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One of the defining features that makes a television program a soap opera, according to Albert Moran, is "that form of television that works with a continuous open narrative.
Evening soap operas and serials that run for only part of the year tend to bring things to a dramatic end-of-season cliffhanger.Australian and UK soap operas also feature a significant proportion of romance storylines.In Russia, most popular serials explore the "romantic quality" of criminal and/or oligarch life.Romance, secret relationships, extramarital affairs, and genuine love have been the basis for many soap opera storylines.In US daytime serials, the most popular soap opera characters, and the most popular storylines, often involved a romance of the sort presented in paperback romance novels.Fitting in with these characteristics, most soap operas follow the lives of a group of characters who live or work in a particular place, or focus on a large extended family.
The storylines follow the day-to-day activities and personal relationships of these characters.
In 2012, Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Lloyd wrote of daily dramas, "Although melodramatically eventful, soap operas such as this also have a luxury of space that makes them seem more naturalistic; indeed, the economics of the form demand long scenes, and conversations that a 22-episodes-per-season weekly series might dispense with in half a dozen lines of dialogue may be drawn out, as here, for pages.
You spend more time even with the minor characters; the apparent villains grow less apparently villainous." Soap opera storylines run concurrently, intersect and lead into further developments.
"If we want to blend an actor back into a show, there's always a way.
You can generally find a way to twist and manipulate something.
"Soap narratives, like those of film melodramas, are marked by what Steve Neale has described as 'chance happenings, coincidences, missed meetings, sudden conversions, last-minute rescues and revelations, deus ex machina endings.'" These elements may be found across the gamut of soap operas, from East Enders to Dallas.