Ms. Keel, a celebrated author, wrote a novel, also called Rituals, but the series was very loosely based on her novel. It ran for 260 episodes which ran for 25 minutes.
Set in Wingfield, Virginia, a quiet college community (ostensibly a suburb in the Northern Virginia area of Washington, D.C.'s metro), the series focused on the lives of the Chapin, Robertson and Gallagher families.
The wealthiest and most influential family in Wingfield was that of the Chapin family. They were the owners of the Wingfield Mills and Chapin Industries, the two largest employers in the community. They lived on a large estate called The Willows, located outside of town.
Another major locale in Wingfield was Haddon Hall. Haddon Hall, an all-girls college/boarding school, was also founded by the Chapin family, and the family still held sway over the institution. Also frequently mentioned is Oakbrook, a college/boarding school located nearby that was considered to be the male counterpart to Haddon Hall.
Haddon Hall was named by the Chapin family after family ancestor, Rebecca Haddon, a student who had supposedly drowned in the nearby river. Legend said she had faked her death to fool her strict father and was swept away by her stable boy lover.
There was a traditional rite at the beginning of each term where all the female students at Haddon (called "Haddies") would dress in their sexiest nighties and gather by the river. An Oakbrook boy would sweep away the girl and she would be Oakbrook's Homecoming Queen in a replay of the sweeping away of Rebecca Haddon.
The Chapins were headed by Patrick Chapin, his wife Katherine (nee Haddon), and included his irresponsible playboy son, Brady, who despite his being irresponsible, was a champion horseback rider and often excelled in that regard; his flamboyant (and crassly materialistic) daughter, Taylor von Platen, who had been married five times; and his granddaughter, Julia Chapin Field.
Julia, Taylor's daughter by one of her husbands, wealthy Carson "C.J." Field, had a lot of resentment towards her absentee mother. The spoiled and quite headstrong Julia lived with her grandparents, who had raised her after Taylor left. Some time later, she would live at Haddon Hall, where she was a student. She also had issues with her father, although not so much as she had with Taylor due to their neglect of her.
When Taylor returns, she and Julia would battle on many occasions. One of which was where Taylor locked her own daughter in the bathroom during a major event. It was clear that Julia loathed her mother.
The first episode begins with the death of Katherine, and her will reading, which sets off a lot of explosions within the family and outside of the family as well.
Taylor, who made a dramatic appearance at her mother's funeral via helicopter, holding a racehorse's victory wreath, is named head of the board of directors at Haddon Hall with a salary of $100,000 a year, which aggravates the money-mad Taylor. She would wail, upon hearing this, "My dry-cleaning bills cost more than THAT!"
What makes it even worse for her is that her former lover, Logan WIlliams,, a published playwright, was named as the executor of her late mother's will. Taylor had expected him to treat her well and give her what she denied. Logan, however, still never forgot that she had left him for marriage to C.J. Field, who had helped the Chapin family by bailing them out of financial straits.
Her mother's will stated that Logan was to evaluate Taylor's performance as head of the board, and if she didn't do a good job, she will leave Wingfield the same way as she came, penniless!
Julia discovers that she has to stay in Wingfield and graduate from Haddon Hall in order to gain possession of her grandmother's jewelry, which she does. After her graduation, she did receive the jewelry.
Carter Robertson, the president of Haddon Hall (he got the job due to a promise that the late Katherine's made to him), and the son of the Chapin family butler, was infuriated to find out that all he got for his pains was $25,000 a year for life. It was the same amount of money that the rest of the servants would get. Carter would also be told "Which was more than what you REALLY deserve!" according to Katherine, who did not much like him.
However, Carter's wife, Christina (nee Christina Thompson), who had been one of Katherine's closest and special friends, would fare much better than her husband, by getting the priceless Chapin Diamond! Not only did it infuriate Carter, but it really angered Taylor as she felt that the Chapin Diamond belonged to a Chapin, not a Robertson.
Later on, Christina would give the necklace back to Taylor, though Patrick later orders Taylor to give it back to Christina, because Katherine had wanted Christina to have it, and not Taylor.
