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Friday, March 08, 2013

Sunset Beach

Well, that was quite the admission that I made yesterday, wasn’t it?  In case you missed it, you can either click HERE, or just scroll down the page to the next following entry.  You know, something tells me that if I can find a way to stick things out for another half of a year, I could potentially make great things happen.  The idea of paying off the last of my debts in my early thirties is a great feeling to have, and I for one am really looking forward to that September day in which I can finally square away my debt once and for all.

(Mind you, I’ll likely be racking up MORE debt as I proceed through my life, but at the very least, I’m wise enough to know not to throw my money away.  I’ll be using it as an investment for my future, whatever it decides to bring me.)

With the promise of a brighter future ahead in my horizon, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what could be possible as time passes on.  Assuming that I will still be in relatively good health as I proceed through my thirties, and that I don’t have to have any more organs surgically removed from my body, there are quite a lot of things that I still have yet to achieve in my life, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I will eventually be able to experience the many facets of life that many people take for granted.

Here’s a little bit of a confession for you all.  Would you believe that in the near thirty-two years that I’ve been alive, I’ve never once taken what one would consider a “real vacation”? 

I’ve never been on an airplane to visit a country overseas.  I’ve never been away from “home” for more than three days at a time.  I’ve never been to London, New York, Paris, or Munich, but I definitely do a lot of talkin’ ‘bout Pop Musik...


The point is that I’d love to pack up some belongings, hop on an airplane (even though I have never flown before in my life and would likely need to be sedated), and just take off somewhere that I’ve never been.  I’d love to get a view of New York City from the Empire State Building.  I’d love to try a slot machine in a Las Vegas casino once (and more than likely only once).  I have a friend in Florida who is very insistent that I come down for a visit, and maybe come September when I get everything settled on a financial basis, I’ll begin planning that trip.  The point is that I don’t want to sit here wondering what the rest of the world is like.  I want to be a part of that world too.  I’m long overdue for a relaxing vacation.

Of course, I have limits as to where I would want to go.  Any country that’s currently at war is definitely out.  With the latest news about cruise ships tipping over and getting stranded, I’m a little hesitant to book the next cruise to the Caribbean unless I do a LOT of research prior to launching.  And, as much as I would find it exciting to take advantage of that man’s offer to send civilians into outer space, not even I would be able to afford something like that in this lifetime.

And, then there’s the setting of a now-cancelled daytime drama which is the subject of today’s blog.  On the surface, the setting of this soap is calm, peaceful, serene, and beautiful.  I can’t imagine too many people turning their backs on a quiet, little beachfront town.  Of course, if the beachfront town had tidal waves, shipwrecks, earthquakes, ghosts, and supernatural curses, one might reconsider booking a hotel suite there.  I know I certainly would.

And, yet, that’s what one could find in the fictional community of “Sunset Beach”, which coincidentally happens to be the name of the soap opera we’ll be discussing today!

Now, before I continue on with this look back on this short-lived soap opera, I have to make a confession.  I’ve never watched one episode of this program, and am going into this with a very blank slate.  So, this blog entry won’t be as informative as others that I’ve done.  However, I will definitely give credit to Michael G. for giving this blogger the idea!  I just hope that I do you proud!

“Sunset Beach” was created for NBC’s daytime drama schedule in hopes of attracting a younger crowd.  And who better to create a show to attract youth than “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place” producer, Aaron Spelling?

For Spelling, this was no easy task.  He was a master at producing prime-time dramas such as “Dynasty” and “Charlie’s Angels”, but daytime was a whole new world for him.  After all, daytime dramas had their loyal fans, and many would not just blow off twenty plus years of viewing their favourite soaps to check out a brand new series.  Hence the reasoning that by creating a soap opera for youth, they would be more open and flexible to watch a fresh new show, rather than one that had been on the air for decades.

Certainly when “Sunset Beach” debuted on January 6, 1997, it became apparent that the show was targeting teenagers and twentysomethings from the very beginning.  After all, one of the first (and longest-running) storylines of the series began with an online relationship between Kansas farm girl Meg Cummings (Susan Ward) and the mysterious man with the handle “SB”.  Meg began chatting with “SB” after discovering her fiancé, Tim Truman (Dax Griffin) had cheated on her the morning before they were to get married.  The more that Meg chatted with “SB”, the more she felt the need to meet him.  Impulsively, she fled Kansas and arrived in the coastal town of Sunset Beach, California, knowing that Sunset Beach was the place in which “SB” lived. 

