Soap Opera Jargon

Don’t know what happened to the spacing on this page it suddenly just all seemed to disappear, I’ll go through and correct it again as soon as I get a chance, in the meantime my apologies.  – Robansuefarm May 24, 2014

I was taught to be a jargon buster. There are some terms that are used in soap fandom that you might not have heard before. Please post questions here or e-mail me.

Above the line/Below the line – In the Feb. 25, 2013 issue of Soap Opera Digest CBS Senior Vice President Daytime, Angelica McDaniel replied in answer to a question about budget (actually she kind of talked around the specific question she was asked) but she does define this. “(O)verall budget that is broken down into two parts, which are referred to as Above the Line and Below the Line budgeting is allocated for things such as sets. Above the Line budgeting is allocated to things like the cast. Money for set has nothing to do with casting.” I’m still doing my best to find out more about how these behind the scenes system work, but as she describes the difference it wouldn’t make sense in normal accounting procedures, but I’ll take her word for that this is how they do it. So if I’m following her correctly, the yearly budget for a show is divided into above the line and below the line expenses, if the Below the Line money is not spent during a particular year the money is deposited into a special fund that can be drawn from for any Below the Line expenses at any time, but cannot be used for Above the Line expenses. Not spending down this account does not impact how much is distributed to it the next year. (Again this is totally not the norm for any business, nonprofit, or government budget that I’ve ever dealt with, but it’s what she says and since she oversees the budget she ought to know.) Anybody who knows more about this feel free to comment because I could certainly misunderstood.

Almost Wedding – An almost wedding is also known as a nonwedding or an interrupted wedding. One of the ways that life in soap world is different from real life is that when you are invited to a wedding in the real world you are pretty much assured that the wedding will actually take place. In soap world you can’t have the same assurance. In soap world either the bride or groom might not show or someone might show up to stop the wedding or the bride or groom might change their mind. Below are an assortment of Guiding Light‘s almost weddings over the years.

AMCAll My Children

AWAnother World

ATWTAs The World Turns

B&BThe Bold and the Beautiful

Backburner – Most characters on a soap opera are either frontburner or backburner at any given time. On a well written, well regulated soap after a major frontburner story a character rotates into a period of rest on the backburner which gives other characters a chance to advance their story and gives the formerly frontburner character’s portrayer a chance to rest and writers a chance to reposition the character into their next story. A backburnered character or a character on the backburner may be storyless for awhile instead providing advice and serving as a Talk To. Other times they have a storyline, but it just isn’t focused on, maybe checked in on once every week or every other week. With luck and planning, a backburnered character rotates back to frontburner again, but often it can mean a character is on the way to being written out. Contract status can also influence whether you are backburner or frontburner. TPTB want to make sure people in frontburner storylines are available to them which means people on contract. It’s proper to either use the term as a descriptor (e.g. frontburner character) or to describe it as a location (e.g. on the backburner). See Frontburner and Talk To

Back 9 – Currently a full season order for a primetime show (including primetime soaps) is 22 episodes (2013). As  networks continue to look to hedge their bets as much as possible as their last bits of originality & artistic vision are drained from them, partial season orders have become much more common, even for already established shows. Networks often only order 13 episodes initially, then pick up “back 9” later if show does well. That brings the total season order up to 22 or a full season.

Back Story – What separates a mere dayplayer or extra from a true character is the existence of their back story. A back story is the story of what happened before they arrive on screen. Sometimes this story is very specific. Sometimes it’s left vague and filled in as future storyline develops. For example, Reva Shayne arrived in Springfield as Billy’s ex-wife and Josh being her soulmate since they were kids gradually filled in over time. Henry Coleman on As the World Turns showed up as business shark on his way up and his loveable conman ways and the fact that he developed them trying to keep body and soul together as he had to raise younger brothers and sisters in a huge family was only slowly filled in. Danny Santos is a deliberate blank when he arrived as mob guy and slowly became so much more. Read about what end up knowing about Danny’s backstory here:

BeachSunset Beach

Below the Line – See Above the Line

Bible –See Show Bible

Block Scheduled Vacation – This term is more my description of what happens although they might just call it a vacation. The more years you are in a job, the more you expect to be paid. In recent years soaps haven’t had the budgets to increase salaries much if at all, so instead they offer things that benefit actors/actresses and cause headaches for the administration. One thing they can offer is a block of time for a vacation. You don’t really hear much about this on CBS soaps. The last I heard of on a CBS soap was the late Beverlee McKinsey (Alexandra Spaulding #1) before she left Guiding Light back in 1992. So if they are doing it, it’s quiet. In contrast, there are well advertised scheduled vacations for actors on other soaps including Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer on GH) who spends part of the year in Amsterdam and Susan Lucci (Erica Kane on AMC before it was cancelled) took a good block of the summer off.

Cancellation – In several of these definitions, I’ve stressed the importance of soap operas being a continuing drama. Unfortunately, sometimes the continuing stops and a soap is canceled. Sometimes they are given a chance to tie up the loose ends. Sometimes they aren’t (e.g. All My Children). Sometimes they deliberately set up a cliffhanger (e.g. Capitol). Soap operas churned through being created and canceled on a regular basis from their development in the 1930s up to the early1980s when a stable mass of soaps seemed to form. This strong pantheon of survivors, mostly created in the 1950s and 1960s, seemed destined to continue, but then another rash of  cancellations began to hit. This time cancellation casualties weren’t replaced. Everything from established superstars of the soap world, like Edge of Night (CBS 1956-1975, ABC 1975-1984)  and Ryan’s Hope (1975-1989), to well thought of new soaps, like Santa Barbara (1984-1993) and Capitol (1982-1987), fell victim to the network knife. CBS had participated in these cancellations canceling Search for Tomorrow (CBS 1951-1982, NBC 1982-1986) and Capitol, but had continued to support soaps. Their soaps were doing relatively well in the ratings and even as late as 2009 they continued to air 4 soaps where NBC was down to 1 and ABC down to 3. Then on April 1, 2009, word came that the longest continuing drama in all of history, Guiding Light, was canceled. Leaving only As the World Turns in the once mighty P&G owned soap empire. The writing was on the wall for ATWT and as the last totally non-network owned soap on CBS and removing all economies of scale for P&G (which had shown increasingly less interest in the future of the shows in recent years), it was only a matter of time until ATWT was canceled. GL’s (1937-2009) last new episode aired in Sept. 2009 and ATWT’s (1956-2010) last new episode was aired in Sept. 2010. Now All My Children (1970-2011) and One Life to Live (1968-2012) have joined the list of the fallen, leaving 1  daytime soap opera each on ABC and NBC and 2 on CBS.  However, vast archives of episodes remain and as technology changes it is giving fans a chance to recapture the magic of past episodes and will hopefully continue to do so in more complete ways. These classic shows are family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. I’m trying to do my part to see the chain remains as unbroken as possible. (Since this was originally written this hope has come true with at least limited DVD sampler sets of As the World Turns, Guiding Light ,and The Bold and the Beautiful.) In recent years, NBC’s Passions (1999-2008) was the soap that tried the most drastic efforts to keep on the air. They shared a head writer with Days of Our Lives. They got a rebroadcast of episodes going on SyFy. When NBC canceled them, they went on to do about another year on DirectTV. This soap was considered to have some of the youngest and hippest soap fans and their failure to find an alternative outlet than broadcast TV is troubling for fans with an interest in the long term future of soap operas as the long term future of broadcast networks is grim. AMC and OLTL were originally supposed to continue as be part of a new online network produced by Prospect Park. While the first attempt failed over problems with the business model, they have actually started production a year later. Hopefully future efforts will have more luck.

Canon – Canon is what is accepted as fact within a certain fictional world. In a fandom with an “official” source of information, in the case of Guiding Light, the radio and television episodes of the long CBS soap opera, canon is things that happen “on camera” and are the official versions of what happened. AU stories, authorized novelizations and novels, and unauthorized fanfic are NOT canon, but can be very enjoyable. The term canon was first used within the concept of the Bible. In biblical times many books were written, only some of these were accepted as the true word of God and they were collected in a canon that ultimately became the Bible as we know it today. The books not selected for inclusion began to be considered apocryphal, or not true. As far as can be determined, the term was first applied to fiction in the early 1900s to differentiate between the Sherlock Holmes stories written by his creator Arthur Conan Doyle and those written afterwards by imitators (which is still going on to this day). Today it’s most frequently used in science fiction and comic book fandoms. In a licensed property canon with an “official” source, canon is what the owner says it is. For older materials, fans can decide for themselves. Typically canon focuses on the original format that the fictional world first appeared in.  For instance in Star Trek what is considered canon are the live action movies and TV shows where novels, animations, comic books, and fan fiction aren’t. Conversely, Middle Earth aka The Lord of the Rings which started out as books by J.R.R. Tolkein, considers the books canon and the movies not, although what is canon or not can be a source of disagreement for fans.

Canvas – A show’s canvas encompasses all the locations and characters and storylines currently in use. Imagine an artist looking at busy river. There are people moving along both sides of the river and in all sorts of vehicles on the river. The artist chooses a place to paint, what part of the vast river is going to appear on the canvas. Every few weeks the artist finishes a painting and selects what he is going to paint next. He doesn’t put all he can see on the canvas. This artist and those who watch his work can see people coming who’ve never been in front of him before and some are leaving for the last time and many are circling around that were chosen to be on the canvas before and will be again. That is sort of what the canvas of a soap opera is like. Characters and storylines that are on the canvas are those currently featured on the show, but on a soap with any kind of history, many others lurk off canvas and may return at any time that the writers and TPTB decide they are needed to create storyline, increase drama, or fill a void in the show. For example, when Phillip Spaulding and Rick Bauer both left the show at one point, TPTB created a friendship between Frank Cooper and A.C. Mallet to try to fill that empty place on the canvas. Characters who have been written out are said to be currently off canvas. When writing or talking about a particular soap, people will often talk about looking at the whole canvas in terms of what is on the soap right now. This sort of overview often leads to suggestions of areas where the soap is weak or out of balance.

Closing or End Credits – The closing or end credits normally include a list of everyone is considered to be in the cast at the time including both their character and real names. It also includes behind the scenes positions, especially the higher up TPTB. Sometimes photos of the cast or from the episode are also shown. In teaching there is a term sponge, meaning an activity that soaks up time to make a lesson end when the class time does. The closing credits serve the same kind of function on a soap. Timing is important you must fill out an exact amount of time each day and credits can help pad a short episode or a quick version can help them cut time. Soaps normally have a couple of versions at any one time and would use long or short versions depending on how much time was needed to make up the hour (with GL it was really 37 minutes an episode by 2009) to complete the episode. They would change the speeds by how many credits were shown and by how fast the names would scroll by. The credits would also give a chance for a voiceover and final plug for the sponsor in earlier years and to thank companies that provided bags, jewelry, or clothes for  the production. The closing credits could also be specialized sometimes for special episodes. For example, every year they would change them for the Christmas episode and show the cast and crew with their families. Other special episodes like when Billip got married or when Maureen Bauer died, would also have these specialized versions. My favorite version, which sadly I haven’t found an example of, they’d do about a minute of one of the last scenes of the day continuing to mime the action. I thought this was incredibly effective and suggested that life continued there even when we weren’t watching, but it didn’t last long. The other term you often hear in conjunction with credits is Connie Credits. During Connie Chung’s brief tenure as lead anchor for the CBS evening news, primetime broadcasts began to stop fully showing credits. Instead they squeezed the credit screen to half the television screen, giving Connie the other half. This both made the credits unreadable and denied shows an outlet for a lot of creativity that they had previously put in these credits. While Connie is long gone from our screens, the stupid squeezed credits remain widespread throughout daytime and primetime. I can’t believe it, but I couldn’t find an example of these on YouTube yet either. Strangely there were a lot more opening credits than closing credits on YouTube. Probably the most representative examples are in the 2 part montage. Also, apparently some fans make fake opening and closing credits.

Continuity Error~ A continuity error is also something that can happen in all forms of drama and comedy and is the common term used throughout the industry, not something restricted to soap operas. It can be something like someone suddenly changing clothes in the middle of a conversation, a piece of cake getting smaller and larger again (less is eaten) throughout a scene, someone who entered without a purse suddenly having one, etc. Soaps are well aware that this is a special danger for them as one day in “reel life” can go on for a week on the soap in “real life” and failing to match what happened yesterday with today has little room for explanation or error. The trailer and recap scenes that begin and end each episode are especially prone to this, as often they slightly restage the scene from yesterday to today. Usually someone on a soap is in charge of continuity and is responsible for catching these errors before they make it on screen. Sometimes they seem to hope that if it happened a couple of days ago you won’t remember, but that is silly if you know soap fans, especially since we have developed the ability to play back previous episodes to double check. A continuity error is a small thing usually based on a physical object, but it can also be an action. If it has been established that the Bauer kitchen is to the right of the living room and a character says “I’m going to the kitchen” and heads through the alcove by the fireplace or up the stairs instead that would also be a continuity error. Larger errors of fact usually aren’t classed as continuity errors and instead are either sent up lines or rewritten history, look for future entries on each of these. There are 3 glaring visual continuity errors in the Manny story that jump out at me. Enjoy these tongue in cheek descriptions of real examples.

Connie Credits – See Closing or End Credits

Contract – See On Contract and Off Contract

Core Family – Most soap operas are not made up of individual characters, they are made up of two or more core families. Sometimes what are the core families change over the years and new families are written in or out.The very first core family on GL was the Ruthledge family and its trials and tribulations (a son fell in love with his adopted sister, for example) were the soap’s mainstay for years. The Bauer Family was introduced in 1948, the Spauldings in 1977, the Lewis family in the early 1980s (starting with Josh breaking up Kelly and Morgan), the Cooper family in the mid-1980s, and the Santos family (sadly a core family for too short a time although they tied into the Bauers) first appeared in 1998. All of these families were still represented when the show ended, but the, Norrises, the Wexlers, the Reades, the Grants, the Speakes, and many others had come and gone. Often when the soap starts they will have two families that are opposites in some way. For example, on Generations there was a black family and a white family hence its tagline “Black and White in Color.” On The Bold and the Beautiful, there was the rich Forresters and the spunky upstart Spectras. A similar rivalry was slowly developed on GL through the rich Spauldings and the blue collar Coopers. The rivalry was developed through romantic relationships and romantic rivalries which were common between the two families. A more personal vendetta also developed between the Spaulding and Lewis families, which was exploited in one of the shows last supercouples, Bizzie – Bill Lewis and Lizzie Spaulding. Being a member of a core family gives you a lot more staying power than if you remain a single character without a family and opens many more storyline options as relationships are explored. Blake Lindsey gained importance once she was revealed to really be Chrissy Thorpe. Cassie Layne being Reva’s sister gave her much more story than if she had remained a Lewis secretary and Spaulding dupe. Abby Blume gained story after she began a romantic relationship, engagement and eventual marriage to Rick Bauer. Amanda Wexler gained story when it was revealed she was really a Spaulding and the same for Gus Aitoro after his vendetta with Danny Santos played out. However, not all members of a core family are equal. After a good run of story, Roxie Shayne (Reva’s full sister) disappeared into a mental hospital and was barely mentioned again. Josh Lewis was followed to town by two siblings, brother Billy and sister Trish, plus their father H.B.  Trish was more important to the story initially, but she left town at an early date and without even the courtesy of a return for countless weddings or funerals or an onscreen mention of why she wasn’t there (except for the Jeva wedding in 2002). Even Jeva’s children were always being sent off screen to stay with Uncle Rusty Shayne “near Tulsa” rather than ever going to visit Aunt Trish. Meanwhile, Josh’s other sibling Billy was first introduced in 1983 and with a couple of breaks appeared on a fairly regular basis on the show through its cancellation. Of the four Marler siblings, Ross was a mainstay until his death (portrayer Jerry Van Dorn jumped soaps after he was taken off contract), Justin was sorely missed after he was written off and mentioned occasionally, Lanie I had forgotten even existed until I started watching old clips on YouTube, and Ben Warren, a half-sibling given up for adoption, left a long lasting impact on the town during his short run. Hillary Bauer, one of my favorite heroines and part of the extremely core Bauer family, was blown up by an exploding music box and Johnny Bauer, after a rather annoying attempt to turn him into the next religious figure on the show by having faith healed himself of cancer, was written out and, thankfully never mentioned again.

