->'''Joey''': Well, I get the medical award for separating the Siamese twins. Then Amber and I go to Venezuela to meet our other half-brother, Ramone. And that's where I find the world's biggest emerald. It's really big--but it's ''cursed.''
->'''Chandler''': God, that is good TV.
-->--''Series/{{Friends}}'', "The One Where Doctor Ramoray Dies"

A genre of storytelling that began on {{radio|Drama}} in the United States in the early 1930's, so named because its [[{{Melodrama}} high drama]] was often interspersed with adverts for soap (Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of such products, was the sole sponsor and producer for many of them). But there's [[AntiHumor no soap radio]] anymore; with one exception, it has moved on to television. A soap opera is a drama with a large cast experiencing dramatic events in their day-to-day lives, usually broadcast five days a week. Designed to be viewed intermittently, so that a single event may be stretched over three or more days.

Death is [[FirstLawOfResurrection not a big concern]] in the world of soaps (to the point that ''Series/{{Friends}},'' after Joey's brain was crushed on ''Series/DaysOfOurLives'', joked that he could yet return, and he did), though most shows enjoy ''[[TonightSomeoneDies pretending]]'' that anybody can be snuffed out at any moment particularly during a commercial or episode break. The truth is that [[McLeaned contract re-negotiations]] are the leading cause of permanent death. Story progression often takes a backseat to what people actually want to see: {{cat fight}}s and [[TheMasochismTango screaming matches]] and [[LoveDodecahedron every imaginable configuration]] of characters sleeping with each other. These habits are widely mocked in other works whenever a soap appears or is mentioned.

There are two main schools of Soap Opera, the "Anglo" School, common to the USA, United Kingdom, and Australia; and the "Latin" School a.k.a. "{{Telenovela}}" or "Culebrón" (from "culebra", a word for "snake", which alludes to their length), which is the standard in almost every nation from Mexico southwards. The principal difference between the two schools is how long their continuous production runs: "Anglo" soaps are typically LongRunners, easily extending themselves for years and even ''decades'' when successful (the record-holder being ''(The) Series/GuidingLight'', 1937-2009), while the longest "Latin" soap lasted four years, with the average time being six to ten months. This difference holds globally: for instance, Arabic soaps are quite obviously of the "Latin" School, running for short periods of time (sometimes even just one month: Ramadan, when the fasting requirement means viewers are frequently too tired during the day to do anything other than watch TV). Japanese, Korean, and other Asian dramas also resemble this school. On the other hand, German and other continental European soaps are typically of the "Anglo" school, lasting for years and years, although "Latin" format is not unheard of.

The main difference ''within'' the Anglo school is class American soaps often feature filthy rich characters with big houses and glamorous clothing (think ''Series/{{Dallas}}'' or ''Series/{{Dynasty}}''); Australian ones usually feature [[MonochromeCasting middle class suburban white people]], often young and healthy (''Series/{{Neighbours}}'', ''Sons and Daughters'', ''Series/HomeAndAway''); while the British soaps are either lower-middle class (''Series/{{Brookside}}'') or [[KitchenSinkDrama grimly and grimily working class]] (''Series/EastEnders'', ''Series/CoronationStreet''). These class divides are not 100% certain but tend to dominate: see, for example, Creator/TheBBC's aspirationally luxurious ''Howard's Way'', which lasted for several years but never achieved the public love that the "kitchen sink" soaps did. The feature common to all three flavours is that there is no one main character; rather, characters drift in and out of [[CharacterFocus focus]] as the storylines go on. Some characters may be more memorable or have more influence on TheVerse than others, but [[EnsembleCast nobody can be said to be the protagonist]]. (See also: SoapWheel.)

