Everyone loves a good soap opera, they're one of the most shown TV programmes on British TV these days. Soaps are essentially our daily life blown 10 times out of proportion. They're based on real life and follow the journey of multiple people and families during their life. Some of them have been going as long as 50 years or more whilst there are some newer ones. There are always debates and battles about which of these soap operas is the best, which ones are worthy of awards and which ones people are hating. Personal preference is a huge factor when considering the battle of the soap operas but the facts do show for themselves. Before we get into the juicy bits, do you have a preference? The main titles we'll be talking about is Coronation Street, East Enders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks. Despite other soap operas coming and going through the years, these are the ones everyone knows about and either loves or hates. The beauty of soap operas is that you can think one is the best thing to ever come onto your TV then you can hate the other one with all your heart. It's TV and that's what makes it great.
A nations favourite, the ITV evening programme started on a cold December night around 57 years ago. At the time, none of the other soaps were around to compete so it was a people favourite for many years. It's set in a fictional town called Weatherfield which is meant to be in the inner city of Salford in the North West of the UK. The cast is made up of around 100 members, 70 of those being regulars and the other 30 being recurring cast with or some without names. These cast members can portray so many different characters who all have completely different backgrounds. Whilst some are narcissistic and nasty others are fun-loving and confident with lots to offer the storylines. Over the last 57 years of being in production, this soap opera has won 98 awards (as of 4th October 2017) which include titles such as best actor, couple, and episode.
Even though this programme is the longest-serving it isn't everyone favourite. There have been some very bad storylines over the last 50+ years but there have similarly been good storylines. This includes the equally as hateable/loveable characters that come with these storylines, but we'll tackle the depths of this programme later.
Possibly the next best competitor to the longest running soap opera in history is good, old EastEnders. They have a lot fewer wrinkles than Coronation Street as the soap has only been running for 32 years. It's also a completely different setting, taking place in the South of the UK in a small town called Watford. The programmes are also on rival channels with EastEnders broadcasting on BBC 1 most weekdays whilst taking up similar controversial storylines. EastEnders tackles controversial topics like intermarital rape, transphobic bullying and love affairs. The cast is slightly smaller than Coronation Street as it tends to focus more on certain characters in certain storylines. There are 58 regulars whilst there are 36 recurring characters and 4 named extras making the cast a total of 98.
EastEnders always make sure they do their research on storylines and try to use real-life examples to base their stories on making them very realistic. Although it's only been running for just over 30 years it has won around 365 awards in that time (as of 4th October 2017.) This makes it the most popular, award-winning soap opera of them all. Whether that means it's a winner for us is another question. The programme has dealt with some of the most loved characters in TV history like Alfie Moon and some of the worst, villain characters like Dennis Rickman and Archie Mitchell.
Taking it back to ITV again, this 45-year-old soap opera is a much-loved favourite in the North. Emmerdale is set in the Yorkshire Dales on a fictional farm. Although it's younger than Coronation Street people have seemed to love this soap opera just a bit more, family orientated and focusing on families that live in and on the farm. The show is all about unity and a lot of the time breaking it. It's the smallest cast out of the previous two talked about with only 55 regular characters and 32 recurring cast members making it only 87 cast currently involved. The history of the show includes many characters being killed off by friends, lovers and sometimes their own family. What makes Emmerdale unique to other soap operas is the individuality every character has, even though they are part of a family unit – all the characters have a part to play.
Instead of focusing on individual characters or families like EastEnders and Coronation Street do, Emmerdale includes the all the cast. This can be a bad thing or a good one, bad because sometimes storylines are hard to follow when there is a lot of them. Missing one episode could mean you're sat through the next wondering what on earth is going on. However, it's also good in the sense that the cast has a lot of diversity amongst the characters and something that separates them from each other. Since its first broadcast in the early 1970's, it has managed to pick up 89 awards including best actor/actress, best newcomer and best continuing drama (as of 4th October 2017.) Yet, does it really win it for us as the audience and biggest critiques?
This soap opera is very much still in the limelight with the fact that it's the youngest out of all the soaps and the biggest hit with the younger generation. Hollyoaks only broadcast for the first time in October of 1995 but despite its mistakes and storyline errors, it has been able to actively strive to be the best soap opera for over 20 years. This Channel 4 programme has stolen the hearts of so many people through its love triangles, deaths, and births. Not only is it the youngest of all the soap operas, it also has the smallest cast of only approximately 50 main characters and 19 recurring cast members. Equalling 69 cast members throughout the show, this has been lower and higher in the past but as of 2017, this is the number!
