Soaps are dramatic, entertaining and never-ending. But they’ve got competition – from reality TV and its offspring, Structured Reality.
Much as we love soaps, there’s always room for improvement, so here are the five ways reality shows are nailing it right now, that soaps could learn a thing or two from.
1. Get even closer to real life
Structured reality shows, such as TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, now admit that not all we see is entirely real – some things have been added for a little entertainment. So to say reality TV is “real” is a bit of a stretch, but that doesn’t mean it’s all fake.
In fact, that’s what we love about them – they use real people, living out their dramas (and relationships) in real life.
Now soaps, by their nature, have to use actors and scripts, but a touch of reality would not go amiss. Choosing storylines that are closer to the real world might be an easy way to connect with viewers.
Remember when Tanya buried Max alive over a year-long affair? On TOWIE, all Megan McKenna and Pete Wicks did was have an intense lunch after their cheating scandal last year. But that’s the one we were hooked to.
2. Make use of everyone
Ever watch a soap and suddenly think: “This person is not adding anything”?
It’s been the way of soaps since the start: there’s a main plot at the centre and subplots that play out during its run.
On reality TV, some have more drama than others, but almost everyone has a plot. (Except the likes of Grace Andrews on TOWIE – but they rarely last long.)
Take Keeping Up With The Kardashians – the show wouldn’t work without all of the girls. Bobbing and weaving through all of their lives, each episode follows more than one drama.
On EastEnders, legendary extra Tracey the barmaid barely had any lines before May 2017 – that’s decades after first appearing on the show.
Moral here: everyone has something to offer.
3. Get to the point
Hurry up! Yes, soaps, as much as we love you, some stories just take too long to reach boiling point.
Get to the juicy bits sooner, like weeks, not months, so viewers don’t get frustrated and call it a day. Coronation Street tortured viewers with Pat Phelan’s murder storyline for almost a year.
Reality shows only have a limited run, so they have to get the point much more quickly – no cliffhangers here.
4. Lighten up
A bit of darkness is fine, but too much doom and gloom can become oppressive.
Although it’s right to praise soaps for addressing important issues, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism. The average soap character has been through more drama than any reasonable human could handle.
Give them a break sometimes – a giggle here, a normal lunch there. Any moment that involves Ian Beale dancing or an Alan Carr cameo is good in our books.
5. Is a touch of glamour too much to ask?
Ever notice how everyone on reality TV looks, well, unreal?
Let’s look at Love Island: tanned tums, bums and faces that look yum dominate the show.
We love it when characters in soaps are relatable, but a little glam never hurt anyone. (Hollyoaks, you’re fine. Keep at it.)
Think back to when the Slater sisters first entered the Square – or you first laid eyes on the Mitchell sisters.
Casual “soap glam” can be a thing. It can work.
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