Reading 11: SOAP OPERAS

Multiple choice FCE Part2 Exercise

You are going to read an article about soap operas. For the questions which follow (1-8), choose the answer (A, B, C, or D) which you think fits best according to the text.
In the 1930s, when radio was still in its infancy, broadcasting stations in the USA wondered what type of programmes they should put on during the daytime- They came up with the idea of producing serials that would be on the radio every afternoon telling a continuous story. To keep the listeners' interest, there would be far more crises occurring than in real life. Knowing that the majority of the audience would be women, the broadcasters decided that the women in the serials would be strong characters and the men weak. The serials were an instant success with listeners. As the radio stations were paid for by advertising, these programmes always carried advertisements and, since one of the most frequently advertised products was soap, the programmes became known as Soaps or Soap Operas.

It was really by chance that the soap opera appeared in Britain. The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) had no interest in producing this type of programme but during the Second World War it was thought that the Americans should be shown how well the British people were standing up to the war. For this reason, a soap opera was written for the North American service of the BBC; it was called Front Line Family and showed how a typical English family, the Robinsons, were living during the war. Some people in Britain managed to hear the programme and asked for it to be broadcast for the British audience. The BBC were unwilling to do this but finally agreed and broadcast the programnne in Britain, but changed the name lo The Robinsons. The programme ran for six years.

Other soaps were introduced later, one telling the life of a doctor's family and another, The Archers, about life in a country village. The original aim of The Archers was to inform farmers of new developments in agriculture. The serial began in 1951 and is still to be heard on five evenings every week.

Some attempts at soap opera began to appear on television in Britain in the mid-1950s but it was not until 1961 that the first real soap opera appeared. This was shown, not by the BBC, but by commercial television. The serial, called Coronation Street, was about the lives of people living in a working-class street near Manchester. Although the serial was planned to run for only thirteen weeks, it is still to be seen several nights every week and almost every week has more viewers than any other programme on British television.

The BBC never managed to produce a really successful soap opera until 1984, when it introduced Eastenders. This programme is about life in anarea of the east end of London. For a time it had more viewers lhan Coronation Street and still rivals it as the most popular programme on British television. There is a major difference between the two programmes in that Eastenders concentrates on often rather depressing realism whilst Coronation Street, although having serious storylines, always contains a strong element of comedy.