When it comes to reality series being inspired by daytime soaps—such as ABC's proposed reality version of General Hospital— it's really a situation of been there, seen that. For the past two decades, unscripted television has borrowed heavily from scripted, serialized daytime dramas. In fact, they've done so with the help of veterans of the daytime soap community! Here are 5 reality series with strong ties to the daytime soap world.
No. 5: Dirty Soap
In 2011, E! debuted this unscripted drama from producers and All My Children alums Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos. Featuring suds stars: Kelly Monaco (Dancing With The Stars, General Hospital, Port Charles), Kirsten Storms (General Hospital, Days of Our Lives) Nadia Bjorlin (Days of Our Lives), Brandon Beemer (The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives), John-Paul Lavoisier (One Life to Live), Farah Fath (One Life to Live, Days of Our Lives) and real-life married couple Galen Gering (Days of Our Lives, Passions) and his wife Jenna, DS only ran for one season.
The series did manage to create a new breakout star in Bjorlin's mean-as-hell mama Fary. It also shed light into why Storms and Fath often vacillate back and forth between friends and frenemy status.
No. 4: The Real Housewives franchise
If there was every any doubt that Bravo's megahit Real Housewives franchise draws mad inspiration from daytime suds, it was squelched when the cabler's development veep Andy Cohen published his memoir, Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture. The Housewives wrangler and Watch What Happens Live host's tome is one big love letter to Susan Lucci and her All My Children character Erica Kane!
While Cohen may love him some La Lucci, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills executive producer Dave Rupel (who was also an executive producer on the flagship The Real Housewives of Orange County)actually wrote for daytime suds General Hospital and Guiding Light. Where else but daytime television would these chaps have gotten the idea that having well-heeled, bejeweled women scratching one another's surgically-lifted eyes out would make for lucrative TV?
Photo credit: Bravo
No. 3: Laguna Beach
It should come as no surprise that one of the most beloved and successful executive producers in daytime soap opera history helped launch one of MTV's most popular series of all time. When the creators of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County wanted to soap up their upcoming high school docu-drama they called up former General Hospital and Port Charles showrunner Wendy Riche.
Riche served as co-executive producer on the first season of Laguna Beach, helping introduce a generation of tweens to the nastiest blonde-on-blonde rivalry since Sami tangled with Carrie on Days of Our Lives — Kristin Cavallari vs. Lauren Conrad. Kristin and Lauren's battle over teen hunk Stephen Colletti was textbook daytime soap, complete with a scheming, hypersexual, bad girl warring with a rootable, virginal heroine.
The drama continued on Laguna Beach's even more popular spinoff series The Hills, which transplanted Lauren—and much later Kristin—to Los Angeles in pursuit of the glamorous life.
Photo credit: MTV
No. 2: Starting Over
Almost a decade ago, Universal Domestic Television (later NBCUniversal Television) launched the first unscripted daytime soap opera. From the late Mary-Elise Bunim and Jonathan Murray came Starting Over. The series chronicled the lives of women as they attempted to rebuild their lives with the help of life coaches like Iyanla Vanzant.
Bunim, who previously worked as an executive producer on Search For Tomorrow, As The World Turns, Santa Barbara and Loving, had found major success partnering with Murray for MTV's The Real World franchise. Although short-lived (2003-06), Starting Over proved to be critically-acclaimed and was even nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award.
No. 1: The Real World
"This is the true story"... Okay, you know the rest, but what you might not be aware of is that "true story" of seven strangers picked to live in a loft and have their lives taped was originally pitched as a scripted soap opera to MTV!
Veteran daytime executive Mary Elis-Bunim (Search For Tomorrow, As The World Turns, Loving, Santa Barbara) and producing partner Jonathan Murray reportedly proposed a scripted sudser about New Yorkers striving to achieve their dreams. MTV balked once they found out how much it would cost to do a scripted soap.
Bunim and Murray came back to the table with the idea of doing the show as a reality series, inspired by the classic PBS docu-drama An American Family. Only instead of documenting the lives of a real-life family, The Real World would follow seven young adults, from various walks of life, who'd never laid eyes on one another.
The series was a smash hit from its 1992 premiere season. Twenty years later, The Real World is set to premiere its 28th season, set in Portland, Oregon, in early 2013.