Series: Sunset Beach

The craziest soap on the box.

Quite possibly the definitive Guilty Pleasure of daytime soaps, at least until it was unseated by Passions. (Like Passions, SB started out as fairly mundane, before removing sanity at a steady pace). It ran just shy of three years, airing from January 6, 1997 to December 31, 1999.

Had a particularly large fandom in the United Kingdom during its heyday, a surprise given how American daytime TV (as opposed to prime time) traditionally has a hard time in the UK. Such was its popularity over there that petitions were sent to the UK broadcaster (Channel Five) begging them to have it uncancelled. Wobbly scenery, dodgy dialogue and woeful acting abound.

The plot centered on southern-fried ingenue Meg, who, after discovering that her fiancé was cheating on her on their wedding day, packed her bags and left for California to meet a Handsome Stranger™ with whom she'd been conversing via e-mail. (Just go with it.) Our mystery man turns out to be Ben Evans, a mover and shaker in Sunset Beach. At first, she found Ben withdrawn and unsociable, which she later discovered was due to the accidental (sic) drowning of his first wife at sea. Meg had a rival for Ben's affections in his childhood friend, Annie Douglas, who joins forces with Meg's ex to split them up and share the spoils.

A second plotline revolved around the Richards family, led by high-powered attorney Gregory Richards who also ran the newspaper for which Meg now worked. His wife Olivia (e.g. Joan Collins on peyote buttons) was a secret drunk and barely allowed out in public. Their daughter Caitlin got involved in a torrid love affair with Cole Deschanel, an ex-con whom Gregory hated and with whom Olivia slept with without realizing his connection to her daughter. The Richards storyline was more engrossing and had better acting, and so grew to dominate the show.

The third plotline involved a local lifeguard, Michael (later a sports physician), who starts up a romance with Vanessa, another journalist at the Sentinel (Meg's workplace). Their relationship was threatened by Virginia, a schemer who defied soap convention by being both black and a single mom. The axis of Virginia's plot rested on Vanessa's estranged mother and an exotic, disfiguring disease which is passed down through her family.

Other notable characters included: Olivia's friend Bette, dispenser of town gossip, sage advice, and Lucille Ball zingers; Det. Ricardo Torres, Ben's brother-in-law who refused to rest until he's put away forever; Madame Carmen, she of the Tarot cards and stupid accent (¡Dios mía!); Francesca Vargas, who had seemingly been training her whole life to be a chalk outline; a masked slasher with a fish hook; and, err... Casey! He's blond.

Tropes featured in the show:

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  • Adopt the Dog:
    • Gabi's breakdown on the witness stand.
    • Annie roping the Richards kids into forgiving their mother.
  • All Just a Dream: Parodied in the series finale.
    • Following the double wedding of Meg and Ben & Michael and Vanessa, Meg wakes up back in Ludlow on the eve of her wedding to Tim. In a homage to The Wizard of Oz, she realizes that the past three years in Sunset Beach have been a dream, and that the characters in the show were actually her friends and family back home... only to wake up from THAT dream and reappear in bed with Ben. *Cue Rod Sterling/Patrick Duffy/Inception horn*
    • It was all worth it for the ladies' horrible southern accents, y'all.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: The Series
    • Ben/Gregory, who stare through Annie like a potted plant.
    • It's hard not feel sorry for Tyus: he's such a great man and risks his own life to save Vanessa's and Michael's. Yet he's friendzoned forever. Poor forever alone Tyus.
    • In the hospital during the earthquake storyline, we spot Olivia gazing longingly at Gregory while hugging AJ.
    • AJ ribs Bette about her finding "the one" several times—seven, in fact. Bette gives him a somber smile, hinting that AJ was the one from the start. She's not interested in AJ mend fences with Olivia, so she tries to remind him of his old high-flying life—but of course the logic backfires, because she's just as loose and just as lonely.
    • The look on Casey's face when Meg runs straight into Ben's following Derek's initial defeat. He looks defeated, too.
    • Likewise, Sara is (rightly) pissed because Casey is only using her as a stepladder to get close to Meg.
  • Always Someone Better: While pondering how to combat Gregory in court ("If GOD were her attorney, she wouldn't win this." —-Gregory), Olivia gets a phone call from an old friend, Barbara "Barbie" Birch. Barbie is another rich woman who lost touch with Olivia when they both became "trophy wives". Barbie suggests that she gather some ammunition against Gregory, and offers to hook her up with her a fancy-pants lawyer, Les Gordon. He's the only lawyer to ever win a case again Gregory, a fact Gordon reminds him of over the phone (which Gregory nearly throws in anger). He's fuming just thinking about it. Gordon says a few magic words and instantly springs Olivia and Bette from jail.
    Bette: He is good.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me:
    • In order to throw Ricardo off his scent, Eddie arranges Paula's kidnapping and hires a redneck ex-con to help engineer her rescue, but the kidnapper has other plans. Plans which include warped organ music and a ratty VW bus painted JUST MARRIED.
    • After getting "rescued" and re-imprisoned in a (second!) dungeon by Diana Wood, Ben finds himself dressed in a tux and laid out in a coffin while Diane twirls around in a black wedding dress to the Jonathan Creek theme ("Dance Macabre").
  • Always Save the Girl:
    • For all his faults, Tim is not a coward, unlike that stupid nurse who fled because he was too afraid to die in the earthquake instead of helping Dana/Maria. Now Tim is the rescuer, using a wooden beam to tear down the debris and save Dana despite having being comatose for months. What a miracle! Tim just might be the daytime Jesus—in hospital whites. He has risen.
    • Annie, Maria, and Meg: Ben is always riding off to rescue one or the other, to the annoyance of the remaining two.
    • When Maria tries to hitchhike from the hospital, two dudebros in yacht pants drive a convertible. They proceed to try and rape her on the beach in broad daylight(!); Ben appears from nowhere and beats up the rapists with Ricardo's help.
    • Greg leaves AJ to rot in the quake, but is willing to risk his BMW exploding in his face to pry Olivia loose.
    • Lampshaded by Annie. She says she can't buy into Cole's "knight in shining armor" act (calling him "Lancelot") and thinks he's being paranoid and possessive. Apparently not, as Cole arrives in the nick of time to save Caitlin from sticks of dynamite. Sometimes you just can't get rid of a bomb kids.
      Olivia: You almost got my daughter blown into confetti.
  • Amoral Attorney:
    • Jaws music should be playing when Gregory enters a courtroom.
    • Olivia can't leave Gregory without losing her children, her money, or being thrown into a sanitarium. Both parties have extramarital affairs under their belts, but Gregory controls the purse-strings and no litigator can hope to compete with him.
    • Not long after Caitlin's supposedly deadly car crash, Ricardo—who engaged Gregory to defend him against Gabi's rape charges—tries to call Gregory off. Not because he's a grieving man who can't handle the job, but because Ricardo knows he's out for blood.
    • D.A. Bette Steele. Just as Ricardo starts to believe Ben's story about his twin brother, the D.A. circumvents him and locks Ben up.
    • Steele shows up again when Caitlin is caught handling the gun from Fran's shooting. She goes along with Catelin's statement, despite her obvious lack of mental faculties, and tells Cole to butt out. Caitlin gives a bogus confession with no salient details. Steele is happy to take it and close the case. When Caitlin pleads insanity, the scummy D.A. thanks her for making her job easy. ("You know, it does not make any sense to shoot the one person in the world who knows where your son is.") She knows the confession is total B.S. and swallows it anyway! When Sean intervenes on his sister's behalf, Steele threatens to charge Sean with obstructing her investigation if continues meddling.
      Gregory: They got a confession in their hands! All they see is an easy conviction!
    • When Francesca's true killer is found, a frustrated Annie points out that they gave the D.A. the killer "on a silver platter". The D.A. is not being cooperative because it was, legally, entrapment. The voice modulator could also have faked Gregory's voice. Hence the tape is declared valid. The DA still threatens to arrest them if they cross her path again. She also pretty much threatens to fabricate charges against them. Your tax dollars at work.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing:
    • Numerous Annie dreams, particularly her "wake" scene. At first, Annie mistakes it for Francesca's wake and mills about the room, observing with delight that it feels more like a party! She then peeks in the casket and sees herself, screaming.
      Antonio: (performs a Hail Mary, pauses) I can't even bless her corpse!
      Olivia and Caitlin *clink glasses*
      Ricardo: I have never seen a cleaner case of justifiable homicide!
    • Search For Dignity: In Annie's Golden Age TV fantasy, everyone breaths a sigh of relief when they hear that Annie is in an irrecoverable coma. ("THANK HEAVENS.")
    • Annie's electrocution on Jerry Springer is celebrated with game show prize music, falling balloons and confetti. The ladies even fight over who gets to pull the switch. Devil Gregory chuckles evilly; Cailtin hops for joy; Francesca gives a Sonic the Hedgehog wink & thumbs up to the camera. (Note also Fran's middle finger on the throw switch.)
    • Nobody seems to mourn Francesca. Greg and AJ even smirk evilly as they witness her demise! A few scenes later, everyone reconvenes at the hospital. "Is she DEAD?" Olivia demands, not looking particularly innocent. Caitlin: "I won't be able to sleep anyway. Not until she's dead." Annie offers some fat free vending machine chips to Olivia, who refers to Fran as "that insufferable Vargas creature".
      Ricardo: She's alive. (deafening silence from the room) Your concern is very touching.
    • Annie just says what she thinks. On any other show, Annie would act soppy for one episode, then go back to being a hater... not here. She won't pretend she's going to "miss" Caitlin after her car wreck, and what's more, she's going to exploit it for another zany scheme.
    • Annie later expressed her wish she could donate Gregory's body to science (but doubted that they'd even take it).
    • Sean quips that his father's wake it's turning into "a state funeral" with all of Gregory's enemies in attendance up to make sure he's dead. Even Antonio strains to say something nice about the guy. When it's Cate's turn to speak, she gives Annie a piece of her mind. Cait thinks it's up to her to stand up and defend Gregory's memory, if only because someone ought to.
  • Apocalyptic Log:
    • Maria's diary entries, which were secretly forged by Annie. She makes Ben sound like some kind of wife-beating lunatic.
    • Gregory reading through Olivia's love letters from when they were courting. They're splitsville two years into the marriage.
  • Apologetic Attacker:
    • Gregory is just as scary when he's feeling vulnerable. It’s the face a sad jaguar makes before it eats you.
    • Annie is sniffling and almost apologetic when she reverse-blackmails Gregory with Trey's test results Much later on, Gregory apologizes to her softly preparing to stage her murder-suicide in the plant. "You've just given me no choice...."
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Michael, always. Why does he counter everything Vanessa says with 'Maybe you AREN'T READY to move in with me!' It's Paula all over again.
    • In true Irwin Allen fashion, nobody listens to Ricardo's survival plans on the Neptune, not even the crew. "The guy's suicidal! And he wants to take YOU with him!" Anybody else would leave these jackholes to their fate.
  • Arc Words: ''If the moon rises early and the Santa Anna winds kick up out of nowhere then the moment the sun drops out of the sight the first person you see on the other side of the pier is the person you're destined to be with. (In this case, it's Ben, Cole, and the big fella Maria runs into in the last episode.)
  • Archenemy:
    • Cole/Gregory and Vanessa/Virginia.
    • One of the highlights of the show are the Cole/Greg pissing contests, trading insults with the same gravity as Superman and Lex Luthor. Gregory is disappointed when he greets his son-in-law in the living room one morning, and Cole speeds right past him. "Come on, Cole, spar with me!"
    • Gabby and Carmen screeching at each other in Spanglish.
    • Annie alternates between her feuds with Meg Cummings and Olivia. The latter took precedence during the Richards' inheritance squabble. They later become frenemies and team up to bring down Tobias Richards.
  • Artifact of Attraction: A weirdo cult has sprouted up around the Rosario jewels, which includes Bernie and Hillary. They were told to "guard [the sapphires] well", which they didn't, since Cole took them. Since then, everyone involved in the group has been acting strangely. Francesca suggests that Phillip's mania may have been caused by the Rosario curse, too.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: The original South Bay set really takes one's breath away. It's a wonder that no one phones calling the Environmental Protection Agency. What a discreet place to have an abortion: in the middle of the triage, with the door flapping in the breeze, the stirrups sticking out into the lobby and people barging in every five seconds.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Tiffany, the vagabond girl, has a witty line in her pilot:
    Brad: Where'd you crash last night?
    Tiff: With Brad Pitt.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: The final showdown with "Tobias Richards" (Just call him Santa Claus) at the Sunset Beach power plant, circa Winter '99. Derek Evans is also apprehended and killed by Ben during this period. The story finally wraps up with a Christmas wedding.
  • Assassin Outclassin':
    • The dude hired to kill Cole is the stupidest assassin ever. Hope you got a good deal on that guy, Gregory.
    • An assassin who lunges at his target, when they are both standing on the edge of a cliff but doesn't realize that even if he does hit the target, they'll both crash on the rocks below? It's flattery calling him stupid.
    • Upon hearing of a cliffside murder, and assuming it's Cole: "A male... how horrible... how did he die?" Once more with feeling, Gregory.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.
    • In Terror Island, Jade gets disemboweled right off the boat.
    • Also from T.I.: Did anybody really care at the time that Elizabeth got killed? She was a spoiled brat and was there purely to start the bodycount.
  • The Atoner:
    • Michael, clearing the streets, one crackhead at a time! We later learn that Michael was the rival gang-banger who shot Virginia's husband (and Jimmie's father). In penance, he took up Jackson's parenting role.
    • Antonio reveals that he is splitting the Titanic II charity cruise money with his old, disgraced parish. He was run out of Rosario after allowing Francesca and her partner in crime, Phillip, to run off with the Madonna and it's jewels. At Antonio's urging (and in response to Cole apparently drowning in a flooded passageway on the ship), Francesca makes "a promise to God" to return what she stole. Francesca eventually had the completed Madonna mailed off to its place of origin, but she didn't leave town; so, she did keep the promise but did not reform.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral:
    • Annie pays a visit to her own wake in Ben's bar. In true slattern fashion, her memorial photo is wearing a tiger print top. She also attends her funeral in a nightmare, watching helplessly as everyone parties like it's 1999.
    • Gregory manages to attend his own while dressed up as a monk. He makes a commotion by kicking something over on his way out, and Cole tries to nab him, thinking he might be a tabloid reporter. Silly Antonio calls him off, claiming it's a monk who's there on retreat and can't speak.
  • Attention Whore:
    • Annie grouses that the town would throw a parade if a crazed gunman made of with her instead of Caitlin. Yes, she is actually envious that Francesca's murderer didn't kidnap her too.
    • In a moment of self-reflection, Annie admits she used to make crank calls 'every ten minutes" in her teens. She also harried her workaholic father, Del, by tossing away his golf clubs and misplacing his phone messages.
      Annie: Somewhere along the line, I figured that if I just would act up enough then I would get more attention.
  • Awful Wedded Life:
    • Gregory and Olivia. The marriage is a sham; a parody of Pygmalion, with Gregory taking credit for lifting Olivia "out of the gutter" and dolling her up into a society woman. There is more than a touch of Eliza Doolittle to the character thanks to the casting of LAD.
    • Annie doesn't fare much better, despite her persistent efforts to make it work. "This marriage has a been a thrill a minute."
    • After Colivia comes to light, Annie is still holding out for a "new beginning" between her and Gregory. She raises a toast at Grenedine's. Greg sighs through clenched teeth, waits a moment and knocks her glass to the other side of the restaurant with a gigantic SMASH. In a heart-to-heart with Maria Annie calls the glass "a hand grenade in the ongoing war" between the two. Pained chuckle, as if this is a victory.
  • Back for the Finale:
    • Despite giving up the ghost, Dax Sherpard agreed to come back for Meg's dream sequence in Kansas.
    • Cole was apprehended again by Scotland Yard but was sprung from jail in time for the finale.
  • Bad Liar:
    • Annie is a practiced blackmailer, but woeful liar.
    • Realizing that a second paternity test might reveal Gregory as Trey's father (and giving Olivia the leverage to boot her out into the street), Annie tries to convinces Cole that a second test isn't worth the risk. Cole: "Anything you don't want me do MUST be worth doing."
    • While fishing through her purse, Annie drops an incriminating handkerchief belonging to A.J. next to a hospital payphone. A nurse retrieves the hanky and helpfully gives it to Annie. "WHAT DID YOU HEAR", she squeals to the room.
      Nurse: Try to do someone a favor!
    • Post-shark attack Melinda turns on the waterworks, drying her tears on her lawyer's necktie while demanding Sara be arrested for attempted murder. "I was brilliant. They can cast me as ME in my movie." What an ego.
    • Gabi goes fishing around Antonio to find the source of his troubles. "Let me's a woman." Antonio: "NowwhatmakesyouthinkImtroubledbyawoman!?"
  • Badass Family: The Deschanels. Armando was the aristocratic founder of Sunset Beach and something of a legend between the sheets.
  • Bastard Understudy:
    • Del Douglas was more of a father to Gregory than Gregory's own father was. Gregory repaid his generosity by trying to murder him and frame Del's daughter for the crime. A year later, he enters into a marriage of convenience with Annie (who is unaware of his skullduggery) for the purpose of stealing her inheritance, the Liberty Corporation stock.
    • Phillip calls Cole "his former protege": he taught Cole how to steal, and how to woo. This backfired when Cole bedded his wife.
  • The Beard:
    • Gregory admits he only keeps Annie around because back-to-back divorces would be damaging to his profile.
      "I care more about Spike, and I'm allergic to the little mongrel."
    • In his paranoia, Wheelchair-bound hisses out at Gabi that she's waiting for him to die. He thinks he's just The Beard for her to carry on with his brother.
  • Beard of Sorrow:
    • Ben's sadness stubble. Once when Meg dumps him, and again when he sees her smooching Casey under the pier.
    • Cole proposes a separation from Caitlin for lying to him about Trey. Adding to his misfortunes, Cailtin finds out about Colivia from Gregory, who gladly seizes custody of Trey. Cole is growing a stubble by that point.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Tiffany looks pretty fit for a street rat.
    • A solid month of confinement in a dungeon and Ben's hair is slightly disheveled. His hair product finally expired.
    • After 40 episodes, Ben doesn't feel hungry, never grows stubble, and sits obediently in the chair as though he hasn't even attempted to free himself. Oh, and he must be pretty smelly by that point. How many times Ben has relieved himself since he's been tied up? He should be sporting a railroad tycoon beard.
    • In the aftermath of back-to-back earthquakes, everyone's hair is still perfect.
    • On that note: How the hell did no one get mascara running on that sinking ship?
    • Tim rises from his coma looking better than when he entered it: perfect hair and body.
    • Francesca's face is fully made up, when she is at death's door. This one is actually lampshaded in Annie's daydream. Fran wears a red teddy and eats bon bons(!) as she goads Annie over her imminent arrest.
      Annie: (livid) That will never happen because this is MY fantasy!
  • Bed Trick: Derek never got to have sex with Maria, he only let Ben think it. He did rape her though in the art studio, claiming she was "leading him on". Sure.
    • Ben's evil twin seduces Meg by pretending to be Ben, essentially raping her. Even worse, he forces Ben to watch through a two-way mirror. Pretty skeezy, your brother's watching you getting on...
    • This is a reversal of a plot that occurred in the show's first year, when Meg broke into Ben's house and dressed up as his dead wife Maria, and later had sex with him after he'd suffered a serious brain injury and believed he was with Maria. Although Meg knew Ben was delusional and believed she was Maria, she decided to go through with sex with him anyway. When Ben discovered weeks later that he had slept with Meg, he was not upset, only unhappy she was so upset he didn't realize they'd slept together.
  • Being Evil Sucks:
    • By the series finale, Annie is disheartened and worn out from the villain biz.
    • When all's said and done, all Gregory wants is to hold his family together, which makes him one of the more tragic characters because he simply cannot see how all the horrible things he does prevents that.
  • Best Served Cold:
    • Gregory's a shark. No one crosses him and survives.
    • Gregory roasts Annie over a spit for one torturous month before finally revealing that he knows about Trey's kidnapping. The "Mr. Blackmailer" routine is a way of getting answers, all the dirt Gregory needs to wind the clock back a year: Caitlin, Olivia, and Trey all under his roof. They've been free of his control too long. Gregory also wants revenge for Gregory Junior's "death", which led to his public meltdown and the loss of his wife and three children, all because of Annie. Greg's not happy that Olivia let him go on thinking Trey was dead, so she gets the axe too.
    • Gregory can't think of a better revenge on Cole than stealing the son that he and Olivia created, "the son that should have been mine", and raise him as his own. He keeps the truth about Colivia in his front pocket, waiting to spring it on everyone once Trey's DNA results some to light. Olivia and Cole lose big, and Gregory comes out looking like roses; perfect for his upcoming custody battle.
    • Annie pinning Gregory dead to rights on murder, then kicking him right in the junk!
      "That was better than any lovemaking we ever had!"
    • Fugitive Gregory hisses that "Cole and Annie will pay."
    • Derek's outrageous plan to discredit Ben, drive him to despair, then seize his riches. His second scheme is even more drawn out.
    • Mysterious benefactor is funding the charity cruise, who is he? Antonio doesn't know who's behind it. This is actually Cole's ex mentor, who wants to ruin him. Phillip works in "investments" with a "collector's" interest in jewelry and art, no doubt why he's on the boat. The cruise ship also has a casino, the perfect trap! Phillip makes Fran walk in on Cole having sex in the storeroom, just as Philip caught her with Cole in flagrante in a hotel room. He is still fuming over their betrayal.
    • Finally Annie gets a taste of her own lies and schemes when Olivia pretends to befriend/console her only to rub Gregory's prenuptial agreement in her face. She got exactly what she deserves and more. Olivia couldn't have said it better, who could love a creature like "It".
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • For Ben, Meg was the Betty and interchangeably Annie/Maria were his Veronicas. For Meg, Ben was her Veronica and Tim was her Betty.
    • Amy and Emily. Amy is the gold digger superficial blonde, Emily is the spunky brunette who trained with Sean at the lifeguard program
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Father Fit is sexy when he's angry.
    • Casey, the asskicking best man! He ejects Annie/Tim and threatens to tie them up if they show their faces in the chapel again, "house of the Lord or not!"
    • Casey literally THROWS Tim out of Surf Central when he catches him jawing with his girl. Tim nearly leaves earth.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Olivia predicts that Annie plans to "take over Sunset beach" with Greg's money, but that she doesn't know Gregory's will cuts Annie out of the estate entirely.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Ricardo thinks Ben should remain faithful to Maria even in death (and stay true to her once she reappears). He is not happy with Ben remarrying in the same church, or with Antonio for performing the ceremony.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Tim falls from the scaffold in instant-replay, complete with cuts and slow-motion repeats of "NOOOOO (drumroll), NOOOOOOO (drumroll), nooooo (drumroll), noooooooo (*crash! tinkle tinkle*)"
    • Carmen watching her son's illicit sex tape. "ANTONIO! POR QUE! NOOOOHOOO—"
    • Later repeated with Ricardo seeing the tape!
    • In sickbed, Ricardo screams NO and immediately starts choking bitches! In his dream that is.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family:
    • Scenes with the Douglases are surreal. They're living cartoons.
    • The Richards family is a very confused, unhappy, lying family. If Caitlin were give up Trey to her parents that kid's life will be ruined before it starts. They are horrible at raising children.
    Cole: You know, Sean, have you ever noticed that it's an unspoken rule in this house that nobody is allowed to be happy?
    • Annie soon regrets installing herself in the Richards mansion, particularly during the Varas murder case.
      Annie: Of course they'll try to blame me! I live in a house of barracudas.
    • Annie may have been right for one time in her life when accused all of the Richards of using her as "a scapegoat" to make themselves look like angels, when in reality, she's no worse than any of them. As if in accidental agreement, Caitlin slugs her in front of everyone and Bette has to pull them apart. This family is FUBAR.
    • Gregory has quite a sorry domestic situation, to say the least. He doesn't really get along with his kids. He doesn't trust his wife. It really sad to think that Gregory keeps having kids in the hopes ONE won't hate him.
      Olivia: All I'll ever ask of him is to let me love him. I will accept all of his flaws and you will never be able to do that, you see, you can't. You can't do it. It is not in you Gregory.
    • Gregory (still dressed for work) attempts to make the best of it at Christmastime, inviting the whole family to dinner and leading a toast. "Even resisting the urge to strangle Cole with my bear hands..." Now that is the definition of self-sacrifice. And to all a Merry Christmas.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Olivia enjoys playing the wilting flower, but underneath is a very cutthroat woman.
    • Virginia is a demon in disguise. She pretends to bury the hatchet with Vanessa in order to set her up with an OBGYN with whom Virgina has criminal ties.
    • Tess is the most sickeningly-sweet woman on the planet; all pink outfits and ice cream. Cue another Stopped Clock remark from Annie:
      Annie: She's too nice. And people like that, you can't trust them.
    • It's hysterical how, when asked about Sara, Tess pauses suggestively and describes her as ".........strident." Classic.
    • It's explicitly revealed that Tess is manipulating Tim. She's pleasantly surprised to have "lovestruck" Tim doing the "dirty work" she can't be caught doing.
    • Parodied in Annie's dreams. Fran shows up on Springer wearing a beauty pageant dress, opera gloves, a tiara, and carrying a black rose. (Big pops from the audience.) She uses her sash to reenact her choking by AJ, makes a finger gun to accuse Olivia, does finger "horns" to imitate Gregory, and makes fun of Cate's SoCal accent.
      Fran: I was an Innocent! Blameless! Sacrificial lamb! And I became a women of courage! (audience: Yeah!) Of strength! (YEAH!) Of integrity! (YAY!)
  • Blackmail:
    • Fran order Gabi to steal evidence from the police locker (specifically the 200 Gs embezzled from Gregory's development company) and give it to her. Otherwise she'll leak the sex tape.
    • Gabi faints at the altar after Carmen ruffles and taps her envelope suggestively. Carmen is a nutter, she would totally do it...moreover she has God on her side! This is the Old Testament God you're dealing with.
    • Gregory's 'campaign contribution' to a philandering politician in order to secure an alibi for Olivia. Smoothly executed.
    • Annie offers to disappear if Olivia pays her off — a "mutually acceptable price". Otherwise she goes to tabloids with her Colivia story, and collects the money another way. Annie probes her most vulnerable spot, Trey's reputation, expecting that she'll buckle. Instead, Olivia prepares to bash Annie to death with a metal figurine. Annie may be shameless....but Olivia is crazy.
  • Bland-Name Product: Ah the inevitable 90s Viagra episode. "Niagra"?
  • Blondes Are Evil: No paucity of these. The only non-evil blonde would seem to be Caitlin; she underwent a Hazy Feel Turn in the Second Season, but nothing came of it.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity:
    • "I'm getting bored of your melodramatic delays." Ben-1, Derek-Nil.
    • There is a partial excuse given for Derek's inaction. He needs Ben alive to glean the location of his assets, passwords, and the odd memory in case someone asks a question about their past. ("What good is my life without my money?")
    • Phillip's long-winded monologue while holding Cole at gunpoint.
    • Even Gregory falls prey to this. On the rare occasions he had a weapon and Cole at his mercy, he always bungled it. Lampshaded with Fake-Francesca at the plant.
      Gregory: You see, Francesca, it's the one that's holding the Gun that gets to do all the talking; those are the rules.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Bette over the course of this series. Even at her age, having seen it all, she's still reduced to tears on a few occasions.
    • Vanessa watching her whole world crumble in just a few weeks. Virginia made sure of that.
    • Antonio is almost relieved after he and Gabi have sex, having gotten it all out of their systems. Now the real torture begins.
    • Sara's slow realization that that she is nothing more than a Meg Cummings blow-up doll.
  • Briefcase Full of Money:
    • Vanessa's suitcase of proofs on the South Central money launderers.
    • The Deschanel Jewels were squirreled away in Del's suitcase for a rainy day.
    • Annie's blackmail payoff suitcase. Caitlin beats a mugger over the head with with it! Hey Caitlin, ever consider a career in the WWE?
  • Busman's Holiday: The charity cruise, all to raise donations for Antonio's old mission in Mexico. Casey talks Sara into attending on a lark, because she deserves a break from the paparazzi.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Oh, Annie! Pobrecita! (As Carmen would say.) She's like a times square hooker left out in the rain.
    • Poor Ben, shuffled from one delusional, melodramatic kidnapper to another, under constant threat of death from an evil doppelganger who appears to be some kind of failed magician (with his knowledge of two way mirrors, holograms, disguises and misdirection). Living in a town where there's only one police officer, who already has it in for you for killing his sister. He really should have remained in London.

