31 Jan:
TV’s First Soap Opera

These Are My Children premiered on NBC on 31st January, 1949; the world’s first televised soap opera. It lasted only four weeks on air, was broadcast live, and had a tiny budget, but influenced the production of the genre for decades. 

As dramas primarily created by and for women, soap operas typically attracted sniffy reviews from male critics, yet proved enormously popular with their initial audience of 1950s housewives. Creator Irna Phillips’ own backstory mirrored the dramatic storylines she wrote, and many of the situations she introduced into her productions – illegitimate children, amnesiac medical patients – were TV firsts. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the genre’s clunky transition from radio to TV; explain the difficulties in obtaining quality soap actors; and reveal how Phillips not only pioneered soaps, but also pre-empted the Marvel Cinematic Universe… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Queen of Soaps Speaks…for Herself’ (Library of Congress, 2022): https://blogs.loc.gov/now-see-hear/2022/03/the-queen-of-soaps-speaks-for-herself/

• ‘Women Pioneers in Television – Biographies of Fifteen Industry Leaders, By Cary O’Dell’ (McFarland, 1997): https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Women_Pioneers_in_Television/74fnsRmeeZcC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=these+are+my+children+first+soap+opera&pg=PA191&printsec=frontcover

• ‘Eileen Fulton on Irna Phillips’ (Television Academy, 2018):