The Latin Soap Opera (a.k.a. the ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telenovela telenovela]]'') has two main styles: the classical, or "pink", and the "modern". The first style centers on classic and melodramatic pure love stories with poor, NaiveEverygirl heroines that are often TooDumbToLive, while the second tries to [[GenreBusting use resources from other genres]] and explore modern social issues without neglecting the love story side. Stereotypically, the pink ''telenovela'' is a Mexican and Venezuelan staple, the modern style is predominant in Colombia and Brazil (though Mexicans and Venezuelans occasionally try their hand at it), and Chilean ''telenovelas'' are a mix of both. In the United States, the ''telenovelas'' brought over to cater to the large (and growing) Spanish-speaking minority tend to be almost entirely of the "pink" variety. Curiously, a variant of the Latin school is also predominant in the Philippines that's partly influenced by Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean dramas.[[note]] Telenovelas are very notorious for their [[LatinLover passionate declarations of love and steamy sex scenes]], which are reduced or removed in the Asian dramas.[[/note]] These historically tend to be similar to the pink style, though the current batch of series has experimented more towards the modern style, with emphasis towards class conflict, topics normally taboo to Philippine society, and an emphasis of teaching Christian values to the audience.

Spanish-speaking countries ([[TheLastOfTheseIsNotLikeTheOthers and Portugese-speaking Brazil]]) often run their soaps in PrimeTime, as do the Brits with their best soaps and favourite Aussie imports, and as do Australians themselves. By contrast, American stations traditionally quarantine soaps into a late-morning or early-afternoon timeslot. That said, daytime soaps were reliable moneyspinners for the American networks from the days of {{radio}} all the way into TheNineties, and served as a career springboard for many actors and actresses who went on to great success in more "legit" film and TV productions.