  • Cain and Abel:
    • Ben and Derek. Derek's only aim in life is to ruin his brother's. Ben thought Derek was drowned along with Maria in the boat accident. The headaches Ben kept getting were a sign that Derek was back in town.
    • In season three, Ricardo attempts to stage his own "murder" and skip town while Ricardo takes the fall for it. He succeeds, but eventually confesses to the police once he realizes just how evil he's becoming.
  • California Doubling:
    • There is an actual Sunset Beach, but they filmed it next door at Seal Beach. So they managed to set it in California and still get it wrong.
    • Gotta love ''Sunset Beach''s version of Monte Carlo, aka the most boring roulette table ever seen on national TV. THIS is Cole being wild and hedonistic?
    • A restaurant table is all we ever see of "Washington, D.C." Melinda flies here periodically to meet with her publicist.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • About the most exciting thing to happen to Randy Spelling (Sean) over the course of the show was an assassin mistaking him for Cole and garroting him—not fatally, though. This was the final break with his father, who hired the hit.
    • After Gregory falls to his apparent death at sea, Sean is pretty shaken. He confides to Emily that he hated his father yet loved him, even though Gregory wasn't worthy of being loved by anybody.
    • Cole has pent-up anger at his dad for dumping Elaine and never even keeping in touch. He still addresses his father as "AJ".
  • The Cameo:
    • J. Peterman himself, John O'Hurley, as the smarmy host of Wheel of Misfortune, a death panel dressed up as a quiz show (in Annie's dream).
    • In two other fantasies, Annie and her rogues gallery are invited onto the Leeza Gibbons shows and, later, Jerry Springer. Waking up with a fright, Annie is greeted at the door by Jerry (for real) who introduces himself as a census-taker right before she decks him.
    • Micheal's personal trainer at the spa is BILLY BLANKS. Truly timeless storytelling. The Tae-Bo guy!
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' :
    • Gregory thinks Annie is a budding criminal genius like her father, and yet every single one of her plans goes completely tits-up on her.
    • Paul was a old flame of Annie's during her six week stint in law school. Seems she spent more time banging Paul than studying. She gets a rude awakening when Paul, now a successful attorney, informs her that she is still an accessory to kidnapping—even if she exposed Gregory's false paternity test—because she didn't speak out about it sooner.
      "I must have missed that chapter." - Annie Douglas, legal wizard.
  • Captain Ersatz:
  • Card-Carrying Villain:
    • Annie never sleeps!
      'Meg: GO TO HELL!
      Annie: Yeah, probably.
    • We open on Virginia reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War ("Remember, small victories accumulate...") and taking pointers. Sun Tzu. SUN FREAKING TZU. Mind you, Sun Tzu as a coffee table book is pretty awesome, maybe Michael proposed to the wrong girl. This all could've been avoided. Michael, you should have checked Virginia's library card! The Art of War, The Satanic Bible, and Mein Kamph!
  • Casanova Wannabe:
    • Annie once likened Tim to Ricky Ricardo, which is apt. His cheesy lines fall flat, he won't take "no" for a answer, and his pick-up game is about as charming as mucus. He assumes Meg is jealous of seeing on a date, when really she thinks he's a creeper for banging the nanny.
    • "Seattle's loss is my gain." As seen with Tess (and the original Catilin Richards), Tim can be sweet when he's not being a slimy slug.
    • Annie can't GIVE it away. Unable to process rejection, she keeps ramping up her single-entendres each time Gregory turns her down. Get a clue woman, the loins sleep tonight!
  • Catapult Nightmare:
    • Annie dreams about being executed on a bi-nightly basis.
    • The return of Seaweed Gregory! Unlike the one from Annie's fantasy, this one is a zombie. He greets Caitlin at the door in a horrifying POV shot, right before she screams herself awake.
  • Catchphrase: ".....WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER!" Classic SB line. They must use it at least 3 times throughout the series, always spoken by the Richards, too.
    • "OVER MY DEAD BODY" — Another Richards slogan.
    • "I hear those wheels turning/hell-o/poopsie/knock knock/bingo/puhleeeze" — Bette.
    • "Virgeena eez bad to zee bone."
    • Derek's "brother, dear".
    • Ay Dios mia! — Carmen.
  • Chair Reveal:
    • Gregory Richards, the pit boss of South Central! In addition to his crooked development deals, the tycoon is in league with an "advocate for low-income housing" to launder money though his slums. This is revealed in an utterly barmy reveal of Gregory spinning in his chair like Dr. Claw with a scotch glass in one hand, preparing to pass judgement on the terrified hoodlum.
    • Michael surprises the audience by sitting behind the crooked OBGYN's desk—with hands folded, no less—when Virginia comes stomping through the door.
    • Cole once spends two minutes jawing at a rocking chair with its back to him. He doesn't check that it's Caitlin, not Olivia, who is brooding in the nursery before spilling his guts about his affair with her cheap mother.
  • Chessmaster:
    • You can often see Gregory fuzzy and in the background, silently observing events play out.
    • The way he sold the polygraph to Gabi was amazing — What a master manipulator.
    • At the hospital, Annie immediately tries to insinuate the AJ shot Francesca, trying to throw suspicion off herself. Greg smiles like a crocodile. He pretends he only just learned about the shooting himself, and cuddles Cate while alone. Very eerie.
    • Olivia accuses Gregory of poisoning their daughter against her, using Colivia as leverage. "Ooh, clean hands. Amazing."
    • Virginia's attempts to break up Michael and Vanessa. When vinegar doesn't work, she tries befriending Virignia to get close to her, then inseminating her. Once Michael finds out Tyrus is baby daddy, she verbally attacks Vanessa to speed up the break up and get her to call off the engagement. Then Virginia convinces Vanessa to put her baby up to adoption? Virginia's got some cheek: insisting to Vanessa that Michael doesn't want to bring up another man's baby when she wants him to be a father to Jimmy.
    • Derek's revenge. Maria was estranged from Ben and fled to Seattle to deliver Benjy, according to Tess. When Maria left to reunite with Ben, Tess took care of Benjy and had faith that one day Maria woudl return for her son. She learned about Maria's coma (caused by a car accident at Dana Point) and later recovers in a psychiatric journal. She guilt-trips Maria that Benji needs his mother AND father. (Tess is pimping out her own son for this purpose.) Thing is, this entire story is a lie. Tim stumbles onto her scheme but is soon angling to acquire Tess and the money from himself, just as she predicted he would.
  • Children Are a Waste: The Richards family is sickening. They use their children as Chess pieces and weapons.
  • Christmas Miracle: Antonio and Cole manage to re-assemble the statue by January 1st with seconds to spare. It's a Christmas miracle! Marta Hernandez is cured from illness! It's snowing outside! In California! Charles Dickens ain't got shit on this. Antonio actually says, "It's called the miracle - The miracle of Christmas" when Ricardo gawks around and says that there must be a rational explanation.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Eddie can't decide whose side he's on, he just turns up every few weeks to twirl his mustache.
    • Annie should wear a necklace reading "f**k you got mine" in calligraphic gold.
    • Annie just enjoys winding people up. Antagonize the cop in charge of the case, then whine about becoming the lead suspect?
    • Even in her talk show fantasy, Annie throws AJ under the bus, despite their earlier agreement to pin Fran's murder on Gregory. In retaliation, A.J. immediately switches sides and Annie gets the chair.
    • Cole's not so stupid After Annie digs up some surveillance footage of Olivia holding Fran at gunpoint, she proposes selling the footage to the tabloids for millions. Cole puts a damper on that idea, and also double-checks to see if she erased any files on the hard drive implicating Gregory instead of Olivia/Caitlin. Good think there's a backup drive she overlooked.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Leo, who?
    • Virginia tried to skip town with Jimmie after she was found out by Michael, but Michael caught him at the bus station while he was buying them tickets to Oregon. Jimmie is eventually sent away while Michael keeps him in the dark about Virginia being sent to an asylum.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Cole and Francesca. After Francesca died, Annie borrowed her schtick by enlisting Cole's help in cracking Gregory's safes, one at home and another in the Media Center (she couldn't do it herself).
  • Classically Trained Extra:
    • More often than not, Lesley-Anne Down goes really, really broad with Olivia. But when she brings it down a notch, she can convey more with a raised eyebrow than most actors can with pages of dialogue. Only Sam Behrens and Sarah Buxton are in the same league.
    • Sam Behrens was born to play Gregory. He took that character and elevated it so high above the quality of the writing (no shock considering he studied with the top Shakespeare and method coaches in the country). He dials it down as Gregory, lending a degree of sanity to the proceedings that the more extroverted Richards don’t. Basically, he avoids making you laugh when he shouldn’t.
    • Him and Lesley-Anne Down... both good actors, but by some weird coincidence, their children are portrayed by the two of the worst actors on the show. Certainly the guy playing Sean only got the gig because of nepotism.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The jewels taken from the Rosario Madonna statue.
  • Clip Show:
    • Jerry Springer presents: Murderer For A Day (hey it's archive footage of Vanessa Dorman!). Annie wasn't even present for some of these. There are things in Annie's dream that she didn't know about — ahh, the fab continuity of SB.
    • NBC aired a special episode during the Wimbledon tournament which preempted them. The framing device is a fake TV news broadcast with Bette and Vanessa as anchors[!]: NEWSLINE Sunset Beach. It's basically a clip show set to the Go Go's.
    • Francesca's watermark reads: FRANCESCA VARGAS — Cat Burglar & Murder Victim
    • Five's Company: The byline for the Evans house.
    • MEG CUMMINGS — Lame Duck Fiancee
    • When Meg's name is dropped, Tess answers like a housewife complaining about those blacks with their hippity-hop. "Certain...people...aren't making that easy."
    • This newcast is revealed to be an extended Bette dream sequence... though it's doubtful doubt she witnessed all of that! Including Greg's survival after his deadly fall! Getting Crap Past the Radar: Vanessa awakens her and asks about the "Dream" guy who was making Bette so "verklempt". Bette says, "AND women too."
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes:
    • Ben has been obsessed with the memory of his dead wife for four years. And yet here he is playing grief counselor.
    • Wannabe cyrano Aunt Bette. Gregory bought a new house just so he wouldn't have to sleep in his best friend's splooge, and now here comes Del's sister lecturing him about romance matters...
  • Complexity Addiction:
    • Gregory's revenge schemes are more than a little convoluted.
    • Virginia is not to be explained; she cannot be rationalized at all. You'll never look at a turkey baster the same again.
    • So Caitlin isn't going to tell Cole about the miscarriage, instead she's going to get pregnant again very quickly.
    • Cole didn't need incentive to get the jewels. If Olivia wore the necklace at the party Cole would swallow the bait no problem. Olivia had the rubies in her possession (AJ's gift) so why not skip the nonsnese with planting them on Annie, and donate them to a museum herself? Before the plan can be carried out, Olivia switches tracks to have Cole try to romance Annie (blegh) for the jewels, so Caitlin will catch them.
  • Confessional: Antonia has to hear all of Cole and later Annie's sins. His face is priceless.
    • Wicked Francesca goes to Antonio's parish and greets him with a "Bless you" instead of "Bless Me". It's framed in the camera so that we can't tell who's confessing to who.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • These people lie so much they can lie at a drop of a hat. They have got it down to an art.
    • Annie admits that "old habits die hard." She can't even apologize to Bette with an angle.
    • Gregory is as good as one would suspect, spinning his web with an almost reptilian gleam in his eye.
  • Convenient Coma:
    • Tim after Derek smothers him. He awakens, but Tim can't communicate who the killer is, even non-verbally, without risking his life and Meg's.
    • Dana/Maria does not know what "an internet" is. Cute.
  • Convenient Miscarriage:
    • Greg says that he and Olivia used to dance outside her balcony, every night, before Cait was born. "Everything changed" when she miscarried. He kept waiting every night under the balcony, but "she never came." (Adultery? Depression?) That's when it all started. Trivia: Gregory Jr. came after Caitlin and before Sean.
    • Meet Cole, the world's most virile man. He beds a mother and her daughter and, by miraculous coincidence, impregnates them both at the same time. Caitlin's baby dies in an accident, and Olivia is dosed with amnesia serum just after delivering Trey. Annie then hands Trey off to Caitlin in a complex adoption scheme.
    • Virginia's attack has caused Vanesa to miscarry. Virginia admits she never meant to make her miscarry
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • Annie gets tossed into a jail cell with an orange jumpsuit and ankle ball in one fantasy.
      Cate: I donated all your clothes to a Home for Needy Fashion Victims.
  • Coolest Club Ever:
    • The Deep. Forget Terror Island, the gyrating extras in the background are the real horror.
    • Seems like the Ludlow bar (The Buckeroo) is much more fun than The Deep!
    • The impression is that The Deep only plays aerobics music. SB exists in a world where couples request elevator jazz to dance to? Wei Li requests some muzak as "our song".
  • Cosmic Plaything:
    • Virginia's evildoing is hinted to have caused the quake. Imagine what will happen if Ben commits polygamy? Probably the city will sink into the ocean.
    • Lampshaded here:
      Sara: Makes you wonder if there isn't really someone out there controlling our lives.
      Casey: Yeah someone who enjoys putting us in these crazy situations and watching us find our way out of it.
    • An earthquake interrupts the rehersal dinner before Maria can play the sex tape in front of everyone; the commotion causes the TV to short out for good. Carmen is nuttier than squirrel shit in this sequence. (DOS MIA IT'S A SIIIIGN! DAAhAhahAaAAhAAAA DIDN'T I PROMISE YOU GOBBY THE WICKED WILL BE PUNISHED)
  • Cranky Landlord:
    • Gregory can add "landlord" to his office door, next to "media mogul," "lawyer", "abusive husband", "adulterer", "child molester maybe", "slumlord", "money launderer"...?
    Gregory: Oh, by the way: that check for this month's mortgage, pay it out to my wife.
    Bette: How do you spell "Slut", two T's or one?
    Gregory: (chuckles on his way out the door)
