So what it is with daytime dramas vs nighttime dramas? And why is a daytime drama a 'soap opera' while a nighttime drama is a "gripping, edge-of-your-seat festival for the eyes."?
I refer, of course, to Lost. That tempestuous playground filled with riddles, questions, enigmas, and even a dog's butt. The story is driven just like the 1930's cliffhanger serial movies--give the audience a good eyefull, put the heros or heroines in danger, then at the moment of supreme anxiety, stop. Tune in next week for dot dot dot. The stories are full of intertwining plots, interesting characters whose sordid pasts are revealed to us a spoonfull at a time, and there's always danger, confusion, anxiety, and nearly non-stop questions. What is the black smoke? Who are the Others? Why is Pippin on the island and not back in Hobbitown?
Soap operas are the same thing, oddly enough, no longer with the laundry detergent commercials that gave them their name, but the same critter under the skin. Multi-twined plots, interesting people (well, big ta-tas,) evil, good, relationships, questions, cliffhangers, and sordid pasts. The only real difference to me seems to be that soap operas take reality and make it so malleable that you could roll it out thin and copy pictures out of the Sunday Comix on it.
They seem to revel in a sort of over-the-top foolishness, comas that people suddenly come out of after three seasons of them being behind the scenes (at Betty Ford Memorial in the Detox Ward) and dead people coming back to life, but then again, that template almost exactly fits Lost--polar bears and horses on a tropical island, black 'intelligent' smoke threatening people, and hugely bearded guys who come out of nowhere to steal children.
I could push the idea further, but I'd be on weak ice since I don't watch any other nighttime dramas, but just seeing the commercials I'm pretty willing to bet that you could make the same soap opera template fit 24, Invasion, Battlestar Glactica, Alias, The Shield, most any other show like that. The big difference being that most of those shows don't purport to string their stories together day by day, except for 24 which goes beyond that and shoves an entire day into one season, which is an interesting concept. Still and all, they're the same seven basic plots that someone postulated a long time ago, with the same human dramas, the fighting, the loving, and the comas.
But this does not mean I'm going to start watching The Young And All My Children Turn.
But where exactly does Reality TV fit into the equation? In the toilet, I hope.