A few soap operas saw their final year in the 1990s. One, a longtime favorite, and a few relative newbies bit the dust. Plus, the medium began delving into more issue-related plots, while incorporating fantastical storytelling into the mix, too. Here’s a look at the top 10 facts about 1990s soap operas.
The Roaring 90s For Soap Operas
1. Spin City
When ratings began to falter on Loving in 1995, ABC canceled the series, but then asked new head writers James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten to salvage some components of the soap. A spin-off called The City was created, and the action moved from Upstate New York’s Corinth to New York City, with a few key characters in tow.
2. Their Last Stand
Daytime fans waved goodbye to five soaps during the decade. After a less than 2-year run, Generations wrapped in 1991. Santa Barbara ended in 1993, after 8-1/2 years. Loving met its demise in 1995, while The City lasted until 1997. Another World, which had debuted in 1964, was canceled in 1999. Sunset Beach finished a 3-year stint in 1999.
3. Entering the Fray
FOX decided to delve into the soap opera business in 1990, debuting Tribes on March 5, 1990 at 6:30 pm. Created by veteran soap writer Leah Laiman, the series was targeted at a teen audience and contracted for a 13-week run. It aired for 19.
4. Stuck in the Studio
Mob plots and big action and adventure stories fell out of favor with producers during the decade, as declining ratings meant big budget cuts. Soaps were no longer able to go on the lavish location shoots they’d enjoyed during the 1980s. Hence, all the drama had to take place within the studio confines.
5. Shifting Gears
There was a bigger focus on younger characters and social issues. All My Children’s Erica (Susan Lucci) battled drug addiction. A terminally ill Casey (Bill Shanks) fought for the right to die with dignity on As the World Turns. General Hospital teenagers Stone (Michael Sutton) and Robin (Kimberly McCullough) battled HIV and AIDS.
6. Crossing Over
After running her course as evil nurse Sheila Carter on The Young and the Restless for two years, Kimberlin Brown took her diabolical act on the road to CBS sister soap The Bold and the Beautiful in 1992. The dramatic crossover allowed the consummate villain to keep driving the story and wreaking havoc in a new town. And it worked as she wed Eric (John McCook) and put numerous new lives at risk.
7. Devil and the Doctor
Days of our Lives head writer James E. Reilly decided to think outside the box to up ratings in 1995 and scripted a devil possession plot for Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall), complete with lots of special effects and culminating with an exorcism. It worked. The outrageous tale brought great attention and publicity to the soap, and viewers watched in droves.
8. Supernatural Soaps
DAYS wasn’t the only soap to take a walk on the wild side. So did Port Charles, which debuted in 1997, and Passions, which premiered in 1999. The two shows featured supernatural characters, like vampires, witches, and angels, and dealt with fantasy and horror plots.
9. The Heart Transplant
General Hospital told one of the most emotional stories on 1990s soap operas when young Maxie needed a heart transplant. Her cousin, B.J., ended up the donor, after being declared brain dead following a school bus accident. The gut-wrenching tale depicted parents, Tony (Brad Maule) and Bobbie (Jacklyn Zeman), agreeing to take their daughter off life support and donate her heart to Maxie.
10. A Victim of Rape
A powerful plot about violence and sexual abuse took center stage on One Life to Live in 1993, when Marty (Susan Haskell), a privileged and promiscuous college student, became the victim of a brutal gang rape. Inspired by the increase in assaults on university campuses, the story was deemed one of the most daring ever attempted in the daytime, and garnered Emmys for Haskell, Roger Howarth, who played Todd, Hilary B. Smith, who played Nora, and the show’s writing team.