    • Greg has Cole mugged to deprive him of his money, then bribes every realtor in town not to sell to Cole and make them move in with him instead.
    • Olivia gets the beach house in the divorce, making her Annie's new landlord. She later kicks Annie out to turn her room into a nursery.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy:
    • Gregory by the end. Greg does the usual song and dance in front of Olivia but he's clearly a changed man. It's his right to be hellish,he still gets jealous..
    • Olivia says that the image of Colivia is driving Gregory to do terrible things and slowly making him crazy. She's right, as Gregory is shown having nightmares of Cole/Olivia in bed and laughing at him.
    • Francesca's husband, Phillip. Francesca supposedly hooked up with him in Mexico, she seems to loathe him. Phillip knew Cole would be onboard, but Fran didn't. Phillip's steamed over the fact that she's hung up Cole, and wants to murder him basically.
    Fran: Let it go.
    Phillip: When you do, darling.
    • Ricardo crying :( Poor Ricardo, he doesn't deserve that. When he sees the sex tape and collapses from stress, he falls into a catatonic nightmare would where he watches helplessly at Antonio/Gabi carrying on together and making taunting him to die so Antonio can have her for himself. More Ricardo nightmares: showing up to his wedding to find Gabi (in her dress) carrying on with the padre at the altar. Ricardo certainty has an over active imagination.
    • Ricardo semiconciously throttles Gabi with one hand! Tyrus runs in and pries him loose. Tyrus claims it's "an involuntarily reflex", uh huh.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Are we to understand Gregory keeps fake "thank you" cards on his person in case he gets caught delivering flowers to his side piece?
    • Gregory's video will. Greg anticipates that Annie will try selling the library, but if she tries, it reverts to a state-owned trust. "So you see Annie you're not gonna make a dime from me." Olivia doubles over laughing while AJ tents his fingers, smiling evilly.
    • Expert-level mindfuckery from Gregory. Gregory pretends to "talk" to the blackmailer, but it's only a cassette tape of his own voice playing into a receiver on the other line.
    • After her eviction from the Richards home, Annie busts into the living room hidden safe yet again. It hasn't been emptied yet. But it is full of red dye packs which covers Annie's white suit in covered in spray paint. She squeaks in terror as it explodes in her face.
      Olivia: Well, I guess this is what is meant by being caught red-handed.
  • Crying Wolf:
    • The only witness to the killings on "Terror Island" is Tim, whose prior schemes have been exposed for all to see. His desperate, wild accusations of murder are dismissed as sour grapes.
    • Annie is tipped off that Francesca is planning to abduct Trey to blackmail Cole into leaving town with her. Nobody believes Annie, and Cole tells her to stay away from them. Meanwhile Fran cat-burgles her way into the nursery and scoops up Trey. Cole makes a veiled threat to Annie afterward ("You made all this happen). Bonus: nobody believes Annie when she receives a death threat, either.
      Annie:What do I have to do? Get myself KILLED for anyone to believe I'm innocent?
  • Cute and Psycho: Diane the mortician.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Del and Annie Douglas. Time for another confab in Hell. He shovels coal while complimenting Annie on her progress and working her like a football coach.
    Del: Come down and see me now, y'here darlin'?
    • Bette laments that Annie took the worst characteritics from her and Del. The belief that "money solves everything" and the gold diggery.
    • "Grandpa Vargas" taught Francesca that to "plan your work, then work your plan." Mmkay. Hop on grandad's knee and he'll tell you all about check fraud.
  • Damsel in Distress: So, every man has tried to save Meg at some point or another. Meg is about as useful as play-doh in a life and death situation.
    • Distressed Dude: Anyone else want to kidnapp Ben? Hurry up reserve your place on the list, it's getting long.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Antonio used to work a Mexican parish, but got drummed out. Phillip explains that he used Francesca to seduce the Padre while he lifted the Madonna statue from under his nose.
    • Ben was protecting Maria's honor. He didn't tell anyone what happened on the boat: that Maria slept with Derek, or that she stabbed and "killed" him (supposedly) on the boat. Ricardo later admits he needed closure, someone to blame.
    • Ben is supposed to be a Man of Mystery but his past behavior is questionable. "My wife and I were estranged for nine months exactly and I never used my money or connections to find out where she was. Also I have an identical twin who tried to kill us both but that's nobody's business because my wife saw him naked."
  • Dartboard of Hate: Bette has a dartboard with a head shot of Gregory. She encourages Olivia and AJ to let off steam! Olivia is hesitant to throw darts at Gregory's eye sockets, so AJ neatly places a glossy of Annie over Greg's photo.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Annie's friend Tim gets stuffed into a chest temporarily after being murdered, before finally being buried in cement.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: All the suspects (minus Caitlin) are tricked into believing that Francesca somehow survived her attack. Olivia recieves a threatening letter doused with Fran's perfume and forged in her handwriting. Annie wears a Francesca style catsuit (framed to fool the viewer) and plants additional "calling cards" around the beach house and hospital.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gregory is a master.
    Gregory: Nope juat the usual cuts and scratches that accompany a freeway falling on you.
    • And Bette. "Don't look at me in that tone of voice." Great line.
    • Olivia had her moments too.
      Olivia: It seems these two are the club's payphone usage committee.
      Annie: I have it under control.
      Olivia: (scoffs) We're all doomed.
    • A.J.
    Annie: A.J., why is that every time I'm around you think I'm up to something? I was merely telling Olivia how happy I was that Trey was so healthy after the transfusion. Is there something wrong with that? is that so hard to believe?
    AJ: No. No harder than the Easter Bunny.
    • And this:
      Tim:' Look, we both want the same thing here.
      Sara: Really? You want Casey to be your boyfriend, too?
    • Nice moment from Ricardo while investigate Fran's shooting:
      Annie: My cooperation ends here.
      Ricardo: I must have missed the part where it began.
    • And:
      D.A. Steele: So! You have new information for me on the vargas case?
      Sean: Yes, my sister did not kill her.
      Steele: You don't say. Well, I have to rush down to the holding cell and release her.
  • Death as Comedy: Francesca - supposedly a smart cookie - gets shot but she doesn't know how badly. Instead of reaching for the hotel phone to call reception and the paramedics she proceeds to leave her room and gets tangled up with a bunch of inebriated twats who fail to notice the red stuff she's sporting. Really, who does that? Francesca's death is ripped straight out a of Naked Gun film.
    • Fran escapes the elevator, but gets nabbed by Russel Meeks the nerd (yes, the nerd from the paternity lab) who assumes she's the stripper he hired for his grandpa's birthday. He thinks she's "hammered" because she still reeks of the elevator crowd, but he carts her off anyway. A scene later, Fran pops out in cake in the hotel bar where ALL THE SUSPECT GATHER! Francesca points at the huddled suspects and croaks "YOU" before passing out.
    • Fran's ghost stands over her gurney and bitches about the staff ot ressucitating her yet. She has a LOT of payback to enact on a LOT of people and she needs to get cracking.
      Fran: "Lose me"?! You cannot lose me! If you do I will haunt you FOREVER.
    • Seaweed Gregory PML. Annie fantasizes about Gregory popping up in the house while still soaking wet (!!!) and covered in gunge. All he's missing is a few starfish clinging to his head.
  • Death Cry Echo: The hitman groans like King Kong when Cole sends him hurtling off a cliff.
  • Deal with the Devil: Gregory offering to representing you pro bono. Also, his pre-nuptual agreements.
    • Annie roped both of the Richards kids into helping her seduce Gregory. When Sean realizes he's been duped, Annie starts to get in his grill about "his righteous attitude" and claims he's liable for whatever happens next.
    • Olivia was paid ten grand to steal Cole, and Bette's husband received a grant to keep his hospital in business. It's a monkey's paw: The deal with Del: Bette is widowed and broke, and Olivia is trapped in a loveless marriage.
    • Tim is such a penis. He falls back on his boy next door act, convincing Sara to help him split up Meg and Ben. Only Tim uses her cooperation as blackmail to pressure her into further crimes. "Sara, sweetheart... you sold your soul to me, remember that?"
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Annie and Tim in the pickup truck.
  • Dinner and a Show:
    • Elaine and Gregory with their respective kids.
    • Any scene at Grenedine's.
      Greg: Oh great there we go again. Why is that Olivia and her don juan always have to find a way to eat at the same places I do?
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Eddie. One minute he's sleeping with another man's wife, then assembling blackmail photos on same, threatening to make someone his prison bitch, lifting evidence from a murder scene, setting up a stalker nest in the basement of his co-worker's house, and closes the day by hiring an ex-con to abduct somebody. And then he's promoted to Detective for his service to the community.
    • Following the resort bombing, Ricardo is shown going through Fran's old tape collection. Gabi pinches the tapes before he can come across the X-rated one. She also steals impounded cash and a gun to keep Francesca silent on the matter.
    • Ricardo, once he's gone mental. He fakes his death and almost sends his brother and wife to prison for life.
  • Dirty Harriet:
    • Annie, a teen sleuth in the body of an adult film star.
    • Annie lampshades it when Francesca is shot: This is just like one of those novels where everyone gathers in the conservatory. She struts around the hospital, chirping "It's elementery" and "where where you on the night in question?"
    • Gabi demands Ricardo make her an undercover informant. (She's Paula) Ricardo might mention, "last time my honey went undercover I got blamed for her kidnapping and rape and was kicked off the force"! AJ planted Gabi as an informant at the Liberty Corporation. Ricardo is her supervisor on this matter. She poses as Aj's secretay while cracking computers.
  • Does Not Like Men: Elaine is a dedicated misandrist, and Bette is halfway there.
  • The Dragon: Jo Jo, Eddie, and Tim Truman, (semi)loyal employees of Gregory Richards.
  • Dream Sequence: Often provided by Annie, but also a slew of other characters as well. Sometimes these would segue into flashback scenes. About two-thirds of the way through the show, however, the surreal scenes mostly disappear, as they didn't mesh with the tone of the storylines.
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • Casey. He does get his girl in the finale, though.
    • Tyus is awesome. He is not a tofu-brained surf bum who can never make up his mind, but simply a good friend.
  • Drama Queen:
    • Annie's dreams often include a burn (or two) to LAD's hand-on-forehead style of acting. Liv, baby, it's Sunset Beach not Sunset Boulevard. "The world's a stage, us merely players...." How melodramatic can you get?
    • You can always spot an Olivia dream sequence by the way she and Gregory are both screaming in it — even her dreams are melodramatic!
      Gregory: And that is why I never go to the theatre. I have all the drama I need right here.
    • Of course Bette can't say "Listen up everyone I'm Emily's mom", she has to give a stagey monologue and kvetch about giving labor...
    • Annie responds to losing all of her Liberty Corporation stock by threatening to jumpfrom the top floor of the Richards mansion. She teeters out the window ledge like a gymnast on a balance beam while Olivia eggs her on. Gregory, under duress, at last agrees to rip up his prenuptial agreement and return her stock. Annie, sniffling, agrees to come back inside, and Olivia groans and slams her window in disgust—startling Annie and causing her to fall anyway! Fortunately Annie had a safety harness on the entire time. Gregory facepalms.
  • Dramatic Unmask:
    • Once LAD's maternity has ended, we cut to Olivia apparently living in a shojo manga now, attending a costume ball at sea with A.J. who is dressed like Tuxedo Mask.
    • Ben's lookalike, Derek, as the island slasher.
    • Evil voice modulator guy. Gregory laments that he loves seeing Annie "twisting in the wind" but that he has quite a special day planned for Trey's first Christmas: He gets all dressed up, escorts Annie to the scene of the crime (Trey's nursery), plays an incriminating tape of Annie and shuts down any avenue of escape. This is a trial. Seriously, was there ever a more hardcore character in daytime than this dude? Of course Annie lamely tries to wriggle out of it and claim it's all some "psychotic's sick joke."
      "Annie, you have no idea how psychotic... (into voice modulator) or how sick."
  • Dull Surprise:
    • Look, Kam Heskin just can't act. It's like getting blood out of a stone. She can't even stare down a gun convincingly. And don't get us started on her phone conversations with the blackmailer.
      John Darvill (Channel 5 Presenter):''' I know who that was. That was the voice of Aaron Spelling there, blackmailing our "Bimby" over How she got her job on SB. her casting has to be one of the most intriguing, bizarre thing we've ever witnessed on this program to date.
    • Someone ought to have lassoed the SB munchkins (Leo, Amy, Sean, Brad, Emily), stuffed them in a box and fired it into the sun.
    • Kam Heskin is as wooden as the child actor playing her in the past. The dritftwood on the beach out-acted her.
  • Dumb Blonde: A
    • my Nielsen (originally Dreyer) is a collection of awful, valley girl stereotypes.
    • While applying for a waitress job, Amy has to "take down notes" when Hank instructs her on how to serve food. She takes his advice too literally (turn around and then go clockwise), trips and smashes all of her dishes on her first try. Actress Krissy Carlson, striking a blow for blondes everywhere.
      Olivia: You really are quite dense, you know?
    • Caitlin, dressed as Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, testifies on Francesca's behalf on the set of Springer in a dream. ("You're like totally not normal. You're like..You're like para-normal.")
    • This has a grain of truth, as Annie is constantly being tripped up by Caitlin. When Annie plants the murder weapon in Cole's hotel suite, Cailtin arrives and gets busted in his stead. Cue horror as Annie realizes she just got Gregory's daughter arrested. "She's always doing something to screw me up!"
  • Dying Clue: Mummy Bernie scrawling out "ROSARIO" onto a memo.
  • Dying Declaration of Love:
  • Dysfunction Junction: Gabi wedding no. 2. The church has a lock on dysfunction! The cummings and Evans are at each other's throats, the Torres are fighting, and Sean is at loggerheads with his girlfriend.


