Tube Talk: Sci-Fi, soaps have many similarities

Most people probably consider soap operas and sci-fi to be two very different genres, but there are some similarities.

A lot of science-fiction shows have serialized stories. Some even have large casts, although not the 30 or 40 regulars a soap might have. The biggest similarity is both genres have millions of extremely loyal fans, creating built-in audiences for SoapNet and SCI FI cable channels.

I admit it. I’ve been watching Days of Our Lives since I was in grade school. I know it’s poorly written, but it’s fun to predict the pat dialogue and obvious plot twists (Days has even ventured into quasi sci-fi stories in the past; Rex and Cassie as the “Gemini Twins” comes to mind). I can identify most General Hospital’s main characters and a few from All My Children. So it’s natural for me to tune in to the occasional episode of SoapNet’s One Day With…, a 30-minute show where host/soap star Wally Kurth follows a soap star around for a day.

Right now, I’m enjoying the third season of I Wanna Be a Soap Star, which pits aspiring actors against one another in a soap-style boot camp. They work and live together, competing for a contract on One Life to Live. This is truly a guilty pleasure. It’s entertaining, yet offers a glimpse at how hard soap actors really work. Soap Star’s finale is Aug. 10 at 10 p.m., and the winner debuts on One Life to Live the very next day.

I’m not a huge science fiction fan—at least not in the stereotypical sense. I love The X-Files and The Twilight Zone, but I really don’t get into much outer space-based stuff. SCI FI’s Battlestar Galactica changed that. I expected it would have production values along the lines of Farscape or Stargate, but was blown away by special effects worthy of a feature film. The brilliant writing and outstanding acting drew me right into this world-without-a-world.

SCI FI has another new original series, Eureka, which debuted July 18. Since it’s a present-day, earth-based show, it’s probably no surprise that 5 minutes into the pilot, I was hooked by the show’s sharp dialogue, distinctive look, peculiar humor and underlying intelligence.

Picture a community—the brainchild of Albert Einstein—where quite literally anything is possible, and where some areas require non-disclosure agreements just to visit. On the surface, Eureka’s an idyllic small town in the Pacific Northwest, but where else would little kids be studying advanced physics, the local mechanic be a former NASA engineer, or the corner diner’s short-order chef be able to make any dish you asked for, no matter how rare the ingredients? In short, it’s a town where the bizarre is the norm.

So, whatever your opinion of soaps or science fiction, if you get SCI FI, tune in to an episode or two of Eureka (Battlestar Galactica returns with new episodes this fall), and if you get Soap Net, check out I Wanna Be a Soap Star. You never know, you might find out there’s more to SoapNet and SCI FI than you expected.

Programming notes

Eureka airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on SCI FI while I Wanna Be a Soap Star airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on SoapNet.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.

From the Aug. 9-15, 2006, issue

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