Channel Five Soaps

We take a look at the soaps that have featured on Channel Five since its launch in 1997. With speculation continuing to rise that the broadcaster could be about to revive or repeat Brookside we take a glance back at the other soaps to feature on the channel across the years from its home-produced Family Affairs to exports such as Sunset Beach.


We take a look at the soaps that have featured on Channel Five since its launch in 1997. With speculation continuing to rise that the broadcaster could be about to revive or repeat Brookside we take a glance back at the other soaps to feature on the channel across the years from its home-produced Family Affairs to exports such as Sunset Beach.


When Channel Five was looking for a soap to launch with in the mid 1990s it initially considered reviving Crossroads – the infamous Midlands soap set in a Motel near Birmingham. The soap ran on ITV, produced by ATV and later by Central, between 1964 and 1988 and produced nearly 5000 episodes during its 24 years on-air. The axe fell in 1988 however, when Central decided they no longer wanted to produce the soap and it disappeared from the airwaves. In the 1990s UK Gold acquired the repeats rights to the soap and aired episodes from 1982 onwards. Channel Five however, wanted to bring the soap back as part of its schedules but Central Television were not interested in reviving the soap – ironically in 2000 when Five poached Home & Away from ITV a revival of Crossroads was ordered as a replacement for the Aussie soap!


Instead of Crossroads the channel created a brand-new soap; Family Affairs. The soap launched on the very first night of Channel Five and it was originally set in a small midlands town; Charnham and revolving around the Hart and Gates’ families. In 1999 amid low ratings the first revamp of the soap was ordered and Brian Park was brought in to boost ratings – killing off several characters in a boat explosion. The soaps setting was moved from a Midlands town to a borough of London – without anyone batting an eye lid! Over the years Family Affairs would undergo revamps every few years as new characters were brought in to replace “older” ones. Eventually in 2005 the soap was surprisingly cancelled by Five – the move came after it won several gongs at the British Soap Awards and another revamp was about to take place.


Family Affairs represents Channel Fives only home-produced soap with the others on the channel over the years all being imports – Australian or American. Prisoner, Prisonerknown in the UK as Prisoner Cell Block H, was repeated in its entirety between 1997 and 2001 on Channel Five. The 1980s Australian soap, created by Reg Watson, was set in Wentworth Detention Centre and ran for nearly 700 episodes! It originally started out life as a drama series before being turned into a soap because of its popularity in the UK and Australia. The repeats on Channel Five aired on the channel during the early mornings but still proved popular with viewers – despite the fact that various ITV regions were still repeating Prisoner in a late-night slot. Its repeat on Five meant it was for the first time networked across the UK and shown at the same time across the country – where as repeats on ITV aired at different times in different regions. The success of Prisoner Cell Block H on Channel Five led to it airing a special themed edition of its quiz-show 100% – three contestants answered 100 questions on the Australian soap.


In 1998 Channel Five began repeating episodes of another Australian soap, also created by Reg Watson; Sons and Daughters. The soap was repeated on Five between 1998 and 2005 with all 972 episodes repeated on the channel. To begin with episodes of Sons & Daughters aired opposite Home & Away on ITV1 and Neighbours on BBC One meaning it was poorly rated and after 212 episodes Channel Five pulled the plug. However, the soap later returned to Channel Five picking up from where it had from January 2002 in the slot previously occupied by Prisoner – the early morning.


It wasn’t just Australian soaps that Channel Five acquired the UK rights too. The broadcaster also aired American soaps too with Sunset Beach perhaps being the most successful on the channel. Sunset Beach was created by legendary American producer Aaron Spelling (Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels, Beverley Hills 90210) and as with most of his other productions was completely bonkers – well to be fair most started our sane before descending into madness. Sunset Beach was completely bonkers from the word go but is often described as a pastiche of the soap genre in America rather than a serious attempt at launching a utterly deranged soap – it featured all the typical conventions of American daytime soaps from contorted plots to fantasy sequences and an endless stream of long-lost siblings hell bent on revenge. Sunset Beach wasn’t particularly successful in America but in the UK, and other countries such as Holland and Germany, it was hugely successful and was a ratings hit for Channel Five. When NBC in America cancelled it in 1999 such was its popularity for Five that the broadcaster offered to co-fund the soap and seeked another broadcaster in America to take it on. It’s attempts weren’t successful and Sunset Beach remained cancelled. In compensation though NBC offered its other daytime soap Days of our Lives to Five – it lasted just a year on the channel before being pulled. Channel Five also showed episodes of The Bold and the Beautiful in the late 1990s but the saga of the Forrester Family and its fashion empire is now told on Diva TV.


In 2000 the broadcaster poached the rights of Home & Away from ITV where it had aired since the late 1980s. However, a contract clause with ITV meant episodes of Home & Away couldn’t be aired on Five for a year – until 2001. ITV meanwhile searched for its own replacement to the soap and commissioned a revival of Crossroads and new soap Night And Day – both soaps flopped and were axed in 2003. In 2008 Channel Five entered into a bidding war with BBC One and ITV over Neighbours – the Australian soap created by – yes Reg Watson. Neighbours had been at home on BBC One since 1986 and its partly thanks to the BBC that the soap became an international hit – but after 22 years with the corporation the soap was on the move. ITV wanted the soap to fill the gap left behind by flops Crossroads, Night And Day and The Royal Today. Five wanted the soap to pair it up with Home & Away even though in their native country the two are rivals. The BBC pulled out of the bidding war for the soap and Five was the winner – Neighbours moved to Five.


That brings us up to 2010 with Neighbours and Home & Away both airing on Channel Five still. With Richard Desmond now the owner at the broadcaster there is some speculation he may revive/repeat Brookside, Family Affairs or look to America once more and acquire one of their daytime soaps. Days of our Lives flopped for the channel before while The Bold and the Beautiful now airs on Diva TV but there’s still others to choose from. Channel Five may, of course, launch a brand-new soap as part of Desmond’s investment at the broadcaster but this seems too costly to be a realistic possibility.



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