I think soap operas are underrated. When I first had mono almost three years ago, I became quite familiar with the daytime TV schedule, and figured out which shows I wanted to watch. One soap opera, General Hospital, caught my interest. The reason that it caught my interest was because it had a geek on it, Bradford Anderson as Damian Spinelli. I started watching it for him, and gradually figured out bits of the rest of the plot. Since then, I would check in again whenever I was sick. Thanks to the internet, over the past few weeks (starting before this most recent time I was sick), I've watched most of the episodes that have aired in the past 4-6 weeks. After you watch a bunch of episodes and really figure out what it goes on, it comes across differently, because things cohere as a whole. When you just watch a few episodes here and there, you take in a lot of loose bits of information, but they don't fall into place to create a whole picture in the same way.
When I see a soap opera I'm not familiar with, it still looks the same way soap operas always did: melodramatic plot lines trying to make up for weak acting, weak characters, and weak sets. But now that I've come to know General Hospital, I look at it in new ways. I am awed by the complexity of the history. A relationship between some people was said to parallel the relationship between their parents about 20 years before, and that wasn't just something made up for the story as it would be in a movie, it was something that actually happened on the show 20 years ago. And can you imagine what a challenge it must be for the writers to write five episodes a week, and for the actors to learn lines for five episodes a week?
When relationships change, when a new love interest develops, things evolve over time. One thing I've complained about in primetime shows is that it's just like boom, person X loves person Y, and you don't see any reason for it other than because the writers thought it was time for a new love interest. In General Hospital, you see the bonds gradually growing, the bonds devolop first, before the love interest is declared.
Soap operas are supposed to have bad actors. It's true I'm not terribly impressed with Maurice Benard, but it was Bradford Anderson's ability to exude his character that first drew me to the show, and now I find that Sarah Brown and Kirsten Storms sparkle.