Who knew the grass was greener across the pond? British soap, Hollyoaks has become the perfect cure for the soap cynicism we’ve found ourselves battling with our 4 remaining US daytime dramas. Bold, topical, romantic and with perfectly timed comedic beats, Hollyoaks reigns supreme as our favorite British import. Here are the top 5 reasons we think you should take a gander at our little village!
Listeners of the TV Source Podcast will know that staff writers and podcast members Jonathon, Coryon and Editor Ryan have been singing the praises of UK Soap Hollyoaks for a long time now. So much so, that most of us have jumped on the bandwagon and the TVS Podcast has added a weekly segment dedicated to Hollyoaks along with the 4 remaining US Soaps that we cover. In addition to the podcast segment, Hollyoaks Spoilers are posted weekly with more content to come in 2019. Often referred to as “the little soap that could” by the guys, Hollyoaks has consistently surprised and delighted all of us as we’ve gotten deeper and deeper into this world. Why, as a soap viewer, should you add this show to your repertoire?
Beginning with a cast of seven major characters in 1995, the serial has approximately 65 main cast members today. Hollyoaks has a high cast turnover in comparison with other British soaps and this allows them to not only rotate characters on and off the canvas, but to keep story flowing consistently without fear of complacency and boredom. Often times you’ll see different sets of characters for a week, with a completely different set the following week, so on and so forth for months at a time. This allows the show to build momentum for storylines and create anticipation. Some stories will be over fairly quickly, while others will be spread out over the year. The way the writers balance the 2 forms of storytelling ensures the audience doesn’t get frustrated with an ongoing story hogging screen time. They also manage to balance the content of the stories which range from emotionally charged, socially relevant issues to wacky hijinks and run of the mill soap trope shenanigans.
Over the course of the show’s history, Hollyoaks has dealt with a number of storylines based upon socially relevant issues. Having a primarily young adult audience, this was widely considered the appropriate place to tell these types of stories. A telephone helpline number is often displayed after episodes that feature a particular emphasis on a story that may have affected viewers. Some issues the soap has dealt with include; abortion, suicide, euthanasia, adoption, homelessness, human trafficking, illegal immigration, racism, alcoholism, addiction, HIV, incest, child abuse, child grooming, self-harming, schizophrenia, PTSD, autism, down syndrome, etc. The beginning of 2019 saw the show wrap up its famous Break the Silence storyline in which Ollie Morgan was groomed and molested by Buster Smith. The story resonated so much with the audience, the charity, Manchester Survivors, reported an increase in calls and is now using the story as a teaching device (as reported by Digital Spy). The Hollyoaks team has already announced and began laying the groundwork for both a #MeToo story involving Sienna Blake and Laurie Shelby as well as Ste Hay’s controversial Radicalism story to play out throughout the year.
While Hollyoaks has high cast turnover, it still manages to develop rich characters with well thought out backgrounds, careers, circumstances, and consequences. Are some of the story lines bordering on ridiculous? Of course, it’s a soap opera, but what they do well is include subtle nuances within the story that tell you about the character you’re watching, what their likes are, their motivations, where they come from, and where they’re going. Small touches like Sienna remembering her daughter on Christmas or large moments like bringing back Luke Morgan 15 years after his onscreen rape to show the devastating effects that event had on his life as an adult. These characters experience consequences for their actions and Hollyoaks isn’t afraid to send someone to jail and off screen for a significant amount of time.
In the short time I, myself, have been watching, I’ve seen 2 weddings, neither went off without a hitch, but nonetheless they happened. Sexuality is flip treated very fluid in Hollyoaks, as in life, allowing multiple pairings across the canvas; there’s couple shake ups and reconciliations, commitments made and broken, sweeping declarations of love and hate, and of course a “who’s the daddy” twist. US Soaps have a tendency to put couples together and keep them together for what feels like an eternity, where Hollyoaks has some long-term couples, they have enough partner swapping going on to make it fun and exciting every week. From Romeo diving into the storm filled waters to rescue Lily, to James standing in the rain just moments shy of stopping Harry and Ste’s wedding; romance is all around the village with the promise of new and exciting couples on the horizon.
5. Adapt “ance”
Yes I know this is not a word, but I had an “ance” theme going you see so I made one up. Hollyoaks has mainly been considered a ‘teen soap’, as it was originally aimed and sometimes still struggles to be seen as a genuine serial drama, though in our minds it certainly rivals anything we see on tv here in the US. This show has managed to transform itself over the years into the real deal. They’re not afraid to take chances, to gamble a little bit and most times it pays off. For something to last, it must adapt, and Hollyoaks is a shining example of finding what works and molding it into something great, always looking to the future, and attempting to create the best and do better each and every year.
Hollyoaks is a British soap opera, first broadcast on Channel 4 on October 23, 1995. It was originally devised by Phil Redmond, who had previously conceived the Channel 4 soap Brookside. It is set in a fictional suburb of Chester and features a large cast of primarily 16-35 year olds. Hollyoaks has won 35 British Soap Awards, 18 Inside Soap Awards, 1 TRIC Award, and 1 National Television Award. The longest serving cast member is Nick Pickard, who has played Tony Hutchinson since the first episode in 1995.
Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6:30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4 in the UK. The episodes are posted on Hulu in the United States and air 2 weeks behind the UK.