With reference to a particular soap opera you are familiar with, discuss how it is suited to television rather than any other medium, in terms of the codes and conventions of that medium and the programme you are discussing ‘Switch that rubbish off! ‘ this is often a sign that the younger generation of a household are gathered to watch the next instalment of the UK’s most highly viewed soap opera ‘Eastenders’.
In my experience, I always knew when one of the many soap opera’s was about to begin as I would hear that exact instruction, (or one of similar meaning), being aimed, towards my sisters as they switch on the television between the hours of seven and nine o’ clock of most weekday evenings. My Father felt so strongly that this word ‘rubbish’ was the only way to describe soap operas, for a while we had a television ban and had to force ‘conversation’ during dinner times!
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Soap Opera’s have this superglue effect to most people, which is the desired result. All that is required is to catch a small glimpse of a storyline and no matter how ‘rubbish’ it is often considered to be, you do want to know what happens next and you’re stuck to the plot, this is the successful formula. December 9th, 1960 was when the UK’s first ever television Soap Opera was launched. Coronation Street began on ITV and is still on our screens today after fourty years of successful, record-breaking viewer ratings.
It took twenty-five years for the BBC to create anything as successful as Coronation Street, when Eastenders came onto our screens in 1985, which is also still highly successful today and is viewed by millions of people worldwide! Prior to Coronation Street, Soap Opera’s had already evolved and were first created as radio broadcasts, using actors and actresses as character voices with hand-created sound effects to represent their actions. The original and most famous radio Soap Opera to date is ‘The Archers’, launched on BBC Radio 4 in 1951, which is still ongoing today!
Other television channels such as Channel Four and Channel Five have tried to keep up with the Soap Opera revolution but have never managed to achieve such high viewer ratings as the likes of Coronation Street and Eastenders, I think this is because they will never strike people as being original. Coronation Street was the first ever British television soap based in Manchester and Eastenders was obviously based in the East-end of London, these cover the North and South of England, so they didn’t leave much space for originality in any new soaps as far as community is concerned.
Although Channel Four’s latest attempt, ‘Hollyoaks’ has had good ratings, which seems to be due to its majority of young cast members and its early showing at six o clock on most weekdays. One particular Soap Opera, which has brought its own genre to our screens, is Neighbours; this came onto the BBC from Australia in March 1985. The main reason for its success was the fact that it was based in a whole new environment in the sunny, leisurely lifestyle of Australia. It is still on television today and is considered to be the third most successful Soap Opera in the UK.
In terms of codes and conventions, I feel Eastenders is the best platform to look into. In my opinion, a big part of its success is from the major, ongoing storylines, it creates and perfects the London, Southern way of life. Though being a Southerner myself, this may force a biased point of view, as I can’t relate well to the Northern codes of Manchester based Coronation Street and Hollyoaks for instance. However, this way I do know that the use of codes and conventions are successful in Eastenders.
One particular Eastenders storyline that springs to mind is the marriage of Kat Slater and Andy Hunter in the Christmas special episode of 2003. The fact that the organisation of the wedding didn’t run smoothly and didn’t turn out entirely perfect in the end is definitely a realistic code, in this case of a working class, Southern couple and although the storyline may seem a little over the top, the codes and conventions used kept it just on the borderline of being believable.
The main characters were acceptable, Andy Hunter; the typical, upper-class wannabe, gangster who had other people always there to fight his corner and apparently always gets his way! Opposed to the underdog, Aflie Moon, the openly working-class male, with a cockney, witty sense of humour and heart of gold but also a head of pure confusion and frustration with the likes of Andy. Both characters have their dreams as everyone does but in this case Alfie’s dream and genuine love for Kat came through stronger as he got his way eventually.
He made hard work of it, though again, this can be considered a convention of the stereotypical Londoner. On a whole, Eastenders has definitely mastered the techniques of bringing these characters and this area of London across to the viewer in the right way. The general basis is a working class, ambitious area full of people who will always fight their corner until they either fall flat on their face or until they win their battle, I can certainly relate to that.
Costume is hard to judge and pin onto an area or place of residence, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen any items of clothing which seem out of place in Eastenders, it’s often very basic, supposedly market clothes. Then there’s individual character costumes such as the one for money grabbing Andy Hunter, who would often be turned out in a suit, or there’s Kat Slater; covered in makeup, wearing low cut, tight tops and short skirts behind the bar of the Queen Victoria public house. Again, this is very believable and I’ve certainly seen it before.