The seven-decade legacy of the soap opera is the subject of a new documentary special The Story of Soaps, which airs at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. Over its two-hour runtime, the show will explore the genre's origins in radio, as well as how it helped pave the way for serialized storytelling, eventually leading to the Peak TV era.
Viewers with an antenna or a cable subscription should be able to pick up ABC, though they should double-check their local listings. Those without can use YouTube TV or Hulu Live TV to stream it live. For non-subscribers, both offer free trials to test the waters before committing to the subscription fee. The special will also be available to stream starting Wednesday on the ABC app, ABC.com as well as conventional Hulu.
The project is a joint production between the network and PEOPLE, and among the storied history of the soap-opera, it will also explore how it became a haven for female creators. The star-studded affair will include the likes of soap legends like Susan Lucci, Erika Slezak and Maurice Benard. Joining them will be Alec Baldwin, Carol Burnett, Andy Cohen, Bryan Cranston, Vivica A. Fox, Jon Hamm, Denise Richards and John Stamos to talk about their early roles in the genre. Not to mention the massive cultural impact the daytime shows continue to make today.
Nathan Varni, who previously oversaw the day-to-day management of General Hospital for ABC, tweeted out a request for soap fans to watch the special. "Show your support for soaps by tuning in this Tuesday night," Varni tweeted. "Big ratings would definitely send a message to all networks that fans want more and cherish their daytime soaps! Make your voice be heard and tune in for this two-hour event!"
The term soap opera heralds back to early radio teleplays, which laid heavy on the melodrama while being sponsored by soap companies. As The Story of Soaps will reveal, when TV became an emerging medium, creators began to migrate over, utilizing the method of open-ended, ongoing storytelling to create literal decades worth of material for their loyal viewers.
The Story of Soaps also marks the third collaboration between ABC and PEOPLE. Back in 2017, they produced The Story of Diana, a two-night event celebrating the late Princess Diana 20 years after her death. The following year, they produced The Story of the Royals.