|A NEW SOAP - ORIGINAL TRAILER (theoretical starting point)|
|SOAPSUDS: AT-A-GLANCE GUIDE TO PIVOTAL PLOT POINTS|
|CAST PAGES (half a dozen more cast-lists than you could possibly need)|
"A New Soap" (ANS) was an email-based
serial I wrote and sent out between 13th February 1998 and 30th April
In all there were 30 episodes plus a prequel trilogy and a feature
These were recut and presented on this site as eight 90 minute
back in Autumn 2001. I completed a 9th episode in
2001 and added it to an even more reworked version of the web-site. The
opening scenes of the original episode were extended and recut to form
"Episode 0" in October 2003, while in September 2004, I launched a spin
off series: "Babysham". In April 2007 an elaborate split-screen
episode: "ANS X" was unleashed upon the universe.
"Babysham" and "ANS X" are, I think, pretty good. The earlier stuff less so (on such shaky foundations do they stand). I'd probably recommend starting at "Babysham" (assuming the knowledge that the stories take place in an afterlife, and that some of the characters we meet are old friends).
Soap Operas are not very believable really. They consist of a cast of people who all live in close proximity to each other and all know each other. They meet up and drink in a local pub at least twice a week. The only time they watch telly is when a big sports event is on or if the kids are watching children's TV. It occured to me that perhaps the only place in this country where something like a soap actually approaches reality is in a university hall of residence. Which is where I found myself in October 1997. There were nine of us on a corridor named Mr.Chips, and we had about one working telly between us. Mr.Chips had a communial kitchen called Roy, and we often went down to the bar. York University had provided a near-perfect scenario for a realistic soap opera.
The following is an account of the
development of the New Soap in its original e-mail short-episode format:
(See a tabular list of the original episodes)
On one bored afternoon in February 1998 I wrote the first episode: Episode 1: A New Soap (the title being a play on the Star Wars episode). It parodied the people on our corridor and their daily lives and culminated in our cleaner getting killed. I intended to leave it there but the e-mail proved so popular that I was forced to do a second episode. Bored with this already I gave the story a science-fiction twist before promptly killing the cast off. And there I left it.
The dates disappear for a while as I no longer have the emails to refer to, but probably it was November, a little way into the second year that I decided to write Episode 4: A New Soap (again playing deliberately on the Star Wars episode title). This time the cast were in their own student house, and the story was concentrating more on Jim, Stew, Leon and Alex, but also included a large subplot whereby I could personify my friends at other universities who were also receiving the soap. This episode proved popular and it was this one that spawned the serial.
Episode 5 introduced the characters Siddor and Omra (representing Darth Vader and OB1 character-types) and began the Star Wars parody. Initially the bike-pumps were actual lightsabres (and Jim had already shown he owned a lightsabre in Ep.4) but for the re-write I changed them to keep in consistency with the later episodes where bike-pumps were used. The Crystal of Enderon was designed to be a reworking of the Kyber Crystal in the Star Wars drafts.
Episode 6 continued the saga in much the same way, or perhaps in a slightly more surreal manner, and Episode 7 began to unite the disperate story arcs. This brought us to Christmas and so I really needed an exciting story and a really good cliff hanger to carry over the holiday. A couple of soaps had had cliffhangers involving characters called Hannah (Neighbours was one and I forget the other) and so I followed the trend for Episode 8 - The Christmas Special which featured a musical number and a game of Fifteen to One.
Episode 9 was published on 14th January 1999 and was meant to conclude the series, mainly because I felt that Sunset Beach was doing the job much better than I was. However, I was persuaded to continue.
Episode 10 began a new, cameo laden story arc, and was sent out on 11th February, nearly a year after Episode 1. In Episode 11 I made the daring move of killing Stew Jester (the character representing me) off. Stew was absent for the whole of Episode 12, but was resurrected for Episode 13. The next episode, Episode 14, saw Sarah Michelle Gellar being killed off. The original version of her death was longer and involved footage of Hitler but was edited down for legal reasons. At the end of Episode 15 - The Easter Special Pt.1, Stew was promptly killed off again, but again not in a permanent way. This episode almost certainly directly preceeded the Easter holiday. In that case it would've been sent around 11th or 12th March which means that this story arc was very fast moving indeed (lasting only a month) with an episode released every week. Episode 16 - The Easter Special Pt.2 concluded this storyline after the holidays and saw Jim killed in a cliffhanger at the end of the episode.