  • Easy Amnesia: Rae injecting an "amnesia drug" into a hitman after Casey subdues him; Annie's voodoo; Maria's boating accident.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Olivia is introduced at poolside in complete ennui. She idly points her diamond ring at an insect to see if it will fly away from the beam or sizzle to death. Gregory comes out and swats it with his Wall Street Journal. Their relationship in ovo.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Virginia's son needs a father, and Virginia needs a man like Michael. She won't let a little thing like Michael being off the market get in her way.
    • Gregory is an extremely moral-free man, but he does love his family, Olivia included. Unfortunately he can't express it in anything approaching a healthy way.
    • After Jude sells him up the river, he nearly slips through the police net a second time, but is talked down by Olivia who points out that he'd rather see his kids again, if it's from behind prison bars.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Leave it to Spike to out-perform the entire SFPD.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Eddie, Del, Derek.
  • Fair Cop: Ricardo, Paula, Eddie, the entire S.B.P.D, basically. Later joined by Jude the undercover FBI agent.
  • Faking the Dead: Used liberally. It's a soap opera, people.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: The "Shockwave" storyline. After Olivia is pinned by some falling debris, both she and Annie are nearly crushed beneath a chandelier as the latter tries to pry her loose.
  • Feuding Families: The overarching plot of SB seems to be a clash between the Deschanels, who founded Sunset Beach, and the Richards, who have spread like a cancer and corrupted it. A.J. and Gregory both hold stock in the Liberty Corporation, which owns much of the beach, and each side is looking to oust the other.
  • Flash Back: Used frequently to avoid Continuity Lockout. It's rare for an episode to not flash back at least once: Tim's vendetta is propelled by Mark's final words to him; young Olivia unwittingly becomes an accessory to kidnapping, thus providing a motive for Del's murder; Annie's convoluted plot to steal Trey and erase Olivia's memories needs some backstory. The list goes on.

