Sunday, September 24, 2006
The History of Primetime Soaps
Before "Dallas" and "Dynasty," we had "Faraway Hill," which was the first primetime soap, and first television soap opera. "Faraway Hill" was on Dumont network from October 1946 to December 1946. It focused on the recently widowed, Karen St. John, which was played by Flora Campbell. Karen returned to her family's farm and fell in love with an adopted relative, similar to the plot on the 1998 UPN soap, "Legacy." "Faraway Hill" ran for thirteen weeks, then was cancelled.
Many shows went from primetime to daytime. They included "Hawkin Falls," "The Nurses," and "The World of Mr. Sweeny." Also, "A Woman to Remember" went from daytime soap to primetime as well. Finally, the successful primetime soap opera, "Peyton Place" hit the airwaves. Storylines centered on Betty Anderson, played by Barbara Parkins, who was pregnant with Rodney Harrington's, played by Ryan O'Neal, baby. Betty miscarried in a car accident, but didn't tell Rodney until after they got married. Allison McKenzie, played by Mia Farrow, was also in love with Rodney, but she lost him to Betty. Rita Jacks, played by Patricia Morrow, was involved with the other Harrington brother, Norman Harrington, played by Christopher Connelly.
The Peyton family was led by patriarch, Martin Peyton, played by George Macready and later, Wilfrid Hyde-White. Martin had a daughter, Catherine Peyton Harrington, played by Mary Anderson, who died in 1965. Catherine was married to Leslie Harrington, played by Paul Langton. Catherine and Leslie had two sons, Rodney and Norman. It was also revealed that Catherine had two children from an affair with Professor Brian Howard, Steven Cord, played by James Douglas, and Ann Colby, played by Susan Oliver. Hannah Cord, played by All My Childrens' Ruth Warrick, was Brian's wife and maid to the Peyton family. She torched the house at some point during the series.
Martin died throughout the series run. Though, before his death he was engaged to Adrienne Van Leyden, played by Gena Rowlands, a young widow. Adrienne died after being pushed down the stairs. A murder trial occurred at this time.
Allison disappeared during the shows run following the marriage of her parents, Elliot Carson, played by Tim O'Connor and Constance McKenzie, played by Dorothy Malone. Constance and Elliot had a son together.
Rachel Wells, played by Leigh Taylor-Young, arrived and was thought to be Allison McKenzie. Though, Rachel wasn't, but she revealed she had been raped by her uncle, by marriage, Jack Chandler, played by John Kellogg. Eventually, Rachel left town as well.
Jill Smith, played by Joyce Jillson came to Peyton Place with "Allison's" baby. Though it was revealed that the child was actually Jill's son by Dr. Michael Rossi's, played by Ed Nelson, younger brother.
There was a hit and run by a Reverend Winters, who was having an affair with Marion Fowler, wife of the DA. The victim may have been Allison. Hence, the series was cancelled in 1969, but revived in April 1972, as a daytime serial.
In 1965, "The Long Hot Summer," aired. The show focused on a small town and the wealthy Varner family and a drifter, Ben Quick, played by Roy Thinnes. The Varner patriarch, Will Varner, played by Edmond O'Brien and later, Dan O'Herlihy, had taken Quick's father's land and Quick came back for revenge. Varner was having an affair with Minnie Littlejohn. The postmaster's daughter was running around having her fun. It was an adaption of the movie of the same name.
In 1965, "As The World Turns" spin-off, "Our Private World" aired. Lisa Miller Hughes, played by Eileen Fulton, arrived in Chicago and became acquainted with the Eldridge family. Lisa married and divorced widowed laywer John Eldridge, played by Nicholas Coster.
In 1969, "The Survivors," aired and featured 17 episodes and the show centered around the wealthy Carlyle family, who was involved in banking. The show was totally rewritten and the final product failed miserably. The main plots centered on Baylor Carlyle's, played by Ralph Bellamy, impending death, involvement with South American revolutionaries, and Tracey Carlyle Hasting's, played by Lana Turner, affair with Antaeus Riakos, played by Razzano Brazi, which resulted in Jeffrey Hastings, played by Jan-Michael VIncent.
In 1974, "Sons & Daughters" premiered. It focused on teen lovebirds Anita Cramer, played by Glynnis O'Connor, and Jeff Reed, played by Gary Frank. The lovebirds' parents also had problems of their own. Anita's parents, Walter Cramer, played by John S. Ragin, and Ruth Cramer, played by Jan Sutin, were divorced. Jeff's mother, Lucille Reed, played by Jay W. MacIntosh, was dealing with being a widow.
In 1975, "Beacon Hill" was placed on air for 11 episodes. It was a "television novel." An expensive ripoff of British soap "Upstairs, Downstairs," the show focused on a wealthy Irish family and their servants living on Beacon Hill in Boston in the 1920s. The show lasted only one season.
In 1976, "Executive Suite" aired. It focused on employees of the Cardway Corporation and their various family members. The show's lead plots were Summer Johnson, played by Brenda Sykes, and Brian Walling's, played by Leigh McCloskey, relationship, Stacey Wallings, played by Wendy Phillips, problems such as drugs and a cult, Astrid Ruthledge's affair, and a plot revolving around Mark Desmond, played by Richard Cox, and his mail-order bride, Yvonne Holland, played by Trisha Noble. The show lasted only one season.
In 1977, "All That Glitters," which was a syndicated comical soap, aired. It was set in a world, where woman ruled the business and the men stayed home and cooked. It's stand-out character was Linda Murkland, played by Linda Gray, who had had a sex change operation.
Finally, there was "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," which was another syndicated comical serial. The show did well with it's audiences. The plots revolved around Mary Shumway Hartman, played by Louise Lasser. The show had very interesting plots such as a tele-evangelist child, who was electrocuted in a bathtub, a man, who drowned in some soup, Mary's nervous breakdown on a TV talk show, and more.