An infuriated Carter vowed to contest the will, despite Christina's best attempts to calm him down.
After a while, Christina (sometimes called Chris) would share her concerns about her husband and his unscrupulous ways with her more down-to-earth sister, Sarah Gallagher.
Carter and Christina have a son named Jeff, a Harvard student, who was just as scheming as his parents. Carter would later lose the presidency of Haddon Hall to Logan Williams, this would infuriate him and would vow vengeance against Taylor for placing Logan in the president's chair. His loss of the presidency also meant he lost his pull with the Haddon Hall board of trustees.
Carter would gain a job from Patrick Chapin as an executive with Chapin Industries, which put him back on his financial feet once again. Also seen is scheming Sammy Loakes, the owner of a Wingfield construction company who was involved in criminal activity with Carter Robertson.
On the other side of town lived the more middle class Gallagher family. Sarah was married to Eddie, a former mill worker at Wingfield Mills (they now owned a motel/bar called Gallagher's), their older son Tom, and their daughter, Noel. Tom returns from a Latin American nation called San Rafael, with a beautiful young woman named Diandra Santiago, the daughter of a San Rafaelian politician.
However, Eddie, who was very perverted, was caught spying on Diandra in her room as she came out of the shower. This brought father and son to blows and ended up with Eddie throwing Tom and Diandra out of the house. It is revealed that the brutal and vicious Eddie had driven Tom out of Wingfield two years previously. The evil Eddie was also involved in schemes with Carter and Sammy Loakes.
Sammy would later be killed, and Carter and Eddie would be seen over his body. A blackmailer would take pictures and send them to Carter. This would seal the fate of his marriage to Christina.
Eddie's half-brother, Mike, an art teacher at Haddon Hall and his girlfriend, Lacey Jarrett, who teaches physical education at the same school are in love and want to get married, but there comes a problem, Lacey is pregnant and for health reasons, she may want to get an abortion. When Tom and Diandra go with his uncle and soon-to-be aunt to the posh Hunt Club, one of the most expensive places to eat in Wingfield, she is kidnapped by two men in black. Lacey would later become pregnant, but she would miscarry and find out she couldn't have any more children, a situation that would imperil her marriage.
After making love, Brady Chapin and Noel Gallagher are talking, but Brady can't get the image of a girl riding over the Virginia hills, naked. That woman was actress Dakota Lane, who was playing the role of Lady Godiva. Brady would fall in love with Koty, as Dakota was called, to the anger of the scheming Noel. However, Noel would later fall for Jeff Robertson, who had returned to Wingfield from Boston. Koty would also gain the support and friendship of Brady's niece, Julia.
Later on, Patrick Chapin dies, which sets off yet ANOTHER will and inheritance fight!
Taylor has issues with Christina Robertson who had had an affair with Patrick. This occurred after Christina caught Carter in his wicked acts. After berating Carter, she left him. When Patrick was comforting Christina, he had had a heart attack.
The affair cements enmity with the women. When his will is read, the entire fortune goes to Haddon Hall, with the exception of the president's house being willed to Christina! (Eventually this will was overturned and Brady and Taylor would inherit all, with one surprise) Also, her sister, Sara, receives $50,000, which aggravates her husband, Eddie.
Eddie, by this time, very evil, would cause Tom to lose his job as an officer. He would viciously beat his wife, and it was revealed that he had abused, physically and sexually, Noel! Finally, someone offed the evil Eddie. Many people were suspects, due to how hated he was, but Sarah would be charged with his death.
During her testimony at her mother's trial, Noel would scream that she had killed Eddie. She had taken a wrench and hit him in the back of the head in self-defense, as he was going to sexually abuse her again. She would not go to jail, but she would go into intensive therapy. She would gain a psychiatrist named Dr. Coleman who would help her in this situation.
Meanwhile, when Patrick's will was read it would be life-changing for Carter. For he would discover that Patrick Chapin, not the Chapins' butler, was his father! That did not change his views of the Chapins, however! He STILL hated them!