Couple Codes – This is another term that I made up myself to fill a gap in terminology. There has been a trend  for the last 15 years or so to create a name for a couple by combining their two first names. For example, Michelle + Danny = Manny, Michelle + Jesse = Messe, and Josh + Reva = Jeva, etc.

This combined name is often used with -ers added on the end to describe fans of the characters. Sometimes they try to make it a real word, but usually it just has to be pronounceable. My favorite all time name is Carjack from As the World Turns and LuRe from the same show probably takes second. Amazingly enough, I haven’t been able to find any sort of list for these abbreviations or a term for them. I made up my own term and have a list under the “Couple Codes” link on my blog of Guiding Light couples. Recently I’ve noticed a new name for couple codes being used on Twitter – Smush words or Smush names.  I still like couple code the best because I think it’s clearest, but as I like to keep the list up to date, I wanted to point out all three of these terms mean the same thing.
Day Player – A day player is an actor who has a character, but it isn’t intended to be long term. Normally the character doesn’t have a backstory or connections to people on the soap, but serves a purpose or function. So for example, an actor miming talking to someone at a table in the back of a restaurant scene would be an extra. A hotel clerk that actually speaks to the characters or a suddenly needed out of town doctor or pilot on a plane going down would be a day player. Sometimes these roles can develop into something more. Most famously the character of Lisa Miller was brought onto As The World Turns as a day player, just another date of Bob’s, and was supposed to have about 3 episodes. She celebrated 50 years on the canceled soap.
DaysDays of Our Lives aka DOOL
Daytime Drama – During the 1970s and 1980s, there was a push to try and get more respect for soaps by changing what they are called. The terms soaps and soap operas were out and daytime dramas was in. This attitude is reflected in the movie Tootsie (1982), which was partially set in soap opera production studio, they had a “swear” jar where they had to put in money anytime someone on the set used the terms soap or soap opera. However, amazingly enough, changing what they were called within the industry didn’t change attitudes outside it and the terms soap and soap opera were too deeply ingrained in the culture. They did succeed enough to make daytime drama a fully accepted synonym for soap. See Soap
Disturbingly Avid Fan – Normally the exact origin of a particular term of soap opera jargon is hard to trace down, but this time we know exactly where it came from. The second season of behind the scenes soap opera spoof Steamboat introduced the character of Larry Trout who is described as an “Disturbingly Avid Fan.” This immediately struck a chord with viewers who self-identified on Twitter immediately as Disturbingly Avid Fans. While the Trout character clearly is the type to have a collection of  restraining orders, most self-identified fans just mean really devoted, big fans of a show. It has quickly spread through the online soap fandom. See the introduction of this term in the identifying phrase under Larry Trout’s name in the clip below.

DOOLDays of Our Lives aka Days

Dual Roles – A common phenomenon on soaps is the creation of a doppelganger or exact physical duplicate of a character already on the  canvas. These characters are played by the same actor or actress creating challenges as scenes with both of them have to be shot twice after a wardrobe switch. Sometimes these characters are long lost twins (such as Rose and Lily on As the World Turns), sometimes they are the result of cosmetic surgery (Shelia Carter returning looking just like Phyllis Summers on The Young and the Restless), and sometimes just something strange (Dolly was Reva’s clone on Guiding Light). (Starts at 1:30) Doppelgangers are very common on soaps, but do occasionally cross over to main stream productions. For example, Walt Disney’s original The Parent Trap very famously starred Haley Mills and Haley Mills as the twins. On episodic prime time shows such doppelgangers often turn up for a single episode for example in the episode “Odds On A Dead Pigeon” of Scarecrow and Mrs. King an assassin gets plastic surgery to look exactly like Amanda King, but these usually don’t outlast a single episode. In a clever twist on the concept that I’ve never seen repeated, the character of Reese meets someone who he doesn’t look like him, but SOUNDS exactly like him in the late 1960s Comedy Western Laredo. Guiding Light as a rule didn’t do very many dual roles. Almost all of them were short term story arcs and often took place within fantasy set ups. For example, during one story arc Harley Jane Kozak who played Annabelle Simms Reardon also appeared as her own mother in a series of flashbacks that eventually uncovered the truth behind her mother’s death. They did use looks alikes to explain returns from the dead, for example Lujack was dead so when his actor wanted to come back he developed a twin in Nick McHenry and during one of the times Beth Raines Spaulding “died” a duplicate lookalike named Loreli Hills (really a DID alter) returned and assumed her life. As the World Turns tended to play their dual characters over a long arc with the secondary character being fully fleshed out with individual relationships and not just a copy or an evil version of the original twin.  The two longest running dual roles were Frannie and Sabrina Hughes with a complex heredity that made them almost full sisters (after a few years they eventually gave up and they became only similar looking – originally Julianne Moore held the dual role) and Rose D’Angelo and Lily Walsh Snyder who were identical twins separated at birth. However, the duplication of their appearance was secondary to them both being real characters. For instance, Rose had a completely different set of relationships of her own including being friends with Emily Stewart who Lily couldn’t stand. Lately the Young and the Restless has gotten criticized with having way too many doppelgangers. For example, we’ve had Shelia/Phyllis, Lauren/Sarah, Patty/Emily just to name a few in just the last few years. However, the prize for the most dual roles by an individual will probably always belong to Eileen Davidson (most famous for appearing as Ashley Abbot on The Young and the Restless). During her first tenure on Days of Our Lives, Davidson played 5 roles at the same time including one who was a man. Sometimes these are called multiple roles, especially if like in Davidson’s case, the number stretches to more than two characters. See Sudden Dopplegangers

Edge Edge of Night

End Credits – See Closing Credits

Excessive Pre-Commercial Pausing aka EPCP – “Dark Shadows Everyday” is a lovely analytic blog about the soap Dark Shadows. Its audience is usually more from the world of sci fi/horror fans rather than from the world of soaps so the author explains soap tropes from time to time. His term of this post is EPCP. This fits very well with my definition of the type of scene called a tag. However, EPCP specifically refers to the actions of the actors in the scene. Specifically the long pause that they often make right before the commercial break right after something that leaves you in suspense over something to help keep you tuned in through that break to see what happens. Surprisingly the most stark example of this on air right now is not on a soap, but on the scripted “reality” show Pawn Stars on the History channel. Although it doesn’t happen before a commercial, they always edit in a lengthy pause to gain your attention and interest right before they give the estimated value of each item when an expert comes in to appraise it. Find the “Dark Shadows Everyday” post that defines it with examples here: See Tag

Fan Wars – As the age of the supercouple started to dim, writers switched tactics and began to look for long term stable triangles. This form is most perfectly illustrated in the Bridge-Tridge triangle on The Bold and the Beautiful. For most of the run of the soap so far they have had Ridge swinging back and forth on a regular basis between Brooke and Taylor. Another notable example is Shick-Phick where Nick swung between Sharon and Phyllis on The Young and the Restless. Interestingly enough it is normally the man who swings. That probably has deep implications in what is supposed to be a woman centric medium. The negative part of this style of storytelling is that inflames tensions between groups of fans as they come to see the show as a zero sum game (meaning I can only win if you lose). While fan support of their couples traditionally involved positive things like sending things to the actors who played the couple or campaigns of sending a certain item to shows and fan magazines to gain attention for their couple in hopes of gaining either more airtime or a certain plot point (reunion, more sex scenes, a baby, etc.), a more negative tone has descended. Fans often say horrible things on Twitter, on YouTube comments, and most bitterly on online message boards about people  who are fans of a rival couple. Apparently there are grown people who actually think scouring YouTube for videos supporting their couples opponents and voting dislike or making horrible comments just because it’s for a couple they don’t support is a worthwhile use of their time. The fans who do this sort of thing are known as haters and they sadly give online fans in particular a bad name. This fighting between groups of fans are known as fan wars.

FCFalcon Crest – A primetime CBS Soap featuring the struggles of a family over California vineyards.

Flub a line aka Send up a line – Another general entertainment term also used by soaps. It basically means to say the wrong thing. Soaps are especially prone to them getting on air because in the beginning they were live and then after an all to brief heyday when there was money to re-do scenes multiple times, costs once again made re-dos rarer and even rarer still as the years have gone on. Here are a couple of examples. I don’t mean to pick on Joie Lenz who makes the mistake in both examples below, but I knew her stuff well enough to be able to find examples quickly.

  • In example one, Michelle attempts, but doesn’t quite manage to save her mistake. I’m sure the line was supposed to be “You think this is about Jesse” which would make sense. Instead she says “You think this is about Danny…” then she tries to tap dance around it. I think it would have been worth another take, but I guess the director didn’t. Listen at 1:42 into the clip.
  • Michelle sends up another line when she calls Ray Danny’s brother instead of his cousin while inviting Rick and Abby to attend Ray’s first mass. Listen at 7:52 into the clip.

Front-Burner – A character or couple on the front burner is currently driving one of the major storylines on the show. Most actors want their character or their storyline to be Front-Burner. They are on more often and usually have meatier material. Depending on the length of the show and how big an umbrella storyline might be, soaps normally have between 3 and 5 front burner stories and then a few backburner stories. In a well plotted show all of the front burner stories are at different points of development. One is beginning, one is in the middle, and one is reaching a conclusion. Most characters on a soap opera are either front-burner or backburner at any given time. On a well written, well regulated soap after a major front-burner story a character rotates into a period of rest for the character which gives other characters a chance to advance their story and rests the formerly front-burner character.  Contract status can also influence whether you are backburner or front-burner. TPTB want to make sure people in front-burner storylines are available to them which means people on contract, so it’s harder to get story if you aren’t on contract. See Backburner and On Contract

GHGeneral Hospital

Ghosts – There used to be so many soaps that they had various subgenres like mystery, medical, comedy, gothic. Elements of these were often copied by mainline soaps. Usually these elements are used rarely  and far between, but one fantasy element that is used regularly is the appearance of ghosts. This most frequently happens when a fan favorite with an important role in the story is killed off. They often make a short return appearance at some key point of crisis for a loved one they left behind. This lets fans see a favorite without the show having to make a deal with the actor or actress for them to be long term. The problem with it can arise when said actor or actress later returns to the show full time and their resurrection makes nonsense of the previous ghost story. The best example (because the ghost story was so long term and involved multiple people interacting with the ghost) was on Guiding Light when Ghost Reva was brought back initially to try and transition viewers to supporting a Josh-Annie relationship going forward, but everything clicked and at the end of the story she woke up alive and the “ghost” was explained as a astral projection. Another example was when Taylor Hayes Forrester, whose ghost visited to rather uncharacteristically give her blessing to Bridge, later turned up alive courtesy of Prince Omar. There was no attempt to explain this earlier “ghost” despite the fact that both Ridge and Brooke saw her at the same time. Although sometimes ghosts are a one time thing, they often appear on a recurring if irregular basis. Ghosts like Maureen Reardon Bauer and Jenna Bradshaw Cooper on Guiding Lightand John Abbott on The Young and the Restless appeared repeatedly when their love ones were in need of support, comfort, or faced a turning point in their lives. The explanations for these ghosts are varied and can shift over time even for one particular ghost. They can be explained as real ghosts, angels, the wishes or consciences of their loved ones, but they often appear to multiple characters, move independently, have independent opinions, and often can interact with the physical world.

Gift Wrapping – Gift wrapping is very different on soaps compared to real life. It’s always done a particular way. In real life presents are often either wrapped just around the item itself or around any box. The presents are odd shapes. On soap opera presents are always wrapped the same way with two exceptions. 1. sometimes jewelry cases just have big elaborate bows 2. sometimes if the goal is to show a kid tearing open the wrapping paper, especially on a really big gift, they are wrapped like in real life. However, normally they follow this pattern.

  1. Find box with separate removable lid. (No flaps or clam shell style boxes allowed.)
  2. Wrap each part of the box separately going over each edge approximately 2 inches.
  3. Optional: wrap ribbon in middle of each side creating an X. Do the lid and box separately but line up so can’t tell separate.
  4. Put big elaborate bow on top with To/From tag.
  5. Wrap item in abundant tissue paper.
  6. The lid remains totally separate from the box so when unwrapped absolutely no paper will be torn.

See an example here, you can click on the hot link or move the slider to 6:23 to get to the exact place.

GLGuiding Light

Grief Sex – Grief Sex is sex that happens between two people who wouldn’t normally be having sex, but when faced by the grief of a huge and normally mutual loss, seek comfort by having sex with each other. This is a well established trope on soap operas. The concept dates back at least to 1985 when Ed Bauer and Claire Ramsey had sex when they thought the loves of their respective lives (Maureen Reardon Bauer and Fletcher Reade) had been killed in Beriut, resulting in the birth of the future Michelle Bauer Santos. The term itself is of more recent duration, but seems to be limited to soap opera fans (maybe also romance novel readers/writers?). A search for it in the full text New York Times brings up only one hit since 1855 and search of the PsychArticles database  (full text access to a massive amount of psychology articles) brings up none. So while the compulsion when faced with death to have sex to feel alive seems to be a real thing, grief sex appears to just be something invented by soap opera writers and related writers.

Guarantees – You’d like to think that real life doesn’t impact soap world much, but it does. If you are an actor or actresses on a soap on contract you have what is called a guarantee. It’s the number of episodes you’ll appear in a year. If they don’t write you in as many episodes as your guarantee, they have to pay you as if you appeared in the guaranteed number of shows whether you do or not. If you work more than your guarantee, they have to pay you extra. So if you approach your guarantee, you will often work less. See On and Off Contract and Recurring

Hater – Although not unique to the soap opera fandom, fairly unique to online fandom in general is a hater. Although it’s perfectly all right to dislike or even be disgusted by a couple or character or even to strongly dislike a particular actor or actress, a hater takes it to another level. They spend more time, usually daily, talking about how much they hate their target than the most ardent supporter spends saying how good they are. Although supposedly adults, they still make time for personal online attacks on their target’s supporters and even spend their time doing things like searching for fan videos about their target and voting dislike on YouTube videos about them and making inappropriate comments. In consequence they spend a lot of their time obsessing about something that makes them very unhappy. These are not healthy people and should be dealt with caution or preferably not engaged at all. They are just looking for someone to be a representative of their true target. Haters behavior and tactics are similar to online trolls. The difference between a troll and a hater is that a troll just generally want to create general trouble where a hater is more focused on creating trouble for particular people and the fans of particular people.

