’s been on a film set knows that filming takes a long time. It is definitely not as easy as people think it is (we’re just so good, we make it look easy, bitches!). However, sadly, sometimes it is painfully easy to tell when watching them.
I wouldn’t call most actors in soaps bad (Hollyoaks being the exception), but they have so little time to prepare, of course, a handful of lines are going to feel a little short. Even the good lines feel a little flat. It’s like the actor is thinking “I’ve got to sound comforting here, sarcastic here, look away from the camera here’. It’s not necessarily bad acting, but it is Acting 101, and that is all they have time to do with the little time-frame they are given. Sometimes they sound like the guy in drama class that didn’t really put as much effort into learning the script as he claimed to. When you watch a movie, or even a TV show, the actors have had so long to get to grips with the script, that the lines feel natural. The character has become a second skin. We don’t get that with soaps and sometimes, this is the main thing that makes them so difficult to watch.