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« I Know I'm Setting Myself Up For a Fall Here, But: Eeeee!!! | Main | In Honor of Its Final Episode, a Recap From When People Still Watched Passions »

August 05, 2008

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

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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)

COMMERCIAL

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!

Comments

oh god..I so remember how if Teresas just turned around...Ethan totally couldn't hear a word of how them being togetehr was fay-tuh...and how he shouldnt' marry Gwen because he was in love with her....

and Eve = Lexie...totally and completley...I think my first laugh collapse in regards to Passions was when Eve was brought in to treat three totally different cases in the space of a week....I was going even Lexie stays with a speciality for a few days!

SUITCASE OF REVENGE!!!! It was almost as good as Tabitha's basement of evil........red smoke and all

One of the best posts ever. I almost died laughing. I literally couldn't breath for a minute. Thanks!

Wow, you brought up a lot of good 'ol Passions memories. No matter how ridiculous, repetitive, annoying, and stupid this show got, I will always miss it.

Actually, it didn't replace Another World. It replaced Sunset Beach. The lineup was Another World, Days, Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach got the axe and then they announced Passions to replace it. Another World was canceled before Sunset Beach.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2L104kaXiw

This is why Passions will always have a special place in my heart...

I always loved(in the come on, seriously WTF? sort of way) the way people couldn't hear conversations about them taking place at full volume 2 inches away from them. And Eve the wonder doc...I'd forgotten how many she'd diagnosed someone as losing the will to live which I somehow doubt is one credible physicians give much.

I always kind of liked the constant recapping; you could miss a month and supposing something had actually happened(which was rare) someone would be sure to fill you in.

I used to miss Another World and Santa Barbara. I hated the crap that replaced them. I longed for their returns. And refused to watch anyhting new that took their timeslots. Now I realize they were the lucky ones. Great shows all around taken off the air before they too were turned into shlock! I can only imagine how sweet GH would be in my memories if it was taken off the air back in 97 or 98! Sleep well AW and SB, you were truly the lucky ones.

NOTE:Maybe if I smoke a lot of dope I could feel something for this show Passions. Sorry, I just don't get it.

TC and Eve had some of the best recap conversations. No problem remembering their lines. They had the same talk over and over for the first few years of the show.

I liked Sunset Beach. But I like it much more now that it's off the air. Passions was a good example of how bad any show can get and still keep going. I'd have hated to see SB go down that far, and it was already on the decline writing wise. Passions did sort of replace it, except that Passions was on in the afternoon, while SB aired at 10:30 am here. I don't know what NBC's problem is, but they can't seem to make soap operas work(except Days, which has sucked for awhile now, and is only on the air because it has lifelong viewers). Probably because they keep trying to control everything rather than let people do their jobs. Oh, and they're cheapskates, too.

LOL! I love reading these. that clip you posted of Eve and Liz was too funny. Liars week on divorce court. I do love how TC and Liz were bothing normal human beings, but as soon as they were on divorce court, they started talking like 'yo honah, she lied ta me!' geez.

i dony know whats funnier, liz's revenge suitcase or jasons secret box of pain.

OMG, that was the most hysterical thing I've ever read...and I've never even watched this show!!! And...I'm torn between being sad that I never did and sort of relieved that I never did.

Passions was genius -- it was great parody. The whole thing with Precious the monkey nanny, and all her love fantasies for Luis, was BRILLIANT. I will miss it.

Great post! What is sad some people still believe all this was intentional and part of the parody theme of Passions. Not at all. All this comes with James E. Reilly style of writing. His two periods on DAYS was exactly the same. I still remember a scene when then still virgin Carrie was about to be raped by some stranger with a hockey mask and in each segment we saw him waiting, next he put the mask down, recapped who he is and what he intentions to do and put the mask back on.
What is really scary this kind of writing brought DAYS the best ratings/position in its 40+ history and made JER the richest writer/producer in daytime. And what is even scarrier, most of EPs/network executives till now believes this is the right/modern way to write soaps and forces their own writers to follow the trend.

I tried to watch Passions for several years before disgust caught up with me. This blog entry just provided me with 10x more enjoyment than the whole run of Passions could have. Good job!

Jane78, a lot of people believe that about Sunset Beach as well. While there was a lot of parody in SB, most of the ridiculousness was intended to be serious entertainment.

I've heard it said that Passions was too terrible for it not to be intentional, but I don't think that's true. I think there's something seriously wrong with James E. Reilly, and I hope he leaves daytime television behind him. The only thing worse than Mr. Reilly's writing is the thought of him working with Robert Guza. God help us if Reilly ever goes to ABC.

“Help! *pound pound pound* I’m alive! *pound pound pound* Someone get me out of here! *pound pound pound* LUIS!!! *pound pound pound*…”

That Damn Pit!!! Sheridan was down there for at least a couple of decades, or at least it felt that way. Although that was about the only Passions storyline to have a decent(well any) payoff in the end...Charlie is Alistair was one of my absolute favorite moments!!!

Passions had some great qualities to it, mainly its cast and comedy, but it just got to a point where I couldn't take the never-ending waiting game for a story to wrap up before a new one begain

I'm not sure I enjoyed Sheridan in the pit at the time, but I look back on it rather fondly. So many times, before I quit watching, I wished she'd be thrown back in it.

I will chime in to add that I read somewhere that Sunset Beach is soon/or just was released on DVD by a German company (in German and English). I got hooked on it while living in Austria.....soaps and nature specials are the way to learn a language.

Oh my gosh, Ryan, HYSTERICAL. I never watched Passions (and of course, now I never will... and I always thought of that soap being printed in capitals, unlike the other soaps, as if you had to scream the name : General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, PASSIONS, The Bold and the Beautiful, etc.) but your post had me in tears of laughter. Thanks for the 7-year recap. You watched so I didn't have to!

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