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Explaining the Soap

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Yesterday Mabel recorded my favorite soap for me, Pointed Love: 2013...
The two main characters are porcupines who break up, get back together, break up again...
I wonder what happened this week... Ah, I can't wait to see what Esther is up to. She came back in season 5.
But really, it's that indecisive heroine who keeps me watching. Sometimes, I get jealous of her.

Alice is a big fan of a Soap Within a Show. Bob foolishly asks her about it. This is the cue for a long plot summary that is utterly meaningless, often serving as an excuse to lampoon any soap tropes the writers can think of, and generally serves to show how far Alice has gone in her new hobby while Bob acts like a helpless listener. It may also indicate that Alice is sad, lonely and/or romantically frustrated, preventing her from progressing with her normal life.

A recurring joke is for the addiction to be contagious. For example, Alice is enjoying her soap, then Carol comes in to ridicule either Alice or the soap, only for Alice to reply back with a premise or summary that somehow sounds even more ridiculous than what Carol first expected. Gilligan Cut and now both Alice and Carol are hooked in front of the TV. More Gilligan Cuts later and a significant amount of the female cast is now into it. Additional props include tissues, pillow hair, and bathrobes, with the soap viewers discussing who deserves to end with who and commenting how vile and immoral the cliched Big Bad is. For extra funny, make one of them a man. For extra extra funny, make the man the most invested or emotional of them all.

In any case, it's likely that one person will just not get it at all, and the episode's struggle will center on them not being able to understand what's so good about this soap and feeling either left out or forced to watch something they don't enjoy. If they refuse to even give it a chance at all, you might end with Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch.

Has nothing to do with explaining literal body-cleaning products.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo! does this, and in later variations she gets all the female characters addicted.

  • Totie Fields used to do these as part of her standup comedy act.

    Comic Books 
  • In "Mojo's Day Off," an unpublished DC Comics story of The Powerpuff Girls, Mojo is trying to relax but is constantly being accused of random calamities by the girls. In one instance, he had been reading a mystery novel called "Blackmail" and predicts, having gotten to page 392 where Detective Winterbottom is about to make an announcement, the blackmailer of the story is the no-account cousin Amelie.
    Blossom: Hmmm...I don't think Mojo did this crime, either. I've read that book and he seems to know the characters. (as the girls leave) But the real blackmailer is great uncle Beauregarde.
    Mojo: Ooooh!! You gave away the ending! That is unforgivable!!

    Comic Strips 
  • In a FoxTrot strip, Peter gets this reaction (eyes glazing over and repeating "uh-huh") when Paige explains the plot of Melrose Place to him, but Paige had exactly the same reaction when Jason explained the premise of Highlander: The Series to her. It's even more amusing in retrospect, given one of H:TS's biggest fanbases.

    Fan Works 
  • Played with in this Star vs. the Forces of Evil drabble. The person who's being introduced to the soap (Queen Moon) explains the plot to the introducer (Marco's mom) in order to show how quickly she's gotten a grasp on it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done briefly in a cutaway in Zombieland, where, under the rule that driver of the car gets to choose the music and coversation topic, the pre-teen girl Little Rock puts Wicked on the soundtrack, and tries to explain the premise of Hannah Montana, much to Tallahassee's dismay.

