I grew up watching soap operas. The daytime drama that for one hour (or 40 minutes if you fast-forward through the commercials) was a complete escape from reality. I have fond memories of watching the soaps with my mom back in the day. When I was out on my own, I stayed loyal to Guiding Light and would add my roommate’s favorite into my daily watching routine. I was heartbroken when GL went off the air after 72 years (that included time on the radio, as well).
I even used my love of soap operas as a basis for my master’s thesis. Among other things, one of the theories I proved in my research was that television watching is a group activity. At that time (late ‘80s), that meant gathering together to watch the show, perhaps at someone’s home, a local bar or restaurant. I had friends that planned a “reception” for Luke and Laura’s wedding on General Hospital. Favorite evening shows at the time were Moonlighting and Cheers. I remember watching the final episode of M*A*S*H in the cafeteria at my dorm with hundreds of students.
And we would talk about the characters – if the consensus was we liked a character, we would forgive their flaws. If we didn’t, then it was group-hate for sure. And this created a sense of camaraderie with those of us in the room.
Today, television watching is still a group activity. But the difference now is the watching takes place on social media. With various check-ins and tagging, you can tell the world what you’re watching, how you feel about the show and the characters and get reactions from others in real-time. You can see this happening with reality shows like Survivor and the Bachelor/Bachelorette, dramas such as Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, and the competition shows like The Voice.
And the network show that is living up to its promotional hype (at least among my friends) is NBC’s This is Us. It is smart, creative, funny, heart-warming and is guaranteed to make you cry every week. I want to invite the characters over for dinner they’re so relatable. And based on the Facebook and Twitter comments I see every Tuesday evening, I think there are others that agree.