tent pole
 n.— «Megan McTavish, the show’s head writer, said she was most astonished that fans elevated Bianca into one of the serial’s “tent poles”—soap parlance for characters who hold enormous sway with viewers.» —“After Coming Out, a Soap Opera Heroine Moves On” by Patrick D. Healy New York Times Feb. 24, 2005. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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