THIRTEEN FACTS ABOUT SOAP OPERAS
1) A "soap opera" is defined as "an ongoing, episodic work of dramatic fiction."
2) Originally broadcast on radio, these daily dramas became known as "soap operas" because they were frequently sponsored by soap manufacturers like Dial, Palmolive, and Procter and Gamble.
3) As the World Turns (1956-2010) is one of the longest-running, most popular daytime soaps ever. Most Americans who were home and watching TV during the day were tuned to it 50 years ago and received the first word of President Kennedy's assassination when Walter Cronkite interrupted the broadcast.
4) In 1972, the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences began giving out Daytime Emmy Awards. The NBC show The Doctors won the first for Best Daytime Drama.
5) Today, the daytime drama has hit on hard times. Ratings are down and costs are up. Court shows like Judge Judy and talk shows like Dr. Phil are cheaper to produce because fewer sets and less scripting are involved. The longest-running shows -- As the World Turns, All My Children, Secret Storm and One Life to Live -- were all recently cancelled after more 30 years.
6) Peyton Place was the first nighttime "soap opera." It premiered on September 15, 1964 and ran two (sometimes three) nights a week for nearly 5 years. In its last season it was still in the Top 20 in Neilsen Ratings. It was cancelled because of costs -- reruns were never aired and the production values were high.
7) Dallas (1978-1991) was the next prime-time soap blockbuster. CBS learned from ABC's Peyton Place missteps. Dallas aired one hour-long episode, one night/week and there were reruns. The repeats not only reduced costs, they were quite useful in maintaining the public's interest in the series and the resolution of each season's "cliffhanger."
8) Dallas had the biggest "cliffhanger" of all with "Who Killed JR?" In November, 1980, 83 million people tuned in to see that Kristen Shepard pulled the trigger. That means there were more viewers than there were voters in the 1980 Presidential election. At the time, it was the highest rated show in TV history.
9) Dynasty premiered in 1981 and gave Dallas stiff competition. Joan Collins gained fame as Alexis Carrington, the soap's first prime-time vixen.
11) Movie actresses who appeared in soaps include Meg Ryan (As the World Turns), Demi Moore (General Hospital), and Kathleen Turner (The Doctors).
12) Movie actors who appeared in soaps include Christopher Reeve (Love of Life), Kevin Bacon (Search for Tomorrow) and Ray Liotta (Another World).
13) Singers Ricky Martin and Rick Springfield appeared on General Hospital.