The Hallmarks of Passions
In honor of Passions' last week on the air, our guest blogger Ryan Mason is continuing his nostalgic look back. Today he tackles the hallmarks of this temporarily sort-of classic daytime drama. As you read them, try not to get yourself worked up by remembering that this show replaced Another World. Not that I do that and break stuff, or anything. ~ Becca
Passions definitely had its own little tics and trademarks and Alice in Wonderland-like rules of logic. Here are some of the key hallmarks:
ENDLESS DAYS. One day in Harmony could last for eons, and then just suddenly pop to the current time at will—in other words, New Year’s Eve could stretch into February, at which point it would suddenly become Valentine’s Day. The carnival that kicked off the show lasted for nearly a month, for example, and seemed twice as long. Then there was the never-ending party in early 2001 at the Crane mansion to celebrate Theresa and Ethan’s engagement—not only did it last for over a month, but to add insult to injury, every single episode featured Gwen and Rebecca huddled in the corner having this exact same exchange like some sort of demented cross between Statler & Waldorf and a cuckoo clock:
GWEN: Mother, are you sure this is a good idea?
REBECCA: TRUST me! Emailing Ivy’s letter proving that Ethan is Sam Bennett’s son to the tabloids from Theresa’s computer was a stroke of genius!
All in all, your typical Harmony year might consist of about 10-15 days, each jam-packed with nonaction.
BUTTINSKY BIT PLAYERS. A Passions staple, these are the people who would pop up from out of nowhere, convinced they knew everything about you and your innermost thoughts, and proceed to offer “Who asked for it?” oracular insights into your life. They seemed to be especially prevalent on airplanes, where the passenger in the seat next to you would invariably chirp “I can tell just by looking at you that you’re pining away for your TRUE LOVE!!!!111!!!” when all you’d done was ask them to pass the peanuts.
The very first Buttinsky Bit Players were the Parisian flowermongers in the first episode who provided this sterling bit of commentary from out of the clear blue sky after Sheridan walked away from their stand:
FLOWERMONGER #1: There she goes. Every day. Same time.
FLOWERMONGER #2: I wonder who she is. And where she goes.
FLOWERMONGER #1: She looks like a princess.
FLOWERMONGER #2: If she is, she is a very sad princess!
Oh, lady, you don’t know the half of it.
And on it went. My personal favorite was the jeweler who refused to sell Ethan an engagement ring for Gwen because she just didn’t feel he was buying it for the right reasons, even though she had known him for all of ten seconds. Because, as we all know, jewelers are wont to throw a sale worth thousands of dollars out the window if they have even the slightest concern about the buyer’s motives.
RECAP MASQUERADING AS DIALOGUE. Even on the best of days, as my Top 25 WTF? Lines of Dialogue entry demonstrated, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything on Passions even vaguely resembling normal human speech, but the worst was when characters were routinely given entire paragraphs of recap to spew. For example, here was Rebecca at the top of one episode:
"So my plan worked perfectly! Theresa believed the fake tape I made of Ethan shooting Julian, so she confessed to the murder to save Ethan, and now she's going to die by lethal injection!"
Now, who was she telling this to? Her diary? A friend to whom she hasn't spoken in a few months? Nope! Ivy, who had been right there all along and knew all this like the back of her hand. Yet amazingly, the character reduced to recap sounding board always smiled and nodded instead of hauling off and smacking the recapper for insinuating that they had the memory retention of a gnat.
Tabitha was the worst offender when it came to this; she may as well have been renamed Recap Reba. Whether she was talking to Timmy, Endora, or herself, I would say easily a good 60% of her dialogue was straight plot recap, and that’s being positively generous. Here are some actual lines of hers from one episode alone:
"Remember, that wasn't the real Charity that just decked Kay! That was the Zombie Charity that Kay created from the spellbook! The Zombie Charity that does whatever Kay wants her to do!"
"Uh oh! Simone! Kay's best buddy! She knows how hard Kay's tried to break up Charity and Miguel in the past! She thinks Kay's up to something again! Let’s hear what Simone has to say!"