Hiding a Pregnancy – The almost unbroken production model of soap operas sometimes require flexibility and a suspension of disbelief that are uncommon in other genres. For example, actresses get pregnant when their characters aren’t and there isn’t time to wait until after they have the baby because production can’t wait. It isn’t unheard of though for other types of productions, for example, really look closely at Shirley Jones when she meets Robert Preston at the footbridge in the classic Music Man movie and in this late in production shot scene you can really see she has a corseted up baby bump once you know to look. On the sitcom Fraiser the character of Daphne goes on a psychological feeding frenzy and is fat for the season while her actress is pregnant. Although successfully concealing a pregnancy depends on both the skill of production team and on a woman who doesn’t show too much in her face (if the woman does they’re not fooling anybody), there are time honored techniques. The woman is often showed only from the chest up. They dress her in winter coats and empire waist clothes and swing coats. Large flowers displays often find themselves at the front of the camera blocking part of the woman’s body. Women suddenly find themselves carrying large bags and portfolios. In another non-soap example I thought was very clever when I heard about it, Catherine Bell is carrying a pile of books cut out to fit her extended stomach in a JAG sequence. Here are some Guiding Light examples. I focused on Blake because when I watched through the full episodes on Heartbreakers YouTube channel with episodes from 1997-1999, I saved links that showed some of the classic long term examples and Liz Keifer happened to be pregnant while Blake wasn’t during that run:

Highlight Clips – While soap operas are written as a single unit which mixes several storylines together each and every day, fans haven’t been able to leave them that way. Whether it was lack of storage space in a VHS tapes era or an impatience with “the boring stuff” many fans just string together the scenes of a particular character or a particular couple. These highlight clips aren’t necessarily every scene the characters are in and may cover several days worth of episodes.  What a particular person saves may be less or more than another fan saves leading to a difference in clips. Originally they were made by hooking two VCRs together. Some are even from pointing a video camera at a TV. Repeated taping over of tape for whole episodes can also lower quality. These tapes were blackmarketed through fandom for years and while some collectors  have taken their footage to YouTube to share, I’ve heard that a lively trade in old episode tapes still exists. (For you economists out there, this is a clear failure of the market is why P&G ought to be SELLING episodes!) For Guiding Light you’ll find YouTube channels that show all the scenes of  Ben Reade (as played by Matt Bomer) and Ben Warren (Hunt Block). You’ll also find channels dedicated to particular couples Quola, Bloss, Jeva, Otalia, etc. Both GLdannynmichelle and Freckles337 have posted highlight clips of Manny. Below is an example for comparison it includes two sets of highlight clips covering the same episode and links to the full episode. I have also included a description of the Manny scenes from the full episode. Tues., Dec. 29, 1998 – Danny Santos cockily walks into the gang’s apartment and greets Michelle with a great kiss, “Morning Sexy” right in front of Jesse. Jesse, blind with rage, tries to attack Danny. Danny claims it is part of an assignment from their Psych class and lets Jesse know that he is now Michelle’s study partner, which she had kept from Jesse. Later, out in the hallway, Danny tells Drew that he kissed Michelle in order to prove his theory that Jesse, when provoked, could be violent enough to kill. Meanwhile, inside the apartment, Michelle confesses to Jesse that Danny has been bothering her for some time, in an attempt to coerce Jesse into confessing to murder. She tells Jesse about the first time Danny kissed her at the diner. Jesse then secretly decides his only choice is to leave town forever in order to keep Danny away from Michelle. [He’s too late; Michelle is already in Danny’s blood.] He confides in Bill and asks him to watch over Michelle. As Danny leaves Drew’s apartment, he is confronted by Sam Dietz who tells him that he has 48 hours to wrap up his investigation or else or else all 4 of his “friends” will be killed. Manny Highlights (Repeat at beginning more at the end about Jesse’s plan to leave town) Full Episode (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)

Ingenue – This term has fallen out of fashion, but used to be used especially on soaps awards show. In a non-soap setting it typically refers to ” a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome.” I’m sure it started out that way in soaps too. However, the meaning of the term fell pray to the uses of the industry. Soap awards used to include  ingenue categories as a sort of bridge between child actors and fully developed adult story leads. They often hedged quite a bit on the innocent and wholesome part to do so. Then the categories got caught up in gamesmanship where people who should have long ago moved on to supporting or lead categories and kept submitting themselves as ingenue to increase their odds of winning stretching the category out of any recognizable shape. I think as a result of this loss of any really meaning beyond woman on the slightly younger side lead to its disuse. I don’t often add a pronunciation tip, but will make an exception with this one. It’s pronounced roughly as On-Ja-New.

Inside the Light“Inside the Light” was one of Ellen Wheeler’s early attempts to change the format of the show. It was pretty much a failure of colossal proportions. Each and every Wednesday, instead of having a normal episode there would be some kind of “special” standalone episode. They sometimes involved the ongoing story and sometimes didn’t. Normally they focused on a specific character or two for the entire hour. That character or those characters were considered to be “Inside the Light” for that week. The first “Inside the Light” episode was Jan. 4, 2006. It lasted until the new format came in Feb. 29, 2008. Compounding the poor design, they didn’t clearly advertise what it was. The ads were all interviews with the actors and made it sound as if it was an interview show (which actually sounded interesting, but never materialized). People even wrote into soap magazines asking where this interview show was. Second, they wasted reveals and could burn through months worth of story in a single day. For instance, almost the whole Beth-Rick affair, instead of playing out over months was shown in one “Inside the Light.” Sometimes this focus was helpful and gave us background on a character to fill in the blanks (the A-M one was good that way), but you never knew what you were going to get. Once it was even a magic formula Alan Spaulding somehow derived from one of Coop’s novels (I know, I know) that made everyone forget who they were for an hour and explored alternative relationships and then they all forgot it ever happened. General fan consensus seemed to be that only the Jeva “Inside the Lights” were worth watching. In short, it gave us one day a week we could fairly safely skip, burned up story at a ridiculous pace and broke the rhythm of all the other stories. It never made any sense and was dropped when the “new format” came in. Here’s an example of a fairly typical, representative “Inside the Light” episode, “Sins of the Father – Jonathan Randall Inside the Light” – This is part 1, but you should be able to follow the rest from there. Here’s a post about another example of a more far out “Inside the Light” episode, “She’s a Marvel – Harley Cooper Inside the Light.” Here’s a post about “Hurricane Katrina – Inside the Light.” Here’s an example of their misleading advertising, this one featuring Crystal Chappel (Olivia Spencer) Another related tack they took for promoting the show, this one with Marcy Rylan (Lizzie Spaulding Lewis #6)

Interrupted Wedding – See Almost Wedding

JIP – See Joined in Progress

Joined in Progress aka JIP – Although fans don’t use it themselves they often hear this phrase “We now join our regularly scheduled programming already in progress.” For some reason (soap fans believe it’s a basic lack of respect for the importance of soap operas) soaps tend to get interrupted by press conferences (or sometimes even live footage of a closed door waiting for press conference to begin), “breaking news” that could clearly wait until the evening news, or the slightest whim of TPTB. How many times have you ever seen coverage of, say a football game, interrupted by anything accept to check in on another football game being held at the same time? I can’t say I ever have either. While sometimes the interruptions are legitimate, I don’t remember hearing a single complaint about the entire week soaps were off during the entire week after 9-11 for example and many people movingly remember Nancy’s face in her scene with Chris before Walter Cronkite cut in with the news about the Kennedy assassination, attempts to be seen as current as the 24 hour news channels that has to have SOMETHING to talk about all day everyday make TPTB break in more and more frequently. I’d say the rule don’t break in unless you would during a football game would be a helpful rule. When the interruption is over the voice over says the line I gave above meaning that they aren’t going to start where they cut out and you just missed what was in the middle. Sometimes this causes great consternation to soap fans for example an interruption caused many fans to miss Reva’s funeral. Kim Zimmer herself said she never got to see it until several years later when she was on a primetime soap salute. TPTB said not everybody missed because of the time differences in airing the show and it had so many flashbacks they didn’t feel they could reshow it as a flashback, so fans were just out of luck. While fans hear the joined in progress line a lot, in some area’s of the broadcast industry it’s slang to just say that you’re going to JIP a program – a suitable acronym indeed.

Jumping Soaps – No matter how well you do with a soap role there is a chance that it will end. A storyline might end, the other half of a supercouple might decide to leave, or the new executive producer or other TPTB might be an idiot. When that happens an actor or actress well known in the soap field can “jump” to another soap opera. Sometimes these jumps are successful and sometimes they aren’t.  An example of a successful jumper is Ellen Dolan originated the role of Maureen Reardon and then jumped soaps to an even more successful run as Margo Hughes on As The World Turns. An example of an unsuccessful jump was made by Marcy Walker, who had been successful on both All My Children and Santa Barbara. Walker made a forgettable almost 2 year run as Tangie Hill, set up as a romantic interest for Josh Lewis while Reva was gone from 1993 to 1995. She never caught on, mostly due to resentful Jeva fans, angry that someone was trying to fill Kim Zimmer’s role on the show, even though it was Zimmer’s choice to leave. Sometimes an actor makes short runs on a number of soaps and becomes known as a soap jumper. An example of a soap jumper is actor Hunt Block who had a memorable run as Guiding Light‘s Ben Warren. Block also has appeared on One Life to Live, As the World TurnsAll My Children and the prime time soap, Knots Landing. Mark Pinter (Mark Evans/Brad Green) also appeared on Another World, As the World Turns, General Hospital, All My Children, and Loving.  on #AW, #GL and #ATWT (with clips)! He was also on #GH, #AMC, #Loving Often soaps look for actors to jump from other soaps. Sometimes they hope that new viewers will follow from the performer’s previous soap. Also, soaps require a lot more memorization and a quicker turn around than other acting venues, which require a specific skill set that you are sure that an established soap actor can handle.

KLKnots Landing, a prime time soap

Lampshade hanging – This is another term I picked up from Dark Shadows Everyday, but this time he didn’t invent it. He refers to a page on TVTropes that uses this term and gives examples of a couple of others that mean pretty much the same thing. It means that when something implausible comes up in the storyline (and it has to be something big and a major focus for them to bother, see retcon and send up a line), rather than completely ignore it, the writers mention it in the script, have a character or characters react skeptically and then move on to acceptance, hoping the audience will too. This way they aren’t insulting the audience that they won’t remember, but lets them move on to a new storyline which is always the most important thing in soaps. Another way to handle the situation is to deal with by creating another implausible MacGuffin to handle it. For example, even if they could clone Reva on Guiding Light, new clones are by definition babies, so they invented an aging formula to get the clone to the right age to actually be a duplicate of Reva.

Read more about Lampshade hanging here:

Read Dark Shadows Everyday’s reference here:

Legacy Character – Although this is an incredibly soft term and seems to be used different ways by different people, a true legacy character is one that actually was born on the show. Other people use it to describe a member of a core family or even someone who has merely been on the show a long time. These are considerable weakenings  of a term that is almost exclusive to soap operas. Only on a long running soap or possibly a science fiction franchise with multiple outlets do you have the possibility of literally knowing a character from cradle to grave in real time (with allowances made for SORAS-ing). Guiding Light, with it’s nearly impossible to equal 72 years, has a long list of legacy characters that we knew as children and into adulthood. The following list is the character name followed by their year of birth onscreen. Only characters whose birth was actually shown or talked about contemporaneously (for example, Jenna was shown pregnant on the show and called Vanessa to announce the birth) and we saw as older children,  teens or adults are included. I have not included “sudden” children that were rewritten into the soap’s history (like Dylan Lewis or Jonathan Randall, both sudden children of Reva Shayne Lewis) and am probably missing some, please feel free to add to the list.

  • Mike Bauer (1954)
  • Ed Bauer (1958)
  • Hope Bauer Spaulding (1963)
  • Rick Bauer (1970)
  • Blake Thorpe Marler (1975)
  • Alan-Michael Spaulding (1981)
  • Anastasia “Stacey” Louise Chamberlain (1982)
  • Anthony James Chamberlain (1984)
  • Michelle Bauer Santos (1985)
  • Bill Lewis aka H.B. Lewis III (1985)
  • Ben Reade (1986)
  • Marah Lewis (1987)
  • Daisy Susan Lemay Cooper (1987 – a surprising case where instead of SORAS-ing she actually got younger)
  • Lizzie Spaulding Lewis (1990)
  • Shayne Lewis (1990)
  • Marina Cooper (1993)
  • Henry “Coop” Cooper (1994)
  • Marguerite “Meg” Meredith Reade (1996)
  • Kevin and Jason Marler (Twins – 1996)
  • Ian Stavros “Rocky” Cooper (1998)
  • Maureen Reardon (1998)
  • Alan Cooper “Zach” Spaulding (1999)
  • James Spaulding (2000)
  • Robbie Santos aka Robert Fredrico Santos (2001)
  • Jude Cooper Bauer (2001)
  • Clarissa Marler (2001)
  • Hope Santos (2005)
  • Sarah Randall (2006)
  • Leah Bauer (2006 – an especially drastic SORAS-ing)
  • Peyton Spaulding (2008 – although almost never shown)

There is also a definition of this term in comic books where a character takes on another one’s secret identity, but that has nothing to do with soaps.

Love Interest – A love interest is a character that another character takes a romantic interest in another character. In soaps you often have a single character with a chain of romantic interests. For example, Michelle Bauer had Bill Lewis, J. Chamberlain, Zachary Smith, and Jesse Blue. Then she met Danny Santos and there never really was anything else. Sometimes a character is introduced mainly to serve as a new love interest to a currently unattached main character. Sometimes these introduced characters catch on (for example Kyle Sampson and Richard Winslow were both introduced to be new love interests for Reva Shayne Lewis). Sometimes they are quickly escorted out the door (like Rob Layne). Often a main character will have 2 love interests at once and form a triangle.

Love Scene – Love scenes are one of the most important elements of a soap. Most fans are always wanting more love scenes for their favorite couple. A love scene is basically a sex scene, but must have a strong element of romance as well. How much nudity is involved depends on the exact set up. Actors and actresses are often given a few weeks warning, so they can put in extra time at the gym or on a diet to get in shape because they normally have to show quite a bit of skin. While love scenes always were occasionally set in exotic locations (the backs of limos, in swimming pools, etc.), previously they were mostly set in the bedroom. For the set up of these scenes props would get two sets of matching sheets. One of the flat sheets is wrapped around the woman like a sort of toga. This keeps relevant parts covered up, especially if there is a pillow talk scene afterward. The second set is put normally on the bed so it’s hard to tell that such precautions were taken. Now as the budget for sets has been reduced the only people who get to have sex in bed are those who live in lofts or hotel rooms whose beds are within line of sight of their door. If there is already a set for a house established as a living room or entryway, usually a second set for them including a bedroom is viewed as an unnecessary extravagance leading to an additional bedroom set being added in only the rarest of circumstances. This means that now couch sex is almost universally the rule. Sadly this is much harder to stage convincingly. Blankets and sheets sometimes appear out of thin air and sometimes the angles are so uncomfortable that even the fans at home squirm  watching (most notable in this category was the Sofia-Neil couch sex earlier this year on The Young and the Restless – I’ll refrain from linking to that if you missed it be glad – very glad). The following is more of a pillow talk scene, but does a nice job of demonstrating the use of the wrapped sheets. Click on time marker in the comments for exact start. Danny and Michelle have a love scene at their new house Orchid Manor Danny and Michelle have a love scene while the votes come in

Mannifield Players – In some of my fanfic story descriptions, I used the term Mannifield Players and it occurs to me that I should explain what I mean. In some Manny fanfiction, our beloved characters from the Manny storyline and the wider Guiding Light family are merged with famous characters from fiction, plays, fairytales, etc. While they keep their own names and characteristics, they blend in with these other famous roles. This rather struck me as being similar to a repertory theater company, where every week the same company puts on a different play. So to explain this type of story (whether they are doing Emma, Letter to Three Wives, Laura, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) I figured the shortest way to explain that this was the type of story that it was to say that it was a repertory doing their take on whatever work it is. Often these repertory companies are called the Something Players. I considered the Manny Players and the Springfield Players and decided to combine the two into Mannifield Players.

Mannyac – OK, I admit this one effects a pretty darn small section of the soap opera world, but as the unofficial site of all things Manny I realized I needed to define this. Manny is, of course, the couple code for Michelle Bauer and Danny Santos. (See more about this on the Couple Codes page) A Mannyac is what their fans call themselves. I, myself, would be a card carrying Mannyac – if we had cards, DARN we NEED cards. Feel free to shout in response with your own names for fans.

Miscast – A successful marriage of actor or actress with the right role is a magical spell. While thousands of actors have successfully played Hamlet, often roles are not so versatile being fashioned as much by the skill and personality of their performer as by their writers. Without them the role is like a puppet minus the puppeteer. While any number of actors COULD play a role successfully in certain cases a brilliant marriage of the perfect actor for that role takes place and fans sit up and take notice. Sometimes (see any number of failed careers after a single sitcom role ended) that is the only role the actor is perfect for or even good at (often such roles are very close to either the actor’s real personality or a persona they have carefully cultivated for a long time). Other times an actor could be a good at their job, but only within a limited range or it would take an extraordinary role for fans to accept them out of their range. An example of that would be Larry Hagman who was typecast as a comic actor with leading man looks after I Dream of Jeannie, but once he met J.R. Ewing on Dallas, no one would ever see him the same way again. However, this magic doesn’t always happen even with an incredibly skilled actor. If it’s established that a character is a certain age, suddenly making them 20 or 30 years older or younger is hard to deal with. Trying to sell someone with wonderful come hither eyes as an innocent ingenue won’t fly. Trying to make a character do stylized action moves when they are short and stout usually won’t work. In some cases the actor is just bad and was a bad choice to begin with. Other times they wanted to make a place for a name actor or actress on the show and there wasn’t one or forced to hire them the writer refuses to make one that makes any sense. In this case sometimes it can be turned around, but normally soaps cut their losses and either write the character off or try again. Sometimes as they are reintroducing a new character they will run through a string of actors or actresses in a short amount of time trying to get the right chemistry for the role which sometimes isn’t obvious until actually working on the set with the rest of the cast. When any of these negative things happen fans say a role is miscast.

