10 Best Television Soap Operas

Tuesday, February 1 by Karen Murdock

If you think soaps are all about baby daddies and back stabbers, the 10 best television soap operas will confirm your suspicions—and surprise you, too. Here, learn how the ten best television soap operas set themselves apart.

  1. "The Young and the Restless": With nineteen years as the most-watched daytime soap, “The Young and the Restless” makes the list of ten best television soap operas for its sheer popularity. It also deserves a nod for its innovative lighting and set designs, for which it has won Daytime Emmys. Tune in on CBS and get to know the Abbot and Newman clans of fictional Wisconsin town, Genoa City.
  2. "General Hospital": Viewers first met the people of Port Charles in 1963, when “General Hospital” debuted on ABC. For its longevity alone, it deserves a nod as one of the ten best soap operas, but it makes the list for another reason, too—or rather, a couple of reasons. “Supercouple” Luke and Laura is so beloved that over 30 million viewers watched their wedding—a daytime record yet to be shattered. The soap has also redefined daytime drama with mobster plots and guest stars like James Franco.
  3. "Dallas": Television soap operas are not just for daytime. CBS primetime soap “Dallas” left viewers so obsessed with the “Who shot J.R.?” cliffhanger that J.R. Ewing even made the cover of “Time." On November 21, 1980, over 350 million people tuned in to end the suspense, giving “Dallas” the highest ratings in history. 
  4. "Ryan’s Hope": With so many television soaps about rich elites, “Ryan’s Hope” stands out as a soap about average people. Airing from 1975-1989, it told the story of the working-class, Irish-American Ryan family. This television soap seized sixteen Daytime Emmy awards for its writers, actors and directors. It was so beloved you can still catch reruns on cable.
  5. "Dynasty": ABC competed with “Dallas” by offering its own primetime television soap centered on oil magnate Blake Carrington, his wife Krystle, and ex-wife Alexis. With Aaron Spelling as producer and stars John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Heather Locklear and Joan Collins, the show became a megahit. In 1985, it ranked as the number one series on television. This primetime television soap even snagged Golden Globe nominations for Best TV Drama Series every year between 1982-1987, scoring a win in 1984.
  6. "The Bold and the Beautiful": This television soap opera about rival fashion-designing families has spawned loyal followers in over 110 countries, winning more viewers than any other soap, says CBS. The “Guinness Book of  World Records” even certified it as the “Most Popular Daytime TV Soap—Current.”
  7. "Another World": “Another World” never shied away from tough social issues. In 1964, it was the first soap opera to explore abortion.
  8. "All My Children": “All My Children” is the soap that brought the world Erica Kane, portrayed by Susan Lucci since 1970. This television soap diva is so famous that 60 out of 100 students in a study at California State University at Fullerton recognized her but not Alexander Hamilton. “All My Children” has also pushed social boundaries, even portraying a gay marriage well before the issue gained traction.
  9. "Days of Our Lives": This popular daytime television soap starts with the words, “Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives,” but the sand for this show has never run out. Airing since 1965, “Days of Our Lives” brought Americans super couple Hope and Bo, and it is also the day job for “Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney, who plays Sami Brady.
  10. "Beverly Hills 90210": Even if you have never seen any of the other top ten television soaps, no doubt you have watched “Beverly Hills 90210.” A primetime soap opera centered on the lives of rich teens in Beverly Hills, this Aaron Spelling hit unleashed a whole new brat pack on Hollywood. Jason Priestly, Tori Spelling, Jennie Garth, Luke Perry and Shannen Doherty all starred.