This piece was originally published as part of an entry on August 16, 2007, on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog at http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/
Regular C3 readers probably know that I like to talk about hypermasculine soap opera, just as I like to talk about soaps in general. Look at my recent writing on pro wrestling, for instance. But C3 Consulting Researcher and astute television scholar Jason Mittell has a great piece on Rescue Me as hyper-masculine soap over at his blog, Just TV. I wrote a response there and won't post it in full here, but I point out that daytime serial dramas often manage less realistic and more realistic elements simultaneously in a way that primetime shows cannot, likely due to the much larger cast and the much larger amount of time soaps have to tell their stories.
I think the problem here is that there are two types of soaps, and often even two types of soap within one particular soap, if that makes any sense. Some characters or storylines focus on the more ludicrous, just the type of thing that you are pointing to here and the kind of story that soaps are stereotyped for-identical twins, constant paternity suits, and so on. But often other characters on those same shows focus on issues like life as a gay teenager, or the struggle with breast cancer, or the affects of Alzheimer's on a family-using soaps as catalysts of social awareness that character-based drama would do particularly well and through characters the audience are intimately familiar with.