  • Parodied in the Discworld book Reaper Man. Mustrum Ridcully asks the High Priest of Blind Io (who happens to be Mustrum's brother Hughnon) what the gods of the Disc have been up to, as a possible explanation for the poltergeist activity plaguing Ankh-Morpork. Hughnon's description of the antics of the gods sounds like a cross between Greek mythology and the soap opera Recaps that used to be done by BBC announcers in The '70s, against still images from previous episodes. Mustrum brushes it off by saying "I've never been able to get interested in that stuff, myself."
  • In the third book of Temeraire series, Temeraire's group spends an evening as the guests of a bunch of wild dragons. Temeraire watches a story being told through a combination of language and dance, and when he tries to translate it for Laurence it comes off very soap-opera-esque with romantic intrigue, greed, battles, and a whole lot of characters. Laurence doesn't get it.
  • In Kim Newman's Diogenes Club short story "The Serial Murders", Richard Jeperson (who refuses to watch ITV because commercial television was created by Derek Leech) needs the plot of The Northern Barstows explained to him by his sidekick Vanessa. He then recalls that the night it was on, she said she couldn't go on a ghost hunt because an old schoolfriend was visiting. Over the course of the investigation, he finds himself getting addicted, and realises that this effect is exactly the psychic energy the villain is feeding on.
  • In one story by Israeli satirist Ephraim Kishon, with The Forsythe Saga. Even two burglars join them watching. Everyone explains to each other and argues about details of old episodes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gilmore Girls: Paris spends a week in bed watching soaps, and delivers one of these to Rory when she comes around to visit.
  • Happened once in The Nanny.
  • Parodied in Dead Ringers: It was the characters themselves saying this sort of thing. Long-lost relatives or people turning out to be relatives were often discussed.
  • On one Psych episode Shawn is investigating a murder on the set of a Spanish-language Soap Opera. Every now and then someone would try to explain the plot of the Soap Opera, which made less and less sense the more it was explained.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air did this one once, with Uncle Phil for added hilarity.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike was addicted to soaps (Passions was mentioned specifically.) Joyce enjoyed it, too.
  • Parodied on Malcolm in the Middle. Francis is jailed with a full view of where the police and their relatives inexplicably come to enact their affairs, shady business deals, discuss their sister's recent change in appearance, and other assorted soap opera plots. Naturally, Francis is released right before they reveal who the sinister figure sabotaging their upcoming land deal was and ends up begging to stay in jail until he finds out.
  • Parodied on That '70s Show. Red loses his job and is afraid of looking emasculated, but ends up watching the Soaps during the day anyway and explaining them to a guest at a party in a condescending manner.
  • One of the "Go-On Seminar" clips from Engine Sentai Go-onger involves Yellow Ranger Saki and her love of Korean drama series, which are known to be soapy enough in their own right. A later episode involves a high school with a drama club that's rehearsing a scene straight out of Korean drama, complete with an impression of Korean drama idol Bae Yong-Jun.
  • Supernatural: Dean is definitely not a fan of Dr. Sexy, M.D. Never mind that he knows the show well enough to know that "Part of what makes Dr. Sexy so sexy is that he wears cowboy boots, not tennis shoes!"
  • The Castle episode "One Life To Lose" features a murder of the head writer of a soap opera, and gleefully embraces, lampshades, parodies and otherwise plays with this trope. Castle himself spends most of the episode imagining increasingly over-the-top and ludicrous soap opera plots for the crime, only to be disappointed by the inevitable mundanity of what's actually going on; Beckett's revealed to be a closet fan of the soap (and Lanie a less-closeted fan) by revealing too much information about the absurd plots, and even Esposito recounts the crazy plot of a Latino 'telenovela' he used to watch with his grandmother. Castle's mother also relates when she was acting in the soap, in the three weeks that she was on the show her character was kidnapped, buried alive, trapped in a cave with bears, kidnapped again, and held hostage.
  • The 30 Rock episode "Generalissimo" centers on Jack Donaghy trying to figure out why his Puerto Rican girlfriend Elisa's grandmother hates him so much. It turns out that it's because the villain in the telenovela she watches looks exactly like Jacknote  and the scene where they figure this out—and several subsequent scenes—involve Elisa explaining the incredibly complicated plot of the telenovela to Jack.
  • A male frequenter Of Franks Place would update the other patrons on soaps on a regular basis. The audio of this was used on morning radio.
  • Shakespeare & Hathaway - Private Investigators: In "Exit, Pursued by Bear", Lou starts watching episodes of an old soap called Ward 9 as background to a case. She starts showing Frank relevant episodes and explaining the plot. He is initially dismissive but quickly gets hooked.
  • Schitt's Creek: Moira's career as a soap actor inspires this, especially in the sixth season as she preps for a reunion/reboot of her Passions-like show. Alexis is going through a breakup and becomes addicted to the dvds of her mother's show and reaches out to her mother for plot point clarification, although Moira can't really clarify why various characters did not notice her character trapped in a cave crystal.
  • A soap themed edition of Pointless Celebrities opens with Alexander and Richard at the Queen Vic with the latter explaining the entire plot of Eastenders. The scene has to fade to black every now and again (due to how long it's been running), only coming back for Richard to describe some of the more famous moments in the soap. It ends with them realising the Queen Vic isn't actually a real pub and Alexander asking why he's drunk.


    Print Media 

    Video Games 
  • Once you get her to open up, Sable in Animal Crossing: Wild World will describe Pointed Love, her favorite soap, in this manner.

    Web Comics 
  • Sweetheart in Skin Horse tells Tip all about her soaps without being asked.
  • Homestuck: Karkat explains the plot of a troll romance novel. Also without being asked (and in fact over the increasingly strident objections of the person he's explaining it to).note 
  • A variant in Dork Tower, where the "soap" is Babylon 5. Once the wall of text relating to the conspiracies and so forth is completed, it's revealed that this was a summary of the previous episode.

    Web Videos 
  • One running gag on Atop the Fourth Wall has Linkara explain some obscure facet of comic book lore related to whatever he's reviewing, usually followed by a beat, and something along the lines of "comic books are weird".

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of As Told by Ginger, Carl and Hoodsie are helping to clean houses in exchange for some extra money. Hoodsie is watching a Spanish Soap Opera, and Carl changes the channel.
    Hoodsie: Hey, I was watching that! Carla was just about to get the results of her pregnancy test back!
  • Cam tries to explain a telenovela to the pizza boy in an episode of Detentionaire. It's meant to show how he went mad from isolation after being suspended and grounded.
  • Molly of Denali: In "Herring Eggs or Bust," Oscar explains what the characters in The Butler of Finicky Manor are saying to Auntie Midge, because she broke her hearing aid.
    Man on TV: I am not requesting you leave, my lady. I am requesting you stay.
    Oscar: What?!
    Midge: Did he kick her out?
    Oscar: No! He wants to marry her!
    Midge: What?! She doesn't love you, she loves Percy Adderfish!
    Oscar: I know!
  • The Simpsons: In "Bart's Dog Gets an F", Lisa is staying home from school and watching soap operas with Marge. After a Slap-Slap-Kiss scene, she asks "Is it always this good?" to which Marge admits that isn't sure; she doesn't really keep up with the show and is only watching today because Brandi is coming out of her coma and she knows that the phony prince's body is hidden in the boathouse.
  • In Steven Universe, Peridot becomes obsessed with the first episode of Camp Pining Hearts (not realizing there are more) and then proceeds to explain to Steven why Percy and Pierre are objectively the best for each other. By the time she's done ranting, Steven has fallen asleep.
    Steven: You got all that from one episode?
    Peridot: It's subtext, Steven.
  • Time Squad did this on the season two episode, "Old Timers' Squad," only all of the people addicted to the soap opera ("The Elegant and the Dangerous") are male.
  • Especially funny in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys, as the soap being explained is in Russian, and neither of the parties in the conversation speak Russian.
    Debbie: Shh! Yuri just told Svetlana that he's leaving her for Olga!
    Eliza: You don't speak Russian.
    Debbie: You are so young — the language of soap opera is universal.

Alternative Title(s): Soap On A Trope