Sunday, January 4, 2009

International Fan Spotlight... US Soap Fan In Australia

In the first two "International Fan Spotlight" features, I spoke with Mark Knoop, an AS THE WORLD TURNS viewer in The Netherlands, and Marco Corsi, a GUIDING LIGHT (SENTIERI) viewer in Italy. Today, We Love Soaps goes down under to talk to Brianna, a fan of multiple United States soaps who lives in Australia.

Reminder: If you are a fan of a U.S. soap in a different country and want to speak about the show and its following there, send me an email at [email protected].

Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you became a fan of the US soaps?
I’m a 23 year old university student studying a postgraduate degree in Construction. I became a fan of US soaps through the natural transition of mother and daughter bonding. Well actually there was nothing to watch and mum was watching DAYS OF OUR LIVES and from then on I’ve been a huge fan of soap operas.

How long have you been watching?
I’ve been watching soaps on and off from 1992 with the off period to be a few months around the time I was finishing my HSC (final year studies for New South Wales students) in 2003.

DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS have been the soaps I have watched the longest both starting in 1992. I started watching THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL in 1994 and PASSIONS in 2001. However, PASSIONS finished in Australia around 2004-05 due to issues with music licensing.

How popular are the US soaps in Australia? How does their popularity compared to Australian soaps?
The main difference between popularity of the US soaps in Australia compared to Australian soaps is the time in which they are aired. Australian soaps like NEIGHBOURS and HOME AND AWAY have a primetime slot at 6:30 and 7:00pm respectively. Australian soaps are targeted more to the market of teenagers and younger people like myself moreso than an older adult audience. In a move to fix the problem, a new Aussie soap was created and is currently being shown over summer in a 10:30pm timeslot called OUT OF BLUE, which is directed at an older more mature audience. The US soaps (still airing in Oz) are shown at 2:00pm (DAYS – Channel 9) and 6:00pm (B&B – Channel 10) both of these are shown on free to air TV. Y&R in 2005 moved to Foxtel and is shown about 3:00pm; however Y&R is repeated as a Saturday marathon from around 12:00pm. When Y&R was moved from Channel 9 to Foxtel there was uproar from fans of the show as we used to have a back-to-back showing of DAYS and Y&R.

The average rundown of US soaps in Australia v Aussie soaps is as follows:
HOME AND AWAY: averages around 2 million viewers a night

NEIGHBOURS: averages around 1-1.5 million viewers a night

DAYS OF OUR LIVES: averages around 250,000 viewers a day

THE YOUGN AND THE RESTLESS: averages an around 300,000-350,000 viewers a day (this includes the people who watch the repeats on a Saturday on Foxtel)

THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: averaged around 300,000-400,000 viewers a night. However this has increased significantly since the move of the show from the 4:30pm timeslot to a primetime slot at 6:00pm

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Do the US soaps air current episodes or are they behind? If behind, do you follow what is happening on the US episodes via the internet or just watch the current Australian episodes and not want to know?
Originally Australia was four years behind both DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. However, around late 2004 we were fast-tracked to only being 4 months behind which meant we missed on the most significant DAYS storyline The Salem Serial Killer but we did get the ending of this (which annoyed a lot of Aussie Days fans, particularly me because we got half a story). But with the showing of cricket matches and sometimes episodes being taken off over holiday time (due to content issues) we are now about six or seven months behind the US.

Because I don’t have Foxtel I used to head over to my mum's friend's house to watch Y&R on a Saturday when they replay all the weeks episodes in one sitting. However, when listening to a "Daytime Confidential" podcast and how interesting the current storylines on Y&R were I decided to start watching online through YouTube. I also do this now with DAYS.

In terms of THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, we are roughly four months behind the US. I don’t watch this on YouTube cause it’s the same revolving storyline. On top of that my interest in the show was almost killed off when Taylor ran over Darla and Thorne became a plot point for everyone else. Although in saying this I have been watching more faithfully since Pam arrived in town.

When PASSIONS aired in Australia we were 2 years behind the US. I couldn’t keep track of the show on YouTube much due to conflicting interests with copyright (or something like that), so when PASSIONS stopped airing in Australia I keep up to date through daily episode synopsis’. I only really did this as PASSIONS was one of my all time favorite soaps. My interest in it had a lot to do with James E Reilly’s involvement with DAYS throughout the 90’s.

I also watch other US soaps like AS THE WORLD TURNS and GENERAL HOSPITAL (it did once air in Oz a long time ago but was cancelled due to lack of ratings) through YouTube as well since these have become personal favourites of mine.

Do you follow the US soaps through any of the US soap press?
I never used too but from about May 2008 I started to check out the websites and I usually get most of the soap gossip from message boards amongst other places.

What type of media coverage do the US soaps get in Australia? TV? Newspaper? Radio? Anything?
The only real coverage of US soaps in Australia is through mags like Soap World and TV Guide. When B&B moved to the primetime slot on channel 10 in early December the network did show a number of ads to promote the change.

How do you feel the sensibilities differ between the Australian audience and the American audience if at all?
I find the main difference between sensibilities of Aussie soaps versus US soaps is how everyday life is portrayed. Usually in US soaps characters are shown to live in middle to high income families with their jobs to match, where as Aussies soaps present a more realistic way of life with characters to represent all spectrums of society. The realistic representation makes the audience more receptive to the storylines being presented within the show.

Same-sex kissing: Aussie soaps haven’t really portrayed a gay couple before. However Heath Ledger played a gay teen in the Aussie Soap who was in love with his best friend in SWEAT. The first gay character in an Australian soap was in the 1970’s in a show called NUMBER 96 (which was quite racy for its time). Talking to my mum about NUMBER 96 there wasn’t much of a who-ha about the character rather the way he came out and the fact that he didn’t really have a storyline after coming out. Going back to SWEAT and the portrayal of a gay teen other Heath Ledger’s portrayal (which was awesome) the show was cancelled before any potential developed of the character or potential relationship could be fully explored. In terms of reactions I spoke to a number of gay friends who said from their own experiences within the community and coming out that there would be pockets of the community that would be outraged with a storyline featuring a female/female or male/male relationship let alone doing anything else. However in saying this, the Australian public is very accepting of all relationship types so the backlash would probably be only minimal (particularly in recent law changes that have occurred).

Raciness: I stated before the issues presented in Australian soaps are more realistic then US soaps, however, Aussie soaps are limited to how much they are allowed to show due to timeslot requirements and of course the targeted audience. Due to the restriction you rarely see two characters in bed together or even semi-undressing each other like they do on US soaps. There was a soap many years ago called HEARTBREAK HIGH that directly related to teen issues such as pregnancy, teen sex, abortion, etc. SWEAT did similar things despite only being around for one season.

Coverage of Issues: I find Aussie soaps are more likely to cover real issues affecting the characters in a more realistic way then US soaps. For example, HOME AND AWAY as well as NEIGHBOURS has covered issues such as abortion, miscarriage, rape, religious cults, tsunami victims, HIV, drug abuse and overdoses, and cancer storylines and looked at how these really impact the character and those around the character. Where as US soaps are more likely to turn events such as these into revenge type scenarios (DAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL are shockers for these). However, I do find THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS more high brow in how they tackle issues impacting the characters, although there still remains subtle revenge contexts within the stories.

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