  • Good Counterpart:
    • A.J. is the suave silver fox to Gregory's possessive sugar daddy. The show made gestures at turning A.J. heel, but it never stuck.
    • Meg is this to ex-fiancee Tim: a corn-spun tourist who finds work with a handsome millionaire after an embarrassing accident at the pier. Tim gets rear-ended by a drunk Olivia in traffic, then leverages his injury to go work for Gregory as his chauffeur cum informant.
  • His Name Is...: Once Tim realizes he's been had by Derek, he makes for Surf Central to warn Meg, but it intercepted and brutally killed. This is a replay of what happened to Mark on the island.
  • Hollywood Dateless:
    • Casey is a Herculean swimmer who is still considered poor trash by the affluent people in town. Rae ends up dumping him for an extremely rich Japanese businessman.
    • Sara suffers from being in her sister's shadow. Her love life in Washington was front-page news but as soon as she moves to Sunset Beach, no one gives her the time of day.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Annie requests, in order, an amnesia serum, a love potion, and finally an intoxicant from Mrs. Moreau. Another repeat customer, Virginia, requests a salve which mimics a grotesque skin disorder. Even Gregory darkens the poor woman's door at one point.
  • Hospital Hottie: Rae.
  • Hot Men At Work: Everyone, but the lifeguards are impossibly ripped.
  • Ice Queen:
    • Rae.
    • Elaine was treated pretty badly by Cole's father, A.J., and came away with a distaste for all men. She is open in her lack of regard for her daughter's fiancee, Ricardo, and advises Paula to keeper her options open.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Tim is, without a doubt, the most ineffectual adversary this show produced. He's catapulted into an anti-hero or everyman role in the wake of Terror Island, doggedly trying to bring Ben to justice. Annie grudgingly reformed over time, too.
  • It's a Small Net After All: Really faulty email service they had back in the 90's, where anyone anywhere could use someone else's username without a password.


