soaps have often gone into the world of the supernatural
- more than you think. You may remember "Dark Shadows",
which was a pretty good daytime soap in the 1960's about
vampires, werewolves, and witches. I watched that
one when I was a child, and then later in reruns on the
Sci-Fi Channel. I only started
watching most soaps in the 1980's, but they have had
many unusual stories since then.
In the 80's, soaps started tackling
unusual storylines, instead of just stories about the
boardroom or the bedroom (or the kitchen). General
Hospital started this general trend when they brought in
spies and mobsters. The evil Cassadines tried to
freeze the world. Later, they had a story about
mysterious crystals and an alien named Casey. In
One Life to Live, they had a time-traveling storyline
where a few of the characters went back to the 1800's.
They also had a secret underground city called Eterna.
Days of Our Lives waited until the 90's to have their
weird storylines when they had Satan possess Marlena.
Later, they had many weird things going on with Stefano
planting a mind-controlling computer chip into Vivian's
brain, and then the entire cast was killed off...only to
reappear on a secret island that was an exact duplicate
of their town, Salem. On Guiding Light, they had a
cloning story where Reva was cloned, and then her clone
grew very quickly into an adult. These stories
were largely not done very well. They are intriguing, but
usually the writers don't do a very good job of meshing
romance with the supernatural or sci-fi. Still,
they get props for trying to do things that are unusual.
General Hospital had a spin-off called
Port Charles. It started out as a fairly normal soap,
but after a while, they added vampires, witches, angels,
werewolves, time travel, and
other weird things. I enjoyed it, as did many others. In fact,
though, the soap was already dying, and this did not do
much to save it, for a couple of reasons. For one thing,
it was still not the best writing. There were many
inconsistencies that viewers had to put up with.
Secondly, ABC was having problems with their affiliate
stations, so many of the stations showed Port Charles at
odd times that led to bad ratings. Thirdly, many
soap opera viewers do not like supernatural stories. If
Port Charles had better writing, it still might have
suffered in the ratings, due to the other problems.
The man who was responsible for many of
the weird things on Days of Our Lives in the 90's, Jim
Reilly, created another soap called Passions. Passions
was sort of a bad spoof of Dark Shadows. It had
many normal soap opera elements, but it also had
witches, living dolls, demons, and other supernatural
elements. It didn't take itself seriously, though,
unlike Port Charles or Dark Shadows. In many ways, it
was a very bad show. It never really lived up to its
potential for being either a good comedy nor a good
By and large, most daytime soaps are
about fairly realistic stories, aside from the
occasional story about psychics or ghosts.
Vampires and werewolves are all over the
movie and TV screens right now. Some of them are
very romantic and are more like soap operas than
straight-out sci-fi/fantasy (like, say, Supernatural on
The CW). Another CW show, "Vampire Diaries", is a
supernatural soap opera. Like "Twilight" and "True
Blood", it is based on a series of books. Unlike
most daytime soap operas, it is very well written.
It is written by the same guy who did "Dawson's Creek"
(the brilliant Kevin Williamson), which was another good
primetime soap opera.
This is another good example of how
primetime soaps are better than daytime ones. If daytime
soaps want to survive cancellation, they need to up the
ante and improve their writing, as I've said in previous
articles. Vampire Diaries is a very good example of an
excellent supernatural and soap opera TV show. It
may be about witches, werewolves, and vampires, but it
is also about regular American teenagers and their
romances, and their family troubles. In
fact, one might argue that the romance aspect is way
more important than the supernatural aspect. We care way
more about whether Elena is doing to choose Damon or
Stefan, than we care whether they are going to be biting
Yet, unlike daytime soaps, the show
is not at all boring, nor does it fall back on clichés, contradictions, boring dialogue, or characters that
we don't care about. I might even suggest that every
single character on the show, large and small, is
interesting, and so the impact is great when one of them
gets killed off (which they often do). Unlike
soaps, where we often don't even care about the
characters while they are alive, let alone when they are
killed off. The show is unpredictable. You
really don't know what will happen next, and it
continuously shocks me. That almost never happens on
I know it sounds like I am putting down
daytime soaps here. I really value daytime soaps, and I
hate to see how they are just failing badly. I hate to
see them not living up to their full potential. I hate
to see all of these great actors wasted on these
horrible stories (and then losing their jobs when the
soap gets canceled).
If you love soaps, please write to the
networks and tell them how much you love them. Tell them
they need to get better writers. That is the number one
important thing about any TV show, daytime or primetime.
Page updated 12/27/11
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