Moving Out of Town – Another name for soap opera is continuing drama. That’s important because until the bitter cancellation hits, the story must go on. That’s true even if the characters, actors, or even core families or settings change. One popular device to write off a character is to “move them out of town.” This allows a character or more likely a couple to have a happily ever after. It gives them a reason to not be in town anymore, but preserves the option to bring the character or the couples back either for special occasions, as a recast, or as a return if whatever they left for doesn’t work out. A great example of this is Harley Cooper, played for most of her run by Beth Ehlers. Harley got a happy ever after send off when she married A.C. Mallet and they both were offered jobs at a police department in Florida. They took the jobs and “moved out of town.” Harley returned a few years later for the 60th anniversary celebration and made such a hit that they came to a deal and she was soon back on a regular basis. The Harlet marriage was broken up off screen to cover for the fact that Mark Derwin (A.C. Mallet) had moved on to another soap. The character of Mallet was later brought back as a recast. Harley moved out of town a second time when Beth Ehlers left for another soap. This time Harley was on the run from both the law and bad memories and moved to Greece. While “moving out of town” does allow for returns, it is typically more permanent than in real life. Years can go by when a long familiar face is no longer there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or at a very close loved ones wedding or funeral. It all depends on the ability of the actor or actress to return and the budget and inclination of the TPTB. Sometimes these glaring absences are at least accounted for with a one-sided phone call, letting everyone know why someone isn’t there or at least a mention that they were somehow in touch. Soap fans always appreciate these brief acknowledgments. For example, when Bill Lewis returned to Springfield from Venezuela in a sorry state, Vanessa of course called his best friend Michelle Bauer Santos who had “moved out of town” to California with husband Danny. Vanessa explained that if Hope, Michelle’s daughter, hadn’t been sick Michelle would have been on the next plane which she would have been. Mindy and Marah Lewis separately moved to Paris, France to design. Bridget Reardon Lewis, Dylan Lewis, and Bridget’s son Peter Jessup moved to Michigan to be closer to a blind school that Dylan attended after he was blinded. Rusty Shayne moved to a ranch near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hawk Shayne for years had a cushy job as caretaker of Cross Creek somewhere in Oklahoma. Mike Bauer got a job with the government and moved to Washington, D.C. Hope Bauer couldn’t bear to live in Springfield anymore after Alan broke her heart and moved to New York City. Nola Reardon Chamberlain and Quint Chamberlain left town to go on one of his many archeological digs. Floyd Parker, Chelsea Reardon, Marcus and Dahlia all left town separately to pursue their various musical careers. Amanda Wexler Spaulding Thorpe and Roger Thorpe moved to California to take over Spaulding’s western division. Several Spaulding family members rotated through Spauldings European divisions over he years.  Finally, Drew Jacobs, Jesse Blue, and Max Nickerson moved to New York City when Jesse got a commission to paint a mural there. Here’s an example of Drew Jacobs and Max Nickerson “moving out of town” to New York. Jesse had gone on ahead, but it’s a really nice example of Drew and Max saying goodbye and leaving. A reference to LAM not being at Pharley’s wedding after they’ve moved out of town. See at 9:53

Multiple Roles – See Dual Roles

Network System – The network system is not something that is divinely ordained. The network system developed on radio stations because it made sense for the INDIVIDUAL STATIONS. When radio first started every individual station paid for all its own programming. The way news is handled locally today, that used to be true for everything from talk shows to comedies to dramas. However, someone got the bright idea that if station A and station B aired the same dramas in different areas they could pool their resources and save money. Eventually this lead to the creation of national networks once the technology reached the point where shows could be shared nationally. These networks included NBC and CBS and naturally enough when TV was invented, it was built on the earlier system. As networks competed the important part became not merely the saving money, but the loyalty factor. It was all well and good to have an individual show be it a game show or talk show or drama that did well by itself, but the true test was whether the popularity of that individual show would get you tuning back in to that network for other shows. It was especially important that if there were two shows of average quality what would give one network the edge over the other.  What makes viewers loyal? What shows also make you more likely turn into other shows on the same network, especially the news shows? That type of loyalty exists only on soaps. Miss a day of a talk show or a game show and who cares? It will be around again and even if it doesn’t only extremely rarely does it effect your enjoyment of watching the show the next day. However, soap fans take on an incredible sense of loyalty. The soaps are “their shows” and they air on “their network.” Up until the latest soap decimation where four of the remaining shows were callously tossed aside, you still heard fans describing themselves as ABC soap fans or CBS soap fans. There was an identification with network that I’ve never heard from fans of other types of shows. You don’t hear people claim to be NBC basketball fans or ABC game show fans. They could care less which network their show airs on. It’s the individual show that’s important. This is shown through viewing patterns. On some level broadcast executives know this. It’s why they continue to add hours to the Today Show even though the sets, content, and official hosts change because they know that as soon as the show is over viewers will feel freer to change channels.  However, TPTB don’t seem to be showing an awareness of the value of the loyalty that soap opera block creates. By destroying these blocks they are destroying that built in loyalty. For years I watched the CBS Morning Show (and unlike a lot of people I actually was selected as a Nielsen household on 2 separate occasions and duly reported it) no matter how bad it got – and it got bad, REALLY BAD. However, I didn’t even try the ABC or NBC alternatives because CBS was my network. In my family because of soaps we watched whatever was on our local CBS affiliate all day. We’d change it during primetime, but even then we’d normally turn to CBS first and give them first shot at engaging us. I know other soap fans say similar things about ABC or NBC. By destroying the daytime soap block the networks have chosen short run cheapness over loyalty and it’s loyalty that gives belonging to a network value to the affiliates. By replacing soaps with knock offs of things easily duplicated for even cheaper amounts by syndicators (who directly sell shows to affiliates), networks have thrown that loyalty overboard and if it’s just a matter of cheapness what real benefit does an individual affiliate station get over showing The Talk or The Chew than Judge Judy? Especially since Judge Judy comes without having prepaid network advertising whose profits go to the networks and not the affiliates. Right now it’s loyalty and inertia that keep affiliates in network and they don’t have to be. The vast majority of affiliates aren’t owned by the network, but by private independent companies or people. Right now many local channels exist and make a profit without being the affiliate of a major network. Some exist and are profitable without being an affiliate of even a minor network that only provides network material for a very limited part of the day. I am no longer afraid for the soap genre. It may change, but it’s going to continue and even if it would die, like a soap character (since soaps don’t need much in the way of special skills or infrastructure which makes the western and full scale musical hard to restart) it could easily rise again the way sitcoms, doctor, and lawyer shows periodically fall out of fashion and then reappear. However, I really think that the broadcast networks have gotten so concerned about their own problems that they’ve failed to take into account that a lot of how they work is dependent on local affiliates. Independently owned affiliates that valued networks for the loyalty that soaps built. Without out that loyalty that networks have callously tossed aside, who needs a network? Not most affiliates. I think some future media historian, perhaps one that is already writing today, will ascribe April 1, 2009 (the day CBS announced the cancellation of Guiding Light) not as the final death knell of the soap opera, but of the broadcast network, unless they change their ways and quickly and I don’t hold out much hope of that happening.

Newbie – Newbie is a pejorative term for an actor or actress new to soaps. Sometimes you are proven wrong and they surprise you, but usually they seem to have been chosen for their physical attractiveness rather than their often nonexistent acting skills. A newbie may be male or female. Most are in their teens or early 20s. They tend to over populate any standard summer teen storyline. However, these pretty boys and girls can be anywhere up to their thirties. The important distinguishing traits are their beauty and nontalent. The clip below, from the Guiding Light spoof – Misguiding Light, makes fun of the newbie concept starting at 3:00, even if they don’t use the term. It’s extra ironic because the character Romeo Jones from the clip was definitely a good example of one. Newbie can also be used in a less pejorative way to describe an actor new to soaps playing a new character with few, if any, ties to characters already on the canvas. However, the pejorative use is the more common one.

Next Week on – See Tune in Tomorrow

Nonwedding – See Almost Wedding

Nu – Nu is a prefix that is put before a character name when it has been recently recast. Normally it’s only used for a relatively short time before a new actor or actress is accepted in the role. Sometimes, however, a recast doesn’t take. Then even if an actor remains in the role,  he or she never shakes the nu label. For example Nicole Forester was always the nuCassie and Brian Gaskill was always nuDylan (so much so that his original portrayer Morgan Englund returned for the finale week). However, nuMarah only lasted a short time with most of the recasts. It’s pronounced new, as in new Cassie. There is nothing necessarily pejorative in the term, unless it has been a long time since the recast, but a large number of nu’s in the cast at once is often cause for derision from fans and can lessen emotional impact of scenes and it can be used in a negative way even in the case of a recent recast. Even if there is general acceptance of an actor or actress in the part, some fans may never come around to accepting them in that role and personally continue to use the nu prefix, long after fandom in general has accepted the recast. See recast and and future entry on newbie.

Off canvas – See canvas

Off Contract – Some people work on a soap off contract. Normally the phrase is used in the context that someone “has been taken off contract.” Some soap stars work for years without a contract. It basically means that you only get paid for the days you actually work with no guarantee (a contractual promise to pay you for a certain number of days a week whether they use you or not). Soaps often see this as a money saving measure and sometimes actors prefer to work this way. It is a risk for TPTB. An actor may not be available on the days that you want them to work and they might even jump ship when they are taken off contract. That’s exactly what happened with Jerry ver Dorn (Ross Marler). He was taken off contract as Ross Marler and almost immediately jumped soaps, which is why Ross is wearing that awful mustache in his last few scenes, the actor he replaced as Clint wore one, although once they saw ver Dorn’s, OLTL forgot it . Similarly Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding) was taken off contract when Phillip was “temporarily” killed. They thought he’d return whenever they asked him, but rightfully insulted by the way TPTB handled his “death” he refused to return until what ended up being the final year of the storied soap bringing with him a renaissance of story even before the finale was announced. See On Contract, Recurring, and Guarantees

Offline Soap Fan – Very few people would self-identify as an offline soap fan. They just think of themselves as soap opera fans. However, online soap fans do talk about Offline Soap Fans and make reference to perceived differences between the two parts of soap fandom. There are many kinds of offline fans. Some just watch the shows. Others watch, plus buy magazines. Some even go as far as attending fan events. They communicate with shows, stars and other fans (via magazines) by physically writing and mailing letters, cards, etc. While by default a lot of older fans are offline fans, there are plenty of exceptions where older people are online. I would say you could only start calling me an online fan since 2009. I went online for other things. I was on listservs for other topics by the early 1990s. I had built my first website by the late 1990s. I was blogging on other things by mid-2000s, but somehow it just never occurred to me to go online and look for soap stuff. I read all the soap magazines regularly and they certainly didn’t talk about what’s going online. This has changed, Soaps In Depth does an outstanding job of reporting that there are online soap conversations going on and where they are. I think there must be many other people out there who just haven’t found the party online yet. I hope they do. I’m not a better soap fan for going online, but I have a lot more fun and a lot more people to share my soap passion with since I’ve become an online soap fan. See Online Soap Fan

On Contract – Soaps often have a large cast. However, not all cast members are at the same level. They range from veterans and regulars to day players and under 5s to extras. The highest peak are those cast members who are on contract, also called contract players. They have a contract with the show. Normally these are regulars who are the leads or strongest supporting members of the cast or someone vital to an upcoming major story. For example, the actress who played Vivian Grant was put on contract when they got ready to do the big Charles is not really Gilly’s father reveal, but worked off contract for the rest of her run on the show. See Off Contract and Guarantees A contract normally spells out a guaranteed number of days that you will perform and if you are not written for that number of shows, you are still in them, which is why shows put an emphasis on contract players in any storyline. It also spells out what you can’t do, usually in terms of taking other jobs, and sets a rate of pay. A frequent element that actors desire is an “out” which provides you the opportunity to work on some other project either while you are doing your regular show or giving you a block of time to go off and say make a movie. Some actors regularly schedule these outs as long vacations, but that seems to be more common on non-CBS soaps. Typically a contract is for 2 or 3 years, but in some cases they do 1 year contracts. Normally while the actor or actress is required to stay there the entire run of the contract if the show wants them to, the shows have the option of releasing the actor once during each 13 week cycle. Beverly McKinsey who played Alexandra Spaulding #1 got a similar element in her contract, but from the other side. In 1992, she got ready to leave on vacation and then announced she wasn’t coming back afterward (the prearranged vacation was the length of the notice she was required to give). You can work for a show for years without being on contract. See off contract, guarantees, and recurring.

On the Backburner – See Backburner

One True Pairing – See OTP

Online Soap Fan aka Online Fan –  I didn’t realize this until the last few years, but there is a big division among soap opera fans. I’m not talking about over which show is the best or which pair should be together in a triangle or who is getting too much or too little screen time (although these are all other big points of division). The biggest divide in soap fandom is between on and off line fans. An offline fan can be just as big a fan as an online fan, but their experience and knowledge base is much different. An online fan still has all the resources and activities open to them as offline fans, but there is also so much more. Online fans soon discover groups of other people who are just as big of fans as they are. This can be on discussion boards, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Having a large group of friends to discuss your stories only increases your enjoyment of them. It also pulls you in deeper. Suddenly you find yourself writing detailed blog or discussion board posts, you may feel a need to make a video and you certainly feel the need to watch other people’s videos. Twitter and Facebook especially have created spaces where you can chat back and forth with a star. Tina Sloan and Michael O’Leary have both mailed me things, me personally. That never would have even been in the realm of possibility if I was still an offline fan. You also find out things a lot faster. I’m sure everyone in my online groups found out about the ATWT DVD set well before any of my offline fan friends did. I told most of my offline fan friends and relatives myself.  Also, I regularly chat with editors from CBS Soaps in Depth and the We Love Soaps site that wouldn’t have happened if I was offline and I learn a lot for the conversations and enjoy stretching my mind for other viewpoints. Unfortunately on the other side, there is a lot of negativity in online soap fandom if you don’t watch yourself. Many discussion boards are avoided by sane people, as are some couple focused podcasts. There are people, supposedly mature people, who will go through YouTube searching for videos made in honor of a couple they don’t care for, just to vote dislike and make nasty comments. (If anyone has time enough to do this, please contact me, I’d be glad to come up with a list of far more useful endeavors.) Perceptions of online and offline fans can be very different and polls show these differences of opinion on characters, storylines, when and how soaps are watched, etc. However, I encourage offline people to test the waters of coming online. On Twitter especially I’ve found a group of people who I enjoy watching soaps with. I don’t have neighbors who watch soaps and I’m not usually home when they are on (although sometimes I am), but whether I’m actually watching live or not I always enjoy the show more when I can discuss it with fellow fans. I think Twitter has given us back talking soaps over the backfence and I for one am very grateful. I hesitated a long time before I signed up for Twitter and now I’m sorry that I hesitated. I’m especially sorry I that I missed the part that was Manny online fandom at its height, from what remains online it was a heck of a party. Learn from my mistake and join the current soap party.

Opening Credits – Sometimes the very first scene of the show, but normally shown after a few scenes to try to tempt you to watch the rest of the episode, opening credits serve as a brand for the soap. Typically opening credits include a selection of short highlights from the show, but occasionally also include scenes, bits, and shots created specifically to be shown in the opening credits. They give a clue about what music that was popular at that time and what people expected from the soap. Although many times over the years “experts” have declared that opening credits are unnecessary, they still serve a very functional role of creating an anticipatory set, creating an expectation of what the audience can expect to see. Opening credits are often hard to judge because people normally like best the one that was in use when they started watching. See how the opening changed over the years below. I did absolutely no independent research on these openings and basically took the uploaders word for the date of each one. In some cases they said the opening started to be used in a certain year, but the recording was actually from a different year while it was still in use. In those cases I used the second year because even without a major revamp TPTB tended to make small changes as cast changes were made or visually impressive scenes were shot. The first one is from the year after Guiding Light jumped to television and goes through the final episode.