With a build-up like that, if Simone said anything short of the Gettysburg Address it would be a letdown.
This trend reached a loony apex in the Rome/Vendetta storyline, where Theresa helpfully demonstrated here that when you are in hot pursuit of somebody, it’s important that you stop dead in your tracks to recap your entire plot before resuming chase.
QUACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE. It’s hard to think of there ever having been a worse doctor on TV than Dr. Eve Russell, Woman of Science; only Lexie on Days of our Lives even comes close. Apparently the only fulltime doctor on staff at Harmony Hospital, it didn’t matter whether you needed a neurosurgeon, obstetrician, psychologist, gynecologist, cardiologist, pediatrician, or hypnotherapist—this quack of all trades would come running. Oh, and if you needed to be administered a lie detector test by the police department? Yep, that was her too. Not that it much mattered what the ailment was, because be it a hangnail or a heart attack, her “treatment” was always the same—slap a band-aid on the patient’s forehead and solemnly intone, “There’s nothing more medical science can do for [insert name here]. Only TRUE LOVE can save him/her now.” (Which, believe it or not, was usually the case. One time, Grace kept flatlining until Sam spent about an entire episode begging her to forgive him and come back to life—perhaps the only time in medical history in which flatlining was used as a form of pouting.)
Some of Eve’s worst medical blunders include:
- Telling Theresa that since she took her first and only birth control pill right before she had sex with Ethan, but then didn’t take a birth control pill before she was with Julian the very next day, there was no way Ethan could be Little Ethan’s father.
- Preparing to treat Theresa’s raging case of preeclampsia by idly flipping through a medical book at the nurses’ station and remarking that she was “just brushing up on” it.
- Reattaching Julian’s severed penis upside down while drunk during surgery. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
TC spent most of the series ranting and raving that his father DIED OF A BROKEN HEART!!!111!! No doubt Eve gave the diagnosis. I wouldn’t trust this quack with a pet guppy.
“I KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON HERE!” Here is an illustration of an all-too-typical scene on Passions:
CHARACTER X: Character Y must never find out why I have ten thousand disgruntled pygmy goats hidden in the attic!
CHARACTER Y: I know why!
CHARACTER X: (looks alarmed)
CHARACTER Y: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the selection for my book club this month! May I borrow your copy?
CHARACTER X: (looks relieved) Oh! Why, yes…yes, you may…
Seriously, I don’t know why all the Character Xs on the show always looked so stressed whenever their particular Character Y announced, “I know what’s going on here!” If anything, they should know that was a signal they were completely home free, since whatever followed out of Character Y’s mouth couldn’t possibly be more off base. My particular favorite was when the walls of the Bennett house started dripping blood, and Sam and the rest of the brain trust announced they knew why—the walls were painted red when Sam and Grace bought the house, so it was just the old paint seeping through! Every single wall in the house simultaneously? Oh, sure.
REPETITIVE DIALOGUE. Most people get gifts every holiday season. Passions characters, on the other hand, got one new line of dialogue per year—if they were lucky—and spent the rest of the year spouting endless variations of it. Raise your hand if any of these sound familiar:
- “It’s FAY-tuh!”
- “Dios Mio, I have a bad feeling about this! Mark my words—no good will come of it!”
- “I sense EVIL!!!111!!!”
- “Help! *pound pound pound* I’m alive! *pound pound pound* Someone get me out of here! *pound pound pound* LUIS!!! *pound pound pound*…”
- “You’re evil, Kay! Pure evil!”
- “Singing leads to DRUGS! And PROSTITUTION! And I want a better life for my girls!”
- “You’re wicked, Bethy! Wicked, wicked, wicked! Oh, help me, angels…”
- “Right you are, Tim-Tim! If [Character X] [does Action Y], we’re DOOMED!”
- “We made a DEAL, Kay!”
- “I remember [insert memory here] with MY DEAD LOVER!”
