Soap opera was an "uniquely American narrative form, which evolved on radio in the '30s" had been developed "to appeal to the viewers' emotional senses." Shelly Burch played Delila Garretson on 'One Life To Live' told John Goudas in 1989, "Probably the best thing about doing a soap is that you get to deal with many different emotions. My character has had nervous breakdowns, went through a period of insane jealousy, was ruthlessly ambitious and tremendously selfish. Delila has also been loving, caring and supportive. Now that's quite a list of emotions. And yet, when I’m singing, emotions are easier to convey. Music is magic. When I sing, I really get revved up."
By 1977, some 20 million Americans were watching soap operas, about 70 to 80% women, mostly housewives. Richard Van Vleet played Dr. Chuck Tyler on 'All My Children', made the observation in 1983, "Society has grown as we (daytime TV) have grown. Also because of permissibility, people have finally realized that daytime TV is a legitimate media. There are more and more actors involved in night TV and films coming to daytime TV. Your Dustin Hoffmans and your James Deans went from daytime to nighttime, but now it's the other way around. The versatility is there for the daytime actor."
In 1977, the Brooklyn College professor, Dr. Judith Waters and psychology student Sheery Finz randomly selected 3 of the 14 daytime dramas on the air and devoted 10 weeks to watching the shows. The first 8 weeks, they would watch the soaps once a week, then in the last 2 weeks they would watch the soaps everyday. Some 1000 dialogs from those soap operas 'General Hospital', 'The Guiding Light' and 'The Doctors' were analyzed then placed in 19 categories. Their finding: "Characters in the soap operas can establish or reinforce value systems – they can suggest how people should act in certain situation – they can legitimize behavior."
Dr Waters was matter-of-fact, "As to whether or not soap operas can change attitudes and norms, no concrete evidence is available to answer such a question. Logic will tell us that those same characters who hold audiences captive for any length of time are indeed capable of suggesting modes of action or behavior." It was found at the time, "Characters on 'The Guiding Light' were more traditional than those on 'General Hospital'. 'The Doctors' was the most progressive of the 3." However "there are never situations which illustrate how the housework gets done, who cares for the children and what the financial arrangement is between the professional wife and her husband. In many instances, when you find a successful business woman on a soap opera she is usually single, generally extremely attractive, a prude in the business world, who is just waiting to entice susceptible, unsuspecting husbands." At the time, Dr Waters concluded, "Soaps are a long way from accepting or even seeking a new morality. For example, on the soap opera 'Another World', Rachel was forced to choose between a career in sculpture and her marriage – naturally she chose her husband...The study focused on the personalities exhibited on the soaps. The intention was to observe how the roles of men and women are depicted in an era in which some members of society are making an effort to achieve egalitarian treatment of the sexes."
Patricia Falken-Smith was the head writer on 'Days of our Lives' in 1976. She was trained by Bill Bell. Pat recalled, "Bill Bell's dictum remains true – don't give 'em (the audience) what they want. Make 'em take what they don't want.'" At the time, a story editor in Chicago would map 'Days of our Lives' out a year in advance (in a "bible"). The story would then get turned over to Pat who would "fill in much of the detail of the various plot lines." Sheri Anderson was one of the 6 scriptwriters on 'Days of our Lives' at the time. She joined the team in October 1975. Pat would hand a script outline to the 6 writers who would then turn the simple outline into a "drama-packed 30-page script" for an hour-long show.
James Mitchell played the villain Palmer Cortlandt on 'All My Children' made the comment in 1983, "On the street in New York you're always hailed as 'Hey, Palmer!' People can tell the difference between the character and the person. They don't throw rocks at me. Classically the devil is a charmer but I can't go for belly laughs." James recounted, "The first soap I did was in 1964, 'The Edge of Night'. In the '60s it was third-class stuff. Now (in 1983) it's entirely different. We've joined the world of entertainment. We have very fine actors on the shows." However James confessed, "I have to have it (the script) at least 2 or 3 days ahead of time. I don't improvise or ad-lib very well." Each episode of 'All My Children' was taped 5, sometimes 6 days per week and always at least one week or 8 days ahead of broadcast.
Denise Bielby from the University of California and her former student C. Lee Harrington who would then went on to teach sociology at Miami University in Ohio did a research on soap fans which they published in the book 'Soap Fans', in 1995. Their finding, according to Tom Jacobs of the Santa Barbara News-Press, "The respondents (94% women) ranged in age from 13 to 80. Nearly half were employed, and of those with jobs, more than one-quarter were professionals or managers. One-quarter reported an annual household income of under $15,000, while another quarter reported an annual household income of over $50,000. The rest fell in between." By 1995, there were 11 daytime soap operas on the air. Denise confessed, "I don’t have a lot of patience for shows that aren't delivering." Those which delivered, "you get incredible back-story. Things can resonate not only from scene to scene, but from year to year and decade to decade. That's something you can't achieve on prime time."