Q and A

By Lynda Hirsch

January 18, 2014 4 min read

A. Every day in every way. When soap operas came to television, they were 15 minutes. Irna Phillips wanted "Guiding Light" to expand to a half hour. CBS and P&G did not think that was a good idea. Phillips, not one to take no for an answer, created "As the World Turns," the first half-hour soap. ABC wanted to keep their audience from one show to the next. "All My Children" went from a half hour to 45 minutes each, with the shows dovetailing. It worked. Viewership went up for ABC soaps. In 1980, "Another World" expanded to an unwieldy 90 minutes. Millions of viewers stopped watching.

Wardrobe has changed. In the beginning, actors provided their own clothes. In the late 60s, Barneys provided clothes in exchange for mentions on the shows. Men still provided their outfits. Bill Hayes (Doug "Days of our Lives") remembers, "Men were given stipends for dry cleaning."

That changed. Every soap has a vast wardrobe department. Each character has more clothes than Macy's. There have been arguments between actresses as to who get the best blouses to wear. At one point, the costumer for "Sex and the City" was the customer for "Guiding Light."

The look has changed. In the beginning, soap sets were stark. There may have been a chair and table, and of course a coffee pot.

Backdrops were used to represent the outdoors, houses, etc. Soap sets can now give spread in Architectural Digest a run for their money. For years, soap sets folded up at night and sets to be used the next day were then unfolded. Now, most soaps have sets that are free-standing.

The advent of high definition television certainly changed the look. Everything is crisper and brighter — even a blemish. Most soaps switched from cake makeup to airbrush. If you want to look like a soap star, you can buy the airbrush kit. Be warned; it takes practice, but when you master it, your skin is flawless.

The pace of stories went from turtle crawl to road-runner speed.

The shows are shot differently. For years, they were live and then they went to tape. In the early days, the shows were still produced like a play.

Linda Gottlieb went from producing the film "Dirty Dancing" to producing "One Life to Live."

One of her legacies was taping like a movie. An actor may be taping ten days worth of shows.

Some actors say that ruins the acting momentum. Other love it because, if their set is early in the day, they can leave earlier.

Sound has changed. No more heavenly voice telling you that "Search for Tomorrow" was going to begin. And, oh, the organ music. A tense scene would have Wagner like dirges on the Wurlitzer. A little moment would have perky organ music. Today, soaps cull the top of the charts for songs to play. Most soaps have some songs that are written specifically for them.

Those are just some of the changes soaps have gone through in the past 50 years

To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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