At first, it seemed to be a standard soap opera cliché when it was revealed that “SB” was really the incredibly wealthy and handsome Ben Evans (Clive Robertson).  And during the first year of the show, Ben and Meg’s relationship seemed to fall victim to several other exhausted soap clichés, which included the following...

-         A crazed woman, Annie Douglas (Sarah Buxton) who will stop at nothing to steal Ben away from Meg.

-         Meg’s ex-fiance, Tim coming to town to win back Meg from Ben.

-         Ben having an evil twin brother, Derek (Clive Robertson), who did everything to destroy Ben’s life.

-         Ben’s presumed dead wife, Maria (Christina Chambers) really being alive, and suffering from the classic soap malady, amnesia.

You’d think that these ingredients (which have been used in almost every single soap opera that has aired since the 1940s) would create a recipe for boredom.  Of course, you’d think wrong.

You see, “Sunset Beach” was different from a lot of the other soap operas that were on the air at the time.  Unlike most shows which relied on rich storytelling, cleverly plotted cliffhangers, and trying to make the storylines as believable as possible, “Sunset Beach” didn’t take itself as seriously.  As a result, some of the storylines that surfaced were...well...whacked out.

I won’t go into too much detail here, but here’s just a sampling of some of the weirder than normal plots that “Sunset Beach” was known for.

“Terror Island” – several people on a boat cruise ended up stranded on a deserted island where one by one, they were slaughtered by a masked serial killer.  It turned out that the killer was Ben’s twin brother, and the storyline introduced him to the community of Sunset Beach, where he wreaked havoc on Ben and Meg.

“Shockwave” – “Sunset Beach” often did natural disaster storylines very well, and during this storyline which aired during the summer of 1998, it was very well-received by viewers.  It was bad enough that an earthquake shook, rattled, and rolled the community of Sunset Beach, but the force of the earthquake caused a tidal wave which tipped a cruise liner upside down (which sounds strangely like the plot of the 1972 film, “The Poseidon Adventure”).  I’ll admit though that watching clips of that storyline (such as the one below), the show did a fairly decent job with the special effects.  Or, maybe I’m just easily entertained.  

Then there was the storyline in which precious jewels were stolen from a religious icon and those who had touched the gems were destined to die.  Luckily, the storyline resolved itself around the holiday season, and everyone who had laid a hand on the jewels was spared.

Oh of the main villainesses tried to impregnate somebody else using stolen sperm and a turkey baster.  Don’t even begin to ask me how that would even be possible because I’m not entirely sure.

At any rate, despite the producers and writers best efforts to keep "Sunset Beach" fresh with unusual plots and tangled relationships, it was not enough to save the show from cancellation, and the series aired its final episode on December 31, 1999 in an ending that can be best summarized as a cross between "Newhart" and the infamous dream season of "Dallas".  But you have to give them credit for pulling off stories that many other soap operas wouldn't have tackled, and they managed to keep viewers entertained for three years.  And, until "Passions" came around in 1999, "Sunset Beach" was unique in that regard.  

TRIVIA:  Although Sunset Beach wasn't that popular in the United States (it always ranked last in the ratings in the three years the show was on the air), it was wildly popular in the United Kingdom.  When word of the show's cancellation got out, many in the UK attempted to raise money to send to NBC to keep the show on the air!

Oh, and one more final bit of trivia before I close the chapter on "Sunset Beach".  Because Aaron Spelling produced the program, it wasn't uncommon to see alumni of his former creations taking on roles in the series.  Look out for "Beverly Hills 90210"'s Carol Potter, "Dynasty"'s Gordon Thomson, "The Love Boat"'s Bernie Kopell, and Aaron Spelling's own son Randy playing parts in the series.  And, a couple of stars went on to bigger and better things after the conclusion of "Sunset Beach", including Eddie Cibrian (who played Cole Deschanel), and Laura Harring (who played Paula Stevens).

So, that's a wrap on our look back on "Sunset Beach".  A nice place to see, but not exactly one I'd want to live in or vacation in any time soon!

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