FLASHBACK: TV Soap Opera Resurgence Of 1964

PEYTON PLACE premiered on September 15, 1964.  Dorothy
Malone starred as Constance MacKenzie. - Photo: ABC
Resurgence of TV soap opera about to get under way

By Rick Du Brow
United Press International
September 3, 1964

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) - In television, an experiment is any idea that was popular a few years ago. This new season, soap operas, the pictorial equivalent of reading someone else's mail, are having a massive resurgence. It is only starting.

There are, of course, many show business precedents, such as the "continued next week" movie serials of years ago, and the radio soapers. In the coming season, most of the attention in this field will be focused on PEYTON PLACE, ABC-TV's new twice-weekly prime night-time serial, which debuts Sept. 15. But there are heavy rumblings throughout the video industry for more of these serials and-or continuing dramas -- and many a major project of this type is being whipped up at the Hollywood studios. What are some of the more immediate reasons for this trend?

Daytime Rating Success

One reason, apparently, is the tremendous ratings success of CBS-TV's daytime soapers against the opposition of the other two networks. As an example of lasting power, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW starts its 14th year on CBS-TV today. Some game shows seem to be taking it on the chin. At ABC-TV, for instance, the long-running QUEEN FOR A DAY is off the fall schedule and a new soaper, THE YOUNG MARRIEDS is set in a locale near to that of another successful ABC-TV serial, GENERAL HOSPITAL. In addition, NBC-TV has a relatively new serial, ANOTHER WORLD.

Another apparent reason for the trend is the enormous success in England of a twice-weekly show called CORONATION STREET. This is also a serial. And a London dispatch in Variety, the show business weekly, speaks of British broadcasters' "increasing faith" in such twice-weekly programs. "The fall should see five such serials on the go," says the dispatch.

Consider Past Performance

A third reason for the trend toward continuing stories is the impact of some gambles with multi-part dramas in the not-too distant past. A five-parter on LASSIE, for example, did wonders for its ratings. A key figure in the PEYTON PLACE operation talks of the impression made by a two-part story that used both DR. KILDARE and THE ELEVENTH HOUR. In the coming season, a two-parter is planned for THE DEFENDERS and THE NURSES. To executives, all of this is added proof of why independent dramas - or even anthologies with a starring host, such as the Richard Boone Show - have a tough time earning ratings.

Signs of the trend are coming thick and fast. ABC-TV has the No. 1 soap opera creator, Irna Phillips, as a top consultant. The same network's daily DAY IN COURT show will have more running cases. In the non-soap category, CBS-TV has tentative plans for a series called THE QUEST, which would continue weekly until an individual story is completed, and then start a new one. At ABC-TV it is rumored that if PEYTON PLACE catches on big, it might go to three, four or even five nights a week.

Some observers, meantime, see certain values in the serial resurgence, claiming that these daytime dramas can provide a badly-needed training ground for young actors and writers.


  1. It's about time for another Soap Opera Resurgence, don't you think?

  2. I've posted so many flashback articles from the past 60 years that spoke of soap's resurgence, then it's demise, then the next comeback. I think it's time to soar again. But we have more serialized shows on TV and the web than ever so maybe soaps never went away, except on daytime broadcast TV thanks to some short-sighted execs over the years.