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The 4 best soap operas on the web

The hottest soap opera of 2015 isn’t on daytime television. It’s Empire, and ratings have been going up steadily for each week it’s aired so far, Thursday nights on FOX.

Naturally, this isn’t the first time suds have ruled the primetime airways (“Who Shot JR?” or the Moldavian massacre, anyone?), but it does go a long way toward suggesting that the reason daytime soaps have been falling like dominoes in this century is because family melodrama fans can now get their fix elsewhere.

Primetime TV is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the Internet, where independent web soaps have been slowly and steadily building audiences for over a decade. They already have their own awards show, the Indie Series Awards (2015 nominations to be announced this Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 3 p.m.). Plus, in acknowledgement of this brave new world, the Daytime Emmys added a new category, Outstanding Special Class Format—Daytime, in 2011, which morphed in 2014 into Outstanding New Approaches—Drama Series.

The winner both times was Venice, a serial produced exclusively for the web by onetime Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, and Guiding Light star Crystal Chappell. It stars soap vets like Daytime Emmy winners Hillary B. Smith (Nora, OLTL) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis, TYATR), Peter Reckell (Bo, DOOL), Robert Newman (Josh, GL), and Chappell’s real-life husband, Michael Sabatino (Lawrence, DOOL), among many others.

The show grew out of Chappell’s GL role, where she was part of the hugely popular lesbian pairing of Olivia and Natalia (a.k.a Otalia). Once GL was cancelled, Chappell parlayed her (and costar Jessica Leccia’s) fan following onto the Internet, in a series she describes as “one actress’ commitment to telling a gay story the right way.”

But Venice is far from the only game in town. Check out our roundup of where fans can get their soap-opera fix at any time of the day (or night):

The Bay

Rich people doing bad things in the name of love and money. What could be more soapy than that? How about a cast that features Mary Beth Evans (Kayla, DOOL), Tristan Rogers (Robert, GH), Lane Davies (Mason, Santa Barbara), Nicholas Coster (he’s been on more soaps than you knew existed, but let’s start with SB, As the World Turns, All My Children, Another World, and more), and a dozen others. The Bay also has a place for fan interaction. Right now, they’re challenging fans to submit their ideas for a dream scene … and possibly see it produced!


A Daytime Emmy nominee, DeVanity also features the dirty doings of the rich and famous, and a guest cast made up of primetime soap-opera stalwarts, including Charlene Tilton (Lucy, Dallas), Maxwell Caulfield (Miles, The Colbys), Gordon Thompson (Adam, Dynasty—the real one, not that imposter who showed up for the reunion movie), and Steve Kanaly (Ray, Dallas, and the unforgettably named Seabone on AMC). The show features a dead patriarch and four greedy heirs battling over a jewelry empire. They attempted an Indiegogo campaign to fund season 4 that didn’t reach its goal, but you’ve still got three seasons to binge-watch. So what are you waiting for?

Tainted Dreams

They’re not really rich connivers—they just play them on TV. Tainted Dreams is the drama behind the drama, the soap that takes you behind the scenes of a soap, starring soap stars playing … soap stars (got that?). There’s Alicia Minshew (Kendall, AMC), Grant Aleksander (Phillip, GL), Kelley Hensley (Emily, ATWT), Walt Willey (Jackson, AMC), Bobbie Eakes (Macy, TBATB), Colleen Zenk (Barbara, ATWT), Larkin Malloy (Sky, Edge of Night), James DePaiva (Max, OLTL), and everything you’ve always wanted to know about what it’s really like to produce a daytime drama, but didn’t know whom to ask. They only posted three episodes in 2014. But it was enough to score them a Daytime Emmy nomination.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about soap operas on the web and not mention Prospect Park’s 2013 attempt to revive ABC cast-offs All My Children and One Life to Live as daily, half-hour Internet soaps. The effort went through a lot of scheduling changes, starting with both shows airing Monday through Thursday. Then we saw a distribution of AMC one day, OLTL the next. This was followed by posting all four episodes on Monday, followed by the announcement that they were suspending production indefinitely.

It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback where Prospect Park went wrong, but there’s no question that money was a huge part of the equation. Not enough profit was being made to offset the cost of actor, writer, and producer salaries, not to mention sets, costumes, hair, makeup, and everything else vital to meeting the standards soap fans expect from their shows.

Some independent soap-opera creators have circumvented those costs by producing a combination of text and picture soap operas, like Schuyler Falls. (Procter & Gamble even offered an officially sanctioned continuation of Another World for a few years, where text was merged with clips from the show’s original run.)

Which all goes to show that the future of soap operas remains bright … whether or not they’re on during the daytime.

What shows do you recommend, and where can we find them?

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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