Pioneers Of Television: Primetime Soaps
Daytime dramas were a staple of the first days of television. They got the nickname “soap operas” because the early adopters of television advertising were soap companies. Over time, the term soap opera became associated with improbable, but exciting, story lines involving long- lost relatives, secret affairs and amnesia. The genre came to primetime in 1964 with “Peyton Place,” starring Ryan O’Neal and Mia Farrow. The genre revived in primetime in the late ’70s to great success.
Three primetime soap operas rank among the longest running shows in the history of TV drama. “Dallas” ran for 13 years and managed to hook male viewers with two dominant characters working in the Texas oil business, the scheming J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and his do-gooder brother, Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy).
“Dynasty” copied the oil scion theme but moved the setting to Denver, keeping viewers entertained with the lives of the super-rich and powerful for nine years. The women of “Dynasty” set the fashion standards for 1980s and their catfights were legendary. “They were probably a little over the top, but that’s what made it ‘Dynasty,’” said Joan Collins.
“Knots Landing,” the longest-running primetime soap of all, ran for 14 years. Set in a suburb of Los Angeles, this spin-off from “Dallas” was centered by Michele Lee’s character, Karen, who reflected the dreams of middle-class America. Karen was a businesswoman, but unlike the conniving characters on “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” she stood on moral ground and valued kindness at home and on the job.
Watch Pioneers Of Television: Primetime Soaps Tuesday, January 22 at 8:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS / WHTJ PBS
Other episodes include:
Superheroes – January 29 Survey decades of superheroes, from “Superman” in the 1950s to “The Greatest American Hero” in the 80s.
Miniseries – February 5 Join the stars of landmark miniseries who comment on the influence of their genre today.