Why Are U.K. Soaps Like EastEnders Thriving, While American Soaps Are Being Flushed Down The Loo?

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It's a question we've asked often on the Daytime Confidential iTunes podcast and here on the companion blog. Why are soaps around the world doing so well, yet U.S. soaps have become an endangered species?  BBC America blogger Kevin Wicks helps answer that question and many more in a revealing chat with BBC's Controller of Continuing Drama John Yorke. Wicks spoke to Yorke for the mega popular blog Anglophenia.  Check out a few snippets of the conversation below:

EastEnders1

On competition from reality TV:

 Unless shows can attract a mass audience reality TV will kill them. We've seen something very similar here in the UK where Dream Team, Brookside, Family Affairs, and Grange Hill have all [been canceled].


On the benefit of U.K. soaps airing in primetime:

Our primetime soaps are much more resilient. Partly there are more people available to watch, but also they reach a wider demographic, so at their best they still offer something for everybody. All TV audiences have dropped here from a high of maybe 15 years ago, and some like HeartBeat and The Bill have been lost, but the survivors work well because they're properly funded and — most of the time — are actually pretty good.

On the importance of diversity:

I strongly believe that diversity is a gift to drama and we champion it endlessly. Every new ethnic, religious, or sexual group allows you the possibility of telling old stories in a new way, and viewers do seem to actually love characters irrespective of their backgrounds. The biggest story on British TV last year was a Muslim wedding [on EastEnders], in which the groom was unmasked as gay. I'm very proud of that, but it also demonstrates that we shouldn't be scared of going into new worlds and telling stories in those worlds confidently!


Here's hoping the executives in charge of the four sudsers that will still be on the air after January 2012 hop across the pond to spend a little time shadowing execs like Yorke. It sounds like they could learn an awful lot.  For more of the interview, visit Anglophenia.


Photo credit: BBC