In the 1980s, the top primetime soaps were Dallas, Knots Landing, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest. The following decade, viewers were addicted to Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place.
Top 10 Primetime Soaps You Forgot
There were, however, many other serials during these two decades. Here’s a look back at some shows that may have had short runs but still held a place in your hearts.
1. The Colbys
Timing is everything. A Dynasty spinoff, featuring Jeff Colby’s (John James) relatives in Southern California, sounded like a great idea. However, the series debuted around the time audiences were starting to wane in this popular genre. The show’s breakout star was the divine Stephanie Beacham as Sable Colby, a character so popular she migrated over to Dynasty for its final season.
2. Flamingo Road
Based on the Joan Crawford 1949 film and the book written by Robert Wilder, the TV series starred Cristina Raines as Lane Ballou, a woman who came to Truro, Florida and fell in love with Fielding Carlisle (Mark Harmon). Despite an impressive cast that featured Barbara Rush (Peyton Place), Morgan Fairchild (Dallas), David Selby (Falcon Crest), and Howard Duff (Knots Landing), the show only lasted two seasons. Presumed dead Michael (played by Selby) popped up in the finale in a monastery.
3. Paper Dolls
Soap fans were stunned when this dynamic serial set against the backdrop of the New York modeling world lasted a mere 13 episodes in 1984. The cast included Lloyd Bridges (Seahunt) as cosmetics tycoon Grant Harper, Nicollette Sheridan (Knots Landing) as Taryn, a teen model, and Brenda Vaccaro as her mother Julia. Armed with witty Don Roos-written dialogue, Morgan Fairchild stole every scene as ruthless Racine.
4. The Monroes
This politically-themed (think the Kennedys) series starred William Devane (Knots Landing) and Susan Sullivan (Falcon Crest) as heads of a powerful family. Fans didn’t give this show their vote, however. It lasted one spectacular season in 1996.
5. Pacific Palisades
Aaron Spelling continues to mine various locales in Southern California as the settings for his primetime soaps. This 1997 series starred fan favorites Finola Hughes (Anna, General Hospital) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, The Young and the Restless). Alas, not even the addition of Joan Collins (Dynasty) as Christina could save this one-season soap.
6. The Secrets of Midland Heights
The show’s biggest secret is why wasn’t this one-season early 1980s program a hit? Set against a quiet Midwest university town (the kind with tons of secrets), the program’s cast included the late great Bibi Besch (Doing Time on Maple Drive), Lorenzo Lamas (Falcon Crest), Martha Scott (Dallas), and future Terminator star, Linda Hamilton, in one of her earliest roles.
7. Emerald Point, N.A.S.
This 1984 series was set against a U.S. naval base. The cast included Dennis Weaver (McCloud), Andrew Stevens (Dallas), Richard Dean Anderson (ex-Jeff, General Hospital), and Susan Dey (The Partridge Family), but the show was dishonorably discharged after only one season.
In 1997, Aaron Spelling shifted locales, setting this series in the state of Georgia. Savannah focused on the lives of three best friends — Robin Lively (Lane), Jamie Luner (Peyton), and Shannon Sturges (ex-Molly, Days of our Lives) as Reese. Despite an inviting opening theme that swept you into the splendor of the south and the beauty of the leads, this series lasted only one season.
This one’s a bit of a cheat as Family premiered in 1976, but its finale aired in June 1980, so technically, it earns a spot on this list. The Aaron Spelling serialized family drama told the story of the Lawrence clan as they addressed stories involving parental caretaking, extramarital affairs, homosexuality, May/December romances, alcoholism, shoplifting, and even psychic phenomenon. Sada Thompson (Kate), Gary Frank (Willie), and Kristy McNichol (Buddy) all won Emmys for their roles.
Diana Gould created this short-lived 1985 series about a wealthy family, the Berrenger clan, who owned a department store named — what else — Berrenger’s. Only 11 of the show’s 13 episodes aired. The late Anita Morris was a standout as Barbara “Babs” Berrenger.