On the Anniversary of Passions’ Debut, Take a Look Back at What Went Right, What Went Wrong — and Peek Inside a Photo Album Full of ‘Did They *Really* Do That?!?’ Memories
John Paschal/JPI, Paul Skipper/JPI, Aaron Montgomery/JPI (2)
There has never been — and may never again be — a soap like the one that NBC unleashed on July 5, 1999.
As headwriter of Days of Our Lives, the late James E. Reilly had proven time and time again that he knew the value of a good shock. It was he, after all, who had made a casket case of Carly Manning and added to the soap’s rogues’ gallery of hellions and she-devils an actual demon (one that made itself at home in the heavenly body of Marlena Evans, no less!). So when he was given free rein to create his own show… sheesh. The mind boggled at the insane possibilities!
Wild at Heart
When NBC unveiled Passions on July 5, 1999, it didn’t disappoint in the wackadoo department. Front and center was Nanny and the Professor icon Juliet Mills as Tabitha Lenox, an age-old witch with a living doll as her confidant and conscience. Closets served as portals to hell. Characters could at any given moment be enchanted or zombified or thrust into a romance with an orangutan (who, sorry to say, was a better actor than a few members of the human cast).
At the same time, the show also trotted out soap tropes so basic and familiar, they didn’t just border on cliché, they were cliché — and unabashedly so. But the audience nonetheless went along with the love triangle that was built around poor girl Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, rich girl Gwen Hotchkiss and dreamy moneybags Ethan Winthrop, as well as the Romeo-and-Juliet romance of Theresa’s big brother, Luis, and Sheridan, the Marilyn Munster of the Crane family he despised.
Hit… or Miss?
So why isn’t Passions still on the air? Though its over-the-top elements were a hoot, they often left you feeling a little bit like you’d just eaten a whole bag of Sour Patch Kids — briefly giddy and then wondering, “Ugh. Why did I do that?”
Reilly also advanced plots so slowly, viewers occasioning had to question whether they were watching a TV series or staring at a still life. And if you think that today’s The Bold and the Beautiful has repetitive dialogue — and it does! — you’ve forgotten the endless loops of the same lines that Passions played. When Lindsay Korman joined Days of Our Lives as Arianna after nine years as Passions’ Theresa, she admitted to We Love Soaps that she found it much easier to memorize her scripts, “because there is a story involved… a beginning, a middle and an end, and there are consequences. It’s not like you’re memorizing the same scene over and over again.”
One Last Trick Up Its Sleeve
When NBC cooled on Passions in 2007, it wasn’t exactly a surprise on one hand: For most of the soap’s run, it had been daytime’s lowest-rated. And yet, on the other hand, it was a head-scratcher: Though the show was never a hit in the Nielsens, cartoonish characters and antics worthy of The Krofft Supershow made it a bonafide smash with the young demographic that advertisers covet.
Smelling an opportunity, DirecTV picked up the show, which quickly became the most-watched original program on pay channel The 101. But, because the size of the audience still watching was smaller than anticipated, Passions was cancelled all over again and aired its last episode just shy of a year after its move to DirecTV.
But let’s not dwell on the show’s unhappy ending, shall we? Let’s instead revisit via the below photo gallery its bonkers twists and turns, and a cast of characters so outlandish, you can’t imagine how Reilly dreamt them up!