I have never liked soaps; you can't go a week without some tragedy occurring, and all the characters are either alcoholics, drug abusers, adulterers, or violent offenders. No one is likeable, yet viewers tune in every week to see what happens. Everything is always so miserable, so why do people like them?
Schadenfreude mostly I think. Also they divert the viewer from their own real life problems. I'm not really into any soaps at the moment, but I have watched some in the past and I was a big fan of the Bill, which while essentially a cop show got extremely soapy towards the end.
Generally speaking I don't think it's true to say that "no one is likeable." Usually they have a mixture of likeable characters and those people love to hate (the Bill had Cathy Bradford and Gabriel Kent). As for the misery, it would certainly seem that way if you're judging things by Eastenders. It's probably the most depressing tv show ever. Aussie soaps like Neighbours and Home and Away are far more upbeat.
I haven't watched one in years, but when I got into them I loved Neighbors and EastEnders. I think I liked all the drama in them and the characters that you got to know. People sometimes see them as an extension of their lives and get so involved in the storyline that they can't go a day without watching.
I think that description is more English soaps - if you look at Australian and US soaps, they tend to be just adulterers and romance based. Think Dallas & Dynasty - they were rich people. And Bold and the Beautiful. I would think it's because of the romance (for people that don't have it - ie the big romantic gestures, they may have a happy relationship) and in some of them, the money (ie flying around the world in fab clothes etc).
That said, I don't watch them. But I think it's about escapism, like the musicals were during the depression and war.
Actually, I watch the Walking Dead and that is totally a soap opera. I roll my eyes all the time but I do keep watching it - at least some of the annoying characters get killed off fairly regularly. If only they'd get rid of Rick!
Because the shows are based on real life.
Just look at Coronation Street, or Days of Our Lives....It would not work, if people did not have something in common, with the show.People look into someone else's life! It gives them something else to think about, contemplate.
It also gives them time to look forward to another one next time.
Real life can be ugly, it's just put into viewing form, so people can forget their worries for a short time.See who else is having drams, even though it is not real.