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
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!
Credit: John Paschal/JPI
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.
Credit: Jesse Grant/JPI
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.”
Credit: John Paschal/JPI
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!
<p>Even before NBC had premiered <em>Passions</em> in 1999, we knew that we were in for a wild ride. Its creator was James E. Reilly, the daring <em>Days of Our Lives</em> headwriter who’d buried Carly Manning alive and given Marlena Evans the ultimate “The devil made me do it!” excuse. Still, nothing could have prepared us for what <em>Passions</em> held in store — at least not until we’d met wicked witch Tabitha Lenox (Juliet “Nanny” Mills) and her living doll, Timmy (Josh Evans).</p>
<p>When Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald (future Hallmark Channel heartthrob Jesse Metcalfe) took a soak in the Jacuzzi with true love Charity Standish, he found himself in not only literal hot water but figurative. Why’s that? As you might have been able to guess from the photo, she’d jumped on the zombie bandwagon years before <em>The Walking Dead</em> had reanimated its first corpse.</p>
<p>Miguel’s sister Theresa (Lindsay Korman, later Arianna on <em>Days of Our Lives</em> and Cara on <em>All My Children</em>) was kinda-sorta the heroine of the show. But she was also so sneaky that it wasn’t entirely a shock when she wound up “down under” with card-carrying baddie Julian Crane (Ben Masters) and a Who’s Who of Who’s Been Evil throughout history.</p>
<p>Though Miguel and Theresa’s big brother Luis (Galen Gering, now Rafe on <em>Days of Our Lives</em>) and Nurse Precious (BamBam) look so cozy that they could be posing for a <em>Soap Opera Digest</em> cover, she actually wasn’t his true love. Who was? We’ll get to her; stay tuned. Or, well, keep scrolling. You know what we mean!</p>
<p>Through a series of incidents too mind-boggling and complicated to possibly sum up in a single caption, a soused Dr. Eve Russell (Tracey Ross) found herself tasked with reattaching sometime lover Julian’s severed johnson. And miraculously, she pulled off the feat, too. Just one teensy problem, though: She put it back on upside-down!</p>
<p>So mortified was Eve’s daughter Whitney (Brook Kerr, now <em>General Hospital</em> doc Portia) to think that she’d accidentally hooked up with her half brother that she formed her own, ahem, sister act — with soap vet Julia Duffy (better known for <em>Newhart</em> and <em>Designing Women</em>) lending moral support. Emphasis on the “moral.”</p>
<p>We knew that they were destined to be together from the moment Theresa dumped fish on the object of her obsession, Richie Rich Ethan Winthrop (future primetime funnyman Travis Schuldt). But off screen, an altogether different love story was being told, one that put… Wait for it…</p>
<p>While Theresa took a hands-on approach with the aptly-named Fox Crane (<em>This Is Us</em> leading man Justin Hartley), their portrayers fell for one another for real, tying the knot in 2004 and welcoming into the world a daughter shortly thereafter.</p>
<p>The castmates’ marriage didn’t last — they split in 2012 — but they remain close. In fact, when Hartley came under fire during his divorce from second wife Chrishell Stause (formerly <em>Days of Our Lives</em>’ Jordan), <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-young-and-the-restless/news/574995/lindsay-korman-hartley-defends-young-restless-justin-hartley/" target="_blank">his ex came to his defense</a>, saying, “Today, I appreciate Justin for not only being [an] exemplification of a solid man but for being my dear friend and [a] devoted father to our daughter. Simply put, for being a family.”</p>
<p>Thoughout <em>Passions</em>’ run, Theresa fought tooth and nail to keep Ethan away from fellow moneybags Gwen Hotchkiss (here Natalie Zea, so good on <em>The Detour</em>). When the cameras stopped rolling, however, nothing could separate Ethan and Gwen’s portrayers. <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/gallery/soap-actors-real-life-longest-marriages-couples-photos/natalie-zeatravis-schuldt/" target="_blank">They married in 2014</a> after being one another’s significant other for a decade.</p>
<p>Rarely did <em>Passions</em> take itself seriously, much less <em>too</em> seriously. So the odds were as good that you’d tune in on any given day and find Tabitha looking like she was dressed for Halloween as they were that you’d find Miguel only half-dressed. Did he even <em>own</em> a shirt?</p>
<p>When Schuldt left the role of Ethan to take primetime by storm, the show was faced with the impossible task of finding a replacement who was handsome and talented, charming and charismatic… and we’ll be damned. The powers that be rose to the challenge, bringing in Eric Martsolf (now <em>Days of Our Lives</em>’ Brady) to make his daytime debut.</p>
<p>It probably didn’t hurt Martsolf’s chances of being accepted as a recast that a whole lot of his storylines found him leaving the wardrobe department wearing… well… not a whole lot.</p>
<p>When Zea took a powder, <em>Passions</em> brought back Gwen’s original portrayer: Liza Huber, the daughter of Susan Lucci (Erica, <em>All My Children</em>). And as she always had, Huber gave it her all. But her legendary mom, she simply wasn’t. (Huber is now an entrepreneur and mother of four.)</p>
<p>Arguably <em>Passions</em>’ most controversial character, Vincent Clark (Phillip Jeanmarie) was Julian and Eve’s long-lost son, who turned out to be an intersex blackmailer so scarred from past abuse that he slept with his father and gave birth to his own brother!</p>
<p>Most definitely <em>not</em> a fan of Charity (Molly Stanton) and her goody-goody goodness, Tabitha moved <span style="text-decoration: line-through">heaven</span> hell and earth to tarnish her halo. The sorceress even went so far as to turn Ms. Nice Guy evil enough that she was ready to boink the glasses right off of adorkable Reese Durkee (Seth Hall). Wait, does that mean we’re <em>already</em> evil?</p>
<p>If only Timmy and Charity had been better at deciphering the fog in that crystal ball, they might have known that their future included a battle with her zombified self that — aw, no! — would leave her pint-sized admirer mortally wounded. Even seducing Reese Durkee couldn’t ease <em>that</em> pain. Though we guess it couldn’t hurt to try…</p>
<p>Irony doesn’t get much crueler than this: The same day that <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/soaps/news/574220/josh-ryan-evans-passions-died-same-day-timmy/" target="_blank">Evans passed away at just 20 years old</a> after undergoing a medical procedure related to a congenital heart condition, Timmy died on screen. The plan had been for the actor to continue on, playing his character as an angel; instead, alas, he became one.</p>
<p>Though Luis met the love of his life — socialite Sheridan Crane (McKenzie Westmore) — when the cop pulled her over for speeding, there was nothing fast about the progression of their relationship. They’d hit one speed bump (his loathing of her family) after another (her marriage to his brother Antonio) after another (his unstable former girlfriend, Beth Wallace) before saying, “I do.”</p>
<p><em>Passions</em> was so bonkers, it didn’t really <em>need</em> fantasy sequences — every episode was one long one! But it indulged, anyway, and to great success. A 2003 flight of fancy that found Precious, Beth (Kelli McCarty), Charlie Lapson (Jordan Baker) and Edna Wallace (Kathleen Noone) putting their own spin on “Cell Block Tango” from <em>Chicago</em> scored a Daytime Emmy.</p>
<p>When NBC cooled on <em>Passions</em> in 2007, the wackadoo soap was picked up by DirecTV, where it quickly became the highest-rated original series on The 101. Despite that achievement, the show as cancelled again and sent to the daytime graveyard… at least for a (cough) spell. All it would take to bring it back again would be a little interest, a little creativity and — but of <em>course</em> — a little magic.</p>
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