Robert Guza Jr.
Charles Pratt Jr.
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||755|
E. Duke Vincent
|Running time||60 mintues|
|Picture format||NTSC (480i)|
|Original run||January 6, 1997 – December 31, 1999|
Sunset Beach is an American television soap opera that aired on NBC from January 6, 1997 to December 31, 1999. It premiered on January 6, 1997 and four years later replaced the canceled soap opera Santa Barbara. The show follows the loves and lives of the people living in the Orange County coastal area named Sunset Beach, on the coast of California. Although there is a town in California called Sunset Beach, the show's beach scenes were shot on nearby Seal Beach. The show was co-produced by NBC and Spelling Television.
In May 1999, NBC canceled Sunset Beach due to low ratings, and the series ended on December 31, 1999.
Conception and development
Sunset Beach was created in 1996, in an attempt to rebuild the NBC Daytime lineup and target the younger audience. It was the first daytime soap opera produced by Aaron Spelling, the chief of Spelling Television (Spelling had also produced several primetime soap operas, and was the executive producer of the 1991 film Soapdish, a satirical look at daytime soap operas). Jonathan Levin, one of the show's consulting producers, commented on the change that a new soap opera brings to the lineup, and the tough process of a viewer getting to know a new soap: "It is very difficult to change the loyalty of the daytime viewer, and we’re talking about shows that have been on for 30 years. That's one of the reasons we’re targeting young viewers — they’re the most available and the most flexible in their viewing habits."
In the process of making the show, Aaron Spelling liked the idea of naming it Never Say Goodbye, as suggested by Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone during a dinner with Spelling, but later tests proved that the viewers were more drawn to the title Sunset Beach. Upon its premiere, Sunset Beach was made part of the NBC Daytime programming block. At first, the show was given a one-year deal, with 255 episodes to produce. The show was renewed again for another year, and then picked up in six-month intervals for its final year in 1999.
Before getting cancelled, the show was renewed twice, but it failed to grab the show's audience. Through its short existence, Sunset Beach remained in the daytime ratings basement. However, during the Shockwave storyline, it received its best ratings and showed signs that it might move off the bottom. This spike proved to be brief and was not sustained.
Cast and crew
When the show first aired, it started with 21 contract characters, of which 7 had left the show during its first year and a half. The first actress to leave the series was Adrienne Frantz. Her character was recast with Jennifer Banko Stewart, but the change didn't work out, resulting in the character eventually being written out. Kelly Hu left the show in June 1997, due to her character not mixing well with the others. By the end of the year, when Meg Bennett took over as a new head writer, Leigh Taylor-Young and Laura Harring also left the series, followed by the exit of Nick Stabile, whose character was written out in a serial killer storyline. Elizabeth Alley had a short stint in the role of Melinda Fall. The final original character to be written off was Eddie Connors, played by Peter Barton, who exited in mid-1998.
The remaining 14 original characters stayed on the show until its end, and three of those characters were recast during the three-year run. The first recast happened soon after the show started airing. The role of Cole Deschanel, initially played by Ashley Hamilton, was recast with Eddie Cibrian. In mid-1998, following contract disputes, Vanessa Dorman vacated the role of Cole's wife Caitlin, and Kam Heskin was cast. The final recast was a temporary one. When Susan Ward left to film a movie, Sydney Penny stepped in to replace her, with Ward later returning to play the character for the show's final few weeks. Shortly after the show premiered, Dominique Jennings, V.P. Oliver, and Russell Curry joined the cast. Oliver was let go in December 1997, and his character, Jimmy Harrison, was recast with a younger actor, Jeffery Wood. Both Jennings and Wood were written off by March 1999, exactly two years after the introduction of their characters.
The exits of many characters opened the doors to the introduction of new ones. Carol Potter and John Martin, who had been recurring during the show's first year, were promoted to contract status, and the expansion of Meg's family also included the arrival of her sister Sara. The role was first played by then-unknown actress Lauren Woodland, but she was fired two weeks later and replaced by Shawn Batten, who played the role for the remainder of the series. Aside from Meg's family, Ricardo got his family expanded, including the introduction of his mother Carmen (Margarita Cordova), brother Antonio (Nick Kiriazis), and the sudden reappearance of his sister Maria (Christina Chambers), Ben Evans' presumed dead wife.
The teen scene was revived in 1998, when Bette's daughter Emily (Cristi Harris) arrived in town and fell in love with Sean, prompting Amy (Krissy Carlson) and Brad (Michael Strickland) to intervene. The final teen cast was Leo Deschanel, Cole's brother (David Mathiessen), but he was quickly written out. A long-time legend, A.J. Deschanel, was also cast in the form of Gordon Thomson, and a villain named Francesca (Lisa Guerrero) was added to the cast in mid-1998. However, Guerrero was written out in early 1999.
