Are Soap Operas filmed/broadcast Live?

I’ve always heard it joked about how soap opera actors and actresses are known for messing up their lines. Are they broadcast live? Or, filmed before a studio audience? And if so, why? Why shouldn’t they have re-takes, especially if soaps have gotten such a bad reputation for themselves? I guess it’s just a way to sell the finished product off as cheap entertainment allowing the studios to max their profits, instead of bothering with re-takes? - Jinx

Not at all.

It has to do with their insane schedule. Unlike other television shows, instead of being on once a week, soap operas are on every weekday. Because of this, they are on an extremely tight schedule and, unless the mistake is bad, there simply isn’t time for a lot of re-takes. Considering the time and effort that it takes to put together an hour of television, they actually do surprisingly well.

Also, soap operas do not have reruns. Not only are they on 5 hours a week, but 52 weeks of new episodes every year.

I’ve seen some bloopers from soaps. The best one was a confrontation between the bad girl and the good girl held in front of a table with fine silver, plates, glassware on it. At the end, the bad girl was suppose to pull the tablecloth and ruin it. When she did, the cloth came off and nothing else moved. What a magician!

Soap Operas aren’t filmed before a studio audience. Some will allow groups or visitors, but that’s only under special circumstances.

Also, most soap operas are filmed with the “Talent-B-Gone” lens, patented in 1947 by Maria Montez.

I forgot to add that the soaps are on a tight schedule. They’re usually only two weeks ahead of when the episode actually airs. That’s not much time for editing, adding music to the scene, etc.

BTW, I wonder if soap operas just have a bad reputation. I watched Guiding Light and As The World Turns for years and never really noticed any obvious bloopers. A couple of times I’ve noticed really, really bad acting, usually involving a child actor or actress, but I’ve never noticed something that I thought “Ouch. They should re-shot that one.”

Television soap operas were performed and broadcast live from 1946 to the early 1960s. The House on High Street (NBC, 1959-1960) was the first soap to be shot on videotape.

Back when they were televised live, I was sitting with my grandmother watching her favorite soap opera…it must have been a serious moment as two male actors were squaring off in an argument and the one walked a few steps, tripped over a footstool and fell flat on his face. The one actor couldn’t help but burst out laughing and I hadn’t seen my grandmother ever laugh that hard.

Back then, I heard of a case where an older actor actually died on camera…but that may be an urban myth.

Soaps are no longer broadcast live (except for certain special event episodes). But as others have said, the sheer speed and amount of dialogue makes it more likely that there will be flubs, and that flubs will be left in. I’ve seen many minor bloopers (people dropping things, tripping over words, etc.) that were left in aired versions. Serious bloopers (sets falling over, actors collapsing in giggle fits, inappropriate bits of anatomy falling out of clothing) show up on those blooper shows that the networks produce every once in a while, and those scenes are reshot.

When you consider that a 2-hour movie is produced over the course of several months, and a 1-hour primetime drama is produced over a week, it’s easy to see why they can produce a higher quality product than a soap which produces one hour of television every single weekday.

My favorite soap blooper that made it on air:

Girl: How about a little midnight slupper?

Guy: (without missing a beat): I would love a little midnight slupper.

I don’t know of anyone dying on camera, but I know the man who played Papa Bauer on Guiding Light fell asleep in a scene where his character was having surgery.

I heard the same thing happened to the old priest in the old BBC show “Father Ted.”

There was an incident in the early 1970s where an actress on (I think) “As the World Turns” fainted during a live broadcast. Her character was in a coma, and she had an oxygen tent set up over her head, except that unlike an actual oxygen tent in a real hospital, it wasn’t hooked up to a respirator. So, ironically, she passed out due to lack of oxygen. At the commercial break, her fellow actors realized what happened and she was rushed to the hospital.

This has been mentioned several times on this board before, but the original “Dark Shadows” (repeats appear on the Sci-fi channel in an early morning slot) was taped one day in advance of its’ original air dates. Thus, they were taped as if they were being broadcast live, flubs and all. Because of the really bad special effects that were used, the flubs probably stood out more on this show. But you can see some of the more routine flubs that all live soaps used to have - actors blowing lines, or obviously reading from teleprompters, cameras zooming in and going out of focus, microphones and stagehands accidentally wandering into the shot, etc.

A bit off subject but near the end of the movie “Tootsie” Dustin Hoffman’s character is on a live soap set and the scene is one of the funniest in film.

All sorts of shows in tv and movies are portrayed as being live so that these scenes can go out on the air unfiltered. IRL, almost nothing is ever live exactly because nobody wants there to be the slightest chance of unfiltered product being seen.

I don’t know if this can be applied everywhere, or if it’s still applicable anywhere, but Bill Hayes once commented in an interview (over 25 years ago) that “Every single word was scripted. No deviations.”