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Daytime Viewers' Guide to Primetime Soaps: 5 Nighttime Dramas You Must Watch


The daytime soap opera is a wonderful genre that delivers romance, betrayal, drama and epic twists. They can inspire the imagination, or make you scream at your TV.

Primetime soaps can do the exact same thing. However, not everyone has time to keep up with both daytime and primetime serials. Here’s a quick Daytime Viewers' Guide to Primetime Soaps!

Empire, Fox

Unless you've been living without a Twitter account, you already know Fox's Empire is the second coming of Dynasty set in the hip-hop world. Just in case you weren't one of the 10 million people who tuned in for its blockbuster premiere, we're here to tell why you need to watch Empire.

The stars and producers of the flashy soap proudly promoted it as a primetime soap in the vein of Dynasty, with a King Lear-esque origin story.  This is one time when Hollywood actually delivered.

Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is the new Alexis Colby (Joan Collins), complete with over-the-top boardroom takedowns and one bitching wardrobe. Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard) is every bit as ruthless and homophobic as Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) was. Their talented, gay son Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) is the modern day equivalent of Dynasty's Steven Carrington, minus the bisexual conflict. No Claudia Blaisdels on this soap. Jamal knows exactly who is—and who he loves—whether his father can deal with it or not.

Time will tell if Anika (Grace Gealey) morphs in Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans). We'll need to see her go toe-to-toe with Cookie in a mud pit to decide!

the good wife

The Good Wife, CBS

Remember when The Young and the Restless was the fine wine of soaps, flawlessly threading storylines that took you from the boardrooms to the bedrooms of wealthy, wanton Wisconsinites? If you cherish those Bill Bell soap memories,  The Good Wife is the perfect show for you.

Set in the dueling worlds of a high-powered law firm and the halls of political power, The Good Wife consistently tells the best serialized stories on network television. Unfortunately, the televised gem gets bumped around like a fumbled pigskin on Sunday nights in the fall, due to football overruns on CBS.

If you've never tried The Good Wife, or are a lapsed viewer, now is the perfect time to jump in. This season finds Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) running for State's Attorney; while still trying to maintain her say at the law firm she recently started with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry) and Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranksi).
While The Good Wife is in its sixth season of high-brow soapy drama, there's also a weekly procedural, case-of-the-week element that makes it less daunting for new viewers.

Fortunately, you can also stream past seasons of The Good Wife, if you are an Amazon Prime member, or have Xfinity On Demand.

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin, The CW

If you loved Ugly Betty’s charm and telenovela-inspired storytelling, you need to watch Jane the Virgin. Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) was a religious, young woman saving herself for marriage, when she was accidentally inseminated with the sperm of her doctor’s brother.

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News of her shocking-yet-not-quite-immaculate conception turns Jane's life upside down. The aspiring writer and teacher is suddenly thrust back into the glamorous orbit of hotelier Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni). The guy she shared a steamy kiss with years earlier, is now her baby daddy! Oh, and he comes with a scheming wife , a druggy sister who's having an affair with their stepmother and a manipulative mogul father.

At the beginning of the story, Jane was engaged to true-blue detective Michael Cordero Jr. (Bret Dier). She dumped him when she learned he was keeping secrets of his own.

Jane the Virgin has a strong daytime soap opera pedigree. Golden Globe winner Rodriguez appeared on The Bold and the Beautiful as Beverly in 2011-2012. Baldoni was on both The Bold and the Beautiful and sister soap The Young and the Restless. Andrea Navedo, who portrays Jane’s fantastic single mother Xo, portrayed Theresa Sandoval on Guiding Light and Linda Soto on One Life to Live.

A lesser show wouldn’t be able to juggle artificial insemination, romantic triangles, drug trafficking, a murder mystery, illegal immigration, hotel power grabs and a telenovela star bio daddy, but Jane the Virgin does it effortlessly and with self-effacing humor.

The Affair

The Affair, Showtime

A couple grieving the loss of their child struggles to hold onto to their marriage. One half makes the devastating choice to turn to another for comfort.

If you're a The Young and the Restless fan, you probably think I'm detailing the aftermath of Cassie's (Camryn Grimes) death. I'm actually setting up Showtime's addictive serial, The Affair.

Much like Nick (Joshua Morrow) and Sharon Newman (Sharon Case) on Y&R, Cole (Dawson's Creek's Joshua Jackson) and Alison Bailey Lockhart's (Ruth Wilson) marriage is never the same following the death of their child. On Y&R, Nick turned to flame-haired temptress Phyllis Summers (then-Michelle Stafford). On The Affair, Montauk local Alison sparks and erotic flame with Noah Solloway (Dominick West), a married, vacationing novelist.

Nick and Phyllis's scandalous love affair was complicated by his late daughter's crush on her son. Alison and Noah's scandalous love affair is complicated by her brother-in-law's involvement with his jail bait daughter.

Nick is a member of the powerful, privileged Newman dynasty. Noah's wife, Helen (Maura Tierney), is a member of the powerful, privileged Butler dynasty.

You see what we're getting at? Showtime essentially took a singular soap trope and masterfully adapted it into a Golden Globe-winning drama. If you love sexy, cerebral suds, it's worthy of a binge.


Outlander, Starz

Remember when Viki Lord Buchanan (Erika Slezak) traveled back in time to the 1800's for a sweeping romance on One Life to Live? Outlander's Claire Beauchamp Randall (Caitriona Balfe) has her beat. The newlywed, World War II nurse was transported from 1945 to 1743 on the sultry adventure serial!

While a variation of Viki's present day love Clint Buchanan (Clint Richie) was waiting to romance her in ancient Texas, the ancestor of Claire's hubby, Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), Black Jack Randall is sort of a dick. No worries. She finds a dreamy Highlander named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) to protect her and give her multiple 18th century orgasms.

Reporting by Luke Kerr,  Jamey Giddens and Sara Bibel