In 1999, the show cast only three contract roles, the first two being in March, when Tracy Lindsey Melchior and Chase Parker stunned the soap with their sudden arrival in town. The final role to be cast on the show was the one played by Sean Kanan in late August. Things changed at the end of the year, when fan favorite Eddie Cibrian left the show to pursue a career in primetime. Several other cast members, including a few original ones, considered leaving, but the show's cancellation came before they could make a decision.
During its three-year run, Sunset Beach was executive produced by Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, and Gary Tomlin. However, the head writing history was much different. Robert Guza Jr. was the first head writer (and also a co-creator), but he exited the show on October 21, 1997, when Meg Bennett, who had been serving as Associate Head Writer was promoted as head writer as of October 22. Four months after being the sole head writer, Bennett received a co-head writer in the form of Christopher Whitesell, on January 8, 1998. Bennett was fired during the summer of 1998 and her final episode aired October 5, 1998. She was replaced by Margaret DePriest, who stayed with the show until its cancellation.
Storylines in its nearly three-year run ranged from the traditional to the supernatural. One of the first storylines concerned an Internet romance. Kansas farm girl Meg Cummings discovered her fiancé, Tim Truman, cheating on her on their wedding day. Meg had been talking online with SB, a man who lived in Sunset Beach, California. And after catching Tim with her maid of honor, Meg fled to Sunset Beach in search of SB, who turned out to be wealthy, widowed businessman Ben Evans.
Template:QuotationThe first year of the show revolved around Meg's pursuit of Ben (including her briefly breaking into his house, stealing a journal she found there, and dressing up in his late wife's clothes), who was initially not interested in her, and the gradual development of a romance between them. A side plot showed the antagonistic relationship between Meg and Annie Douglas, Ben's longtime best friend. Meg hated Annie for being close to Ben and wanted to cut her out of his life; Annie hated Meg out of jealousy for her developing romance with Ben. Their problems reached a head with a physical fight in a hot tub. Meg's ex-fiancé Tim Truman followed her to Sunset Beach to win her back, and ended up becoming Annie's ally and almost love interest. Once Meg and Annie had overcome their differences, Meg soon had a new problem when she began to suspect Ben was a murderer, although this plot line was developed to lead up to the Terror Island storyline. After the Terror Island/Derek storyline (see below) none of the issues raised were ever mentioned again.
Meg and Ben became one of the show's first couples, along with reformed jewel thief Cole Deschanel and local heiress Caitlin Richards. Cole slept with and impregnated both Caitlin and Caitlin's unhappily married, alcoholic mother Olivia. Olivia and her fiendish husband, Gregory, planned to steal Caitlin's baby and pass it off as Olivia's (telling Caitlin her baby had died) in order to break up Caitlin's relationship with Cole, who her parents disapproved of because of his criminal past. Caitlin lost the child in a car accident when she found out about her parents' horrible plan, and planned to fake the rest of her pregnancy and adopt a baby to pass off as her own, as she was worried her inability to have children (caused by the accident) would cause problems in her marriage to Cole. She enlisted the help of Annie, who was secretly trying to break up Olivia and Gregory, due to a term in her father's will that stated she would only get her inheritance if she wed Gregory (her father's way of breaking up his marriage to Olivia, who he had been having an affair with). Annie drugged Olivia and stole her baby, telling her the baby had been stillborn. Caitlin unknowingly raised her baby half-brother (who was also her stepson, having been fathered by her husband), until a grief-stricken Olivia discovered the truth. Olivia was eventually reunited with her son.
When the show began, it was the only soap on the air featuring Asian-American characters, though they were written off before the end of the first year. The show also had daytime television's only African-American villainess, Virginia Harrison, who schemed to break up lifeguard Michael Bourne and reporter Vanessa Hart so she could have Michael for herself.
In one of the most outrageous storylines on the show, Virginia drugged Vanessa and, using a turkey baster and some stolen sperm, impregnated her with the child of Tyus Robinson, to make it appear Vanessa had been unfaithful to Michael, who was sterile.
The show was known for other outrageous storylines, such as Terror Island in which several of the show's main characters were stranded on an island with a masked serial killer (whose costume bore a close resemblance to that of the killer from Scream) intent on killing them, especially Meg. A handful of characters were killed by the maniac, mostly minor characters introduced as serial killer-fodder, but also one lead character, young runaway made good Mark Wolper. In his dying moments Mark pulled off the killer's mask and audiences were stunned to see Ben's face behind it. As it turned out, Ben had an evil twin, Derek, who plagued Ben and Meg's lives off and on for the rest of the run of the show. Derek was killed after being shot in a struggle with Ben during the show's final weeks, following a long storyline where Derek kidnapped and impersonated his twin for months, sleeping with Ben's wife Maria (having previously also slept with Meg).
