'Santa Barbara' was New World Television's first series. The daytime soap opera ran between July 1984 and January 1993. Created and produced by Bridget and Jerome Dobson, 'Santa Barbara' could be seen in some 40 markets internationally. Robin Wright played Antiope in the 2017 motion picture, 'Wonder Woman', played the volunteer university laboratory research assistant, Kelly Capwell on 'Santa Barbara'. "It's not like I fixed an election Jeffrey or I finance the overthrow of a foreign country or something like that. I volunteer a non-paying job in this lab." In Russia, 'Santa Barbara' was shown from 1992 to 2002.

Centered around the upper-class Capwells and Lockridges, the blue-collar Perkinses, and the Hispanic Andrades, 'Santa Barbara' began with a 1979-flashback. In 1985, the soap opera 'Santa Barbara' paid homage to the real life 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake which measured at 6.8 on the Richter scale. On the soap opera 'Santa Barbara', the earthquake would to change the lives of many.

At the time, 'Santa Barbara' attracted 3% household ratings and 10% audience share in daytime television competing against 'General Hospital' and 'Guiding Light' for the "highly prized audience of women aged 18 to 49". At stake: over $1 billion in the annual advertising revenues. 'The Washington Post' reported, "First tremors will wobble Santa Barbara, that is 'Santa Barbara', on today's (November 5 1984) program, at 3:00pm, and continue all week. The big bam boom itself hits next Monday and continues all next week. Then on November 19 (1984), the aftershocks begin, and they'll continue for a week, too."

The earthquake was introduced to depopulate "virtually the entire cast. For soap opera actors who always live on the edge of night, this looked like the end of their search for tomorrow." Jill Farren Phelps spoke to the press maintained, "Actually, we are not cleaning house. We are only going to have one fatality. We hope this will be very positive. It will bring out the good and the bad in all our characters. The idea was to bring everybody to a certain point in the story and hit them with a catastrophe."

Jeffrey Conrad (scientist assistant): You always manage to surprise me. I think I can predict you and (snapping his fingers) you go and do something off the wall.

Kelly: I wish I wasn't such a dunce when it came to science. See it bores me to death in school. That doesn't mean I’m too old to learn.

Jeffrey: Madame Curious. I'm sure science welcomes you with open arms.

In the world of soap operas, "letters are like thermometers" and could "often change the course of story lines." Fan mail endorsed as well as condemned what went on air and the Nielsen ratings usually dictated soap operas programming policy. Brian Frons of NBC made known, "They certainly have the ability to influence what happens on the stories. Fan mail on every show is read and tabulated, and the results are sent out to the writers, the producers and the network. We see who's getting fan mail and we get an idea of what the audience likes and doesn't like from their letters. And we use that to help decide how we're doing."

On Election Day, American voters voted for electors to represent their state in the U.S. Electoral College. The electors then casted their vote to decide who would be elected President. It was understood there was no constitutional or federal legal requirement for electors to vote according to the voters of their state. On television, viewers voted with the remote control.

"Television, unlike the movie business, is a lot like politics. Networks, in a sense, run for office - the public votes by watching and, if a show doesn't garner ratings, it is yanked in favor of another," Lynn Hirschberg of 'The New York Times' reminded. Paul Junger Witt added, "...There's a greater realization about a very simple fact: that television is the most democratic of art forms. If there is something we don't like, we can turn the set off or turn on something else. If enough people turn a show off, it fails and goes away - and that's a reflection of the public sentiment. If enough people watch, it succeeds - and that's an expression of the public sentiment too."

Douglas Marland remembered, "When I took over 'As The World Turns', the secret that Sierra was Lucinda's natural child, her daughter, had already been established and it played for several months. In planning my story and the way it was going to unfold, the audience got very bored and they said, 'It's dragging too long; Sierra should find out.' I knew that I was about to pop it. But, if I hadn't been, I would've said, 'Boy, I'd better plan to get this secret out in the open soon because the audience is getting restless.'"

David Jacobs recalled, "When we did the story about Val's babies being stolen, we got fan mail that, I felt, was very affecting. People were made sincerely uncomfortable by it, too. And, although we couldn't change it, we foreshortened it somewhat, and we also adjusted it to accommodate what we felt was a very sincere discomfort that we were imposing on the audience. When we see that the audience is angry about something, we know we're doing the right.

"When we first split up Val and Gary on 'Knots Landing' we had a lot of mail from people saying, 'How long are they going to be apart? When are they getting back together? They better be back together again. We want them back?' And we sort of liked that because we knew that we could dangle that hope for a long time." Shari Anderson remarked, "The audience doesn't want to accept a change in a character.

"Also financial realities sometimes restrict options. Though we like to create new stories for the established characters, we also like to add new characters. When the audience strongly identifies with a character, it is sometimes difficult to give them (other characters) a new story. Financial realities sometimes prohibit us from doing both."

Joanne Emmerich of ABC argued, "Also very often we will get mail from fans who are angry about something that is going to pay off a month later in something that will make them very happy, so you're talking about something that's dealing with a situation as of today. So, a lot of the mail that may appear to be negative at the time, turns out, in fact, to be very positive." Charles Pratt, Jr. reasoned, "No writer lives in a vacuum. We are all, ultimately, slaves to our viewers. Mostly, we're interested in their likes and dislikes. You have to take everything an audience says with a grain of salt because if they're involved in the story, their opinions will be very personal and strong and full of emotion."

A week of an afternoon soap opera comprised 5 hours with each hour a day, 12 minutes of commercial time allocated to allow for intermission. At one time, Douglas Marland received "the worst fan mail I think I can remember. But the kind of emotional response doesn't indicate that they really want her off the show. They're responding exactly the way we want them to. So, you have to know how to read fan mail, it takes time. Because what they're really saying is that they're fascinated and nothing in the world would make them turn off the show while she's doing what she's doing."

"Writing is like a compulsion, like nail biting or smoking. Once it's with you, it's hard to get rid of," Charles Pratt, Jr. observed. "You'd be surprised how many good stories can come out of a night of fitful sleep." On 'Santa Barbara', "Some of our stories are projected as far ahead as a year, but on average, we’re thinking 10 weeks to 6 months ahead.

"Our breakdowns, or outlines, for each individual show are about 6 weeks ahead. Scripts come in 4 to 3 weeks before they're taped. You try to stay as far ahead as possible, but not so far that you get trapped into a story that is not working. We call it a 'good bail-out position' – that being about 4 weeks ahead. A storyline must remain extremely flexible. If something isn’t working you have to be prepared to change it. That means considering the input of the viewers, the producers, the directors and the actors.

"In fact, most soap writers try to keep a projected story as loose as they can, leaving room for further twists and turns. When a story is working, you want to get as much juice out of it as you can. Most of our contact with production comes through scripts and breakdowns. They tell us what they can and cannot do. Production obviously relies heavily on the writing team and vice versa. It's sort of like a partnership, or better yet, a marriage. Each side has to give a little to make things work. And though, occasionally, divorce is discussed, both sides realize they'd be nothing without the other."

Blog Archive