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TV3's Soap: The Eldorado Story?

The loss of Coronation Street and Emmerdale is a big blow to TV3. TV3 have made a decision to replace both shows with a home grown soap. Even if the series only last one year, it is a welcome change. Fair City and Ros Na Run will both have home grown competition. It can only up the standards in soap, however new soaps haven't always gone to plan, and older ones got lost in the amount of soaps provided. British soap took a turn for its worst in the 2000s.

Eldorado sounds like a western. A story of a time when soap ruled the roost. The BBC up to the 1980s had been distant from producing a soap. EastEnders arrived on the air in 1982 and 8 years later the BBC was trying to gain another foot on the soap ladder with Eldorado. The soap was as kitsch as soap comes, and failed to gain an audience. It was soon ditched by the BBC. Stories of when soap ruled the TV screens are often told. Soap still has some attraction to a mass audience, but we should look at a time when TV was practically wall to wall soap in the 2000s.

In 1997 Channel 5 began broadcasting. It's first decision was to produce a daily soap. Family Affairs ran on the channel until 2005. Channel 5 had brought the British rights to the Australian soap Home And Away in 2001, which had been broadcast on ITV. 3 years after the axe fell on Family Affairs Channel 5 bought Neighbours, which had aired on the BBC.

This change brought about a love affair with a genre on the decline. BBC, ITV and Channel 4 were figuring out what audiences wanted from their soaps. More episode were added to the key soaps, a policy brought from the 1990s. Coronation Street when to 4 nights a week, quickly followed by EastEnders and then Coronation Street increase to 5 episodes per week. Doctors was the BBC's Daytime soap since 2000. It was an on and off series until the BBC lost Neighbours in 2008. Over on ITV they were trying their own daytime soap of Night and Day, this lasted for just 2 years before getting the chop, a response to their loss of Home and Away.

Channel 4 was also exploring the genre. Channel 4's Brookside was their soap from the start. It aired on the channel from 1982. By 1995 Channel 4 had commissioned a youth soap in the form of Hollyoaks. Brookside began life as a twice weekly show until 1990 when it began a 3 night week, eventually becoming just an omnibus edition towards its end. The other Channel 4 soap was doing the opposite. It's episodes went from 1 per week to 5 per week by the early 2000s. It continues to preform strong in its time slot.

The decade of the 2000s saw in increase in the number of soaps available and also a mass cull of soaps. Crossroads was another attempt to combat the loss of Home And Away by ITV, it was axe in 2003. Scottish soap Take The High Road went in the same year, as did Brookside. The Bill had become a soap and was axed at the beginning of this decade. Family Affairs was killed of in 2005. Holby Blue a spin off to Holby City lasted just one year in 2008. The Royal Today was a spin off to The Royal and Heartbeat lasted for just one year also in 2008. The Royal was eventually dropped in 2011, after its parent show had been axed in 2010.

New soaps take time to develop. The initial costs are high but eventually the sets are built and used and reused. A soap is a long term investment. The plan to develop a soap is not taken likely. Axing a soap is just as difficult. Those initial high costs, a growing audience and the prestige that any channel will get by having a home produced drama are all factors to be consider when setting up and closing down a soap.