  • Karma Houdini:
    • Elaine caught onto the fact that Del had stolen her infant son, Cole, and declared him dead. She killed him in revenge. When prison doors began to, creakily, open, Gregory got her off and she fled SB with little fanfare.
    • Annie is more pitiable than anything, but she manages to talk her way out of an astounding amount of trouble; despite causing the majority of the problems on the show, she never gets punished aside from being mistrusted.
    • By most standards, Annie hopped aboard the Moral Event Horizon Express by ripping Trey out of his mother's womb and telling everyone he died. It's arguably the worst crime committed by anyone on the show, short of fishhook murder. Here it's shrugged off as, 'stuff happens'.
    • Gabi falsely accuses Ricardo of rape after they have consensual sex (and already, we've waded into questionable territory), sows discord between him and her sister Paula, and escapes justice by revealing it was just misplaced childhood abuse. Ricardo and Paula are still splitsville, so Laura Harring leaves the show while Gabi sticks around to the end...before leaping from Ricardo's arms into his brother's bed, causing Ricardo to suffer a stroke and almost die. A similar storyline played out happened with Sami Brady and her goody-two-shoes sister over on Days. Sami emerged triumphant from the love triangle while Carrie Brady left town for a few years, simply because she was not as interesting.
  • Latin Lover: Take your pick; there's Cole the professional burglar, Ricardo the policeman and his brother Antonio the priest.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Virgina. Sara and Gabi were afflicted for a little while.
  • Love Triangle: Several as part of the running side-plots.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Derek and Tess for Benjy, Elaine for Cole.
  • Masochism Tango: On some warped level, Gregory and Olivia deserve each other. Even after a series of affairs, breakups, hasty reconciliations, an FBI sting and Gregory getting sent to the big house, they end up pretty much where they began: with each other.
  • Masqerade Ball:
    • Valentine's Day at The Deep. Mark dresses up as Elvis.
    • Olivia's cruise.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Par for the course in a soap opera.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Much trading back and forth of Trey Deschanel, conceived by Cole and Olivia and declared dead upon delivery. Actually, Annie stole the baby and handed it off to Caitlin, who miscarried after a car accident and didn't tell anyone. Caitlin was unaware of Trey's parentage and let Cole think that they were having a son together. (Making this something of a zig-zag; Gregory believes he lost a son when he didn't, and Cole correctly assumes Trey is his, but is kept in the dark about his other dead child. Also inverted in that it wasn't Caitlin's baby but Olivia's.) Even after Gregory catches on to what happened, he still believes that Trey is his. What a mess.
  • Money Fetish: Del shagging a married woman, in her husband's bed, on top of—get this—cursed pirate gold. Talk about bad karma.
  • Mr. Fanservice:
    • Casey is almost always seen shirtless or, if he is wearing a shirt, it will be completely unbuttoned.
    • Most every male. Special mention goes to Cole Deschanel as played by Eddie Cibrian.


