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The All-Time Best Primetime Soap Operas

Updated September 18, 2021 11.2k votes 1.4k voters 53.2k views101 items

List RulesVote up the best primetime soap operas to have ever aired on television

Soap operas have been a staple of the television world since they first gained traction in the 1950s. However, it wasn’t until the 80s that the primetime soap was born. While a daytime soap airs every weekday and are usually targeted to an audience of bored housewives and college students, primetime soaps only air once a week, during primetime hours. Primetime soaps also target a wider audience, so they tend to be more realistic. However, they still retain the drama and shocking plot twists that make soap operas so appealing. This list of the best primetime soap operas to ever air on television has been voted on and ranked by the community.

In the 80s, primetime soaps were all the rage, with "Dallas," "Dynasty, and "Knots Landing" as topics of conversation and can't miss viewing for every TV lover. When something exciting happened on one of these shows, such as the shooting of JR, everybody knew about it.

Although the primetime soap  died out for a few years, it reemerged once again when "Desperate Housewives" became a huge hit. Since then primetime soaps have continued to entertain television fans.

What are the best primetime soap operas in the history of television? Vote up the all time best primetime soaps below and see where the soap operas you love to watch rank.


  • 1


    Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy

    PremieredApril 2, 1978

    Dallas is a long-running American prime time television soap opera that aired from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991, on CBS. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texan family, the Ewings,...  more
  • 2


    John Forsythe, Linda Evans

    PremieredJanuary 12, 1981

    Dynasty (ABC, 1981) is an American prime time television soap opera created by Richard and Esther Shapiro. The trials and tribulations of two feuding families, the Carringtons and the Colbys, both...  more
  • 3

    Knots Landing

    Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford

    PremieredDecember 27, 1979

    Knots Landing is an American primetime television soap opera that aired from December 27, 1979 to May 13, 1993 on CBS. A spin-off of Dallas, it was set in a fictitious coastal suburb of Los Angeles,...  more
  • 4

    Melrose Place

    Grant Show, Courtney Thorne-Smith

    PremieredJuly 8, 1992

    Melrose Place is an American primetime soap opera that aired on Fox from July 8, 1992 to May 24, 1999, for seven seasons. The show follows the lives of a group of young adults living in an apartment...  more
  • 5

    Desperate Housewives

    Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman

    PremieredOctober 3, 2004

    Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004) is an American mystery comedy-drama television series created by Marc Cherry. Secrets and truths unfold through the lives of female friends (Teri Hatcher, Felicity...  more
  • 6

    Falcon Crest

    Jane Wyman, Lorenzo Lamas

    PremieredDecember 4, 1981

    Falcon Crest is an American primetime television soap opera which aired on the CBS network for nine seasons, from December 4, 1981 to May 17, 1990. A total of 227 episodes were produced. The series...  more
  • 7

    Beverly Hills, 90210

    Ian Ziering, Jennie Garth

    PremieredOctober 4, 1990

    Beverly Hills, 90210 (Fox, 1990) is an American teen drama television series created by Darren Star. A group of friends living in Beverly Hills, California make their way through life from their...  more
  • 8


    Emily VanCamp, Madeleine Stowe

    PremieredSeptember 21, 2011

    Revenge (ABC, 2011) is an American drama television series created by Mike Kelley, inspired by the Alexandre Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. An emotionally troubled young woman (Emily VanCamp)...  more
  • 9
    JonathanWilliams added

    The Colbys

    Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck


    The Colbys is an American prime time soap opera, which originally aired on ABC from November 20, 1985 to March 26, 1987. Produced by Aaron Spelling, it was a spin-off of Dynasty, which had been the...  more
  • 10

    Brothers and Sisters

    Mary Crosby, William Windom


    Brothers and Sisters is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from January to April 1979. The series attempted to capitalize on the success of the 1978 motion picture National Lampoon's Animal House....  more
  • 11

