I was once getting my hair cut and listened to the conversation my barber was having with a friend seated nearby. They were recounting a terribly complicated story of something that seemingly happened to a common friend of theirs. Towards the end I said that I was sorry to hear about their friend’s terrible plight when they laughed and said that they had been discussing their favorite TV soap opera. But they were really invested in it and the way they talked about it was as if those characters were part of their lives.
There is something magnetic about those operas, once you get into it. My one and only time was when I was in the US in graduate school and got the news that my father had died back in Sri Lanka. It was completely unexpected. I was so depressed at being far away from my family that I stayed at home for several days, trying to cope with the news and to take my mind off everything, I watched TV. At that time, there were just three channels CBS, NBS, and ABC and all of them ran soap operas during the day. After you have watched a few episodes, they exert a curious fascination with their excruciatingly slow pace, convoluted and incredible plots, personal intrigues, and dialogue punctuated by long, meaningful looks and silences and heaving bosoms, to the accompaniment of plaintive background piano music.
Long time soap-opera icon Susan Lucci appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the Petraeus soap opera and their interaction captured the essence of the soaps.
(This clip appeared on November 15, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)