On Tuesday, May 19. ABC aired a two-hour documentary, The Story of Soaps, directed by Rebecca Gitlitz. The special explores the soap opera genre from its beginnings in radio to modern day, and features interviews with various East Enders whose careers have been touched by the medium, including Water Mill’s Kelly Ripa, Amagansett’s Alec Baldwin, Andy Cohen and former Hamptons homeowner Susan Lucci. The documentary is a well-researched and thorough overview of the soap genre, and doesn’t only focus on ABC’s soap operas (the defunct All My Children and One Life to Live, as well as current show General Hospital).
The Story of Soaps goes in-depth on some big stars that started out on soap operas, including Baldwin, who appeared on NBC’s The Doctors before starring on primetime soap Knots Landing, as well as Montauk’s Julianne Moore, who was critically praised for her work on As the World Turns. Lucci is also featured throughout, as her All My Children role Erica Kane is considered one of the most beloved TV characters of all time.
The last part of the documentary posits that reality TV contributed to the decline of the soap opera—there are only four daytime soaps on the air today—and Cohen talks about why he feels his Real Housewives franchise has replaced them. Since the broadcast, Cohen has received criticism for his comments. Cohen responded to angry fans on Twitter, writing, “I went to the interview as a soap fan prepped to talk soaps, and they asked about reality tv and I answered their questions. Sue me!”
Despite the focus on reality TV, The Story of Soaps makes for great viewing for fans of the long-running genre, with classic clips and interesting insights from actors, writers and producers. Watch it now on Hulu.