He would take over The Willows and proceeded to make life hell for Brady, Taylor and the rest of the Chapins. When Carter's last name became Chapin, Christina and Jeff also came into the family (since Carter was still married to her) and were renamed Carter Robertson Chapin; Christina Robertson Chapin and Jeff Robertson Chapin.
Also featured heavily in the show were various students from Haddon Hall, most notably Patty DuPont, a plain jane girl who would become friends with Julia Chapin Field and was Taylor's personal assistant; Bernhardt Krauss, a scheming businessman who was once engaged to Julia, but would later abandon his scheming ways and fall in love with and marry Patty (although at first it was a ploy set up by Taylor to keep Bernhardt away from Julia); the long-time Chapin family maid/housekeeper, Maddie Washington; and her troublesome son, Lucky (real name Luther), who would embark on an interracial relationship with Julia; Koty's mother, Cherry Lane, at first a scheming opportunist who came from LA,, but would prove herself a loving mother to Koty; and a woman named Marissa Mallory.
Marissa, a scheming researcher at Chapin Industries, was truly a scheming woman, and her villainy made Christina Robertson and Taylor Chapin, the show's other villains, look like Girl Scouts! Marissa and Christina would become rivals when the former married Carter Robertson, but since he hadn't been divorced from Christina, he was committing bigamy!
The scheming Carter would annul the marriage, angering Marissa, but since there was nothing she could do about it, she left Wingfield. Carter would later marry Chris and Sara's other sister, Lisa.
Lisa, as scheming as Christina, relished coming to Wingfield, when she came at her sister's request. However, Lisa was on the run from DC, where she had worked as a prostitute.
Sarah would be revealed to also be the mother of Michele Davenport, the former secretary of her brother in-law, Carter. She would also fall in love with C.J. Field.........who Christina wanted!
In the finale, C.J. was elected Governor of Virginia, although he and Sarah were shot. Sarah died, but C.J. was wounded. Nobody knew who had shot them.
Eight years later, a now much kinder Christina, having joined a convent, would reveal how the characters fortunes came out. It was revealed that it was she who had shot C.J. and Sarah. She had married C.J., but after six months, she realized she couldn't live with having killed her own sister. She would eventually divorce C.J. a year later. She would then realize what she had done, and found that she would find more comfort in a convent and she had taken her final vows.
She would announce that Koty and Brady were married and had a baby; Lacey would become president of Haddon Hall and would raise the daughter of her paramour, Larry Burns on her own (she and Mike had an acrimonious divorce, after which he left Wingfield forever on his motorcycle); her niece, Michele, deeply devastated by Sarah's death, would later run Gallagher's, her mother's former business; Lucky Washington would graduate from school, although he and Julia Field would never get back together (It was presumed that Julia had gotten her grandmother's jewelry and had left Wingfield to begin anew). Jeff, Christina's son, was removed from Chapin Industries and started a men's magazine, he was also trying to stay out of jail, with the aid of his lawyers; Tom Gallagher would die of radiation poisoning, which allowed for his widow, Diandra and their child to return to her home country of San Rafael; Koty's mother, Cherry, married Roger Gibson, a researcher who had schemed with Christina to steal a government contract from her ex-husband; Noel, who had so much bad luck in her life, would become a singer and become famous; and a car would hit Carter Chapin and would put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He would still control everyone's lives, as they had to rearrange their lives around him now! He was still married to Lisa.
Christina would offer the final words of wisdom, realizing all that she had been through and what she had learned since becoming a part of the Convent, eight years ago: "Each person's life is unique, but the rituals remain the same."
Some of the actors have found fame in later shows, and most of the actors were already well-established. The most notable faces on this show included veteran movie and television actress Jo Ann Pflug as the first Taylor Chapin Von Platen. When her Christian beliefs precluded her from playing racy love scenes with her on-screen paramour, she asked to leave the show. She was replaced by Tina Louise, best known as Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island, and later known as Julie Grey on Dallas.