Although classic soap operas originated in the United States, the genre there has [[DeadHorseGenre undergone a severe decline]] to the point that many media watchers have declared it effectively though not quite actually dead. During the transition to TheNewTens, four of the longest running and most successful soaps in history reached their finales ''Series/GuidingLight'' (the longest continuous narrative in human history) was cancelled in 2009 after 72 years; ''Series/AsTheWorldTurns'' ended in 2010 after 54 years; ''Series/AllMyChildren'' ended in 2011 and ''Series/OneLifeToLive'' ended in 2012, both having run for over 40 years. Those were the first, but not the last, casualties. There are several popular, somewhat interconnecting, theories as to why soaps have declined in America:
* The first is the rise of women in the workforce, brought on by a combination of the feminist movement and massive economic upheaval. When soaps began, women were still primarily {{housewi|fe}}ves who would be home during daytime, which has long been the domain of soaps in America (meaning they had a potential audience of nearly half the American adult population). However, as more and more households became dual-income or woman-primary[[note]] (that means a female is the main breadwinner, either because she's single or she earns a higher income than her partner)[[/note]], there simply weren't as many people home to watch. One potential sign of this is that the most successful current daytime soap is ''Series/TheYoungAndTheRestless'', which runs most often in a 12:30 timeslot, when people who work a typical 9-to-5 job will be able to tune in during their lunch break.
** Most of the remaining U.S. soaps air in a time period close to, if not over, the lunch hour. (''Series/TheBoldAndTheBeautiful'' and ''Series/TheYoungAndTheRestless'' on CBS, and ''Series/DaysOfOurLives'' on NBC. Only ABC's ''Series/GeneralHospital'' airs outside that time frame (but in many places in the Central and Mountain time zones, it airs at 1 p.m., just outside the lunch hour)
* The second is that the TV landscape in general has inverted in America. [[ValuesDissonance Originally]], soaps were allowed to be edgy while UsefulNotes/{{prime time}} was more conservative back in [[TheFifties the '50s]] and [[TheSixties early '60s]], ''Series/ILoveLucy''[='=]s Lucy and Ricky Ricardo weren't allowed to say the word "pregnant", and ''Series/TheDickVanDykeShow''[='=]s Laura Petrie was criticized by MoralGuardians for wearing pants. As primetime TV has gotten edgier, daytime TV has conversely become somewhat stodgier. They seem to have intersected during the mid-1970's, when [[Series/AllMyChildren Erica Kane]] and [[Series/{{Maude}} Maude Finlay]] both got landmark abortions within a few months of each other. Soaps had a surge during TheEighties with the likes of Supercouple [[Series/GeneralHospital Luke and Laura]], but at that point, Prime Time was creating edgy shows with topical themes such as ''Series/{{Roseanne}}'' and ''Series/TheGoldenGirls'', (which were ''sitcoms'' and were still dealing with issues such as HIV and domestic violence, to say nothing of dramas of the time), and soaps began to decline. In addition, the soap opera has become part of the genetics of television drama -- it no longer needs to be contained in just daytime serials shows such as ''Revenge'' and the ''Dallas'' revival show that people still have a fondness for soaps, it's just that the mechanics of a heavily serialized daily show in primetime can't keep up with modern audiences.
** This could be related to the above in that, with more women going into the workforce rather than being stay-at-home housewives, the women who ''do'' stay home are doing so by choice rather than societal pressure. As such, they're likely to hold more conservative views about gender roles, gay rights, and other social issues, causing the showrunners to make their soaps more conservative in order to retain viewers. It also explains why prime time has taken on the soaps' old edginess -- the liberal-leaning housewives who watched soaps before the rise of feminism have changed into liberal-leaning working women who watch prime time shows like the men do.
* The third theory cites two specific events in the late '80s and early '90s as the reasons why audiences started tuning out -- [[TVStrikes the 1988 WGA strike]] and [[MissingWhiteWomanSyndrome the OJ Simpson trial]]. The former caused the soaps to run without experienced writers, leading to a sharp decline in quality, and coverage of the latter not only knocked the soaps off the air for several weeks, but it provided viewers with a ''{{real life}}'' soap opera to enjoy. Declining viewership caused the networks to put less effort into their shows, creating a vicious cycle of sinking quality and ratings.
** Taking this theory further, the fact that shortly before the first of the legacy soaps was cancelled there was ''another'' WGA strike (in 2007-8), might be more than just coincidence.
* The fourth theory (and a conspiracy theory) is that the networks want to get out of the soap business because they are so expensive to produce compared to talk and reality shows, especially given that the above three factors have been cutting into ratings for upwards of two decades. However, soap opera fans are notoriously loyal (it is often the show that bonds [[LongRunners generations of mothers and daughters]]), so the networks have been deliberately sabotaging their soaps, [[ScrewedByTheNetwork slashing budgets and hiring writers with contempt for the genre]] in an effort to drive fans away. [[XanatosGambit Less fans means less ratings means that the soap can be canceled as a "business decision" with relatively minimal blowback]]... and if they accidentally cause a SpringtimeForHitler scenario and the show is a hit, hey, they're not gonna complain.
* Then there's the rise of cable networks and streaming options. In the past, the lower-tier of scripted television, which included soaps and [[MadeForTVMovie Made-for-TV Movies]], was still pretty limited with only a few networks; even in the 90s when cable was just getting into the originals game, the roles were still limited and you'd be happy to take a soap role to get in the door. Now when you have 450-some primetime and streaming shows looking to cast, taking a three-week role as a nurse on ''General Hospital'' to break in or sticking daytime around for years looping through the same plot points doesn't look as good when you can easily get better pay and attention as a recurring character on a Creator/{{Netflix}} series, not to mention you don't get as much Website/{{Twitter}} and fanmail anguish due to a soap writer's creative choice you had no say in nixing (it's often thought the writers can easily scorn and get back at the talent who hates them much more than for actors in primetime series).

Many in the industry predicted that while the soap opera will live on in American TV, the last of the classic daytime serials would be off the air by 2015 a prophecy that did not come to pass. However, it is true that by then, only four traditional soaps remained ''Series/GeneralHospital'', ''Series/DaysOfOurLives'', ''Series/TheYoungAndTheRestless'', and ''Series/TheBoldAndTheBeautiful'' down from 19 in 1969 and 12 as recently as 1990. [=SOAPNet=], the one cable network dedicated to the genre and where most of the programs repeat, was removed from many cable systems in early 2012 to be replaced by Disney Junior, and its end was used as an excuse by ABC's daytime chief to kill ''All My Children'' and ''One Life to Live''.[[note]] Although many soap fans feel that the truth is that then-ABC daytime chief Brian Frons, who had a history of cancelling soaps dating back to the series "Santa Barbara", had a vendetta against fans for rejecting his vision of what the ABC soaps should be, namely an emphasis on gratuitous sex and violence over storytelling, as well as firing veteran cast members without warning.[[/note]]

