Like drivers rubber-knecking at the pile-up on the other carriageway, this whole genre of TV programming appeals to the base level of human curiosity. It is popular as it helps the viewer to consider that their own life can't possibly be as bad as those that are falling apart on the big screen in front of their sofa. They just lap up watching other people's failures and failings in the same way that most of us laugh at silly sh!t on youtube etc.. I could be wrong (I haven't watched soaps for years), but aren't the soap operas are just as bad? How toxic is Eastenders or the like these days? Sure, they do sometimes apparently bring out interesting social issues, but seems to me that these shows are in the main actors being paid to play nasty people that just shout at each other.