OTP – One True Pairing – Or the only people that you believe could possibly form a happy and lifelong relationship. The phrase OTP appears to be an online phrase. I’ve only caught one glimpse of it in the wild, but an online dictionary confirmed what the acronym stood for. Examples of my OTP would be Manny, Quola, Vanilly, etc.  I’m thinking maybe it’s in use on message boards more because except for the Manny one and Guiding Light Central I don’t go there too often. Since this is a new phrase for me, if anyone else wants to add more information please leave a comment. Be aware that OTP is also the acronym for one time password another online phrase with a different context altogether, although now that I think about it maybe the concept between the two aren’t that different after all.

Out – Many soap actors and actresses remain on a soap for years. The longer they are there, the larger the fan base, and the stronger position they are in when comes time to negotiate their contracts. However, in recent years soaps haven’t had a lot of money for raises, so stars often try for other things instead. One of these is called an out. Normally if you are contract actor and you want to do a project somewhere else, you have to get permission from the bosses before you can take on an additional project. This might be a play, a commercial, a primetime episode, a movie, etc. Usually soaps seem to be pretty good with working with people, but actors have been fired for accepting outside jobs that conflict. An out in a contract guarantees that if a project comes up they are legally bound to give the time necessary to do the project. Usually there is a maximum amount of time set, but how much is part of the negotiation. Having an out in your contract doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily exercise it if the right project doesn’t come up. An example of permission not being given was that Jerry ver Dorn (Ross Marler) was supposed to come back the last week so Blake would have talked to Ross’ ghost/memory whatever, instead of his tombstone, but ver Dorn is under contract to One Life to Live and they wouldn’t grant him permission to do it. See contract player.

P&G – See Proctor & Gamble

Pairing – When one character is put with another character within a soap, it’s called a pairing. This is a broader term typically used for couple, but it is a little looser concept so it fits better with potential couples and those that never were actually linked up on screen. It can even be used for a connection between characters that may or may not be romantic, like friends, partners, or family members. This term also allows a broader concept even within the romantic couple idea so it is a bit more analytical and outside of the box when fans discuss this pairing over that one. Often fans are pulling for a pairing that hasn’t come together yet. See also OTP and the Couple Code page.

Past Lives – Soap operas are the most mainstream entertainment to take the concept of reincarnation seriously. Although past live stories are not the strangest thing on soaps, it is one of the most frequently repeated supernatural elements. Usually what happens is that a character starts to have dreams or flashbacks to a past life. In this past life they are surrounded by people they know in the current timeline of the soap (this is actually part of the theory of reincarnation that you tend to be drawn to the same group of souls in new bodies – so someone who was your brother in one life, might be a good friend in the next, except that they don’t literally look alike as soaps show), but the people we know on the current soap are all in period costume and are slightly different. This gives the writers a chance to play out what if scenarios. (What if she killed him? What if she was married to him instead?) Sometimes they use it for testing outcomes in the current timeline, sometimes play out justice that they don’t want to happen in this life (who wants to really kill off or send off campus a perfectly good villain when a vicarious comeuppance buys some more time), sometimes it foreshadows future events. Time Travel storylines are slightly less frequent, but still common on soaps. The difference between the two is that a past lives story the character (or sometimes multiple characters) can only remember the past, they can’t influence it (even though memories of the past can influence the present) where in a Time Travel story the person from the present can actually interact with people in the past and change events. Examples of past live stories include Tony-Annabelle-Jim’s Barbados fueled 19th century flashbacks in Guiding Light and probably most famously James-Barbara-Gunnar in the 18th century on As the World Turns. Both Dark Shadows and Passions incorporated multiple and near constant past life remembrances.

Playing the Beats – This is one of the post important phrases of soap opera jargon and one that fans and executives struggle over is the balance of playing the beats. One of the things that makes a soap unique is that everything doesn’t have to be wrapped up in a bow in 90 minutes. You can see the consequences of any action play out. Playing the beats references to both showing the consequences, but also the reactions and ripples of any event. For example, if someone is pregnant playing the beats would involve them discussing trying to have a baby & everyone in town would weigh in, probably some conception issues, investigations of other ways, her getting pregnant and then the reactions of everyone in town as they find out. In a soap that plays the beats, fan reaction to a particular juicy development is likely to be “Oh just wait until XXXX finds out!” with XXXX being a sister, ex-wife, father, arch enemy, etc. When a soap doesn’t play the beats a soap gives up one of its main advantages. However, soap executives don’t seem to understand this. They routinely try to speed up the pace of the plot by skipping important beats. Fans hate when soaps don’t play the beats.

Portmanteau – See Couple Code

Post-Tape – See Pre and Post Tape

Pre and Post Tape – Soap operas have used several systems of taping over the years. At first making the direct transfer from live broadcast to tape, soaps tended to tape straight through as if it was a play. Later they shot more out of order, but still tended to stick to filming the same episodes on a day, partly because actors, by union contract, are paid by the episode rather than by the day of work. However, sometimes something comes up and they can’t shoot all the scenes together. It may be that some shots will be done on location to be dropped into later episodes. Or that for some reason (pregnancy, another job) an actor or actress has to be gone for a length of time. In those cases, Pre or Post Taping shortens the length of time the character has to be off screen. Pre taping means the scenes are shot before the rest of the episode is shot. Post taping means scenes are shot after the rest of the episode is shot.

Pre-TapeSee Pre and Post Tape

Pregnant Pause – Kay Alden (soap writer) defined Pregnant Pause this way in the Sept./Oct. 2011 issue of Mental Floss magazine.  “The weighty moment of silence while viewers wait to see how a character will react to the ultimatum just delivered or the crisis suddenly  revealed. These seconds of waiting allow viewers to let their minds run completely rampant predicting what those next words will be.” In other words, this is an empty beat in a scene and story when one of two things could still potentially happen. Will the reaction be good or bad? Will the person be happy or horrified? Will they stay or go? Or have the writers come up with something completely different? It’s an important point in soaps and one that sadly gets skipped over too much today. That moment when you don’t know what’s going to happen draws you, makes you take a guess, in business terms it “creates buy in.” Then even if your guess is wrong you have a vested interest in seeing how it plays out. See Tag

Previews – See Tune in Tomorrows

Previously On – This was inspired by a New York Times blog post. The writer their tracked down which phrases were used when to introduce the segment that recapped what you needed to know about what previously happened on the show so you wouldn’t be lost in the current episode whether you missed it or just need your memory refreshed. This normally short segment usually starts out the episode. It’s often paired with the phrase “And now on XXX[Fill in the name of the show here]” at the end before you go into the  opening credits. According to this post from the New York Times: “Previously on” was first used in 1982 on Hill Street Blues part way through the second season and it proved so versatile that it was soon the industry standard, even on soap operas. Watch for examples of “Previously on” and let us know.

Proctor & Gamble – Procter & Gamble, known widely by their shorthand P&G, produced and sponsored the first radio soap opera in the 1930s (Procter & Gamble’s best known products were detergents (soaps) which was probably the genesis of the term “soap opera”). What was originally merely a way to advertise their other products, P&G soon became a force to be reckoned with producing programs. When the genre switched to television in the 1950s and 1960s, many of the new television serials were still sponsored and produced by the company. The serial The Young and the Restless is currently broadcast on CBS and is still partially sponsored by Procter & Gamble. It’s their last link to the world of soap opera. These serials were produced by Procter & Gamble:

  • Another World
  • As the World Turns
  • The Brighter Day
  • The Catlins
  • The Edge of Night
  • The First Hundred Years
  • From These Roots
  • Guiding Light
  • Lovers and Friends
  • Our Private World
  • Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins
  • Search for Tomorrow
  • Somerset
  • Texas
  • Young Doctor Malone

Procter & Gamble also dipped into prime time in 1965 they spun off a prime time soap from the daytime soap opera, As the World Turns called Our Private World focused around the popular character Lisa Miller Hughes. They continued to produce prime time shows, mostly specials, for decades. In an article dated April 15th in the Cincinnati Enquirer, quotes Marc Pritchard P&G global marketing officer as saying P&G was heading into another direction.  P&G in past decades produced other family shows than soaps such as the “People Choice Awards” and “Circus of the Stars” and more than 50 TV movies. However, they had slowly been cutting back production for years. Now they’re starting a new series of family oriented films to air Fridays on NBC in a partnership with Wal-Mart. The first one airs April 16th, 2010 and stars Paige Turco (GL’s Dinah Marler #2 – although the article misses this obvious connection – See for more about this 1st movie) Pritchard says that after ATWT goes P&G considers itself out of the soap opera business and says “I think they’ve run their course.” He also said they would not pursue re-entering the field of daytime drama. The link will only remain good for 30 days from the 15th after that ask your local library about database access, but I’ve paraphrased the relevant part above.  See We Love Soap’s post for a selection of quotes taken from throughout the article, although that is not clear from their post.

Product Placement – Soaps aren’t called soaps because they make you clean, the term soap refers to the original sponsors of the shows. (Look for a future definition of the term soap.) In early days it wasn’t unusual for the name of the product to be part of the title and for the actors from the show, either in character or as “themselves” to do any advertisements. Proctor and Gambles first soap was named Oxydol’s Own Ma Perkins. The products themselves were also worked into storylines. For example, Fiber McGee and Molly moved into a house (previously the show involved them driving around to a different town every week) chiefly so they could sing the praises of the then brand new Johnson Floor Wax. This tradition fell away over the years as the line between commercial and show solidified. In recent years however, the once firm line has once again grown blurry and viewers seem less tolerant of it. Guiding Light had several examples of this in its final years. Sadly I couldn’t find the two most obvious scenes I was looking for on YouTube, but will add them to the definition when I find them. The first involved a roadtrip to Washington D.C. with Edmund, Cassie, Jeffery, and Dinah going along, singing the praises of Pringles. Although not the most famous instance above in the episode linked to below at 9:40 Ross whips out a can of Pringles and they work it clumsily into the dialogue.
The second was during the “humorous” Bizzie pre-wedding episode, they actually construct a cake of Twinkies. However, the entire little convenience store set used once the change to handheld cameras came through was all about showcasing Proctor and Gamble products. The worst example I can remember on As The World Turns where an entire storyline involved Lisa recommending to Margo a new hair dye product. However, it’s NBC’s Days of Our Lives that has gotten the most press for this lately. As someone has already found the clips for me, I’m including them as examples, although I will add more CBS examples if I find them. More in depth article and more clips.

Quad – Similar to a Triangle (see entry), a quad is also a group of characters with interactive romances. Where a triangle consists of an original couple and spare, a quad normally starts out as two couples (although a short period where they are all friends and there are no romances yet sometimes is used as an introduction). In a quad these two couples interact chiefly with each other and some point the couples switch partners, and usually eventually switch back. It has more balance than does a triangle and has the benefit of having a storyline for all four people at once, rather than letting one person out in the cold at any given time. The all time classic quad is the Four Musketeers on Guiding Light, where after a brief friends time Phillip-Mindy and Rick-Beth hook up, quickly derailed by the supercouple Phillip-Beth and the smaller but still nice (plus an endgame) Rick-Mindy. In terms of Manny, their quad was originally an attempt to duplicate the Four Musketeers with Michelle, Jesse, Drew, and Bill, but they quickly decided Danny was the stronger bet and Bill was jettisoned to make room for him. See Triangle

Radio Slang – Check out some information about radio preformances and some slang.

Read – Much about soap operas are an illusion. “Brick” walls are plywood. “Diamonds” are cubic zirconium. “Alcohol” is often colored water or watered down juice, etc. Much depends on perception and part of that is the characteristics of actors and actresses. One of these is how they read or appear to the audience. To some extent read is in the eye of the beholder, but is often commonly accepted by the majority of the audience. A performer may read older or younger than their real age. This is how 20 year olds are hired to play teenagers. You’ll often hear she reads too young for that role or he reads too old for that role. Age is most often referenced, but other characteristics can be included. For example, Paul Anthony Stewart reads Hispanic even though that’s not his genetic heritage and so he was cast as Danny Santos. Other characters might read too higher class or not menacing enough for a particular role. It’s often difficult to tell how a character will read until they are seen on screen with their typical scene partners. When there is a quick multiple recast of a role, it’s normally because the performer didn’t read right.

Recaps – Soaps are a continuing drama. However, they can’t count on all viewers catching every single episode, so they have several ways of catching you up. In the radio days, often the announcer would merely give a brief synopsis that helped to set up the days action. Today it’s more elaborate than that. Often they will repeat a slightly restaged version of the scene at the end of the previous episode. Sometimes they have a soliloquy or a conversation where the character recounts recent events to catch up fans who missed an episode. Here’s an example where Michelle catches up Drew on recent events over the cell phone. Recap is both a noun and a verb. A recap is a synopsis or a brief summary of what has recently happened. To recap is to give a recap or synopsis. The magazine Soap Opera Digest gives weekly synopses on every soap and CBS Soaps in Depth and ABC Soaps in Depth provide biweekly updates of their individual network soaps. While there are no longer new episode recaps for GL, sadly enough, you can re-live the story or discover the date something happened on two different recap pages. The official CBS recaps are available here (from 1999-2009): Fan written recaps are available here (from 1996-2009):

Recast – An important part of a soap opera is that it is a continuing drama. The show must go on, sometimes that means even without an extremely popular actor or actress. That can either be either as a short term replacement due to illness or pregnancy (e.g. Haley Sparks replaced Beth Ehlers as Harley Cooper during both her pregnancies and in my book should have come back when Beth jumped ship) or a permanent replacement. Permanent replacements happen sometimes when they wanted to reimagine a character or when a popular actor becomes available from another soap and they want to make a place for them (e.g. Mary Stuart becoming Meta Bauer after Search for Tomorrow was canceled) or when the actor dies (e.g. After 1 failed attempt at replacement, Ron Raines took over as Alan Spaulding after Christopher Bernau’s death) or when the portrayer of a crucial character wants to leave to pursue other projects (e.g. Joie Lenz left for One Tree Hill and Nancy St. Alban took over as Michelle Santos). Recast can either be a verb or a noun. It’s used as a verb in “the part will be recast.” It’s also used as a noun to describe the actor or actress who has taken over a part from the actor or actress who originated the role. Michelle Bauer was a legacy character from one of the core families of Guiding Light. She was played by:

  1. Anna Tendler (November 4, 1985 to 1987)
  2. Rachel Miner (February 23, 1989 to June 13, 1995) Starting at 8:38
  3. Rebecca Budig (November 30, 1995 to November 4, 1998) Starting a few seconds into the clip
  4. (Bethany) Joie Lenz (November 5, 1998 to October 4, 2000)
  5. Nancy St. Alban (October 27, 2000 to November 22, 2005; July 2, 3 & 13, 2009; September 17, 2009)

Marah Lewis, another legacy character, was also recast:

  1. Marah 3 Kimberly Brown, starting at 7:00
  2. Marah 4 Lauren C. Mayhew starting at 4:44
  3. Marah 5 Laura Bell Bundy starting at the beginning of the clip
  4. Marah 6 Lindsey McKeon starting at 0:08

Look for future entries on originate, legacy character and nu.

Recreated Flashback – One of the great benefits of a daytime soap opera is that characters stories can stretch over decades and important plot points can be relived by showing flashbacks of them. While many can simply be culled from the tape archives, sometimes a flashback needs to be recreated. This happens when a character is recast (TPTB think that viewers wouldn’t be able to handle clips that include a previous actor or actress) or if something about the characters had to be shown from before they joined the show. When Dr. Ed Bauer, Michelle Bauer Santos’s father returned to the show, they had several re-created flashbacks of his encouraging her to be a doctor as a child.  There were several re-created flashbacks with Jeva over the years. Most memorably the time they first made love at Cross Creek as teenagers was shown, through heavy filters and soft lighting, done when the actors were closer to 40 than 18. Here is another flashback, recreated for the clone story, that shows Billy, Josh, and Reva as children, also at Cross Creek. Flashback recreated of Reva, Josh, and Billy at Cross Creek as children, right at the beginning of the clip Jeva’s 1st time flashback, Starts at 2:31, Open comments for link to exact spot

Recurring – Another level of actor employment is being recurring on a soap. When you recur your character is a part of the soap town community, but you are not on contract. You are scheduled when they want you and if you can do it great, if not, the character either just will not be there or they might have to discover there is “another” priest, waiter, hotel clerk, OB-GYN, etc. in town, when everybody seems to just use the services of one normally or a family member might just miss some family event with or without explanation. Some very well established veterans recur for years. TPTB see it as money saving because they only have to pay you on days they actually use you, but it is a risk for them because someone might not be available which is why usually the bigger stories go to the contract players. See off contract and on contract.