Filmed and set in a suburb of Chester called Hollyoaks, the show follows many young and old people throughout their journeys in life. The ups and downs are all documented through the cameras and it's arguably the most realistic of all the soap operas discussed. It's won a grand total of 71 awards in the 22 years it's been running and for a relatively new show, that's rather impressive (as of 4th October 2017.)
Characters and Storylines
Throughout the years of all the soap operas being on the air we have loved characters and storylines whilst we have hated them. A lot of the anticipation of the shows is that people have a love or hatred for a certain character or actor themselves. There are the characters we hate because they're evil, vindictive, and narcissistic. Whilst other we don't like purely because they're played by awful actors. Whatever your reason, every show aims to please but it doesn't always succeed. Producers and directors want their audience to really feel the energy of the characters and they do this by using a variety of methods. From Coronation Street's villain Richard Hillman to Hollyoaks much loved Max Cunningham, some characters couldn't be more apart in personality and likeability.
The best characters are both good and bad, this is more of a reflection of how well the characters are played and portrayed rather than whether we like the character or not. Whereas the worst characters are good or evil but are played by lesser liked actors or actors we don't quite like as much. In Coronation street, many people have a love for Roy Cropper and Sophie Webster as they're both good characters and actors meaning they really make the onscreen experience for the user a good one. Whereas the best, bad characters ever are arguably Tracey Barlow and Richard Hillman. All of these ‘good' actors play characters that have had intense storylines in the past and continue too, to this day yet the worst characters (such as Rosie Webster and Kylie's ex-boyfriend Callum) are awful to watch on screen. It's kind of ironic how Rosie and Sophie are both sisters in the show but they're completely different, to the point where Rosie isn't liked by the public who watch Corrie and Sophie is. Perhaps it's down to their storylines then? Quite possibly.
Some of East Enders most famous storylines have shocked their viewers, like the time when Dirty Den came back from the dead (we didn't approve of this either) or the Sean Slater and Roxy love story (including their gorgeous wedding which stole the hearts of everyone.) It's all about the character portraying their storylines to make them even better than they are written and that takes a very skilled actor. Emmerdale is another soap that focuses on storylines a lot since the show is very family-orientated as everyone seems to either be related, together or know each other it always makes the storylines even more exciting. In terms of the best and the worst storylines in Emmerdale, that's debatable. Possibly the best three storylines have been the who killed Tom King? Story, Ashley Thomas's dementia and the Woolpack Siege. They're the ones who made us cry a little more than the usual. Whilst we (the audience) found ourselves hating the who attacked Cain? Story, Holly Barton's death and the village fire.
Hollyoaks focuses more on the building of their characters as they love to produce storylines that are hard-hitting and modern. They are the newest and youngest soap opera and often it's found they work hard to create modern, and relatable characters as well as storylines so they can approach a completely different audience than all of the others, what makes Hollyoaks different is that they succeed and that's why their audience is typically a lot younger than the other shows. Characters such as Tony Hutchinson and Max Cunningham have stolen our hearts whilst divas and bad girls Lauren Valentine and Theresa McQueen have completely made us hate everything about the soap.
The point is, every soap tries their hardest to get ratings and get new people watching their show. Eventually, that's what it all comes down too, ratings. In the last 5 years, Coronation Street has seen their show decreasing in view dramatically, especially between 2012 and 2013. Since 2012 the show has decreased by over 2 million viewers (who watch most/every night.) However, East Enders has only been rising. The Christmas day episode in 2012 got a staggering 9.4 million viewers (as a one-off, obviously) but the show has still been doing extremely well compared to Coronation Street with there being a 3.5 million increase of viewers from 2012 (till the end of 2016.) Emmerdale is much like East Enders as their ratings have been on the rise for the past 5 years with their average viewings dipping between years. Ultimately, they have had a rise of around 6 hundred thousand in since 2012 till now in 2017. Hollyoaks ratings haven't been released so we can only assume what we will, but my point is that ratings can go either way. It's all do to with the storylines, characters and how well the show engages and relates to the audience.
The real question is, what show is the best? After all, it's the battle of the soap operas. Personally, it would be too hard to call but we want to know what you think. Do you have characters you hate with a passion who appear in these programmes? Do you know the secrets of how much each show is making? It doesn't matter if you don't, what you think is what we want to know! Let us know in the comments, and on our Facebook page how you feel, even if soap operas aren't your thing. Even if you've been an avid soap opera watcher for over 30 years and you've seen it all. We want to know!
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