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Top 10 Soap Operas of All Time

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How do we decide the top 10 soap operas of all time? There are plenty of ways to determine what makes a soap great – the storylines, the characters, the history – but there’s always that “X-Factor,” the thing that makes us tune in every day, or remember a soap from yesterday with a particular fondness.

Following, in no particular order, are my all-time favorites.

1. ‘All My Children’

What makes a star? In today's world, charisma, money and talent are only pieces of the puzzle. Trouble with the law is the benchmark for celebrity and if Erica Kane's rap sheet is any indication, she is and always will be at the top of my A-list…and so is AMC.

2. ‘The Young and the Restless’

A work of art. Yes, over the years Y&R has sometimes been predictable but it’s what’s poppin'! Since its debut in 1973, the show has been groundbreaking for daytime serials in its lush production values and it continues to be a pioneer. As of 2009, Y&R has managed over 1,000 consecutive weeks in the No. 1 spot for daytime dramas.

3. ‘Days of Our Lives’

A timeless classic that’s always cool and contemporary. A few years back, Lauren Koslow, who plays Kate Roberts, regularly appeared on screen rocking two black tips with a pale manicure. I’m a David Bowie fan. What can I say? And who couldn’t watch Rafe all day long?

4. ‘Ryan’s Hope’

Addictive. I was, and still am, addicted to re-runs of Ryan's Hope, the glorious show that ran on ABC from 1975-1989. And RH was a precursor to The Sopranos. It’s true. RH was the first daytime drama to have a major mob storyline. The cast for RH was as sublime as its amazing dialogue and heartfelt stories. Sadly, Bernard Barrow (John), Nancy Addison (Jill) and Nicolette Goulet (who replaced Mulgrew as Mary) are deceased.

5. ‘General Hospital’

This 1963 soap opera is credited for starting the trend of the “supercouple” for all soaps! Luke and Laura (Tony Geary and Genie Francis) set the standard. Rafe and Sami on Days, Ryan and Greenlea on AMC, Cane and Lilly on Y&R and Brody and Jessica on One Life to Live were all compelling, but they all followed in the footsteps of Luke and Laura.

6. ‘As the World Turns’

I’ve always felt that the real power of soap opera lies in couples made up of characters as wacky and, yes, flawed as we are. Who can forget Tom and Barbara and Hal and Barbara, two incredibly complex couples supported by an unforgettable story? This story resonated for me because even though everyone knew that Tom and Margo were each other’s true love and belonged together, at the same time I always felt that Margo could have just as easily been happy with Hal. And visa versa. Makes you think…that this show deserves a spot on any Top 10 list.

7. ‘Guiding Light’

For many of us September 18, 2009, will live on as, well, the day the “music” died. Primetime TV shows come and go all the time, but we’re more connected to our shows, which makes endings like this harder. We might be only 1.2 million people – not a lot by today’s standards – but we’re a dedicated bunch. And our final glimpse at the characters left us satisfied that, at the very least, Josh and Reva were back in each other’s arms.

8. ‘Another World’

I grew up watching this show and was sorely disappointed when it was cancelled. I remember taping the last episode, hoping one day for a reunion, and vowing never to watch anything which replaced it! AW covered it all, even a dead wife coming back as a ghost on her husband's wedding day to give him and their daughter her blessing. If you didn't catch it the first time, hit the reruns, other than those clothes we wore in the ‘80s, you'll love it...you may even still love those clothes, too.

9. ‘The Edge of Night’

I’ll never forget hearing Bob Dixon energetically announcing the show's title, "Theee Eeeeeeeedge...of Night!" Bob Dixon was the first announcer in 1956 – a sort of Perry Mason in the daytime. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on the passion between Calvin and Dee Dee. My favorite moment came near the end of the series run when we see Mike and Nancy, after having slept in twin beds for nearly their whole married life, finally decide to "go all out, and buy a double bed," thereby retiring their twin beds once and for all.

10. ‘Santa Barbara’

It was quirky, funny, surprising and deeply touching. Don’t take my word for it: When Augusta Lockridge was blinded in a tunnel collapse in 1985, President Ronald Reagan sent the actress who played August a heartfelt note telling her that he and Nancy were praying for a quick recovery. The writers on Santa Barbara took chances, and it paid off with dozens of awards and solid ratings. Eden and Cruz were the ultimate soap couple, and Eden’s rape remains one of the most memorable storylines in soap history.
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