Practically every nation on earth has soap operas (radio and TV), and loads of soaps are one thing you can ''always'' count on an expatriate/tourist station for any given country carrying. The U.S. military's Armed Forces Network carries [[RealMenWearPink all four current U.S. soaps]].[[note]] This isn't as ridiculous as it seems. In addition to AFN needing to also cater to wives of service members who live on-base, being on active duty in a combat zone paradoxically means one has a '''''lot''''' of downtime in between operations, but when that downtime is isn't always predictable. The drawn-out meandering plotlines of classic soaps are ideal for that situation. For similar reasons, farmers have long been a significant PeripheryDemographic for soaps.[[/note]]

For parodies of the soap genre, look up SoapWithinAShow. For the modern variant, PrimeTimeSoap or SupernaturalSoapOpera. The Japanese equivalent is {{Dorama}}.

Aside from the fantastic elements (and even there, [[MagicRealism the line is blurry]]), this is largely the DistaffCounterpart to {{comic book}}s, although the fans of that medium [[FandomBerserkButton will never admit it]].[[note]] Coincidentally, ''Series/GuidingLight'' and ''Marvel'' had a crossover comic book made in 2006.[[/note]] ProfessionalWrestling has at times been called "Soap Operas for men."

Not to be confused with ''WesternAnimation/SoupeOpera''.

[[folder:Anglo School]]
* ''Series/AllMyChildren''
* ''Series/AnnaUndDieLiebe''
* ''Series/AnotherWorld''
* ''Radio/TheArchers'' (radio soap)
* ''Series/AsTheWorldTurns''
* ''Series/{{Ballykissangel}}''
* ''Series/TheBoldAndTheBeautiful''
* ''Series/{{Brookside}}''
* ''Series/CoronationStreet''
* ''Series/{{Crossroads}}''
* ''Series/DarkShadows''
* ''Series/DaysOfOurLives''
* ''Series/EastEnders''
* ''Series/TheEdgeOfNight''
* ''Series/{{Emmerdale}}''
* ''Series/GeneralHospital''
* ''Series/GuidingLight''
* ''Series/GuteZeitenSchlechteZeiten''
* ''Series/TheHavesAndTheHaveNots''
* ''Series/{{Hollyoaks}}''
* ''Series/HomeAndAway''
* ''Series/LoveOfLife''
* ''Series/{{Loving}}''
* ''Series/MaryHartmanMaryHartman''
* ''Series/NightAndDay''
* ''Series/{{Neighbours}}''
* ''Series/OneLifeToLive''
* ''Series/{{Passions}}''
* ''Series/PobolYCwm''
* ''Series/RyansHope''
* ''Series/SearchForTomorrow''
* ''Series/ShortlandStreet''
* ''Series/{{Soap}}''
* ''Series/SunsetBeach''
* ''Series/TheYoungAndTheRestless''

