Melodrama Variations: TV Soap Opera (Discussion)

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"'I'm Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV'"

  1. Groups 5 and 1: How does Jean-Louis Comolli's notion of a "body too much" in historical film apply to the soap opera?
    • What is the "commutation test"? How does it apply to soap-opera recasting?
  2. Groups 3 and 4: How do Lindsey Frost's character/performance signs differ from Meg Ryan's? What meaning does that difference connote?
  3. Groups 6 and 2: What makes Meg Ryan an atypical soap star?
    • How does the position of soap actors resemble that of early-film actors?

All Groups: How might the commutation test be used with Humphrey Bogart's Dixon Steele character in In a Lonely Place? Pick another actor and perform a commutation test on Dixon.

"Television and Zero-Degree Style"

  1. What are the main characteristics of soap opera's style of sound and image? And what significance do they have? In other words, what/how does style signify in terms of:
    • Groups 5 and 1: Sets? Lighting?
    • Groups 3 and 4: Multiple-camera production? In terms of how it looks on the screen, how does multiple-camera production differ from single-camera production?
    • Groups 6 and 2: Dialogue? Music? How are these characteristics present (or not) in the scene from ATWT episode we viewed in class? How would you compare/contrast the sound in ATWT with that of the radio soap, Backstage Wife?

2010 Ratings

Total Viewers (Compared to Previous Week/Compared to Previsou Year). Boldfaced shows are still on the air as of spring 2018.

  1. Y&R 5,103,000 (+17,000/-13,000)
  2. B&B 3,188,000 (-71,000/-111,000)
  3. DAYS 2,838,000 (-96,000/-148,000)
  4. GH 2,532,000 (-19,000/-114,000)
  5. AMC 2,481,000 (-79,000/-218,000)
  6. OLTL 2,314,000 (-112,000/-350,000)
  7. ATWT 2,308,000 (-160,000/-224,000) -- 9.7% drop from 2009


  1. Jeremy G. Butler, "Notes on the Soap Opera Apparatus: Televisual Style and As the World Turns," Cinema Journal 25, no. 3 (Spring 1986): 53-70.
    • Revised and updated as: Jeremy G. Butler, "Television and Zero-Degree Style" in Television Style (New York: Routledge, 2010), 55-120.
  2. Jeremy G. Butler, "'I'm Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV': Characters, Actors, and Acting in Television Soap Opera," Cinema Journal 30, no. 4 (1991): 75-91.

External links