Monthly Archives: November 2007

Continuing Drama


As everyone knows, a while back the BBC decided to stop calling soaps ‘soaps’ and call soaps ‘continuing drama’ …

Except, hang on, does everyone really know this?

TV, newspapers, magazines and everyone I know who’s not a writer still calls them soaps.

Do ITV and Channel Four still call them soaps?

Do Channel Five even have any soaps?

Have I ever watched Channel Five?

For the life of me, I can’t think of one program I’ve ever watched on Channel Five … how odd.

I don’t know when the BBC made its decision to change from soaps to continuing drama. For all I know they may have always referred to soaps as continuing drama and it’s only recently come to my attention; but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume it’s a relatively recent memo which was circulated around BBC staff. A memo which went something like this:

“Stop fucking calling them soaps, you bastards. It’s continuing drama, got it? Continuing fucking drama. Fucking deal with it.”

But presumably on headed paper.

And here’s the point.

Yes folks, that’s right: today I have a point.

Who is this change aimed at?

People who like soaps, call them soaps. People who don’t like soaps call them long names with lots of swearing in them.

The people who like them, the viewers, aren’t really aware the name has changed. Presumably, they have no interest in what they’re called anyway – as long as the shows continue to get made.

The people who don’t like them … is it an attempt to curry favour by pretending they’re not soaps? Lots of companies and organisations do this, in an attempt to distance themselves from the food poisoning/nuclear contamination/child molestation they’ve dumped on their consumers. It’s a move made by someone who knows what they do/produce is bad and want to distance themselves from it.

Again, since this information isn’t widely known, it would appear not to be the case.

So who is actually aware of this name change?

Writers, directors, producers … basically, anyone who works or aspires to work in TV.

Ah, interesting.

Being as I’m a writer, and only really read information by other writers, the only people I’ve heard refer to soaps as continuing drama are other writers. I’ll talk about this because it’s the only real reference point I have, and I’m presuming it’s a microcosm for how the industry has reacted as a whole.

New writers who like soaps and want to write for them are quite happy calling them soaps. They frequently refer to them as soaps and then guiltily correct themselves as if they’ve used a bad word. So the name change isn’t aimed at them.

New writers who don’t like soaps and don’t want to write for them (and possibly have no hope in hell of making a living in the UK) think the name change is a desperate attempt to pretend the shows aren’t a pile of shit. The name change might be aimed at tricking them into writing for something they don’t want to, but I doubt it. These still seem to refer to them as soaps without feeling the need to kow-tow to a weird form of non-political correctness.

Established writers who don’t like soaps and don’t want to write for them (are there many of these?) may be aware of the name change, but again, I doubt this will suddenly change their mind about the nature of the shows. I can’t see many suddenly turning around and deciding it’s okay to be a continuing drama writer, but not a soap writer. These guys seem to delight in referring to them as soaps just to annoy anyone who calls them continuing drama.

Established writers who like and already write for soaps … these are the only people I’ve heard consistently refer to them as continuing drama. They are the only ones who seem never, ever say ‘soap’.

Maybe they’re following a BBC mandate which might otherwise cost them future employment?

But since these are the same group of people who regularly berate writers who don’t want to write for soaps as snobs, it just smacks to me of embarrassment. Whenever I read of some writer piling into a discussion in defence of continuing drama by accusing anyone who doesn’t like them of being up their own arse … it just sounds wrong. It sounds very Mrs. Bucket.

It’s not like people still calling Emmerdale ‘Emmerdale Farm’. It’s not an obvious name change which is branded on the product, in the same manner people refuse to abandon names like Opal Fruits, Marathon or Jif – fucking get over it, these products don’t exist any more and haven’t for years.

Since it’s not a widely used term and it’s not written down anywhere where the average member of public can read it, it’s a pointless correction.

“I’m a continuing drama writer.”

“What’s that then?”

“You know, Eastenders, Casualty, Holby … that sort of thing.”

“You mean soaps?”

(Embarrassed shuffle) “Maybe.”

“Why didn’t you just fucking say so?”

It’s like ‘Life on Mars’ writers refusing to admit the show was a Sci-Fi show. Will you just fucking get over yourselves?

As far as I can work out, the change from soap to continuing drama might be an attempt to rebrand the shows to attract new talent who would otherwise be reluctant to work on a soap; but seems more likely to be for the people who already work on the shows and are embarrassed about it.

If that’s the case, why write for them?

And where does this end?

Will Doctor Who be rebranded as a non-reality based drama?

Will documentaries become narrated factual drama?

Is it just because you can’t call a BBC department the ‘Soap Department’?

Am I wrong and have completely missed the point?

Have any of you worked out I don’t really care what they call these shows and I’m merely ranting to avoid doing any real work because I don’t know how to fix the current draft?

Oh, and I lied. I don’t have a point – just a LOT of meaningless words.

Categories: BBC, Bored, Random Witterings, Rants, Sad Bastard | 10 Comments

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