For the first time in 13 years, a soap opera is being made available to local television stations for syndication..
Trifecta Entertainment plans to roll out Hacienda Heights, a weekly one-hour scripted serial (split into two 30-minute episodes) focusing on a Hispanic family living in San Francisco.
The program will be shot in both English and Spanish; Trifecta plans to sell the program to both English-language and Spanish-language stations.Trifecta is pitching this as a straight soap opera – not a telenovela, which is a long-time staple of Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo.
While a syndicated soap opera is certainly something different, this is a very risky venture for Trifecta – in the history of syndication, there has not been one successful program in the genre. Back in 1984, Telepictures (now part of Warner Bros.) trotted out a half-hour soap opera strip titled Rituals. The poorly-acted, poorly-written, and poorly-reviewed show would become one of the biggest bombs of the 1984-85 season despite airing 52 weeks of fresh episodes.
In 1990, several Fox-owned stations aired Tribes, a teen opera set in California. It lasted only a few weeks. Ditto for Swans Crossing, which came and went quickly in 1992. A year later came an Australian import titled Paradise Beach, which was salvaged by critics both here and Down Under; it too would last only a few weeks, but somehow managed to last a year in Australia before being canceled. In 1994 came Sweet Valley High, which did last three ratings-challenged seasons in syndication before moving to UPN where it was subsequently canceled.
The one soap that would even come close to being considered a “hit” in syndication would be the Christian-themed serial Another Life, which would have a concurrent run on Christian Broadcasting Network (now ABC Family) and syndication between 1981 and 1984. The program ran mainly on religious TV stations.
Despite this and other odds (daytime serials are currently going the way of the dinosaur it seems), Trifecta and Heights’ producer (Desmond Gumbs) are pushing forward. The program is being shot on location in San Francisco, where Gumbs has production facilities and a soundstage. Other series in the past shot on location in San Francisco include Nash Bridges and of course, the 1972-77 ABC crime drama The Streets of San Francisco.