- “Oh, you think you’re so smug now, Grace, but when I open this envelope…”
Galen Gering (Luis) gave a brilliant summation of Passions here when he and other cast members appeared on The Weakest Link: “We talk about what we’re going to do, then we talk about it while we’re doing it, and then we talk about what we did!” This repetitive dialogue is a tradition that started all the way back in the beginning, in which some bitplayer with a bad French accent kept announcing, “I am going to shoot Sheridan Crane! I am going to shoot her right now!” (With his camera, as it turned out.) Meanwhile, if you took a drink every time Ethan said that Sheridan was more like a big sister to him than an aunt, or Sam lamented that Grace couldn’t remember the first 20 years of her life, you’d have alcohol poisoning by about episode 3.
It wasn’t even entire lines of dialogue that were repeated ad nauseam—phrases would do the trick as well. “Noxious gases,” “bird statue,” “mah wahf,” “poisoned petits-fours,” “cloistered convent,” “the green mist,” and “the power of the Triangle,” just to name a few, all were beaten into the ground.
Nor did it even have to be actual dialogue. In the beginning, you always knew when a scene in Paris was about to take place because a title card of the Eiffel Tower would pop up as stereotypical “Doo-DOOOOO, doo-DOOOOO, doo-DOOOO...” accordion music played. And how many times did we have to hear Eve warble, “My BAAAAAAABY’s GOOOOONE…”? I’d leave too were I constantly subjected to that off-key caterwauling.
But the all-time repetition champ has to be Liz Sanbourne: The Sibling Who Cried “REVENGE.” After having been on the show for a year as a hotel owner down in St. Lisa’s, Liz came to Harmony and ran into Eve. Turns out that Eve was her sister whom she blamed for ruining her life (How? Oh, Lord. Watch this clip starting at about 3:30 for a flashback of the whole thing in the hysterical Divorce Court parody episode. They booed Mama!!!111!!!), and she threatened to expose Eve’s past to everyone. “I’M going to get my REVENGE, Eve!” she declared. At the time, it was like, “Ooh! Pass the popcorn!” After two solid years of Liz smirking, “I’M going to get my REVENGE, Eve!”, however, it was more like, “Liz, shit or get off the pot!” So Liz finally got her REVENGE (in the form of Marla Gibbs, no less), at which point we kept hearing how she got her REVENGE, but then it wasn’t quite enough REVENGE, so she still wanted more REVENGE, and zzzzzzzzzzz…. When a year and a half later, she smirked, “My REVENGE is nearly complete!” I exploded at the screen, “Lady, what the hell kind of pyramid scheme is this damn REVENGE, anyway?” Seriously, when her REVENGE is in danger of having a longer run than Cats, it might be a hint that it’s a wee bit of overkill.
(To make it even more ridiculous, when she first ran into Eve, she had an actual Suitcase of REVENGE. It had all these things like a matchbook from the nightclub where Eve sang in Boston that were somehow supposed to be proof of her story, and was even featured on the official NBC website: “Browse Liz’s Suitcase!” At one point she wailed to Eve, “I’ve carried this suitcase with me EVERYWHERE I’VE GONE FOR THE PAST TWENTY YEARS!!!!111!!!” I cracked up to no end picturing the possibilities—Liz going grocery shopping with the Suitcase of REVENGE in her cart, or at the movies: “One adult, one Suitcase of REVENGE, please…”)
MAGICAL SELECTIVE ACOUSTICS. Only on Passions could someone say to themselves at full volume, “I’m going to [kill/ruin the life of/steal the romantic partner of/etc. ] So-and-So!” while all of six inches away from the person in question, and “So-and-So” would remain blissfully oblivious—yet on the other hand, someone could get infuriated about something someone else whispered when they were about a football field away. The only exception I can think of to this is one time when Rebecca was snooping in Ivy’s bedroom for something and ducked under the bed when she heard Ivy coming. “Ivy must never find out that I was here!” Rebecca told herself, upon which Ivy exclaimed, “Rebecca? Is that you?” and immediately busted her.
I would go on, but the power of the Triangle is telling me to follow the green mist to the cloistered convent with my bird statue of REVENGE that I remember buying with MY DEAD LOVER. But no one must ever know!