Around this time (between Episodes 12 and 13, to be precise) I also posted the previous episodes on my website, adding the previously unwritten Episode 3 to bridge the gap between 2 and 4. I arranged the story arcs such that Eps 1-3 were "The Pilot Episodes", Eps 4-9 were "The Crystal of Enderon" and Eps 10-16 were "The Search for Tosh".
Episode 17 came out in early May and began the next story line with Jim regenerating in the manner of a timelord. The other episodes in this storyline were, rather unsurprisingly: Episode 18, Episode 19, Episode 20, and Episode 21.
The next storyline, the Caribbean Holiday Special, followed straight on from the last and was comprised of Episode 22, Episode 23 and Episode 24. Our cast had done space, religion, dungeons & dragons, and now piracy. These two series lasted about two months in total with each episode coming out weekly.
On 19th July, two days after seeing Star Wars Episode I, I started work on the New Soap Prequels. Episode n: The New Soap Prequels was sent on the 22nd, and began by parodying the Star Wars film before attempting to parody the other two prequels long before they are out. This format continued with Episode 2 on 15th August (much inspired by my trip to Torquay to see the eclipse) and Episode 3 on 5th September which tied together all the loose ends and set up the next storyline.
Episode 26 - The Cheese of Ragnor came out on 20th September 1999 and saw Stew being killed off yet again (mainly because Stew was based on me, and so killing another character (based on somebody else) might've been seen as an insult). The episode was largely self contained and initially ended with the team deciding to go to the Red Lion, and leaving the house.
The new storyline, about Siddor buying our heroes' favourite pub was the first since the original episodes to take place in the real world. It continued on 15th October with Episode 27 - Recreational Winter Trapezoid, a spoof documentary of life in their new house. In the meantime I added another website exclusive episode (Episode 25) to conclude the Caribbean story and link to the new storyline outside the Prequel Trilogy. Episode 28 - Good Morning Swansea came out a month after its predecessor, on 15th November, and a month later still, on 10th December, Episode 29 - Narwhals Ate My Rhinocard was released - a fully animated episode.
Episode 30 - The Final Episode was sent on 14th January 2000. A feature length email, it featured sketches starring the vast majority of the cast of the 29 previous episodes, and concluded the story once and for all.
Until April, when nine trailers for a new film version called "The New Soap: T-N-G" did the rounds. These e-mails were sent on a rotaion system so certain recipients got one trailer and others got another. Furthermore there were two trailers with Jim and Caroline in, but each recipient got only one of these two, so receiving eight trailers in all. These trailers now make up the remainder of Episode 30.
The New Soap: T-N-G (Twelve Naughty Geese) was released in three parts over three days: Part One (28th April), Part Two (29th) and The Final Reel (30th). With that came the final ultimate end of The New Soap.
On the 13th June 2001, a Big Brother parody episode was begun. This episode remained unpublished for some time, until I finally got round to finishing it off. It was finally completed on the 21st December 2001 and was published as part of a revamped New Soap "Special Edition" under the title: Episode 9: Tardis Down.
In 2002, a spin-off project, "Babysham", was embarked upon but remained unpublished.
In early 2003 I decided to pull the first two email episodes from Episode One and build up a new Episode Nought set entirely in the University. The logic behind this was twofold: a) it would restore the original impact of a university-bound soap spinning out of control, which was lost with the consolidation of the email episodes; and b) it would give me the opportunity to properly introduce the characters and so make the opening more readable and less clique-y.
This latter project was inexpertly plumbed into the site on the 9th October 2003.
On 11th September 2004, I finally
launched "Babysham", having begun
promoting it on 23rd August.
On 20th February 2007 (Shrove
Tuesday) a trailer appeared announcing the impending arrival of "A New Soap X". Following on from the events
"Babysham", it eventually appeared on 8th April 2007 (Easter Sunday).
So that is what you see now: eleven episodes of ANS, a spin-off series, and lots of other useless stuff. I hope you enjoy it all.