The British soap opera
Have you ever heard of soap operas? They are fictional series on television or radio that follow a group of families and show us the events of their everyday lives. Soap operas take their strange name from the past, when soap manufacturers used to sponsor the programmes. Soaps are well known for being quite dramatic and often the characters have a lot of arguments or emotional dilemmas. Here are some of the most famous soap operas in the UK today:
1) Coronation Street
Coronation Street first aired on British television in 1960 and has been running ever since, several times a week. The street is located in the fictional town of Wetherfield, in the North of England. Some important places in the TV series are the café, the corner shop and the Rovers Return pub where lots of the characters meet up for a drink and a chat. The street is made up of terraced houses and an underwear factory called Underworld.
Coronation Street’s main rival is called EastEnders, set in East London. It began later, in the 1980s, and follows the residents of Albert Square in their lives at home and at work. In this soap opera, there is a lot of drama, including murder and adultery. The opening theme for this programme shows the River Thames.
Emmerdale is based on a town in the Yorkshire Dales, the green countryside of the North of England. The series follows a group of families in the small village of Emmerdale, who mostly work on farms. The setting of this series is similar to the one of The Archers, another long running soap opera broadcast on BBC radio. It’s the second oldest soap opera in the UK, first aired in 1972.
Soap operas are usually not realistic at all but they are a chance to see some elements of British culture like what houses look like and the importance of the pub! The characters often have quite strong accents, for example the accent of Manchester in Coronation Street and the strong East London one in EastEnders. They also speak very quickly so it makes for some challenging listening exercises for English learners. Their storylines can be quite addictive. Some people never miss an episode because they are so involved in the show.