Dallas premieres tonight, and if you’re the kind of person who worships HBO’s three Davids (Simon, Chase, and Milch), you probably aren’t that excited. After all, this isn’t just a primetime soap opera — it’s a reboot of a primetime soap that already ran for 13 seasons before calling it quits two decades ago. Now, we don’t blame you for being skeptical about Dallas; we are, too. But don’t dismiss it just because it’s a soap.
As we mentioned a few months ago in a defense of Downton Abbey, plenty of what we think of as quality TV shows fit the basic requirements for a soap opera. Although definitions vary, most sources agree that the category encompasses melodramatic serial dramas with multiple storylines and episode-ending cliffhangers. With those guidelines in mind, we’ve revealed which critical darlings are secretly soap operas, after the jump.
Don’t let the Masterpiece Classic distinction confuse you; Downton Abbey may be a high-minded, social commentary-packed costume drama, but it’s also a soap opera. We recognized it as such back in Season 1, when Mary screwed a Turkish diplomat to death, and the forbidden romances, shocking deaths and injuries, miraculous cures, tawdry trials, and face-saving cover-ups have just kept coming since then. And while the cast is large enough to allow for plenty of complex characters, the sheer number of Downton residents who are solely good (William, Bates, Anna, Sybil) and pure evil (Thomas, O’Brien, Sir Richard) makes melodramatic situations inevitable.