Everybody needs good soaps

by Stephen Tall on October 21, 2006

In today’s thegrauniad, Mark Lawson reflects on 20 years of that most iconic of soap operas, Neighbours.

“The huge UK success of the show can be attributed to the strong presence of the young but also to another element rarely seen in Crossroads and Coronation Street: the sun.”

True, though in its earliest incarnation (way back when it was broadcast on Australia’s Seven Network), Neighbours’ storylines were much darker – for example, focusing on the cruel dashing of Shane Ramsay’s Olympic diving hopes following a spinal injury, and the tough-love bullying of his dad, Max, who was trying to live his own thwarted dreams through his son.

Perhaps this dark-underbelly psycho-probing helps explain why Neighbours was initially such a failure, rescued by its transfer to Network Ten, and the introduction of teen heart-throbs, like Kylie and Jason.

Though (as you may be able to tell) I was a child-fan of Neighbours – even if it did help globally export that most irritating of verbal constructs, AQI – it is not my all-time favourite soap.

The top two places would have to belong – as is my liberal wont – to more, erm, minority tastes, both made by Granada.

Revelations was broadcast in 1994 in only three ITV regions. Created and written by Russell T Davies, and featuring lesbian vicars and conniving bishops, the words most commonly associated with it are ‘ironic’ and ‘camp’ (what a surprise). But as it filled the Prisoner in Cell Block H hole in ITV’s schedule, this seemed entirely apt.

Night and Day lasted slightly longer, with 80 hours broadcast on ITV between 2001 and 2003. Had it been on Channel 4, it would have been a critical and commercial success: outrageous plotting, witty writing, and a stellar array of acting talent. (Including the really rather lovely Stephanie Leonidas.)

Night and Day’s self-consciously arty direction – ironic intercutting, musical montages, flashback fever and comic campery – lives on, however, in Holloyoaks, which owes much to the trail blazed by its short-term rival. Here’s a taster.

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When I was young, I watched bits of Emmerdale Farm (as was) with my parents, and Neighbours with my brother.

My parents returned to soaps when Eldorado started – lots of sun there. I watched nearly every episode but am surprisingly unscarred.

My own soap choice, and one of the most outrageous and ridiculous around, was the lunatic Sunset Beach. Its bonkers storylines included an earthquake, cursed religious jewels, and an evil identical twin. It also has a character (from Kansas) wake up in the last episode and declare the whole series a wonderful dream – only to wake up again and realise she dreamt the dream…

by Will on October 21, 2006 at 2:01 pm. Reply #

I had friends who adored Sunset Beach – sadly I’d joined the real world of work by the time it started.

Co-inidentally, I came across an article from the Indy in 2003:

“One of the few recent shows to experiment with form, the brilliant ITV soap Night and Day, belly-flopped in the ratings and was shunted to a midnight slot. The series paid homage to [Dennis] Potter when one episode had a stranger, Gabriel – who seemed to be an angel – appear in town to transform the characters’ inner lives. This was a direct nod to the late dramatist, who used this scenario in several of his works. Caleb Ranson, the series’ creator, explains, sadly, that ‘ITV judged Night and Day to have failed, and that means that any kind of experimental drama will be absent from prime-time schedules for a very long time’.”

by Stephen Tall on October 21, 2006 at 10:07 pm. Reply #

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