Redress the set – This expression is used throughout show business not just in soaps, but is used in soaps, too. It means to take a basic set and changing the props to make it seem like it’s some place else. This is done frequently and is an effort to save money both from having to build the set in the first place and from tearing down and setting up individual sets. It was done more and more frequently towards the end of Guiding Light’s set era. Towards the end almost everyone was living in the same room at the Beacon. They merely switched a few props. Sometimes, according to actors who reported smelling other people’s perfume on the sheets, they didn’t even change the sheets between set ups. This example shows slightly modified walls and different props transforming Mark Endicott’s art gallery into an apartment, but look at the windows and at the pillars. (Art Gallery at Beginning) (Apt Starts at 4:00)

Repair – For a concept that is used a lot both in soap operas and in movies there doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement on what to call it, but repair was the most frequent term used. It was also referenced as an actors reunion, as in the stars are reunited or reteamed but these are less specific phrases. When a couple, especially a supercouple, is popular on one soap opera and for whatever reason moves on from one soap, there is often an attempt to repair them or put them back together again as new characters on a different soap. This is an obvious move in soaps because chemistry between actors is always a risk and cashing in on both an established chemistry and possibly gaining fans by pulling fans over from the previous soap are major pluses for TPTB. In addition, it also can make the actors happier. They often miss former long term screen partners. It’s rarely as successful a second time because the mix of characters is usually not the same as it was the first go round even if the actors continue to have chemistry. Then again it may just be because soap fans have a long memory and a tendency to a slightly stubborn nature and would rather see the couples in their original roles and so don’t warm to the lite version replacements. Then again sometimes fans lead the charge when Maura West and Marcy Rylan joined The Young and the Restless after their respective soaps were cancelled, fans campaigned (unsuccessfully) to get their former love interests Michael Park and Dan Cosgrove, etc. Mary Beth Evans frankly says she wants to get Steve Nichols, her other half in a Days of Our Lives supercouple, hired every place she gets a job. Laura Wright campaigned unsuccessfully on Guiding Light to be repaired with Paul Anthony Stewart her Loving costar when he was hired by the soap. It’s much more successfully used in the movies where strings of movies were made where the only connection to the previous movie was the stars. The most famous such series and about the only named one is The Road Movies which starred Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, and Bing Crosby. Another short series of movies starred Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall, but usually such runs are just a single couple such as Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland or Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. They tend to be much more readily accepted in a movie than in soaps. A list of examples: See some examples here:

Retcon – Retcon is a term that is widely used by various fan groups and certainly isn’t limited to soap operas. Dating back to the 1980s, it’s based on a contraction for “retroactive continuity.” When something is presented in the main format for a franchise (for example for the soap opera it would be the TV, radio or web series, for Star Trek it would be both the TV series and movies, but not the books, and it would be the books for Lord of the Rings) it’s said to have really happened in the reality of that series (see future post on cannon). However, sometimes a plot a writer wants to include directly contradicts something previously established and talked about or even shown on screen, when that happens the new version of what happened is said to be a retcon to the history of the franchise. It becomes a case similar to a quotation (I found some debate whether or not she originated it) frequently used by People’s Court judge, Marilyn Milian, “Who are you going to trust, me or your lying eyes?” Sometimes the retcons are accepted by most of the fandom for the sake of the story, but when the retcon ruins something people hold dear, it can cause a great reaction from the fandom and sometimes even gets TPTB to retcon the retcon. There have been many, many retcons on Guiding Light, from the Bauers always having lived in Springfield (they didn’t, they moved there in the 1960s during Ed’s residency at Cedars) to sudden siblings, long lost cousins showing up, to Roger Thorpe didn’t really die when he fell off the cliff (although interestingly enough except for the fall not killing him part the rest of the story, including the story for Hart Jessup’s conception, actually didn’t require much retcon because Roger just happened to have been off screen for a months and refused to disclose his location right at what would have been the crucial time) are all retcons to what once was established continuity. Retcon can either be used as a verb or noun.  It’s a verb if the story is creating a retcon (for example, the Carruthers story is retconning decades of established story) and a noun when it’s being used to categorize a fact that’s been changed (for example, the Santos family having lived in Springfield since Danny was 14 is a total retcon). A retcon is different from a continuity error. Where a continuity error usually happens only once and is usually a mistake on the part of an actor or writer, a retcon is definite and repeated and is designed to take the place of previously established fact. (See Continuity Error and Sent Up Lines) Find an official definition below:

Return– The term return comes from the soap opera’s unique continuing format. Although there are occasional examples in primetime, it’s the on going nature of soaps that allow an actor/character to leave and then return for a second run on the show. Fans often clamor for the return of a favorite and depending how the show is doing and how the refugee fared on the rocky shores of Hollywood, often a favorite will return after a few years. Sometimes it’s as the same character who moved out of town. Sometimes it’s as new character (See Sudden Doppleganger).  These returns can go very well and the returned actor/character can be a boost to the entire show. For example, I’d say when Vincent Irizarry returned in the new character of Nick McHenry it boosted the show. Jordan Clarke’s return as the same character, Billy Lewis (the character was written out due to issues involving the actor’s drug addiction) also revitalized the show. However, returns can also go badly. Sometimes the latest writing regime doesn’t respect the integrity of a character. Sometimes didn’t really have a good plan for the character after the initial welcome back story and the character flounders. Sadly the best example of that was Shannon O’Hara McKechnie on As the World Turns. After one of the best initial comeback from the dead storylines ever, then they just sort of let her flounder. Eventually they let it get so bad there was nothing they could do, but send her out of town again. Sometimes they try to make the character do things fans know they never would. Sometimes it’s a good mix of character and show and well written, but with an overloaded cast there isn’t much room for them and they slowly disappear again, much like when Andy Richards returned to The Young and the Restless. Everyone liked him and he fit well with show, fans were excited by his return, but there just wasn’t enough air time available to build him a story and he eventually just faded off campus. During the last year of Guiding Light, they had a number of returns, but the last one that actually got a full return with an actual storyline was Peter Simon (Ed Bauer) see an example in the clip below. See Return for weddings and funerals.

Return for Weddings or Funerals – Earlier I discussed the term return. For a full fledged return, a character must return for at least one story arc and be reincorporated back into daily life. There is a second lesser option. As fans often love, and tune in, to see a beloved formerly familiar face, if there is a special event, a wedding, a funeral, the Bauer BBQ, etc. actors and actresses who have left the series are often asked to return. This adds a degree of realism because in most cases even if you lived out of town you’d occasionally return to visit your family. Most frequently these occasions are the big family events like a wedding or a funeral. You will often here someone say that their favorite didn’t even get to return for weddings or funerals. Sometimes these returns are a one shot deal, for example, Don Stewart returned as Mike Bauer for the 60th Anniversary party between January 20 to January 27, 1997, after having last been previously seen in 1984. That was his last appearance on the show. See more of the 60th anniversary here: Sometimes a one shot deal could develop into a full blown return. Beth Ehlers (Harley Cooper) was also making a short return for the anniversary party, but things worked out so she was soon asked back as a regular. Sometimes a character continues to be mentioned and showed up on a semi-regular basis, although they never fully returned to the show, they could be spotted once or twice a year or at least every couple of years at some event. A great example of a character that had this happen on a regular basis was Rusty Shayne (played by Terrell Anthony). In fact he shows up again later this same year at the Bauer BBQ. (Rusty shows up starting at 3:05) It’s hard to predict who will get asked back. Kristi Ferrell‘s (Roxie Shayne) character had just as many ties as Anthony‘s but never came back and was barely referenced after she left. See Return RHRyan’s Hope

RL – RL stands for real life. Real life as opposed to reel life. It’s often used in the sense that it has gotten in the way. For example, “RL got in the way and I didn’t get GL watched this week.”

SBSanta Barbara

Send Up a Line – See Flub a Line

SFTSearch for Tomorrow

Ship – This is a term I’ve only come across recently on Twitter, but it seems like it’s been around for a while. I found one reference saying it went back to at least the mid-1990s. Ship is a shortening of relationship, it is also the end of worship which works well because the term basically means being a fan of a couple. It is not restricted to couples actually currently together on a soap. It’s used across genres and fandoms. It also can be used for potential couples that either want their couples to reunite or to a potential new pairing. Different fan bases argue over which relationship is better. It’s officially now in the Oxford English Dictionary, see their definition: See Single-Couple Shipper

Show Bible – The literal creation story of the soap, the Soap Bible spells out the setting and set up of the soap and describes the initial characters and conflicts. As time goes on this history may be added to or rewritten, but a well done soap and smart TPTB bare the original set up and what people liked about it in mind before making any changes. Soaps are rarely written by one person, instead a team usually farms out different sections after storyline arcs and plot points to be covered for a certain period of time are marked out. A Soap Bible helps make sure that the entire team is telling the story the same way and not contradicting things established earlier. We Love Soaps recently acquired a copy of the original Soap Bible of As The World Turns, Guiding Light‘s sister soap, from actress Martha Byrnes (Lily Walsh Snyder Grimaldi on ATWT) who was given a copy in the mid-1980s sometime during her initial run on the show and recently came across it. They’ve posted it in sections on the links below. The name of the show was even slightly different at this point, it was called As the Earth Turns. I think World sounds much better. This show bible was written by GL creator Irna Phillips.

Single-Couple Shippers – A fan ships a character or couple (see ship) when they are their absolute favorite couple that they are invested in and always root for (see fan wars). A shipper is a fan who ships and single couple shipper is someone who invests all their involvement and support for the show in a single couple. Traditionally soap opera fans were fans of particular shows or even more frequently networks. (“I’m a CBS Soap Fan” was once said with pride.) With this broad range and investment in the community of the show, for example Guiding Light, when say Bloss was broken up, then maybe Jeva was finding each other again, and Pharley had just discovered they were having a baby. So there would be happiness to sustain such a fan even in the darkest times (in a well plotted soap). However, if you are only invested in one couple and that couple is broken up or heaven forbid, if the pivot of the triangle is currently married to the other side, you have nothing but darkness to sustain you. This often leads to loud temper tantrums which normally include a phrase along the lines of “if Jasam/Liason don’t get back together this week I’m stopping watching General Hospital forever!” This is normally an empty threat and they are right back there complaining the next week. I never used to understand this mindset, when you are a fan of the soap, you should like the whole community. If you don’t you’ll be wasting a lot of time or watching a lot of stuff on fast forward. Plus you are almost always guaranteed to be disappointed. No soap couple ever goes without hard times and often that couple will either be the victim of one or the other actors leaving, presenting you with a recast character who you normally won’t like as well, or the character will be gone, or they will finally go off to be happy together, but you’ll never see them on screen again. It’s just not a healthy way to watch a soap. However, I had an experience which has given me insight and I’m going to share it. Just to avoid hurting the feelings of anyone whose story it was and I’m sure if I grew up with them I would probably feel differently, I’m going to use variables in place of names. (X is the name of the soap. A  and B were single characters in unrelated story that I was impressed by. YZ is the couple I’m talking about and JKL is the name of the soap town.) My experience with X has given me insight. X was never my soap and frankly I resented it for taking away publicity and awards that I felt rightfully belonged to my soaps. But due to a limited time accident of schedule I watched. I discovered that I was right all along, there wasn’t a lot there to be loved. I certainly didn’t feel a part of the community and with a couple of exceptions (although they were great exceptions and if I felt either A or B had been written for might have kept me watching) I heartily disliked most of the characters and were frankly surprised that THESE were some of the actors with good reputations that sometimes won awards, but YZ spoke to me. They were the only good thing in a pool of darkness, so I watched them and shipped them and honestly meant it when I said if they broke them up permanently I wouldn’t watch again. As I said above that’s a common threat among single-couple shippers, but I meant it, I never went back. I truly found nothing else redeeming in the soap town of JKL. There was a brief time when YZ were briefly reunited, I did tune in one last time, I found a lot of new faces and not one additional thing to tempt me to stay, especially since A had voluntarily left again and B had been fired?! (Yes, because it’s always a good idea to fire the people who CAN act). So why I still think single-couple shipping is a recipe for disappointment for a soap fan, I can now see how you could like only a small part of a particular soap. I think when a single couple does bring in new viewers it’s up to TPTB to not only make sure that couple is front and center in good story, but also make sure the rest of the story is up to snuff so that when something tragically happens to YZ you want to stick around and see what happens to everyone else. See Ship

SL – SL is short for storyline. While a character usually continues on a soap, what they do is determined by current storyline. Sometimes a character is brought in only for one storyline and then written out. For example, Tory Granger was brought in just for an obsessive student storyline with Ross Marler and then written out. In some cases they like the character so much they rework the storyline (Danny Santos was originally only on for a short term storyline of 6 weeks, but stayed for 7 years). When a character goes so far, they might have to be written out either by jail, death, or some other punishment. These firings of the actor or actress are said to be “storyline dictated.” Usually there are arcs of story. Every character is in a storyline. There are a group of people that you usually work with, those who play their family or close friends, but how much a particular actor works with them or whether they work with a different set of actors is determined by the current storyline. Normally an hour soap will have 5 or 6 major storylines at anyone time. A well paced soap normally has one story story beginning, one reaching coming to some kind of exciting reveal or turning point at anyone time. For example, where Heartbreaker broke off her uploads, we were in the following storylines 1. Michelle Bauer and Danny Santos were being drawn together more and more while the threat his family’s desired vengeance on her grew larger and larger. (This was the payoff to the Mick is killed storyline, but the kickoff to the Manny falling in love storyline.) 2. Cassie and Dinah continued to fight over Hart which was heading for a climax when Dinah accidentally shoots Hart when she was trying to shoot Cassie to keep her from telling Hart that the baby Dinah lost was really Rob’s and not his. 3. Bloss were separated and Blen were trying to see if they were really a viable couple. 4. Selena had just figured out the long lost daughter she’s been searching for is Drew. 5. Pharley continue to deal with Harley’s new found daughter Susan and her antics while they discover they are pregnant. 6. Buzz continues to grieve for Jenna and dives far too quickly and too deeply into a relationship with Jenna to cover for his pain.

Smooshed Names – See Couple Code

Smush Words or Smush Names – See Couple Code

Soap – Soap is a slang shortening of the term soap opera. Irna Phillips created a new genre with the very first soap Painted Dreams in 1930. There wasn’t  a term for them originally. Now they are known as daytime dramas, continuing dramas, soap operas, as well as soaps. A writer in Christian Century in 1938 helped develop the term soap opera. “These fifteen-minute tragedies… I call the ‘soap tragedies’.” The term horse opera for a Western had been around since the 1920s and the two quickly went together to form soap opera. By 1939 soap opera was a popularly accepted term. The shortening of the term to soap was first recorded in 1943. As the soaps ratings made them a powerhouse and they attempted to encourage the use of the more up market sounding continuing drama. The soap spoof movie Tootsie the executive producer fined everyone on set for using the term soap. However, it was too well established and it is still almost universally used as people talk about watching soaps, buy soap magazines, and listen to soap podcasts.

