I am a soap opera junkie. I admit it. And even though most plotlines ring familiar with constant use, I still become addicted every time, with each revision to the approach, with each revelation, with each twist, that should no longer surprise. While I was watching my favorite drama the other night on television and chanced upon the series that followed, I was struck my the similarities in the plot that I felt compelled to write about it.
1. Reversal of fortunes. Is it not true that in the beginning of soap operas, there is always a hero or heroine that is being persecuted and tortured by the villain. This plotline often takes the form of landlords oppressing farmers, the rich making the help’s lives miserable. In some cases, this involves humiliation, physical pain in the line of hair pulling, face slapping and the classic verbal put down. The most classic of this is Mara Clara of Judy Ann Santos and Gladys Reyes, that ran for six years (with nobody finding the diary which was placed on top of the TV for years) and spawned a new version starring new teen queens Kathryn Bernardo and Julia Montes.
2. Amnesia. How many soaps have you seen that involved the hero/ heroine or his love interest losing their memory, and then they fall in love all over again in their new personas. And then just when things were getting good, they suddenly regain their memory along with the reason that they were separated in the first place. This scenario is also convenient for plotlines that involve huge amounts of money and a villain that wants to get his hands on the dough.
3. Accidents. How do most soaps get to the amnesia plot anyhow if not for accidents, mostly in the form of car crashes, fires, head injuries and the like. Accidents are usually used to transition to a certain part of the story to the next (Book 1 to Book 2, years passing) or when an actor leaves the show voluntarily or involuntarily.
4. Plastic surgeries/secret identities. This plotline has been used quite a number of times already to explain how a character who re-emerges in the form of another actor returns to the story to settle the score or to close his storyline. Main characters “always” feel that there is something really familiar in the new character but never find out about the surgery until something big happens that shakes up their lives.
5. Secret brother/sister. Of all the soaps that I have watched, the secret sibling is something that never goes out of style. This is a go-to plotline that writers often use to establish a connection among the main characters to explain how their lives are connected. This usually results in either a showdown, rivalry or a sweet hug upon reunion, depending on the set up of the characters.
6. Illness/ death. The most convenient way to kill off a character and introduce more conflict into the storyline. This guarantees a flexible story arc and an ensuing arc after the character lives or dies.
7. Romeo and Juliet. The Romeo and Juliet plot is pretty universal and this is pretty much the main source of conflict among local love stories. The usual villains of the piece are the rich one’s parents and they are usually indiscriminate about their methods to ensure that their offspring does not get married to the poor. This plotline also rings true for inter species love for fantasy soaps.
8. Revenge. Of course, somebody always has to have a grudge. And anti heroes usually have a reason for hating the protagonists. Revenge, whether it motivates the protagonist for the ills he has suffered in the hands of the antagonists, or fuels the rage of villains against the heroes usually produce the best acting in television and has produced the likes of Selina (Princess Punzalan) and Amor Powers (Eula Valdez), some of the most hated villains in Philippine television history.
9. Combination. The most effective of the lot however, is a combination of one, two or multiple plotlines.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though these plotlines may seem like a loop for hard core soap fans, while the networks continue to produce fresh new loveteams, or rivalries on cam, people will continue to be intrigued and fascinated with the stories and will continue to support them. Besides, it is a true credit to the writers to make everything seem fresh with witty dialogues and innovative approaches to these classic scenes so that these new soaps will be remembered one day as classics and not as ripoffs of material spun long ago.
Feel free to suggest anything I might have forgotten in the section below.