Other veteran performers included George Lazenby (Logan Williams), the James Bond from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"; Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Luther "Lucky" Washington #2), best known as Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington, one of the Sweathogs, from the sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter; Andrea Moar (Julia Chapin Field) was best known for her role of Carrie Sanders Tyler on All My Children. Winifred Freedman (Patty DuPont Kraus) starred alongside Erin Moran and Scott Baio as the latter's cousin, Annette, in the short-lived sitcom, Joanie Loves Chachi; she would also play Wendy, on the sitcom, Mr. Belvedere; Karen Kelly (Noel Gallagher) would late play the nicer Brenda Clegg on the soap opera, Capitol. Claire Yarlett (Dakota Lane #1) would later go on and join the cast of the Dynasty spin-off, The Colbys, playing Jason and Sable Colby's youngest daughter, Bliss Colby; Sharon Farrell (she played Dakota's mother, Cherry Lane) would later join the Young and the Restless as Nina Webster's mother, Flo; Greg Mullavey (best known from his role of Tom Hartman on the soap spoof, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), played the villainous former mill worker turned Motel and Bar owner, Eddie Gallagher (his real-life wife, Meredith MacRae would guest star as Estelle Cunningham, a mother with a huge ax to grind against Mike and Lacey Gallagher); Kin Shriner (Mike Gallagher) was best known for his role of Scott Baldwin on General Hospital (a role he still plays to this day); Philece Sampler (Lacey Jarrett Gallagher) was best known for her role of Renee Dumonde Banning on Days of Our Lives. Her Rituals co-stars, Mary Beth Evans (Dakota Lane #2) and Kevin Spirtas (Tom Gallagher, Eddie and Sara's more honorable son) would later join that show playing Kayla Brady and Dr. Craig Wesley, respectively. Monte Markham, best known for his role of the undefeated lawyer, Perry Mason, on The New Perry Mason (and his two guest star appearances as Blanche Devereaux's homosexual brother, Clayton Hollingsworth on The Golden Girls) played devious and scheming Carter (Robertson) Chapin; while soap veteran, Christine Jones, played his first wife, Christina Thompson. Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, originally played scheming researcher, Marissa Mallory, until General Hospital actress, Janice Heiden took over the role. Jon Lindstrom, the second Brady Chapin, would later play psychiatrist Dr. Kevin Collins on General Hospital. Gina Gallego, who played politician's daughter, Diandra Santiago Gallagher, had various roles on TV shows since Rituals, and was perhaps best known for her role of Santana Andrade on Santa Barbara.
- MONTE MARKHAM -- Carter Chapin; President of Haddon Hall, son of the late Patrick; half-brother of Brady and Taylor. Originally called Carter Robertson, but was later revealed to have been a Chapin. Father of Jeff Robertson, by his first wife, Christina Thompson. In the finale, he is run down and put in a wheelchair. He would later marry researcher, Marissa Mallory, then later on, after his marriage to Marissa was annulled, he would marry his former sister in-law, Lisa Thompson.
- CHRISTINE JONES -- Christina Robertson Field (nee Thompson); Carter's scheming ex-wife. Mother of Jeff; one of Katherine Chapin's close friends. After leaving Carter, she would seduce Patrick Chapin who would die of a heart attack. She would later marry C.J. Field. She killed her sister, Sarah, who was engaged to C.J. and then divorced him six months later. A chastened Christina would later enter a convent, after the death of Sarah. She would find happiness in the convent and she would speak the final lines on the show. Carter would marry her youngest sister, Lisa.
- DENNIS PATRICK -- Patrick Chapin, owner of Wingfield Mills and Chapin Industries, the wealthiest man in Wingfield. His family also helped found Haddon Hall. He lives in The Willows, the Chapin family estate, with his family. Father of Brady, Taylor and Carter; grandfather of Julia. After his death, there would be a huge battle for his fortune.
- MARC POPPEL -- Brady Chapin #1 The son of Patrick and Katherine Chapin. An irresponsible playboy but a champion horseback rider, in love with Dakota Lane, to the dismay of scheming Noel Gallagher, who is in love with him as well. He and Koty would later marry and have a child.