Maria Torres Evans, who had wed Ben when she was still a teenager and he was barely in his twenties, had disappeared and been presumed drowned after a boating accident that took place some years prior to the start of the show. Ben was haunted by the terrible secret that he had caught her in bed with Derek (it was later revealed that Derek—who had impersonated Ben to Maria, who was unaware Ben had a twin—had not slept with Maria, as she had stabbed him with scissors when he tried to rape her). Ben's guilt and grief over Maria caused a shadow over his relationship with Meg from the beginning, which worsened when an amnesiac Maria came back from the dead at Ben and Meg's October 1998 wedding. Ben and Maria grew closer while he helped her to regain her memory, and once she did, Ben flip flopped between the two women for much of the rest of the show's run. During the show's last year a strange woman, Tess, turned up on his doorstep with a son she claimed was Ben and Maria's. After a positive paternity test they raised the child, Benjy, together, causing even more problems for Meg, who left Ben and briefly started dating her sister's boyfriend, Casey. Derek (who was also wrongfully presumed dead) returned to kidnap Ben again, and it was revealed he and Tess were Benjy's parents.
Another outrageous storyline was the earthquake/tsunami story, in which Sunset Beach was struck by a massive earthquake, trapping many characters – most of them each other's rival – together in life and death situations. While half the cast battled the disaster on land, the rest of the cast was on a pleasure cruise aboard a ship that was overturned – à la The Poseidon Adventure – by a tsunami created by the earthquake. This storyline was in many ways similar to the plot of The Poseidon Adventure.
The tsunami storyline proved so popular that two weeks' worth of episodes were compiled and turned into an hour-long show that was included on NBC's lineup for one night in August 1998. The show took a supernatural turn for a while with some cursed jewels, stolen from a religious icon, that turned those who'd touched them into shriveled mummies. The story culminated on Christmas Eve with the return of the jewels to the Madonna just in time to prevent the deaths of several key characters.
The show also featured two murder mysteries in its run. The first was the murder of Annie's father Del Douglas by Elaine Stevens. Del had kidnapped Cole as a baby and convinced Elaine the child was dead). The second murder mystery involved the death of seductress Francesca Vargas, whom just about everyone in town wanted dead. The surprise twist in the Who Shot Francesca storyline was that the killer was main character Gregory Richards.
The show was cancelled just before the third anniversary of its original air date. Most of the main characters were given happy endings. Ben and Meg and Michael and Vanessa married in a double wedding. Casey and Sara got engaged, Cole and Caitlin were happy in their marriage, and Olivia was happily raising her children alone. Maria gave Ben a divorce so he could marry Meg and met a new man, Ross English. Maria also adopted Benjy, the little boy she had regarded as her own, and she and Ben planned to raise him together. The 'baddies' all got their comeuppances. Derek was accidentally shot and killed by Ben; his accomplice Tess went to jail, as did Gregory Richards. Tim Truman, who though not a villain spent most of the three years causing problems for Ben and Meg, was murdered by Derek. Virginia remained languishing in a mental hospital, while reformed bad girl Annie also got a happy ending, finding love with relatively new character Jude.
In a twist ending, Meg appeared to wake up in Kansas and realize that the entire three years in Sunset Beach had been a dream – and the characters from the show were actually her friends and family in Kansas (a reference to The Wizard of Oz).Template:Or However, at the last minute, Meg woke up in Sunset Beach and was in bed with Ben, the day after their wedding. Probably the dream was poking fun at how many writers use the sloppy ending of "it was all a dream" to bring a story to a close, as was done in stories such as Alice in Wonderland or more aptly, evoking the dream (9th) season of the prime-time soap, Dallas.
The show gained a cult following in the UK, doing especially well in the ratings for Channel 5, with some universities holding Sunset Beach parties where students would go dressed as their favorite character. Channel 5 tried to save the show when its cancellation was announced, offering partially to fund it and trying to get other networks involved, as had happened previously with Baywatch, but NBC was not interested. It did buy NBC's other soap opera, Days of Our Lives, to air in Sunset Beach’s place, even running promos during Sunset Beach’s final week, but the show failed to catch on and Channel 5 dropped Days approximately a year later.
