The Age of Melodramatic Miniseries

When Glamour Ruled on Television, 1980–1995

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About the Book

Glamour, power, champagne breakfasts in satin sheets—welcome to television’s most dazzling and overlooked genre: women-centric melodrama miniseries of the 1980s and 1990s. Decades before Real Housewives, rags-to-riches fantasies depicting strong women overcoming tragedy to take charge of their destinies were a big hit with TV audiences. Reflecting the “greed is good” ethos of the day yet encoded with subversive feminist messaging, these glitzy, often camp stories depicted statuesque superwomen facing off with square-jawed men in boardrooms and bedrooms. This book explores the shows that epitomized the prime-time soap era and gave us such memorable scenes as Stefanie Powers trading lovers with her twin sister, Joan Collins fighting Nazis in haute couture and Phoebe Cates demanding, “Which one of you bitches is my mother?”

About the Author(s)

Scott Humphries is an aficionado of melodrama, especially the “trashy” kinds of popular literature, film and television from the 1980s. He has degrees in English literature and urban planning and lives in Canberra, Australia.

Bibliographic Details

Scott Humphries

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: 48 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9162-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4982-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction 3

Part One—Defining the Genre
1. Overview of the ­Female-Centric Melodramatic Miniseries 16
2. Novels for Television…. Lost in Adaptation? 35
3. Women of Substance: Character Types and Tropes 56
4. Reception of the Melodramatic Miniseries 79

Part Two—Analyzing the Texts
5. A Woman’s Place: Mother, Family, and Home 96
6. Lady Bosses: Work, Power, and Conflict 114
7. Lifestyles of the Rich and Vacuous 131
8. Melodrama, “Down Under” 148

Afterword 167
Appendix A: List of Cited Miniseries 171
Appendix B: Methods for Reception Analysis 177
Chapter Notes 179
Bibliography 197
Index 205