    Grey's Anatomy

    Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson

    PremieredMarch 27, 2005

    Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 2005) is an American medical soap opera television series created by Shonda Rhimes. A group of young doctors faces the pressure that comes from practicing medicine in a Seatle...  more
  • 12
    RobertA.Davis added

    Twin Peaks

    Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean

    PremieredApril 8, 1990

    Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch and, despite being canceled after two seasons, sparked a cult following that...  more
  • 13

    Peyton Place

    Mia Farrow, Leslie Nielsen

    PremieredSeptember 15, 1964

    Peyton Place is an American prime-time soap opera which aired on ABC in half-hour episodes from September 15, 1964 to June 2, 1969. Based upon the 1956 novel of the same name by Grace Metalious, the...  more
  • 14
    KeithBrennett added

    Models Inc.

    Carrie-Anne Moss, Garcelle Beauvais


    Models Inc. is an American prime time soap opera that aired on the Fox television network during the 1994–95 television season. It is the third series in the Beverly Hills, 90210 franchise. The...  more
  • 15

    The O.C.

    Peter Gallagher, Benjamin McKenzie

    PremieredAugust 5, 2003

    The O.C. (Fox, 2003) is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz. A troubled youth (Ben McKenzie) becomes embroiled in the lives of a close-knit group of people in the...  more
  • 16

    Gossip Girl

    Blake Lively, Leighton Meester

    PremieredSeptember 19, 2007

    Gossip Girl (The CW, 2007) is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, based on the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar. After a mysterious...  more
  • 17

    Melrose Place

    Heather Locklear, Andrew Shue


    Melrose Place is an American television drama series broadcast on The CW from September 8, 2009 to April 13, 2010. The series is a sequel/continuation of the 1992 FOX TV series of the same name and...  more
  • 18
    RobertA.Davis added

    Devious Maids

    Ana Ortiz, Judy Reyes

    PremieredJune 23, 2013

    Devious Maids is an American television comedy-drama series created by Marc Cherry, produced by ABC Studios and executive produced by Cherry, Sabrina Wind, Eva Longoria, Paul McGuigan, Larry Shuman,...  more
  • 19
    JonathanWilliams added

    Flamingo Road

    Mark Harmon, Morgan Fairchild


    Flamingo Road is an American prime time soap opera that aired on NBC. It was first seen as a TV movie on May 12, 1980, and as a series on January 6, 1981, after a rebroadcast of the pilot on December...  more
  • 20


    George Eads, Jamie Luner


    Savannah is an American prime time television drama that ran from January 21, 1996 to February 24, 1997 on The WB. It was created by Constance M. Burge and produced by Aaron Spelling....  more
  • 21


    Hayden Panettiere, Clare Bowen

    PremieredOctober 10, 2012

    Nashville (ABC, 2012) is an American musical drama television series created by Callie Khouri. The series centers around country queen Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton), and rising star Juliette Barnes...  more
  • 22

    One Tree Hill

    Sophia Bush, Bethany Joy Lenz

    PremieredSeptember 23, 2003

    One Tree Hill (The WB, 2003) is an American drama television series created by Mark Schwahn. Half-brothers Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Nathan Scott (James lafferty) trade between kinship and...  more
  • 23

    Dawson's Creek

    James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes

    PremieredJanuary 20, 1998

    Dawson's Creek (The WB, 1998) is an American teen drama television series created by Kevin Williamson. Four friends (James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Joshua Jackson, and Michelle Williams) in a...  more
  • 24


    Kerry Washington, Guillermo Díaz

    PremieredApril 5, 2012

    Scandal (ABC, 2012) is an American political thriller television series created by Shonda Rhimes. A former White House Communications Director (Kerry Washington) starts her own crisis management firm...  more
  • 25

    Ugly Betty

    America Ferrera, Eric Mabius

    PremieredSeptember 28, 2006

    Ugly Betty (ABC, 2006) is an American comedy-drama television series developed by Silvio Horta, based on the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea. Smart but wholesome Betty (America Ferrera)...  more
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List Rules: Vote up the best primetime soap operas to have ever aired on television