Soap Bible – See Show Bible

Soap Dead – Miraculous returns from the dead have been a part of soap operas almost from the beginning, whether it was a carefully laid plot or a “guess who didn’t make it in Hollywood and came crawling back.” However, it didn’t used to be as common as it is today. (See Sudden Doppleganger) Now returning from the dead is so common that people have developed a term, “soap dead” to describe a situation where viewers assume no character is really dead and the actor or at least the character will be back. There have been a lot of memorable returns over the years. One of the MOST memorable was on As the World Turns when the monk who had been sinisterly lurking around town for weeks pushed back his cowl and said “Hello, Barbara” revealing ubervillian  James Stenbeck in his first of many returns from the dead. This scene made such an impact that if you say “Hello, Barbara” to almost any soap fan and they will know exactly what you mean. ATWT also had one of the best written returns. When Shannon O’Hara McKendrick returned to town it had already been announced by the soap magazines, but it still managed to shock us by setting up a situation where Duncan’s current wife Jessica was assumed to be the source of the phone call that urged Duncan to come because they had his wife in custody, he opened the door and it was Shannon instead. (Sadly they hadn’t planned what should happen nearly as well after week 1 and ultimately Shannon and Duncan were shipped out of town again, ignoring tons of story possibilities.) Once in awhile we can still be surprised. On The Young and the Restless Phillip Chancellor II came back from the dead after being peacefully in his grave for 16 years, when the other end of Cane’s phone calls was revealed at the end of an episode. (I yelled “WHAT!” outloud.) However, it’s such a common occurrence now that they don’t even always bother to come up with a story that makes sense to explain the return like the wax doll replacement that was used for The Bold and the Beautiful‘s Taylor Hayes Forrester or the twin who showed up to take a bullet for Cane/Ethan/Whatever they’re calling him this week on The Young and the Restless. Days of Our Lives has made in an unusually campy joke with pretty much everyone in town back from the dead a couple of times and Tony Demeria is not dead because it was his cousin Andre who was killed, but wait Andre is a live too and Tony was really being held on an island the whole time so both Tony and Andre were the same person, but now Tony is supposedly really dead….I give up. On Guiding Light, the most memorable come back was Roger Thorpe who came back after a decade (even though his portrayer Michael Zaslow said he held really, really still a long time to assure they couldn’t).  He’d been shot and fell over a cliff, but was found living as a CIA agent on a tropical island. However, Phillip Spaulding, Alan Spaulding, Beth Raines Spaulding, and Reva Shayne Lewis probably get the Phoenix crowns for coming back from the dead, or at least the assumed dead, multiple times.  A fair sprinkling of other people around town, including Danny Santos, came back from the dead at least once. At this point returns from the dead are so common than many fans and critics worry about what the concept of “Soap Dead” is doing to the genre. If almost everyone comes back from the dead eventually, how upset can you get when they die? How can you get emotionally invested with the fallout when you’re sure the death isn’t permanent and they will be back among the living? Is “Soap Dead” a flexible answer to casting challenges that help chase ratings or part of the reason not as many people feel the emotional connection to soaps they once did? Stay tuned.

Soap Hopper – See Soap Jumper description in Jumping Soaps

Soap Jumper – See Jumping Soaps

Soap Opera – See Soap

Soap Opera Effect – Follow this link

Soap Town – Soap operas are sometimes set in a real town like Washington, D.C. (Capitol), Los Angeles (The Bold and the Beautiful), or Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara) and sometimes in a soap town. Soaps set in a real town tend to do better in the ratings internationally than those set in soap towns. A soap town is a made up town. Normally it’s the size of a small city, large enough that anything the writers may want to put there (factories, airports, corporate headquarters, yacht clubs) is viable, small enough to that a small group of people can easily make up the ruling elite of the town. Sometimes these towns are tied to a particular state and sometimes not, for example, All My Children is set in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania while Guiding Light‘s Springfield was kept floating for years. Often they are alternative versions of real towns Oakdale, Illinois (As the World Turns), Geona City, Wisconsin (The Young and the Restless), and Bay City, Illinois (Another World) are all named after real towns, but don’t reflect those towns in anyway. Even their relation to the ocean can change from one writing regime to another. Sometime a soap will switch towns for instance Guiding Light was set in Five Points (any state) and Selby Flats, California before Springfield.

Soliloquy – A soliloquy is alternative to a voiceover and is used frequently in soap operas. A character will have a long conversation with him or herself over the current problem or dilemma they find themselves in. It is different from a voiceover because the character is actually talking out loud. Usually a soliloquy is longer than a voiceover and provides the plot advantage that someone can overhear. See voiceover. Reva’s soliloquy on Sean’s island right at beginning of clip Annie’s soliloquy which Alan overhears at 1:35

SORAS (Sudden Onset Rapid Aging Syndrome) – Usually expressed as a verb, for example “James Spaulding was SORAS-ed.” It means that a character, usually a young child, is sent somewhere off camera for a length of time. The child returns recast as an older child, usually a teenager. Summer camp is a favorite destination for these jaunts, but a European boarding school probably gets the most use. It can also be done abruptly, having an older actor replace the child the next day with a simple “The role of XX will now be played by YY,” but this is rarer. Michelle Bauer was SORAS-ed 4 years when she was recast as Rebecca Budig after she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland for a few months. Unfortunately in the last few years of Guiding Light they SORAS-ed the children out of order which was bad because it totally messed with back story because if the children weren’t born in that exact order they probably wouldn’t have been born at all. (e.g. If it hadn’t been revealed that James Spaulding was Phillip’s son, Harley and Rick would never have slept together and Jude Bauer would never have been born, etc.) The excuse is that it’s easier to think of story for older children, but I think it’s lazy writing. There are more tab A, slot B stories for teenagers, but actually creating character based story can be done with people of any age. I have also seen several reference lately to it being Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. Spoiler – The term spoiler or spoilers is commonly used two different ways by soap opera fans. One is in the broader fan sense and one I think is fairly soap opera specific. Definition 1 – As commonly used by multiple fandoms of various genres, a spoiler is a sneak peek about what is coming up in as yet not released episode, movie, book, etc. In soaps it generally means what’s going to happen with an upcoming storyline. Sometimes these spoilers are given out deliberately to generate interest or to serve as a sort of trial balloon to see how fans react. Other spoilers are leaked by people not authorized to give out the information (social networking and various Internet forums have greatly increased this), stolen somehow, or even just made up based on what someone wants to see happen or thinks would upset people. Any given spoiler may be true or false. If you are going to post a spoiler, it is common ettiquette to say you are going to give a spoiler up front and then have a gap — if possible so it’s possible for someone to skip the spoiler if they choose to. Fans differ over spoilers. Some seek them out, some scrupulously avoid them. There is a large debate on whether or not spoilers are good things for the genre. Positive uses are pointed out with things like if something you’ve really invested happening is coming up you know to watch with your full attention. A recent example of that might be that every Maura West fan (Carly Tenney Snyder on As the World Turns) was introduced as Diane Jenkins and in fact there were countdowns because the show had released that spoiler. Negatively some fans find that knowing what’s going to happen even the first time you watch something cuts down on enjoyment. Many ATWT fans were furious with producer Christopher Goutman when he released spoilers on pretty much every single storyline two or three weeks before the finale. Some people even partially blame the frequency of spoilers for the reduced audience. If you know what’s going to happen, you have less investment in watching. Definition 2- A spoiler is also used to describe the function of a character. If a romantic couple seems to be getting too cozy or happy, a third character is often brought in with the possibility of breaking them up. Sometimes these characters are quickly sent packing (Rob Layne when he was brought in as a spoiler for Seem to Have No Couple Code Couple – Cassie & Hart – Seriously some fan of these make one up and use it so I can complete my list – PLEASE), sometimes they find another useful spot on the canvas (a SORAS-ed Bill Lewis was suppose to act as spoiler to Messe, that fell by the wayside quickly, but this legacy character soon found many other uses in the story), and sometimes they create a genuine, long term triangle with fans now split on both sides (Blen/Bloss on GL, Shick/Phick on The Young and the Restless, Bridge/Tridge on The Bold and the Beautiful).

SSS (Sudden Sibling Syndrome) – This is what happens when you suddenly discover you have a usually grown sibling you didn’t know anything about. It does not include when one or both of your parents decide to have a late life pregnancy. The most shocking incident of SSS on Guiding Light was when a thought dead for 10 years Bill Bauer was suddenly revealed 1. To be alive 2. To have a second family in Canada 3. To the biological father of Hillary Kincaid (later Bauer) and not just her step-father. A more typical case is Blake Thorpe Marler. Blake was raised as a single child. However, as an adult she first learned that her father had a son via an affair, Hart Jessup. Eventually (and despite his frequently changing face), she came to terms with this, only to have a second man named Sebastian claim to be Roger’s son on much sketchier evidence who was a real creep. (I mean that literally – he hit on her mom, come on!). However,  these incidents were most common in Springfield in the Spaulding and Lewis families. Looking at Reva Shayne Lewis’s children she had Dylan Lewis (via Billy Lewis – given up for adoption and for years deep dark secret until discovered as adult), Marah and Shayne (via Josh Lewis – mostly raised herself between bouts of being “dead”),  Jonathan Randall (via Richard Winslow – she entrusted his raising to others, which turned out to be a huge mistake he showed up as an angry young man who blamed her for abandoning him), and Colin O’Neill (via Jeffery O’Neill). However, just because it is suddenly announced they are siblings doesn’t mean they have a true sibling relationship. Shayne and Jonathan had a particularly prickly relationship. However, most sibling eventually at least learn to tolerate each other. Blake grew very close to sudden sibling Hart Jessup and tried hard with Sebastien (with much less reason). Hillary Kincaid not only took on the Bauer name, but became a welcome addition to the Bauer family (even by Bert who Bill had cheated on to create Hillary). Meanwhile over at Spaulding Mansion, Alan also had Spaulding heirs appear. Phillip was his adopted son (who when the truth of his parentage came out discovered he had a biological sister named Samantha). Then came Alan-Michael, but Alan never learned until Gus grew up that he had Gus via one of Phillip’s nannies. Gus had his own sudden child when he discovered Rafe. Alan also thought he’d had a sudden daughter in the former Amanda Wexler, but it was eventually revealed that she was actually a sudden sibling, her true biological father being Brandon Spaulding.

Stand Alone Episode – While soaps are continuing by nature, occasionally they will do a special episode that stands alone. The distinguishing mark of these episodes is that normally if they were skipped over in the series the series would still make sense. Sometimes they have just a specific theme on a mostly normal day. Mother’s Day 2006 A stand alone tradition on Guiding Light was a special Christmas story. While characters appeared as themselves and in the position they currently hold during these stories miracles often intervened, some of which remained in effect with the story picked up again. For awhile these focused on Santa Nick, a magical sidewalk Santa that Beth and Phillip met while on the run in New York City in the early 1980s. In later years these stories often featured Ross telling a Christmas story. Here’s an example of a nontypical stand alone Christmas which was actually a clip show. Christmas 1995 – Memories of Christmases Past Sometimes they are a bit more magical with a fantasy sequence or putting characters in situations that would be “reset” at the end of the episode. She’s a Marvel – Harley Cooper is a Superhero Magic Millennium New Year’s Eve Party 1999: Alternative Universe – 15,000th episode: Sometimes the actors are put into totally different roles. 70th Anniversary History Episode: Later on they had the “Inside the Light” episodes weekly that were usually stand alones. These were of various kinds and even included a documentary stand alone. Hurricane Katrina – Inside the Light Episode: Other soaps do stand alones also. The Young and the Restless are known for doing a special stand alone focusing on a single character around New Year’s Day. The first one of these focused on Nina as she recapped how she ended up in jail for murdering her husband David Kimble. The last few years it has a character act out a Christmas story like A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, Michael, Billy and Victor have all had a turn.  Stand alones from As the World Turns included reviewing the history of families in town by turning them into classic sitcoms, acting out the stories inside a Victorian dollhouse,  and an episode reviewing Lisa’s life through a hatchet job special issue of the Intruder that Emily put out.

Stickiness – I found this definition in a Wall Street Journal blog post by media researcher Sam Ford: “Stickiness refers to a model where content is put in a centralized, uniform location to which audiences are driven. Success is measured by how many individuals come, their demographics, and how long they stay.” As the article goes on to point on this is basically the same model as broadcast TV. Announcers used to exclaim: “Don’t Touch That Dial!” Soaps didn’t need such announcements. Soaps have always been about stickiness. Many features of soaps (tags, cliff hangers, secrets) were all designed to keep you from turning away. That makes them the perfect vehicle for online distribution.

Storyline – See SL

Sudden Doppelganger – This is a created term to fit a concept within the industry that is not named. When an actor or actress achieve a certain level of success they often leave to attempt greener pastures that turn out to not be so green and they want to come back later, creating a problem if their character was written off by death. Other times a new set of TPTB will fire someone and overwhelmed by the negative fan response will rehire the performer, again not hampered by the fact the original character is undeniably dead. Even soap writers can’t always come up with a convincing way for someone to come back from the dead or they decide more storyline possibilities lie elsewhere. Sometimes the characters have no connection to original character and everyone is just supposed to pretend they don’t recognize them (See my Before and After posts for some examples of this). Sometimes the character is the stereotypical long lost, never before heard of twin. (See Alexandra Spaulding try to convince Nick McHenry that he’s her son and Lujack’s twin during the Great Springfield Blackout Sometimes the resemblance is due to surgery, most infamous lately was the series of doppelgangers due to surgery on The Young and the Restless including, but sadly not limited to, Patty/Emily, Lauren/Sarah, and Shelia/Phyllis. Sometimes the resemblance is noted, but dismissed as shear coincidence. Probably the most prominent example of this is Ana Alicia on the prime time soap Falcon Crest who returned as the unrelated Samantha Ross after her character Melissa Agretti Cumson was killed. The major difference between a sudden doppelganger and a dual role is that both roles of a dual role are played at the same time and with a sudden doppelganger they are consecutive. See Dual Roles

Sudden Sibling Syndrome – See SSS

Supercouple ~ The term supercouple came into general use in the 1980s when supercouples took over the focus of most soaps. Previously family interactions were primary, while they remain crucial to good soaps, now plots were most often driven by couples. There was also a shift where a new tendency among fans to follow and promote a couple, rather than individual characters. Not every couple is a supercouple. Supercouples have exciting adventures, draw drama from their daily lives, and inspire devoted and large followings of fans. Supercouples almost always get back together and even when they are apart; their main storyline is their relationship with each other. The first couple generally given credit for embodying the idea of a supercouple is Jeff and Penny from As The World Turns. Irna Phillips was furious when Mark Rydell who played Jeff wanted to leave and that no doubt impacted her decision to kill the character in a car wreck on August 23, 1962. Rydell marveled at the fan reaction “What was bizarre was that when I quit the show in order to go to California [the studio received] 40,000 letters.” Guiding Light had quite a few supercouples. Their flagship supercouple,  for the last half of the run of the show since the mid-1980s, was Jeva (Josh Lewis and Reva Shayne). Other major Guiding Light supercouples included Bloss (Blake Thorpe and Ross Marler), Pheth (Phillip Spaulding and Beth Raines), Rolly (Roger Thorpe and Holly Norris), Quola (Quinton Chamberlain and Nola Reardon), Vanilly (Vanessa Chamberlain and Billy Lewis), and, of course, Manny (Michelle Bauer and Danny Santos). Interest was expressed from the early to mid-1990s on was the creation of a couple code for each supercouple. (See my Couple Code page.) They often developed campaigns to urge some story development or merely more airtime for the couple. These projects often involved flooding production offices and soap opera journalists with a particular item that had come connection with the couple or their name. The clip below shows two of biggest and best GL’s Manny and Jeva meeting (together) for the first time. An article about Supercouples.

Tag – A tag is a the end of a scene with a hook to make you keep the channel tuned in through the commercial. These can be the start of an action scene, a line of dialogue that leaves you on the edge of your seat, or a question. A soap opera script is carefully written to have a tag before the beginning of each commercial break. During breaks people get up, head to the bathroom, go make a sandwich or worst of all from an executives point of view, channel surf. They want you to stay with the channel that you are on, so a well crafted tag will keep you from doing those things by making you feel that you just can’t afford to miss a second of what will happen once the story picks up again. In the more distant past, these tags were often heralded by a dramatic swell of music paired with an extreme close up of one of the actors in the scene. This lead to strange pauses in action where a character would kind of freeze and hold position as if they were in a tableau while the camera zoomed in. However, as the pace of soaps have sped up these dramatic shots have become much rarer. The most talked about tag this year was on The Bold and the Beautiful featuring the look on Oliver’s face when he realized it wasn’t his girlfriend Hope he just shagged on the wall during the wild party – it was her mother, Brooke. (Zach Conroy who was James Spaulding #2 on GL, now plays Oliver Jones). I’ll protect the guilty on another soap, by not mentioning a certain actor on a non-CBS soap who often ends his tags by arching his eyebrow practically into a question mark and getting this puzzled fish who has just had a hook pulled out of his mouth look (sounds like a nice guy in real life, but frankly I’ll never understand his reputation as an actor).