[[folder:Latin America]]
* ''La Impostora'' ("The Impostor"): A rich woman tricks a poor lookalike into taking her place so she can be free to have an affair. One of the most popular novelas ever, it's been remade several times.
* ''Roque Santeiro'': Originally conceived (and canned by censorship) at the height of Brazil's military regime, this one got a new version in the mid-80's, achieving ratings close to 100% in Brazil and some other countries. The largest open-air market in Africa is named after it.
* ''Kassandra'', a classic tale of SwitchedAtBirth which become the most famous telenovela in the world during the early Nineties.
* ''Crystal'': two women who raised themselves out of their CinderellaCircumstances, mother and daughter, cross paths; tragedy ensues as the former ruins the life of the latter while unaware of their real relationship. Remade several times.
* ''Esmeralda'' (and its similarly-titled imitators ''Topacio'' and ''Ruby''): all are about poor, blind women named after gemstones.
* ''El derecho de nacer'' ("The Right to Be Born"), which was born on the radio and has had countless TV remakes.
* ''Senda de gloria'' (Path of Glory): A historical soap opera. It was one of the first telenovelas that did not shy away from [[DarkerAndEdgier showing]] [[WarIsHell how brutal]] UsefulNotes/TheMexicanRevolution was, and how it shaped modern UsefulNotes/{{Mexico}}. Notable also for the fact that Televisa [[DoingItForTheArt took a lot of pains]] [[ShownTheirWork to ensure they got everything right]]. It was ScrewedByTheNetwork due to a political problem between the ruling party and the son of one of the presidents shown there[[note]] Also, the fact that it got murdered in the ratings (a very rare ocurrence for Televisa at [[TheNineties the time]]) certainly didn't help.[[/note]].
* ''Los ricos también lloran'' ("The Rich Also Cry"), which was the first soap opera that Televisa exported to countries outside of the American continent. [[GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff It became very famous in the ex-USSR countries]] and brought fame to Verónica Castro, the actress who played the female lead.
* The "Trilogy of the Marías" (''Maria Mercedes'', ''Marimar'', and ''Series/MariaLaDelBarrio'') , a group of soaps with "Mari­a" in some part of their title, that catapulted their shared main actress, Mexican singer Thalia, from mere local fame to international superstardom.
* ''Escrava Isaura'' ("Isaura the Slave"), about a white slave in Colonial Brazil. Exposed the [[UsefulNotes/ColdWar Eastern Bloc]] to Latin soaps.
* ''Chocolate com Pimenta'' ("Chocolate with Pepper"), famous Brazilian soap taking place in the 1920's.
* ''Vale Tudo'' ("Anything Goes"), famous '80s Brazilian soap.
* ''O Clone'' ("The Clone"), Brazilian soap about [[ActingForTwo a guy, his twin brother]] and [[UpToEleven his clone]], along with some stereotypes of Arab culture and very narmy soundtrack.
* ''Pobre diabla'' ("Poor She-Devil") (In Spanish "poor devil" means "loser")
* ''Pasión de gavilanes'' ("Passion of the Sparrowhawks"): The three Reyes brothers, first looking {{Revenge}} against the Elizondo family for their sister's death, end falling in love with the three Elizondo sisters. Complications ensues thanks to the sisters' very uptight and classist mother and Fernando Escandon, the ex-husband of the elder sister who holds a grudge against the Reyes.
* ''Series/YoSoyBettyLaFea'', a Colombian soap, later remade in Mexico and again revamped in America as the {{Dramedy}} ''Series/UglyBetty''; THE most successful soap '''in history''', it's been imitated all around the world.
* ''Café con aroma de mujer'' ("Coffee with the scent of a woman"), the previous most successful soap and a classic of TheNineties, set in Colombian coffee plantations.
* ''Series/AmarEnTiemposRevueltos'' ("To Love in Turbulent Times") and ''Calle Nueva'' ("New Street") are two successful Spanish ''culebrones'' ("big snakes"- that's slang for a soap... on account of their being as long as snakes.)
* ''Series/LaCatrina''
* ''Series/CorazonSalvaje'' ("Wild Heart"), a HistoricalFiction-based novela about a sensual and rebellious man named "Juan del Diablo" (Juan of the Devil). It has seen a lot of remakes ever since it was made.
* ''Series/RebeldeWay'' (from Argentina) and its Mexican remake ''Rebelde'' ("Rebel"), a TeenDrama in soap opera clothing, each one spawning musical groups.
* ''Rubí'': One of the few telenovelas in which the main character [[VillainProtagonist is also the villain,]] as she's a huge GoldDigger.
* ''Series/{{Teresa}}'': Another Mexican telenovela where the [[VillainProtagonist main character]], desperate to leave a life of poverty, becomes a manipulative GoldDigger. The original story, aired in 1959, has had one film version and four television remakes (the latest and most popular reamke was aired in 2010).