- JON LINDSTROM -- Brady Chapin #2
- JO ANN PFLUG -- Taylor Chapin Field von Platen #1; Patrick and Katherine's daughter, the mother of Julia, who despises her. Crassly materialistic and married five times, most notably to C.J. Field. Makes a dramatic entrance in the first episode during her mother's funeral via helicopter carrying a horse's victory wreath. Head of the board of directors of Haddon Hall. Has a rivalry with Christina.
- TINA LOUISE -- Taylor Chapin Field von Platen #2
- PETER HASKELL -- Carson "C.J." Field; One of Taylor's former husbands, the father of Julia and another child, Mark, by his first wife, Margot. His fortune helped bail out the Chapin family. Christina Robertson would fall in love with him, but he would fall in love with Sarah. After her death, he would marry Christina. She would divorce him later after she realized she couldn't live with what she had done to her sister. Later governor of Virginia.
- ANDREA MOAR -- Julia Chapin Field; granddaughter of Patrick and Katherine. daughter of Taylor and C.J. Quite spoiled and headstrong, she despises her parents, especially her mother, because of their neglect of her. Lives with her grandfather, Patrick. In order to receive her grandmother's jewelry, she was ordered to remain in Wingfield and graduate from Haddon Hall. Was once engaged to Bernhardt Kraus, who threw her over and (as a result of one of her mother's many ploys) would later marry her former roommate, Patty DuPont. Over time, she becomes more caring, although she still hates her parents. Close friend of Dakota Lane.
- GREG MULLAVEY -- Eddie Gallagher; a perverted and brutal former mill worker, now owner of a motel. Husband of Sara Thompson, father of Tom and Noel. Quite a scheming and vindictive man, (he would actually beat up Carter Robertson's son, Jeff). Viciously abusive to his family, he would be killed by his daughter, Noel, after years of physical and sexual abuse.
- KEVIN SPIRTAS -- Tom Gallagher, son of Eddie and Sara; brother to Noel. A member of the Wingfield police department. Would become the main protector of his mother and sister against his brutal father, whom he despised. Tom would marry Diandra Santiago, but he would die of radiation poisoning as the result of a nuclear power plant accident, leaving her widowed and raising their child alone in San Rafael.
- KIN SHRINER -- Mike Gallagher, Eddie's half-brother, an artist as well as an art instructor at Haddon Hall; married to Lacey Jarrett. They would later divorce with him leaving Wingfield on his motorcycle. Mike was unique in that his garage apartment was a huge shrine to I Love Lucy!
- GINA GALLEGO -- Diandra Santiago Gallagher; a politician's daughter, would later marry her long-time boyfriend, Tom Gallagher. After his death by radiation poisoning, Diandra would leave Wingfield and move back to her home country of San Rafael and raise their child on her own.
- PHILECE SAMPLER -- Lacey Jarrett Gallagher, a physical education instructor at Haddon Hall who would later become the school's Dean of Women; married to Mike Gallagher. Wants a child, but Mike is not sure of adoption, which leads to them quarrelling. After a contentious divorce, Lacey would raise Katie Burns, the daughter she would adopt, by her former lover, Larry Burns. She would also become one of the first female presidents of Haddon Hall.
- LORRINE VOZOFF -- Sarah Gallagher (nee Thompson) #1; married to the brutal and vicious Eddie Gallagher, sister of Christina Robertson and Lisa Thompson, more kind and down to earth than her wealthier sister. Mother of Tom, Noel and, as was later revealed, Michele Davenport. She was killed by Christina, and after her death, Michele would take over her mother's business.
- LAURIE BURTON -- Sarah Thompson Gallagher #2
- KAREN KELLY -- Noel Gallagher, daughter of Sara and Eddie. Sister of Tom. A scheming and troublemaking woman in love with Brady Chapin. She despised Dakota Lane, due to her interest in Brady, but she would drop him after she tried to humiliate Koty, and took up with Jeff Robertson. She later killed her evil father after he physically and sexually abused her. She would later drop Jeff and fall in love with Dr. Coleman, her psychiatrist.