Talk To – On a soap you really want to be a front burner driving story. One sign that you’ve moved to the back burner is becoming a Talk To. A talk to is a character that other characters talk to about what is going on in their storyline. Their primary use is to recap what’s going on in the storyline for viewers, but they sometimes give really good advice, advice that can sometimes turn a story. Often, but not always, these are older female characters. Although viewers often love a talk to character, TPTB often see them as expendable and when there is any budget trouble, a talk to is often the first to go. See front burner and back burner. An example of Bert Bauer, the ultimate Talk To.

Temporary Recast – Although you will sometimes see a recast on a primetime show, a temporary recast is almost exclusively a soap opera phenomenon. A soap opera is a continuing production. With enough warning an actor can pre- and post- tape and cover a short absence, but an unexpected sudden absence or a months long absence like a maternity leave, often leaves a hole too big to easily fill or write around. Such absences can also come up if contract negotiations hit a sticking point.  In cases where the absence can’t be written or shot around, TPTB bring in an actor or actress to fill in during the gap. Usually a temporary recast lasts only a few days or in some cases weeks. The main difference between a temporary recast and a permanent one, is that everybody knows the current owner of the role will be back. In such cases a clever recast will merely try to replicate the role’s normal occupier on screen because they don’t get enough of a chance to develop the character in so short of time, especially when the audience is basically just pretending that they don’t notice a difference in the character so they don’t have to drop a story at a critical point on screen. A typical example of such a temporary recast was  Hayley Barr Sparks (who formerly played Courtney Baxter Dixon on As the World Turns – in Andy Dixon’s best relationship by far) covered for Beth Ehlers both times she went on maternity leave while on the show. Here’s a clip of the actress who earlier covered for Ehlers a couple of days. There have been several extraordinary cases of temporary recasts. In 1968 the most famous and outrageous temporary recast happened, an over 60 year old Joan Crawford was a temporary recast on the soap opera The Secret Storm for daughter Christina Crawford (Joan Borman Kane), a character aged just 28.The episodes aired on October 25, 28, 29, and 30, 1968. (Find an article about it in the Oct 23, 1968 issue of The New York Times.) Another extraordinary recast happened on Days of Our Lives when to cover Alison Sweeney’s long term maternity leave, the character of Sami went into a long term uncover role as part of an elaborate revenge plot where she lived as a man named Stan and male actor Dan Wells (who did an extraordinary job by the way) played Sami from February 2005 to August 2005. Just last year Michael Learned, famous for playing the mother on The Waltons, stepped into Katherine Chancellor’s diva togs when Jeanne Cooper was recovering from an illness to a great splash of publicity. It worked, my non-YR watching cousin tuned in, although I didn’t think Learned actually conveyed much of the diva spirit that is Kay. Currently Jen Lilley is covering for Kristen Storms as Maxie Jones on General Hospital, but has met lots of hostility as her time on the show as stretched out well beyond initial estimates. Sometimes such roles lead to another permanent role on the soap.

Throughline – A throughline is one of the most important things a soap character can have. You have to have some core things about a character to provide story and to give the audience something to invest in. For example, Alan Spaulding’s throughline is that while he loves him family very much, his obsession with controlling them and the family business leads him to do things to hurt them. Phillip Spaulding’s throughline was that he wanted and felt he was entitled to everything. He wanted to be both the corporate executive and the writer, to escape his family dynamics and to take part in them, to have Beth plus every flavor of the month. For years, Rick Bauer’s throughline was that he wanted a wife and children to recreate his special relationship through his kids that he had with his Grandma Bert (exactly what wife was less important to him) and his constant failure to achieve it. Blake Marler’s throughline was that she wanted to feel safe and respectable and when she felt that slipping away she’d act out (usually by sleeping around). These throughlines define a character and give them sharp outlines, motivation, and purpose. When a character loses or never has this throughline, for example the second incarnation of David Grant or the only version of Rob Layne, the character flounders. A well-written soap character has the audience knowing the kind of thing they would do in any given situation and more importantly why. The importance of this consistency is best spelled out by Douglas Marland, a former head writer at Guiding Light, in a famous interview. He said: “Don’t change a core character. You can certainly give them edges they didn’t have before, or give them a logical reason to change their behavior. But when the audience says, “He would never do that,” then you have failed.” To read the entire article about “How Not to Ruin a Soap Opera”, go here: A counter example to this would be Annie Dutton who started out as a heroine, but is transformed by her experiences at Jeva’s hands into a psychopath which is why the whole husband Eddie story never tracked. It was Jeva that pushed her over the edge and those defining experiences where she slowly lost her grip on reality, one finger hold at a time explained all her later behavior and demonstrated a rare successful shift of throughline.

TIIC – The Idiots in Charge – TPTB  is a bad enough term, but when they really do something awful, an even worst term for them is The Idiots In Charge. See TPTB.

TPTBThe Powers That Be – A reference to the producers, directors, writers, and assorted executives that have the power to ruin a character, couple, or storyline. The term generally isn’t used in a positive way. People are normally cursing TPTB. Typical feelings towards TPTB are shown in the short Manny fanfic “Jerry” where a mob of angry original Ray fans attack TPTB. See TIIC.

Tradition – Non-soap fans don’t always appreciate what an important role tradition plays in soap operas. On a soap opera not only is watching a particular soap or a particular network’s soaps handed down as a family tradition, our extended soap families also have traditions that we look forward to each year. The Bauer BBQ was a tradition that everyone look forward to each year on Guiding Light. Other traditions have to do with Christmas or other events around the year. These yearly touchstones often draw in even lapsed viewers to see this year’s version.

Travel Time – One of my favorite parts of the Gary Shandling Show was how they made fun of TV shows especially when he played with his watch and did what he called a “Time Thingy” to skip ahead in time on an episode. Soaps don’t mention it by name, but somehow they seem to have access to the same technology. It can take only moments to get across town or even across the country. This is especially true in recent years. The Jan. 18, 2010 issue of CBS Soaps in Depth asks ATWT head writer David Kreizman about this. Kreizman points out that unlike other genres, people have a tendency to think about soaps operating in real time. Kreizman points out that they try to indicate that time has passed in all scenes when someone has moved across town to indicate that time has indeed passed. He feels the ability to make these quick jumps helps pacing and dramatic effect. Kreizman also points out another time effect. “I think that a lot of times, when we go to a new day, that probably some days have passed in between. They sort of have to, otherwise you’d only have 75 days in the year!” However, many soap fans and soap opera magazines report that they find these jumps disconcerting. They have especially increased in recent years. Often before people would jump between cities too quickly, but they used to go around town in regular time. The difference now can pull you out of the moment, not a good thing to do on a soap. Read the whole story “Oakdale’s Primetime Pacing Explained!”

Tune in Tomorrows – Tune in Tomorrow (besides being the name of one of my favorite soapy Twitter bud’s radio show) are those ads that they run at the end of each episode (sadly often cut off in online postings) where they tease you with what is going to happen next to make you want to watch the next day’s soap. Traditionally they ended with “Tune in tomorrow for another episode of  [insert name of soap here].” These teasers are also known as previews. A good teaser can provide water cooler gossip, or more recently Twitter chatter, and get people to watch. A bad teaser often dispels the carefully built up tension from the episode’s tag (e.g. if you see someone who was faced with a gun in the last scene, calmly talking in the tune in tomorrows, it’s a good bet they didn’t get shot). Especially important was the Friday preview because it had to hold you all weekend. Unlike ads that often were shorter and had a storyline or theme all their own, a Tune in Tomorrow is a series of short pieces of scenes from the next day or sometimes the next few days. Monday through Thursday they often end with a voiceover “Tune in tomorrow for ….” put appropriate name of soap here. On Friday this was exchanged for a beginning voiceover “Next week on Guiding Light.” Strangely I haven’t come across an ad that actually uses the phrase “Tune in Tomorrow” – in fact most of the footage on YouTube has these teasers cut off all together. If I ever find one with the classic phrase I’ll add it. Here’s a “Next week on Guiding Light” from near the end. Here’s the preview from 09/09/2009, they use the phrase “Coming up on Guiding Light”, instead of Tune in Tomorrow.” Here is one for As the World Turns and a link to a YouTube channel full of the ATWT towards the end of its run.

Triangle – A basic building block of the soap opera is the triangle. The usual set up for a triangle is when a couple is formed and popular with fans, another character is either created or moved by means of storyline into the orbit of the couple and one of the original couple takes a romantic or sexual interest in the newcomer and is ultimately torn between whether the original or new character should be their romantic partner.  The new character’s job is to at the very least provide a reasonable obstacle for the original couple to overcome and at best to get fans divided so some will back the original couple and others will back the new couple (see the entry for Fan Wars). This process of winning fans over can be helped by the fact that early in a soap relationship there are a lot of cute romantic scenes and it’s easier to invest in couple in this early phrase of a relationship and some people find it harder to invest in a relationship that is already formed and may not have as many cute, romantic, fun scenes. New fans to a show often back these newly formed couples even if long term fans can’t stand them (this is not always the case, sometimes even longterm fans decide they like the newly formed side of a triangle).  In recent years soap structure has been dependent on long term triangles with the lynchpin character moving back and forth and seeming to begin a future with each of the two other sides of the triangle competing for time, attention, and commitment from the lynchpin character. This was not always the case as in the age of supercouples or the age of soap families triangles tended to be short term providing more of an obstacle for a couple and then the story moving on. Examples of short term triangles would be Bloss-Tory Granger or Lucy-Alan-Michael-Gilly or Reva-Josh-And whichever spouse of the moment you prefer. Long term triangles can drive storylines for years going back and forth. Examples would be Ed-Holly-Roger, Alan-Michael-Eleni-Frank, and Dinah-Hart-Cassie.  See a future post on Quads.

Tunnel Vision – Although the term isn’t used in soap opera fandom, the concept is certainly there. Tunnel Vision allows a fan to forgive their favorite couple or character anything. Their character is always right even when clearly in the wrong. Although there are many fans who are much more even handed, there are always vocal people who never forget something done by their character’s rivals and never blame their character or couple for anything. They might be rational about other points, but are completely illogical about their soap favorites. If you should run across a soap fan suffering from tunnel vision, don’t bother to try to engage them, neither good sense, nor logic, nor facts will deter a fan with tunnel vision.

Umbrella Story – Normally a soap opera has several storylines going at once in various stages of development. Most of a character’s scenes will be with people who are also part of that storyline. There may be 5 or 6 or more storylines going on at the same time. An umbrella story connects several of these normally separate storylines and puts characters in an expanded pool of characters. Sometimes these umbrella storylines are drawn out, but usually the larger the umbrella and the more characters it includes, the shorter the run. Usually something unusual happens and draws characters into unique situations. Often there is something putting at least some of the characters in jeopardy, but that is not an absolute requirement. A popular tactic with a soap umbrella story is have it involve some kind of disaster that traps several separate small groups of people together. Sometimes those trapped together are rivals, sometimes they are  lovers past or current, and sometimes they have no or not much previous connection and it kicks off a brand new relationship (friendship or romantic) or a storyline. An example of a discrete  and very short term umbrella storyline is the 60th anniversary celebration from 1997. In this example of an Umbrella Story, Springfield is throwing an elaborate ball in honor of the 60th anniversary of Cedars Hospital (really of the show). Almost everyone in town attends, while they have diverse reasons for going and things they hope to happen there. (Jeffery Morgan and Jenna Bradshaw are looking for easy marks for jewel robbery – he’s forcing her, Reva is trying to get Josh’s attention although she previously promised to back off because Annie Dutton was supposedly pregnant with Josh’s baby, Billy Lewis, Matt Reardon, and Little Bill are focused on the dedication of the new wing of Cedars in a then thought dead Vanessa Chamberlain, etc.) The umbrella story gets more complicated when Michelle arrives and announces there are some people in trouble out on the lake and they need to get the lighthouse going again to save them. Another example is the Great Springfield Blackout of 1992. Incredible heat has put too much stress on the Springfield electric system and when Bridget turns on every electric appliance she owns (the final straw is her hairdryer) the entire town goes dark forcing everyone to deal with blackout. It is especially bad because much of the town was attending Mindy Lewis’s wedding to Nick McHenry and they are all trapped in one of the tallest buildings in town without lights, air conditioning, or working elevators. People are trapped together who normally wouldn’t be and situations are set up that will be unreeling in individual stories for years.

Under 5 – Not all actors and actresses on a soap are at the same level in soap opera production. There are different levels of paygrades.  A unique spot is filled by the Under 5 that is above an extra, but below a day player. The Under 5 name comes from the official breaking point at 5 lines as the union pay scale. An extra who says nothing makes one amount, an Under 5 who says five lines or less makes another. A day player makes a third amount a little further up the scale. These terms are used across the television industry. Legendary actor James Garner was known for never forgetting his own struggling actor days and whenever he could tried to push an extra up to an under 5, read about it in Maverick: Legend of the West by Ed Robertson. See Day Player, Extra, On Contract, Off Contract, and Recurring

Veteran – A veteran is a long time actor or actress on a soap that has carried lead story. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about a particular age or length of time that it takes to be considered a vet, although the longer they’ve been on the show the more likely the term is to be used. With little guidance on a length of time, I’m going with at least 5 years, although it can be many more. Balance is often hard to achieve in a soap between newbies and veterans. Newbies are cheaper and often in a character created by the current writing regime. Unfortunately some writers like to play favorites with their characters over previously established ones. Fans often cry for a more frontburner storyline for their favorite veterans. Writing for a veteran character can be difficult and often writers fall back into trying to re-write the same story for them over and over. For example, Lily getting kidnapped and Tom and Margo having marriage troubles over the loss of a child on As the World Turns or the constant reintroduction of the mob with Manny on Guiding Light.

Voice Overs – A voice over lets you inside a character’s head to hear their thoughts. It used to be used more heavily. It gives you a chance to hear why a character is doing what they are saying and can show a difference between their actions and their words. Sometimes they are used just to give a character a chance to say “if you only knew.” An alternative way to do this is a soliloquy. Below is a link to a scene that has dueling voiceovers from Phillip Spaulding and Harley Cooper to show what an effective device it can be. Their scene starts at 5:20 into the clip. See soliloquy.

Writing Regime – A term used by fans and not within the industry itself, writing regime is most frequently used in conjunction with the terms change or new, as in “they need a change of writing regime” or “the show has just gotten a new writing regime.” Because of the extremely structured nature of soap writing, the head writer primarily has control over storyline elements so when a show is not doing well in the ratings or creatively a call is often made by fans for their replacement. This is another term where the exact meaning is often ambiguous. Because of the key role of the head writer, some fans consider changing the head writer to be a change of regime, others would only say a change of regime had taken place if all the writers were replaced.  Fans often express great appreciation or loathing for a head writer.  Irna Phillips, Agnes Nixon, Douglas Marland, and Bill Bell are some of the most frequently praised head writers who constructed supportive regimes of writers around them.

Vixen – Soap fans often lump characters into certain categories: Heroine, Villain, Talk to, etc. Many of these are used across genres, but one that is soap specific is vixen. A vixen is generally not a true villain, but instead a female troublemaker of a lesser degree. A villain would try to take over something and at least consider killing. A vixen in comparison would be more likely to scheme to steal someone’s boyfriend or embarrass a rival at a party. Guiding Light is rather famous for its vixens; Nola Reardon, Vanessa Chamberlain, Bridget Reardon, and Drew Jacobs are just some of the vixens over the years. Most vixens are eventually reformed into heroines, but most still maintain an ability to raise trouble when the occasion is right. In their full blown vixen stage, fans are often very divided over whether they love or hate them.

Y&RThe Young and the Restless

Last Updated: May 16, 2020, Update in Progress

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