Busted to Blissful ~ February 2007 ~ Passions and Guiding Light

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Passions is canceled after eight years, while Guiding Light celebrates its 70th Anniversary.

McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan) and Galen Gering (Luis) of PassionsBusted ~

Passions is Cancelled After Eight Years

Woe is the state of the soap opera industry today.  With Passions joining the TV graveyard in the sky later this summer, the soap landscape dwindles from nine daytime dramas to eight.  The future doesn’t look good for what’s left behind.

While Passions might not have been everyone’s cup of tea (or pitcher of MarTimmies), it certainly wasn’t your grandmother’s soap either.  It was cutting edge, innovative, and yes, downright strange at times.  It also had heart, and a knowing self awareness that they were in on the joke.Yes, Passions had its faults, as all long running shows do, including a tendency to drag out storylines interminably.  The show was also known for its proclivity to repeat dialogue so often the audience could recite it from memory with the actors.  Yet none of this should take away from the fact that Passions was a true original, in a genre not used to straying from its comfort zone.  While the overall ratings never reflected its innovativeness and appeal to a new kind of viewer, the all important demographics did.  In the prized 18-49 year old female viewer, Passions ranked fourth.  It also frequently landed in the #1 spot with women 18-34.

As one of the few soaps to show continued growth as well as a willingness to take chances, Passions spot in the daytime family seemed secure.  In an effort to attract a broader audience, Passions was one of the only soaps to utilize the power of the Internet.  Several campaigns were interactive, including The Lady in Red and Hidden Passions, the show’s tie-in book which spent time on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Passions also boasts some of the best talent in daytime or primetime in veterans Juliet Mills as witch Tabitha Lennox, and Ben Masters as powerful patriarch Julian Crane.  Other talent on the show all eight years include Lindsay Hartley as heroine Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, McKenzie Westmore as beguiling Sheridan Crane, Galen Gering as hero Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald, Brook Kerr as ingénue Whitney Russell, James Hyde as Police Chief Sam Bennett, Kim Johnston Ulrich as scheming Ivy Winthrop, Tracey Ross as Dr. Eve Russell, Rodney Van Johnson as Coach TC Russell, and Eva Tamargo as loyal Pilar Lopez-Fitzgerald.  For a show to still have so much of its original cast intact says a lot about it.

Passions is currently doing a good job wrapping up long running stories, as well as developing new ones.  Gwen finally grew some balls and left Ethan so he could reunite with his true love Theresa; Ivy was exposed as tricking Grace into staying away from her family; Fox is on the brink of being outed for the lengths he went to keep Kay; Chad’s secret lover was revealed to be a man; and best of all, the new pairing of Luis and Fancy is promising plenty of intrigue following his arrest for raping her, complete with evidence obtained from a rape kit exam.  Sheridan is also starting to seem more and more unbalanced, which is understandable considering everything she’s been through over the last eight years.  This illustrious list includes being buried alive once, presumed dead at least twice, amnesia, thinking she murdered her mother, the death of her son Marty, a miscarriage, her rocky romances with brothers Antonio and Luis, and last but not least, her hasty marriage to Chris.

The show deserves a chance to stay on the air whether it moves to cable or the Internet, to continue its brand of outrageous storytelling.  In this day and age of all news all the time, the world certainly doesn’t need a fourth hour of the Today show, and NBC can’t afford to lose its most imaginative show in decades.

I fear with the cancellation of Passions, daytime television will lose a large chunk of today’s younger soap fans, and if soaps are unable to keep this new generation of viewers, the genre may go the way of the dinosaur.

Tom Pelphrey (Jonathan, Guiding Light)Blissful~

Guiding Light's 70th Anniversary

It’s ironic that as we mourn the demise of Passions, we’re celebrating the 70th anniversary of Guiding Light.  But much as the lesson showcased in the actual anniversary episode itself, such is the cycle of life.

The writers chose an inventive way to chronicle the evolution of the show by having the actors take on roles from GL’s past, including the talented Beth Ehlers (Harley) playing the show’s legendary creator, Irna Phillips.  By charting GL’s evolution from the heyday of radio to the heady early days of television, through today, it gave viewers a chance to grasp the show’s part in history, as well as a chance to see the birth of the soap opera.

This history lesson was juxtaposed against the ending of the tragic love story of Jonathan and Tammy in the present day.  As the voiceover told us, birth and death are a part of life, and will always be repeated.

Every actor featured in the anniversary episode was spot-on in their interpretation, particularly Ehlers bringing Phillips vision and passion to life.

In the days following the groundbreaking episode, as the attention turned back to Tammy’s death, some Emmy-worthy performances were given.  Tom Pelphrey, never one to back down in any scene, was absolutely riveting as Jonathan mourned the person who had given him a soul and taught him to be a better person.  As he lifted Tammy’s lifeless body off the bed and sobs wracked his body, anyone who has ever lost a loved one couldn’t help but be swept up in his grief, and reminded of their own.  His guttural cries of anguish were enough to stir something in even the most apathetic of viewer. Pelphrey’s pain was agonizing to watch, and impossible to turn away from.

After nailing grief, Pelphrey took rage to a new level in his scenes with Kim Zimmer, when Jonathan set fire to Alan’s dining room table.  While Reva tried to convince her son that he did indeed have something to live for in the form of his daughter, Pelphrey was by turn furious and feral, as well as contemplative and caustic.  Zimmer was a tour de force as usual, first offering to help Jonathan throw things on the fire, and later helping him to find his light by having the strength to survive.

Even though these episodes are sure to win Emmys for the actors and writers involved, they serve an overall greater purpose.  The message about everyone finding their own inner light, and the show’s commitment to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina, makes you see the power daytime can have for good, and why it’s so important it not be taken away.  If only all shows could have a chance to make it to 70 years.


Lesleyann Coker, SoapdomLesleyann Coker is the co-author of Boob Tube, a forthcoming
novel that goes behind the scenes of the soap
opera industry.  She was previously a reporter for
Soap Opera Weekly Magazine.