- TIM MAIER -- Jeff Robertson Chapin, the son of Carter and Christina. A student at Harvard, but would become just as scheming as his parents, and would later be jailed for various crimes. He would fall in love with Noel Gallagher, but would be set up by the mob.
- KETTY LESTER -- Maddie Washington #1; the Chapin family's long-time maid/housekeeper.
- LYNN HAMILTON -- Maddie Washington #2
- RANDY BROOKS -- Lucky Washington #1; Maddie's troublesome son, an investigator, fell in love with Julia Field.
- LAWRENCE HILTON-JACOBS -- Lucky Washington #2
- CLAIRE YARLETT -- Dakota Lane #1; an actress whom Brady Chapin is interested in, to the dismay of Noel Gallagher. Struck with a brain tumor, but she survived with some surgery. She and Brady would later marry and have a child.
- MARY BETH EVANS -- Dakota Lane #2
- SHARON FARRELL -- Cherry Lane; Dakota's mother. A professional masseuse. At first, rather scheming, but she was later proven to be very devoted to her daughter, Koty. She would later marry researcher Roger Gibson.
- GEORGE LAZENBY -- Logan Williams; a published playwright who was once one of Taylor von Platen's paramours. Named executor of Katherine Chapin's estate which aggravated Taylor. He would have some dates with Julia, to Taylor's ire. Would become President of Haddon Hall.
- PATTI DAVIS -- Marissa Mallory Robertson #1; a scheming researcher at Chapin Industries; was married to Carter, until her marriage was voided due to his divorce to Christina being stopped!
- JANICE HEIDEN -- Marissa Mallory Robertson #2
- CAMERON SMITH -- Bernhardt Krauss; a money-mad businessman, once engaged to Julia Field, would later marry Haddon Hall student Patty DuPont (thanks to Taylor Von Platen), and they would later leave Wingfield.
- KELLY BENNETT -- Michele Davenport, secretary to Carter Chapin, whom he would fire. He had an affair with her as well. She would also be involved in the schemes of his ex-wife, Christina. She would be later revealed to be the daughter of Sarah Gallagher. After her mother's death, she would manage Gallagher's motel and bar.
- WESLEY ANN PFENNING -- Lisa Thompson, scheming youngest sister of Sara Gallagher and Christina Robertson, who was on the run from her life as a prostitute in Washington, D.C. She marries Carter, her sister's ex-husband.
- WINIFRED FREEDMAN -- Patty DuPont Krauss, a plain jane student at Haddon Hall. At one time, one of Julia Fields' roommates (at first, Julia was appalled, but she later became friends with her). She married Julia's ex-fiance, Bernhardt Krauss (to keep Julia away from him, another scheme by Taylor) and the two would leave Wingfield.
- MICHAEL WELDEN -- Clay Travis, a criminal who falls hard for Julia Field.
- SONDRA CURRIE -- Margot Field, C.J.'s second ex-wife, they married after he divorced Taylor. The mother of his kidnapped son, Mark.
- ANTHONY PONZINI --Lt. Lucas Gates, a detective on the Wingfield Police Department.
- JULIE SOMMARS -- Tracy Spencer, a television broadcaster who worked for the Wingfield TV station. Got herself in trouble with Eddie Gallagher.
- MEREDITH MACRAE -- Estelle Cunningham; the mother of Nancy Cunningham, one of Mike Gallagher's students who had a mental breakdown and she blamed Mike and Lacey for it.
- KIMBERLY SEDGWICK -- Nancy Cunningham, a student of Mike Gallagher, who became quite possessive of him, and had a nervous breakdown after she attacked Lacey. She left town after realizing that Mike and Lacey would always care about her.
- NICHOLAS GUEST -- Dr. Brian Thornton, the leading physician for Wingfield.
- GRANT GOODEVE -- Dr. Coleman, Noel Gallagher's psychiatrist whom she fell in love with.
- KIM MIYORI -- Dr. Eve Lewis; another physician in Wingfield.