Quite possibly the definitive Guilty Pleasure
of daytime soaps, at least before it was unseated by the even loonier Passions
(also, like Passions
, SB started out fairly mundane before deleting sanity
at a steady pace). Had a particularly large fandom in the United Kingdom
during its heyday, a surprise considering it ran just shy of three seasons. Such was its popularity over there that petitions were sent to the UK broadcaster (Channel Five
) begging them to have it uncancelled
in America. Wobbly scenery, dodgy dialogue and woeful acting were abound.
The plot centers on southern-fried ingenue
Meg, who, after discovering that her fiancé was cheating on her on their wedding day, packs her bags and leaves for California to meet a Handsome Stranger™
with whom she has been conversing via e-mail for months. At first, she finds Ben withdrawn and unsociable, which she later discovers is due to the accidental (sic)
drowning of his first wife at sea. Meg finds 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 revolves around high-powered attorney Gregory Richards who owns the newspaper for which Meg now works. His wife Olivia (aka Joan Collins
on peyote buttons
) is a secret drunk who is barely allowed out in public. Their daughter Caitlin is involved in a torrid love affair with Cole Deschanel, a con-artist whom Gregory despises and with whom Olivia slept with without realizing his connection to her daughter.
The third plotline follows the local lifeguard, Michael (later a sports physician), who is currently dating Vanessa, Meg's co-worker. Their relationship is threatened by Virginia, a schemer who defies soap convention by being both black and a single mom. The axis of Virginia's plot rests on Vanessa's estranged mother and an exotic, disfiguring disease which is passed down through her family.
Other notable characters include Olivia's friend Bette, dispenser of town gossip, sage advice, and Lucille Ball zingers; Ricardo, Ben's former brother-in-law won't rest until he's put away forever; Madame Carmen, she of the Tarot cards and stupid accent (Dios mío!); Francesca, a bimbo who has seemingly been studying her whole life to become a chalk outline
; a masked slasher with a fish hook; and, err... Casey! He's blond.
Tropes featured in the show:
- Dream Sequence: Often provided by Annie, but a feature of the other characters as well. Sometimes these would segue into flashback scenes. About halfway through the show, the surreal scenes mostly disappear, however, as they stop fitting into the tone of many of the storylines.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Casey. He does get his girl in the finale, though.
- Dying Declaration of Love: Gregory's car gets wrecked in the earthquake, knocking his wife out. Gregory momentarily thinks she's died and goes to pieces. One of his rare Pet the Dog moments.
- 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.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: Cole's ex-lover and partner in crime, Francesca Vargas. She was not here to make friends. After assembling a blackmail file on virtually everyone in town, she meets her gruesome end: getting shot and then jumping out of a cake. (erm...) Her murder case is left open for months, though she continues to annoy in Annie's nightmares and the "Del's in Hell" dream sequences. The mystery was finally tidied up by revealing Gregory did it.
- Evil Is Hammy: Eddie, Del, Derek.
- Evil Redhead: Tropical Storm Annie, who is responsible for most of the trouble in the show. Despite this, she is generally portrayed sympathetically, as she is more petty and short-sighted than anything, and her plots, while stressful to the rest of the cast, are generally limited in the amount of harm they are designed to cause. Downright villainy is left to other characters, although she is often coerced into aiding them in some way.
- The "bad" Cummings sister, Sara, is also red-haired. Her temperament is better described as "fiery".
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Ricardo.
- Take It to the Bridge: The alarming tendency of characters to fall off the pier. Meg lampshades it in the finale.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Ben, just Ben.
- Toilet Seat Divorce: Paula's soliloquy to Ricardo about "I love you yet we cannot be together" as if they are in some Greek tragedy, not just a squabble about whose apartment to live in.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Mark, unfortunately. Worse yet, he dies while staring into the eyes of his supposed mentor.
- 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.
- Unexplained Accent: Sunset Beach's Britons, Ben and Olivia (who oddly don't share any screentime). Somewhat 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!
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Not even Gregory is free from daddy issues. The scion of the Richards clan, his will to impose himself on Sunset Beach was a misdirected attempt to impress his father, an odious man with whom he always had bad relations. Olivia remembers him as a crusading young law student, though whether she is right or not is kind of hard to prove (College Boy Gregory brought trumped-up assault charges on A.J., suggesting he was a douchebag even then). Adult Olivia regards her husband with a mix of fear and loathing that’s effective in showing how his moral compass has decayed since then.
- The Vamp: Tess. She's actually in league with Derek, sent to double Tim with lurid promises of breaking Ben and Meg up. Tim smells a rat and follows her to a rendezvous with Derek, whereupon he's ensnared and killed.
- 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 BSOD: Once the jig is up, Virgina slips into catatonia and is carted off to the bin.
- 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.
- Why Are You Not My Son?: One senses that Greg considers Ben Evans the son he shoud've had.
- 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.
- Yandere: Had a memorable example in the character of Virginia. She was so obsessed with winning the heart of her longtime close friend Michael, that she first tried to set up his current girlfriend Vanessa with her doctor to make it look as though they were cheating, then when that didn't work tried to impregnate Vanessa with the doctor's sperm via a turkey-baster and when that didn't work went to a voodoo specialist to give Vanessa a fictional illness called "Martin's Syndrome".
- 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.