British Soap Opera ConventionsSeasonz Productions – Amy Bowman
Each British soap opera follows the same few conventions, these conventions are what makes a soap easily identifiable as a soap. Convention 1: Open Narrative• Something that makes soap operas individual, is that unless they are being taken off air, there is never a time when all the storylines will end. Therefore it is never ending, meaning soaps have an open narrative.
Convention 2: Well known theme tune• Each soap has it’s own original theme tune and intro sequence which is linked only to their soap.• This tune and the introduction sequence would have only changed a small bit in the years the soap has been aired.• This short tune rarely has any words on it.• If someone were to listen to the tune, they should be able to tell what soap it is from.
Convention 3: Large casts• Soap tend to have large casts, to keep them verisimilitude to a real community.• As soap are open narrative, and don’t end, by having a large cast it would give actors a break from filming.• A large cast would also allow there to be more than one storyline running at one time, which is needed for a soap.• A large cast would allow there to be a large variety of characters, once again making it more realistic to an actual community.
Convention 4: Set around a small central areaSoap are set around a small central area so that it is a realisticcommunity feel. Audiences then become familiar with thearea, the residents within, and it almost become as if it is anexisting place they know.• For example:• Eastenders is set around a Town Square• Coronation Street is set down a street• Hollyoaks is set around a further education college
Convention 5: Aim for verisimilitude• As a rule, British soaps are realistic or, at least, aim for realism.• British soaps tend to have characters that are working class, ordinary people, which would possibly make the average person want to watch it so they can relate to the characters.• This is part of the reason why soap opera have their appeal as it seems as if they are watching a real community like their own.
Convention 6: Each episode ends on a cliff-hanger• As soaps are open narrative, they need something to keep viewers tuning into the program, ending each episode with a tense cliff-hanger brings audiences back as they have an urge to see how the story continues and concludes.• This also means that each episode tends to start with a ‘hook’ in which one or more of the narratives from a previous episode are continued.
Convention 7: Always more than one storyline being shown• There are usually 4, 4 or even 5 storylines in progress at once in any soap episode. We are never constantly just been shown one, the soap switches between the stories, this helps keep the audiences interested.• Storylines can run for a very short amount of time, or the can run for months or even years. In some cases storylines have been left, then revisited years later, therefore attracting old audiences members back to the soap.