To date, Sunset Beach is the last NBC network program to air at 12:00 p.m. Some NBC affiliates did not air Sunset Beach at its scheduled time due to the affiliates' longstanding practice of airing local newscasts or other syndicated programming in the noon hour; this resulted in some affiliates airing the show in a different spot on their schedule while others did not air it at all. In some media markets (especially in Detroit and Houston), Sunset Beach aired on affiliates of other networks or independent stations. In markets that did air the show at the regular time, its second half-hour went up against the first half-hour of The Young and the Restless and Port Charles. After the series ended, NBC returned the 12:00 p.m. time slot to its affiliates.
In South Africa Sunset Beach originally aired on SABC 3 for its entire run from 1999 to 2001. CurrentlyTemplate:When e.tv is rebroadcasting the entire series. It started airing again in September 2007.
In Sweden Sunset Beach aired on TV4. All episodes aired one time on TV4 between August 17, 1998 to 2000, and the rerun aired on Tv4 and Tv4 Plus. A second rerun started airing on Tv4 in 2004 but was later cancelled.
In Germany, Sunset Beach aired on RTL from January 2, 1998 to January 8, 1999 where it was cancelled. Super RTL took over and aired the soap from September 1, 1999 to March 9, 2001 in a late primetime slot. Local channel BTV aired reruns from 2001 to 2003.
In Spain Sunset Beach aired on Antena 3. The channel intended for the series to be their big Sumemr premiere and launched the series with a 2-hour pilot on a Sunday afternoon in the very popular 330pm movie slot. Promoting the series as Baywatch meets Beverly Hills 90210 with a lot of Santa Barbara (the latter having been a massive hit for the channel many years earlier and the only big US daytime soap to have aired in Spain), the series continued with its regular screenings every weeknight in the much coveted 8pm Access Primetime slot, the slot previously occupied by Baywatch. Sunset Beach, however, failed to attract any attention, and the series was promptly axed after one week and six episodes, never to return to Spanish TV again.
In Slovakia Sunset Beach aired on TV Markíza, however only 260 episodes were broadcast.
In Hungary, Sunset Beach aired on TV2 in 1998, however only 355 episodes were broadcast.
In United Kingdom Sunset Beach aired on Channel 5 from March 1997 to February 2000. The first 130 episodes aired on ITV2 from July 2000 to January 2001 before the series was dropped due to low ratings and the high cost of broadcast rights. Channel 5 started repeating the series in 2004 but dropped it from the daytime schedule due to low ratings. They continued repeats in double-bills in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings until they had shown all the episodes they had bought the rights for (approx. 215).
In Zimbabwe, Sunset Beach aired on Joy TV.
In Nigeria, "Sunset Beach" aired on African Independent Television.
In Israel, Sunset Beach was aired on cable TV "Channel 3" (Arutz Shalosh) from May 1997 through April 12, 1998. A total of 260 episodes aired.
Currently, the show is aired on CBS Drama.
|DVD Name||Year||Region 2 (German)||Additional features|
|Box 1||1997||July 22, 2008||None|
References and casting
Satire and pop culture references
Sunset Beach remains highly popular in many countries years after its cancellation. It frequently referenced other television shows: many episodes featured characters fantasizing about their lives and dreams in sequences that show the cast dressed as Charlie's Angels or performing the opening from Friends.
Fantasies involving the character Annie Douglas Richards included take offs of The Leeza Gibbons Show and The Jerry Springer Show (titled "Murderer of the Day"), which guest-starred their respective hosts. Annie fantasized about being a superhero, had a play of the movie The Wizard of Oz, a play on Wheel of Fortune, and even her own imaginary soap opera titled The Search for Dignity. Plus, the character of Annie was usually the one to deliver funny quotes.
In his biography, the Italian fashion model Den Harrow says that in 1997 he moved to California to take part in the serial.
Stunt casting guest appearances
The show went in for stunt casting guest appearances – Jerry Springer played talk show host Jerry Feller and a census taker, Marla Maples played socialite Barbara Birch, Judge Wapner played himself – and featured a ripped from the headline story about a Washington intern, Meg's sister Sara Cummings (Shawn Batten), who'd had an affair with a married politician. Her affair was exposed by her supposed friend – Melinda Fall (Elizabeth Alley), a take off on Linda Tripp. Sara went on to develop a relationship with local lifeguard Casey Mitchum, and their relationship and her sibling rivalry with her sister (who at one point started an affair with Casey) made up the bulk of Sara's storylines, although she was also famous for her TV show-inspired fantasy sequences, which included spoofs of the opening titles for Friends and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Other notable guest appearances include Finola Hughes as Cole's ex-fiancée Helena, Christopher Darden as Les Gordon, John O'Hurley as the host of Wheel of Misfortune, Kim Alexis as a hotel maid, Jack Wagner as a thief named Jacques Dumont, and Barbara Mandrell as Casey's ill mother Alex Mitchum.
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