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Video clip synopsis – TV soap operas have the ability to reflect Australian society and culture and connect people through the shared memory of watching a television show.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 55sec
Tags - audiences, changing communities, identity, media influence, popular culture, script writing, soap operas, stereotypes, television drama, see all tags


TV Soap Opera

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About the Video Clip


The interviews with Megan Spencer, Scott Goodings, Mac Gudgeon and Corinne Grant were recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Megan Spencer is a film critic, reporter and filmmaker. Scott Goodings is a self-proclaimed “TV freak” and walking archive. Corinne Grant is a comic, writer and actor. Mac Gudgeon is a screenwriter and a community television advocate. You can view their full biographies at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


In this English unit students will:

  • identify the characteristics of TV soap operas, and inquire into their effect on audiences,
  • discuss media commentaries about soap operas, and critique two examples,
  • create, draft and present an example of their own soap opera.

Reading Standard: students view, analyse, critique, reflect on and discuss contemporary, imaginative texts that explore personal, social and cultural issues of significance to their own lives. They also read, view, analyse and discuss a wide range of informative and persuasive texts and identify the multiple purposes for which texts are created. They compare and contrast the typical features of particular texts and synthesise information from different texts to draw conclusions.

Writing Standard: students write sustained and cohesive narratives that experiment with different techniques and show attention to chronology, characterisation, consistent point of view and development of a resolution. They proofread and edit their own writing for accuracy, consistency and clarity.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students compare, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 6 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Building Social Relationships standard; Working in Teams standard), and Personal Learning (The Individual Learner standard; Managing Personal Learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


The 1970s was Australia’s great decade of change – changing visions, changing values and a changing 'vibe’. The new socially progressive Labor Government under Gough Whitlam reshaped core beliefs and promoted social justice and equality for all Australians. A distinctly 'Aussie’ culture emerged in art, music, fashion and on the stage and screen. And Sydney finally opened its Opera House.

TV Soap Opera
When television was introduced to Australia much of the programming was imported from overseas, especially from the United States. Popular programs included quiz shows, variety shows and 'soapies’ – long-running series that typically screened on daytime television.

One of the first successful locally produced television soap operas was Bellbird, which launched in 1967, produced by the ABC. The achievement of Bellbird – and indeed all Australian 'soaps’ – was nothing short of miraculous. Punishing production schedules were necessary because of the need to create product week-by-week, on minuscule budgets with limited resources.

Bellbird depicted life in a small Australian country town, a fictional place that lent its name to the show’s title. Most of the series was shot at the ABC’s Melbourne studios in Elsternwick, with only limited location work in towns around Melbourne and Victoria. Bellbird screened for 15 minutes leading in to the 7 o’clock news, from Monday to Thursday. The series was a huge hit in rural and regional Australia because it dealt with the concerns of people living on the land and the dynamics of small country town life. The ABC produced 1693 episodes of Bellbird and the series ran for 10 years, until 1977.

The next breakthrough Australian television series, much more modern and risqué, was the 1972 'soap’ Number 96, which set a new standard and wholly different tone for Australian TV 'soapies’. Other popular and successful local soap operas included The Box (1974), The Young Doctors (1976), The Restless Years (1977), and Prisoner (1979).

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    View the four video clip interviews then discuss the following in class:
    1. What are soap operas? List the characteristics of a soap opera that make you want to keep watching it.
    2. What benefit does Corinne Grant find in viewing ‘trashy’ TV soap operas? Do you agree?
    3. What positive values does Megan Spencer find in Neighbours? Do you agree?
    4. What does Mac Gudgeon find so valuable and important about Bellbird?
    5. What does Scott Goodings find important about Prisoner? What similarities does he draw between Bellbird, A Country Practice and Something in the Air?
    6. Do the soap operas you watch offer a realistic view of city, suburban or rural life? Are the characters in these programs ‘fully rounded’ and believable or stereotyped and unrealistic?
  2. Analysing soap operas
    View an episode of Neighbours and of Home and Away. In 450–500 words write an analysis of them, discussing:
    1. the opening credits, including the theme music and camera shots, asking what these tell us about the kind of stories being presented, the types of characters involved, and the settings
    2. the range of characteristics that define the two programs as soap operas, and whether there are any similarities or differences between them
    3. the intended audience for each program.
  3. Writing and rehearsing a soapie script
    With the characteristics of soap operas in mind, in small groups plan, draft, edit and proofread the script for a five-minute section of a well-known TV soap opera. Include at least two scenes and a break point for insertion of advertisements. With other class members, rehearse a script reading, where you may need to make script changes.
  4. Reflecting
    Reflect in journal form on the process and the result of your script writing and rehearsing.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Go to 14 of the Best Books and Articles on: Soap Operas as selected by Questia librarians

Go to Idato, Michael. Mellow Drama, The Age, 3 December 2004

Louise Alexander and Alison Cousens, Teaching TV Soaps, British Film Institute, 2004