1. No one owns a washing machine
They manage to be the proud owners of swanky cars/B&Bs/nightclubs/nail bars, but can’t quite stretch the budget to a washer-dryer. I’m talking to you, residents of Walford.
2. Life expectancy is low
With all those serial killers, psychopaths, arsonists, dodgy drivers and runaway trams on the loose, most soap characters spend every waking hour in mortal danger. Back in 2002, Reader’s Digest did a survey on the average life-expectancy of each community. The results were bleak. 40 for Emmerdale, 45 for ‘Enders and a pathetic 24 for Brookside (RIP). And things haven’t improved; 10 characters in Weatherfield were bumped off between 2010-2012.
3. Weddings are always a disaster
Weddings in soaps should come with a health warning. Chance of death is high, as is a long-lost relative/lover/spouse popping up to put a spanner in the works. Or the police will put in an appearance. Whatever happens, it’s generally never Happy Ever After.
4. You think you know a character…
We all knew Cheryl Stark as Lou’s annoying, red-headed wife in Neighbours.
5. ..then this happens
Then she transformed overnight. Caroline Gillmer, the actress playing Cheryl had actually been taken ill. She was seamlessly replaced at short notice by Colette Mann for eight weeks, viewers were apparently expected not to notice.
6. And sometimes it gets weird
Cheryl number two, Colette Mann has now resurfaced in Ramsey Street 17 years later as series regular Sheila Canning. Meta.
7. Unprotected sex will always end in a baby
Kids, you can’t ‘do it’ without protection. Ever. If you do, there will be a child. Them’s the rules.
8. Almost everyone’s a criminal
Very few are squeaky clean. From selling dodgy ‘motors’ and knocked-off jewellery or committing some light fraud, to murder, rape, and baby-napping, most soap residents think nothing of a bit of illegal activity. Former Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson once admitted: “We have been at the police station and the court room a little bit too much.” But would we want it any other way? No. Viewers love a crim - as long as they get their comeuppance (see 10).
9. People come back from the dead
Eastenders’ Dirty Den, Hollyoaks’ Warren Fox and Emmerdale’s Kim Tate all did their best Jesus impression. But, the all-time great soap resurrection has to be that of Neighbours’ Harold Bishop. Hazza ducked out to sea in 1991, leaving his glasses perched ominously on the rock, leaving devoted wife Madge - and us naive viewers - to believe he’d drowned. Then ol’ Jelly Belly popped up five years later, tuba in hand, suffering from amnesia.
10. Secrets will out…
In real life, people take secrets to their grave and no one is any the wiser. Soaps, however, have a public duty to uphold. No crime must go unpunished, no affair undiscovered and no long-lost relative can stay long-lost.
11. …usually in the pub
Where better place than to reveal all than the pub? That way, you can tell the whole community in one bitter, dramatic confession. Make mine a double for the denouement.