Sunday, 22 March 2015


“While seeking revenge, dig two graves - one for yourself.” - Douglas Horton

Soap operas are an extremely popular and an immensely prolific genre of TV program. This type of serial drama and suspense features related story lines about the lives of multiple characters. They can be found locally produced in almost every country of the world and reflect that particular society’s culture, mores and values. The stories typically focus on emotional relationships to the point of extreme melodrama. Usually, the lives of the rich and poor are contrasted, the soapie often allowing the “common people” viewing it to live vicariously the lives of the rich and famous. The term “soap opera” originated from this type of drama series having been sponsored by soap manufacturers in the past.

We have watched a large variety of soap operas, originating from the USA, Australia, UK, Scandinavia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, etc, and it is surprising how similar they all are in terms of characters, plot lines and conclusion. They all seem to pander to basic human needs and desires: Desire to be rich (and perhaps, famous); need to be loved and to love; desire to be desirable and to feel wanted; need to live in a society where justice is served; desire to allow people to reach their full potential; a wish for the good to be rewarded and the bad to be punished; and of course for the heroes and heroines to live happily ever after…

Production values vary immensely, with some extremely polished series where good actors sink their teeth into interesting and involving plots of some originality, to series that are ludicrous, with bad actors hamming up stock melodramatic situations or wading their way through badly disguised fairy tales. And of course, there is everything in between. It does depend a lot on the creative team behind the series, and not so much on the country of origin, as one may see extreme bathos and surprising quality in any one country’s output of soapies.

At the moment, we are watching the USA soapie “Revenge” whose first season began in 2011 and it is still going strong this year, in its fourth season. It stars Madeleine Stowe, Emily VanCamp, Gabriel Mann, Nick Wechsler, Josh Bowman, Christa B. Allen and Henry Czerny. The series was created by Mike Kelley and as is usual with soapies, it is written and directed by a whole team of people, who obviously keep the suspense up and ensure that enough plot twists and turns maintain viewer interest.

“Revenge”, as the title implies, takes as its premise a common desire of many of us to avenge ourselves on those who have done us wrong. The plot commences thus: As a summer to remember begins in the exclusive Hamptons of Long Island NY, new arrival Emily Thorne dazzles the members of high society by making herself known in the exclusive social circle of Grayson Global CEO Conrad Grayson and his socialite wife Victoria. But it soon becomes clear that the beguiling young philanthropist has a dark past. Emily was once known as Amanda Clarke, a young nine-year-old whose life was torn apart when her father (Grayson Global hedge fund manager David Clarke) was falsely accused of channelling money to a terrorist organisation responsible for the downing of a commercial airliner. Now living under an assumed identity, she is determined to seek vengeance on the people who destroyed her father’s life (the two main conspirators being Conrad and Victoria Grayson) by making their lives come crashing down around them.

The production values are high, the acting is excellent, direction tight and the pace rapid and with few pauses for reflection. Unlike many other soapies, there is not much time wasted and the viewer is kept engaged without becoming bored. We are watching this on DVD, without ads and we are enjoying it much more than watching it on commercial television. Of course there are numerous clichés, many stock dramatic situations and predictable character traits. However, there is enough originality, humour and likeable characters to maintain viewer interest in what is proving to be a very long-lived series. The IMDB score for this series is 8/10 from about 90,000 voters.

This series started being remade in 2013 in Turkey as “Intikam”. Yagmur Ozden moves to a yali (Bosporus mansion) at a rich neighborhood on the shore of the Bosporus in Istanbul. Her real name is Derin Celik. Her father, Adil was framed for a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Derin was sent to an orphanage and believed that her father was guilty. Adil wanted her daughter to learn the truth and kept a diary to be given to her. Derin learned the truth about her father when she was 18. But it was too late. He died in jail as an innocent man. Derin comes to her childhood neighbourhood with a different identity to seek revenge against the people who betrayed her father. The lead role is played by the captivating Turkish star Beren Saat who has in many other quality Turkish TV soapies.

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