Hollyoaks is a British soap opera, first broadcast on Channel 4 on 23 October 1995. It was originally devised by Phil Redmond, who had previously conceived the Channel 4 soap Brookside. The programme is set in a fictional suburb of Chester called Hollyoaks, and features a large cast of characters, primarily 16-35 year-olds. The soap is targeted towards the younger audience, and is mostly filmed and produced in Childwall, Liverpool, although nearby locations are sometimes used. Beginning with a cast of seven major characters in 1995, the serial has approximately 65 main cast members today. Hollyoaks has a high cast turnover in comparison with other British soaps; as of December 2017 nineteen characters have spent five years or longer on the show. The programme has won 28 British Soap Awards, 11 Inside Soap Awards, one TRIC Award and one National Television Award; at the 2014 British Soap Awards, Hollyoaks won Best British Soap for the first time, breaking the 15-year draw between rival soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street. It is also popular around the world. The longest-serving cast member is Nick Pickard, who has played Tony Hutchinson since the first episode in 1995; all the other original cast members left by 2000. Other long-running characters include Cindy Cunningham, Mandy Richardson, Jack Osborne and Darren Osborne.
Current producer Bryan Kirkwood originally joined the show in 2006, but left three years later to become producer of EastEnders. After he left his role in 2009, a number of producers worked on the show, resulting in a number of creative reinventions and changes in direction during this time. Kirkwood's successor Lucy Allan stepped down from her position in 2010 after twelve months; her replacement, Paul Marquess, introduced a wide variety of new characters before leaving one year later, to be replaced by Gareth Philips. Emma Smithwick later replaced Philips in Autumn 2011. In late September 2012, it was announced that Bryan Kirkwood would be returning to Hollyoaks, replacing Emma Smithwick. The programme celebrated 20 years on Channel 4 in October 2015.
By the 2000s, Hollyoaks had developed a substantial fan base and was seen as a vibrant, modern and young person's soap. In 2002, creator Phil Redmond considered withdrawing his programme from airing, after the network axed his other soap opera Brookside. However, Hollyoaks continued to air on the channel, and by 2007 critics were noting that the serial had "undergone a curious rebirth", reflected in rising ratings and a higher quality of drama, often involving the older characters to a much greater extent. As of November 2014, the first-look airings on E4 typically draw around 900,000 viewers, with the following day's C4 airing attracting roughly over a million, for a combined audience of between 1.7–2.3 million.
Since the channel's launch in 2001, Channel 4's digital sister station E4 airs a daily 'First Look' feature at 19.00 each weekday, in which viewers are able to watch the episode to be shown on Channel 4 the following day. The 'first-look' is reshown on timeshift channel E4 +1 at 20.00. The 'first-look' is occasionally omitted, primarily if the following day's C4 episode is a special or event edition, and on these occasions may be replaced with a related programme or special.
In 2010, series producer Lucy Allan announced she was to step down from the series after only a year, being replaced by Paul Marquess. Speaking of her decision, Allan stated: "I am very proud to have been part of the Hollyoaks team. I've had a fantastic time working on this show but am now equally excited about what the future will hold." On his upcoming role of series producer, Marquess said: "Taking up this position at Lime Pictures feels like I'm going home, as I began my career working with both Carolyn and Tony at Granada and my first major project was Brookside at Mersey Television. I'm a huge soap fan so to be handed the reins of Channel 4's flagship teen drama is not only a huge challenge but also a massive honour." Lime Pictures creative director and Hollyoaks executive producer Tony Wood added: "I'd like to thank Lucy Allan for making such a contribution to Hollyoaks over the years and wish her well for the future. It's very exciting to be working with Paul Marquess again. He's one of the best showrunners in the business. This is a brilliant appointment for Hollyoaks."
Only one day after being announced as the new producer, Marquess began work on the soap opera. A Channel 4 spokesperson stated: "It's all been a very quick turnaround at the top."