A soap opera is a television or radio program that dramatises the lives of a community of ordinary people. Unlike most television programs, soap operas tend to run continuously instead of in series or seasons, and some continue for years or even decades.
In the United States, soap operas are usually shown during the daytime, acting as diverting televisual 'fluff' that fills much the same role as 'real-life' magazines. In the United Kingdom, several soap operas are shown in the evening and are taken more seriously, often dealing with important issues of the time (for example, Eastenders contributed significantly to public awareness of HIV through the character of Mark Fowler). Imported Australian soaps are also popular in Britain; these tend to be more lightweight than their homegrown equivalents.
Soap operas tend to be among television channels' highest-rated programs, and so soap opera actors can often achieve a high level of fame, particularly if they are young and attractive. Many have used this fame as a springboard to other careers in pop music or Hollywood (eg Kylie Minogue and Isla Fisher respectively).