  • No-One Could Have Survived That:
    • Derek is harder to kill than a cockroach.
    • After repeated attempts to give Cole his dirt nap fail, Gregory takes matters into his own fists. He gets walloped off a lifeguard tower and into the Pacific for his trouble. Now a wanted man, he lets everyone assume he died on the rocks so he can worm his way back into the Richards house.
  • Not So Different:
    • Annie grumbles something to this effect to Meg before her wedding. Then she walks over to the next room and says the same to Olivia.
    • She and Olivia started out from the same state of play: as nurses. Olivia was the one who stole Cole from his bassinet and handed him off to Del Douglas; Annie took Trey fresh from the womb and handed him off to Caitlin. Annie home-wrecks her way into the Richard house; Olivia slept with Annie's father. Annie openly covets Olivia's fortune; Olivia seems to smugly anticipate her rival descending into loneliness and drink just as she did. Neither one is entirely good or bad, and they make a decent tag team during the rare instances when they stop trying to throttle each other.

  • Off to See the Wizard:
    • "Dorothy" is the pseudonym used by Meg on her dating profile. No points for guessing her home state.
    • "Wicked Witch" Olivia being melted by vodka.
    • Meg's ending is a kiss to the MGM movie. See "All Just a Dream".
  • Out of Focus: Vanessa-Michael and Meg-Ben comprise two of the show's three power couples; Meg was even the show's purported star. Both took a backseat to other concerns in Season Three. Michael's story basically wrapped once the men in white came for Virgina, and he and Vanessa had a sloppy Second-Act Breakup. Ben was cleared of killing his (not actually dead) wife, but none of that mattered once he was saddled with a family didn't even know about. (Not helping matters was Meg's temporary recasting with another actress, as Susan Ward had left to shoot a movie.) They do, however, get a final bow at the end when Derek resurfaces to do more mischief.
  • Pair the Spares: Annie ultimately ends up with Jude. In the final episode, Maria meets a new man her psychic mother predicted would be her true love. Bette, who probably deserved to be paired off most of all, ended the series in a courtship with...Casey! No, not really; A.J. escorted her to the Evans-Bourne nuptials, suggesting a future for them. Sara and Casey were the only ones left in the room, so they paired up.
  • Police Are Useless: Ricardo is a hilariously inept detective. This is somewhat justified, considering that he received his detective's badge in the first episode, and is still somewhat rash and inexperienced (this was commented on by Gregory in their first scene together; he's not intimidated by Ricardo in the slightest). The rest of the clown shoes S.B.P.D. has no excuse.
  • Posthumous Character: Del, Francesca.
  • Precious Puppy:
    • Spike, the Jack Russell Terrier. He's even included in the titles.
    • He was originally a stray doggie, but was adopted by Olivia after she railroaded his original owner, Tiffany, out of town. Later, Spike is caught nomming on Olivia's pregnancy test kit and leads her on a merry chase through the house, a prank he later ascribes to revenge. Yes, not only are the dogs in Sunset Beach up to no good, they have voice-overs as well.
  • Red Herring:
    • Annie and Olivia for Del's shooting. Not that Annie helps her case by publicly shouting, "I'll kill him" or "I'm way past upset — I'm postal".
    • Ben Evans is teased as a lady-killer for quite some time. It turns out that Maria really did vanish and suffer amnesia after Derek staged her death. This greatly hurt Ben's image, but he was never arrested or charged. Adding to Ben's problems, his crazy twin is running around California and framing him for more murders.
  • Reformed Criminal: Cole Deschanel aka "Cole St. John" used to swindle loose, rich women out of their jewels, but he's fed up with that life and wants to settle down with Caitlin. Unfortunately for him, he opts for one last roll in the hay with a loose rich woman...
  • Rich Bitch: Annie after marrying Gregory for money. The Richards are milder examples. Annie always imagined Olivia/Cailtin as being much more base than they were.


  • Salt and Pepper: Casey and Micheal, lifeguards on patrol.
  • Shirtless Scene: It wouldn't be Sunset Beach without it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Casey bluffs an assassin by claiming to be a bag man for Jeff Spicoli, Sunset Beach's most feared crime boss!
    • Bette's grisly homage to Weekend at Bernie's
    • The scenes with Elaine, Bette and Olivia wearing hoods and standing around in a cemetery are a cute nod to Macbeth (three witches) and The Witches of Eastwick (blonde, brunette, redhead).
    • The black & white TV fantasy. Annie, wearing a flower-patterned dress and a bun, desperately humps Gregory's leg while begging him to love her. Annie eventually tosses the script away in disgust, storms off-set and tears her dress off, causing the world to revert to color. This is probably a nod to Pleasantville.
    • Spike wishing he could trade in the Richards for the Camdens (an irony in light of Stephen Collins' sex crime allegations)
    • Sara's fantasy is a direct lift from the opening to Friends. All of the characters are credited as themselves, apart from Sara, who is "Pitiful Loser."
  • Slave to PR: The Richards family, or at least Gregory, take great pains to pose as pillars of the community. Lampshaded by Annie, who accuses Olivia of talking in a "fake British accent" to sound posh and make everyone forget about her low-rent origins!
  • Sleazy Politician: Congressman Jack Blair works very hard to get "the women's vote".
  • Stupid Crooks: It's a close contest who's more incompetent. Olivia, in a rush to dispose of evidence before the police canvas her house, opens a drawer too quickly and sends a cascade of bullets rolling across the floor; or Annie, who drops her .38 in the middle of crowded lobby when someone calls our her name.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The alarming tendency of characters to fall off the pier. Meg lampshades it in the finale.
  • Twerp Sweating:
    • Caitlin is dating a high-class crook of the kind Gregory usually represents in court. Ironic.
    • Olivia is no less menacing: bribing Sean's girlfriend to leave town, and later bitch-slapping his third girlfriend, Amy, after having too much to drink.
  • The Vamp:
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: While the campiness on SB is quite high, there is one character in particular who is actually disturbing. Sam Behrens, who played a jailbird ex-hubby on Knots Landing, gets to be creepy again here, and he puts together a carefully crafted performance of a white collar psycho. The show presents us with typical daytime villains—mad dog killers, baby-stealers, and rapists—and then skewers them by having them crack jokes during the tense moments (Derek and Virginia are the funniest characters by a mile). Gregory's a little bit too "real" for daytime, and doubly so in Sunset Beach. Sleazoid extraordinaire Del Douglas, on the other hand, fits in perfectly which is probably why they bought him back as a spook. The producers obviously realized this and later turned Gregory into a cartoon which doesn't really suit Behrens either.
  • Villainous Incest:
    • Gregory shares a quasi-incestuous relationship with Caitlin, because of course he does.
    • In absolute fairness, a similar vibe is felt between Olivia and her favorite, Sean, as she works him over before a police interrogation.
  • Wedding Day: The show closes with Vanessa's and Meg's wedding.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent:
    • "Nurse Jones". If you need an indicator of where SB threw its hands in the air and became a celebration of camp, this is a good place to start.
    • Gregory impersonates his own tweedy, hitherto unknown uncle in order to divvy up his estate. Basically, he swaps out his necktie for a bowtie, applies a beard and putty nose, and stammers in an English...Sicilian...whatever that is, accent. Nobody thinks twice about this.
  • Younger and Hipper: The mid-season retool. The show was already skewing toward a slightly younger audience, but the central plot—a rich guy's murder being pinned on his pearl-clutching mistress—was not sort of fresh concept Aaron Spelling was looking for. A more attractive corpse arrived in the form of Francesca, and the Richards clan became satellites to Cole and his entourage. The intro sequence was jazzed up to be less adult, and the stories became slightly more outrageous.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Tim with Meg's maid of honor (classy!); Meg with her anonymous friend "S.B."; Ricardo with Gabi; Olivia with Del, A.J, Cole and—apparently—Officer Eddie. Busy, busy girl.