* ''Anjo mau / Angel malo'': Another telenovela which has a GoldDigger {{Anti Hero}}ine, but now set in Brazil (or Chile, if we see its remake).
* ''Franchise/{{Zorro}}: La espada y la rosa'' ("The Sword and the Rose"). Yes, there was a Zorro telenovela (loosely inspired by Isabel Allende's HotterAndSexier version).
* ''¿Dónde está Elisa?'' ("Where Is Elisa?") is a Chilean ''night telenovela'' (a new telenovela format in which the series is aired around 10 PM so it can be DarkerAndEdgier[=/=]HotterAndSexier than the standard) about what happens when the daughter of a powerful family disappears. Includes actress Paola Volpato's ''incredibly'' scary {{Yandere}} Consuelo, bringer of a HUGE twist: [[spoiler: Elisa was not only was kidnapped by a lover ''who is also her uncle'' as well as Consuelo's husband, [[TheHeroDies but she actually]] ''[[TheHeroDies gets shot to death]]''.]]
* ''Series/LaMadrastra'' ("The Stepmother"), another Chilean soap but better known from its Mexican remake, about a woman who, while attempting to solve the MiscarriageOfJustice which left her in prison for two decades, ends becoming the stepmother of her own children (who were told she died and were too young to remember her when she was sent to jail). And that's before the plot becomes truly convoluted.
* ''Series/SinSenosNoHayParaiso'' ("Without Breasts There Is No Paradise"): The series is based on investigative journalist Gustavo Bolivar's debut novel "Sin tetas no hay paraíso" which has the same title except using a more vulgar expression; it features an attractive young prostitute who desires to have massive breast implants in order to attract a rich cocaine smuggler. It is based on a true story.
* ''Los títeres'' ("The Marionettes"). Classic Chilean ''telenovela'' from TheEighties in which a Greek girl named Artemisa Mykonos gets [[BreakTheCutie thoroughly broken and humiliated]] by her evil cousin Adriana and her friends in TheSixties, and returns twenty years later as a BrokenBird -- both to have revenge on Adriana and to face her own ghosts. Famous due to the incredibly well-done script (written by Chilean playwright Sergio Vodanovic), the ShockingSwerve of an end that the BigBad [[spoiler: [[GoMadFromTheRevelation lost her mind]] when her plans failed, and then [[ManChild mentally reverted to a childish mindset]] ]], and the enormously creepy [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF6wKNJQGwI OP sequence]].
* ''Nada personal'' ("Nothing Personal"). Made in TheNineties. Noteworthy only because it was the first Mexican soap to try and deal with then-current national politics.
* ''El maleficio'' ("The Curse"). A Mexican production from the Eighties. This one is notable for its STRONG [[{{Horror}} supernatural]] elements.
* ''Series/CunaDeLobos'' ("Den of Wolves"). Another [[TheEighties eighties]] classic made in Mexico about an aristocratic family fighting among themselves over inheritance (name and money) rights.
* ''Series/LaRosaDeGuadalupe'' is a religious-themed Mexican novela with AnAesop learned in every episode. The storylines last one or two episodes and it follows a format that resembles more of a drama series, but it's still called and considered a ''telenovela''.
* ''Series/PorEstasCalles'' (In these streets). A telenovela with social issues about poverty, corrupt government and murders in a poor "Barrio". Almost all the lead characters are poor and struggle for reach a good living way, but the criminality and the corruption don't let them progress. The longest Telenovela in Venezuelan history: Almost three years of duration.
* ''Cartas de Amor'' (''Love Letters''): A Colombian telenovela, recognizable for its comedy and soundtrack. SweetPollyOliver [[TheMatchmaker Cupido]] is called to a small Barrio to help people with their love lifes but ends falling in love with local ladykiller and owner of "El buen catre" (the good bed), Manuel Tirado, who doesn't love any woman but struggles with his [[SweetOnPollyOliver attration]] towards Cupido.
* ''Series/SosMiVida''
* ''Series/SonDeFierro''
* ''Series/{{Floricienta}}' and its various clones
* ''Series/PatitoFeo''
* ''Series/VidasRobadas''
* ''Series/{{Botineras}}''
* ''Series/HerederosDeUnaVenganza''
* ''Series/{{Valientes}}''
* ''Series/LosExitososPells''
* ''Series/{{Graduados}}''
* ''Series/LaOtra''
* ''Series/{{Malparida}}''
* ''Series/ImperioDeCristal''
* ''Series/SolamenteVos''
* ''Series/ATodoCorazon''
* ''La Reina Del Sur'' is a telenovela about a poor woman who ends up becoming the biggest drug trafficker in Mexico. It was so popular that it got an English language remake, ''Series/QueenOfTheSouth''.