As a part of our work here at The Renaissance Fan we spend a lot of time on the Internet Movie Database (commonly known as IMDb) researching TV shows and movies. IMDb is an immense network of information, and if you like to nerd out about entertainment it’s hard to imagine living without it.
Out of curiosity, I decided to do some research on soap operas. Considering that many soaps are long-running and air hundreds of episodes each year, I expected their IMDb pages to be interesting. I had no idea what I was getting into. For starters, there was so much information on IMDb about some soaps that it repeatedly crashed the IMDb app on my phone. Armed with a laptop and halfway decent Wi-Fi connection I tried again. This time I was able to access and explore the IMDb pages of some of the iconic soap operas. These are my findings:
We start with The Young and the Restless which first came on the air in 1973 and is still chugging along 11,050 episodes later! 11,050 episodes. No wonder soap operas get a reputation for having ludicrous plot twists and every iteration of dating/divorce/infidelity among their characters, after that many episodes there would be no more traditional storylines left. But Y & R is a lightweight compared to some of the other shows.
Days of our Lives started in 1965 and has run for 12,961 episodes. In that span of time there have been 3,349 credited actors, with Josh Taylor leading the cast at 2,491 episodes. During the show’s tenure 129 different writers have been credited with at least one episode. William J. Bell leads the pack of writers having penned 2,694 episodes. For your reference, there are only 602 episodes of The Simpsons as of this writing.
Another thing that makes soap opera IMDb pages unique is the character profiles. Take Allison Sweeney’s character Sam Brady from Days of Our Lives as an example. Typically, IMDb would list an actor and their character name next to it (e.g. Allison Sweeney – Sam Brady). But with soaps, characters go through so many transformations that the profile reads like a short novel. Here’s Sweeney’s:
Allison Sweeney- Sam Brady / Samantha ‘Sami’ Brady / Samantha Brad / Samantha Brady / Samantha Brady #7 / Samantha Brady DiMera / Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady / Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady #3 / Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady #4 / Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady #5 / Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady #6 / Samantha Hernandez / Samanthan Brady / Sami / Sami Brady DiMera / Sami Brady Hernandez / Sami Brady Reed / Sami Brady Walker / Sami DiMera / Sami Roberts
And remember, there are thousands of characters on each of these shows.
Even with 12,961 episodes under their belt Days of our Lives does not hold the record for most episodes. That distinction belongs to General Hospital which started in 1963. There have been 13,692 episodes of General Hospital. If you made it your sole mission in life to binge watch every episode of General Hospital (with commercials) and you spent every waking hour of your life watching it would take you 2 years and 4 months to watch all the episodes. BUT, while you were doing that another 600 episodes would have been filmed! So you’d need to keep at it for 5 more weeks after that to catch the new ones!
One more fun hypothetical. Let’s say some eccentric billionaire wanted to pay you to watch and catalog every episode of Y & R, Days of Our Lives, and General Hospital. If you took that task seriously and spent 40 hours a week watching old soaps it would take you 18 years to get caught up. That volume of television is staggering.
Soaps may not be something you pay attention to unless you are waiting on a midday oil change, but their place as a pop culture institution can’t be questioned. And one has to respect the stamina of everyone involved in pumping out hundreds of hours of these television shows each year.