The Rovers Return is the most famous pub in Britain yet is doesn’t exist. Millions tune in to Britain’s longest running soap, several times a week, to catch up with the goings on in this virtual pub. The characters and plots have a real place in many people’s lives, even though they are a figment of the script writers’ imaginations.
Soaps are an important part of many people’s lives (and they often feature a pub), I’m not knocking it. I’m in no position to judge, on the rare occasions when I watch an episode myself I feel a bit like a visitor or a tourist, curious but uninformed about the goings-on in the lives of the characters on the set. What always impresses me though is the quality of the scriptwriting and the way important social issues are examined. It is not surprising that television soap operas have their own branch of academic study and debate.
Bad news sells
But, while it can be quite therapeutic to get totally immersed in TV drama, to suspend belief and go with the plot, connect with the characters and experience some of the emotional highs and lows the show acts out, stop and think for a moment what a regular weekly diet of high drama does to our heads.
In this type of TV drama, hardships, arguments and unhappiness are at the heart of each storyline and the characters are regularly shown as incomplete, flawed and emotionally immature. There is usually a token wise woman or man thrown in for good measure, but these exist only to provide contrast to the pervading themes of distress, alarm and the emotional highs and lows of the main characters.
Television is an effective and persuasive medium, that’s why advertisers pay millions to sell their products. Soaps can be a a useful diversion but too much of a good thing may mean that we unconsciously buy into the drama.
A constant diet of bad news is not good for anyone except people who profit from the ratings.