When Santa Barbara premiered in 1984, it was a different kind of soap opera. Sure, it had all the features of a typical soap: personal relationships, intrigue, romantic entanglements, emotional and moral conflicts, and family drama — but Santa Barbara also had a twisted sensibility. It was irreverent and comedic and sometimes bizarre. But the show developed a cult following that continues long after its cancellation in 1993.
The Capwells: A Santa Barbara Power Family
The Capwell family was the perfect group of people to center such a soap opera. They weren’t exactly warm, loving, and affectionate. For almost nine years, the Capwells kept fans entertained with their smart and witty banter. Deep down, they did love one another, but get-togethers were tremendous fun because the audience knew that the fur was going to fly.
C.C. Capwell (Peter Mark Richman, Paul Burke, Charles Bateman, Jed Allan) was the wealthy head of this intelligently dysfunctional family. He was a tyrannical patriarch who insisted on things his way. C.C. was brought up in a strict family and presided over the same.
His first marriage to Pamela Pepperidge (Shirley Ann Field, Marj Dusay) dissolved shortly after the birth of their son, Mason (Lane Davies, Terry Lester, Gordon Thomson).
But it was his union with Sophia Wayne (Rosemary Forsyth, Judith McConnell) that would be his great romance and produce the children he was most fond of: Channing Jr. (Robert Wilson), Eden (Marcy Walker), Kelly (Robin Wright, Kimberly McArthur, Carrington Garland, Eileen Davidson) and Ted (Todd McKee, Michael Brainard).
A Soap Opera Comeback
After Sophia was presumed dead, C.C. had a string of women in his life, but Sophia’s return complicated his feelings, as did the revelation that it had been Sophia who accidentally killed their son, Channing Jr. C.C. and Sophia would continue an on/off relationship for the duration of the show.
Mason Capwell grew up feeling like an outsider. He loved his siblings, but he could never earn C.C.’s respect. Father and son butted heads on many occasions, and Mason would often be a one-man Greek Chorus to the goings-on in his family. He was sarcastic and wry and insecure and ironic. But when he fell in love with ex-nun Mary Duvall (Harley Jane Kozak), it looked like his life was finally headed in the right direction.
Tragically, Mary was killed on the rooftop of the Capwell Hotel when the giant letter C from the huge neon sign fell on her — a unique death in soap opera history. Mason was devastated. Fortunately, he found the great love of his life in Julia Wainwright (Nancy Lee Grahn). Mason and Julia had an arrangement whereby he would donate his sperm for the child that Julia wanted. He insisted on doing it “the old fashioned way” and a beautiful, heated and crazy love story began.
It was Channing Capwell, Jr., C.C.’s first-born son with Sophia, who was adored most by his father and the son that C.C. hoped would take up the mantle of family leader and patriarch. So when Channing Jr. was killed, C.C. was devastated. He was even more devastated to learn, years later, that Channing Jr. wasn’t his biological son. He was the son of C.C.’s arch-enemy, Lionel Lockridge (Nicolas Coster). Not only that, but he had also been switched at birth — their real son was Brick Wallace (Richard Eden).
A Santa Barbara Heroine
Eden Capwell was the eldest daughter of the family. When she fell in love with police officer Cruz Castillo (A Martinez), their on again-off again relationship provided Santa Barbara with its most popular love story. But she had a darkness to her when it was revealed that as a child, she had witnessed her mother and Lionel’s affair. Unable to deal, she developed DID — Dissociative Identity Disorder and after wreaking havoc, she eventually left town to keep her loved ones safe.
Younger sister Kelly Capwell was the delicate and vulnerable child of the family. She’d once been engaged to Joe Perkins (Dane Witherspoon, Mark Arnold), but he was sent to jail after being convicted of the murder of her brother, Channing Jr. Years after his release, and after he’d been exonerated, the two were wed. Tragically, Joe was killed by a jealous insane ex of Kelly’s. Kelly continued looking for love for the duration of Santa Barbara’s run, but she never seemed to be lucky in that area.
Ted Capwell was the youngest son of the family, and the most carefree. Early on, he was involved in a Romeo and Juliet-type love story with Laken Lockridge (Julie Ronnie, Susan Marie Snyder, Shell Danielson), the daughter of Lionel Lockridge, C.C.’s enemy. Their romance was not meant to be and Ted embarked on one adventure after another, seeming to always get in trouble while trying to do good.
No story about the Capwells would be complete without including Gina DeMott (Linda Gibboney, Robin Mattson). Gina was the adopted mother of young Brandon DeMott (Scott Curtis, Brandon Call), but in actuality, Brandon was the biological son of Channing Jr. Gina came to Santa Barbara and created chaos in everybody’s life, particularly C.C.’s and Mason’s.
The Capwells were a strong soap opera family, and when push came to shove, this family would stand united. Only afterward would they kill each other.