Ringer- CW

It’s been a great Fall season so far with plenty of terrific new shows to tuck into – and hopefully many more launching in the New Year (I’m especially excited for The River and Smash)

But for me one of the most heartening aspects of this new season has been the return of the primetime soap opera, a genre that’s been sadly out of favor in recent years.

The two most obvious examples of this of course are The CW’s Ringer and ABC’s Revenge. Ringer plays like a telenovela – a totally preposterous series featuring identical twins, murder, adultery and a bad guy who’s the spitting image of Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas. But while Ringer is great fun I just can’t see how the show sustains itself for more than two seasons – hence my comparison to a telenovela rather than a straight up soap.

However this year’s other big serialized series, Revenge, definitely fits the conventions of a soap opera. Rich people leading unhappy lives, tick. Beautiful bodies, tick. Blackmail, affairs, plotting, tick, tick, tick. A larger than life superbitch, tick! Sure Revenge started out as a straight up tale of vengeance but by now I’m as interested in the subplots on the show as I am the main saga of Emily Thorne – and the show’s title is generic enough to run and run. Given Revenge’s recent ratings upswing I have a feeling this is a show that will be around for quite a few seasons whiich is actually quite surprising – as no network has been able to successfully launch a primetime soap for several years now. I’d argue that the last proper evening soap was Melrose Place, Fox’s sudsy LA set series that ended its run back in 1999, after running for 7 seasons and 226 episodes.

Of course Melrose Place returned in 2009 in a disastrous remake that was canceled after just one season. And that’s not the only recent soap opera that has come and gone in recent years. Remember 2000’s Titans? Exactly.

Now it could be argued that shows like Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl and Brothers and Sisters are also soap operas and it’s true they do share some of the same DNA. But for me none are what I personally would term a soap. Housewives has too much black comedy, Gossip Girl is too young and Brothers and Sisters is too gentle. What sets Revenge apart is that it truly feels like a soap with its over the top characters, scheming and plotting, crazy plots and hot guys and girls. And I have a feeling the show’s only going to get wilder in the months to come.

Much has been made of the fact that Revenge is a show of our time – reflecting our society’s general disdain for rich people at the moment. Certainly I think there’s an element of truth to this idea – but let’s not forget that the show’s anti-hero Emily is also herself pretty darn rich. And Nolan, the reclusive gay billionaire, is also one of the most likable members of the cast.

Personally I think Revenge’s success is another example of the cyclical nature of TV. Primetime soaps have been out of favor for a while now and it was their time to return – the question was always when, not if, and which network would get there first. And of course let’s not forget that the daytime soaps are falling fast, leaving a large, un-catered for audience. Next year will also bring the return of Dallas and given Revenge’s success I wouldn’t be surprised to see many more soaps popping up next Fall too.

But what do you think? Do you think the primetime soap is back – and is that good news?