Soap operas have a long standing tradition of getting you hooked and keeping your attention and building a loyal fan base even after they’ve gone black and left everybody hanging. Well, this list is the best of how they ended. And I’m threw in a telenovela because not only they run for a few months but they end. We’ll also throw in backstories and resolutions where applicable.
16. A WEDDING DATE WITH AN ANGEL-“Port Charles” (ABC Daytime)
“Port Charles” was ABC’s lowest-rated soap, and, hard to believe, despite then-ABC Daytime President Brian Frons fighting to keep it, they did a couple of changes. First, cut off some ties with parent soap “General Hospital”; then adopt a novela format like those in Latin American where the soaps run for a few months. The show was still called “Port Charles”, but each section would run a few weeks before the next one kicked in. And before there was “Twilight”, there were hot vampires and angels. It worked for a while, but in the final episode of the book “The Gift”, Alison was getting ready to marry Rafe (who was really an angel) but then the curveball: Caleb (the vampire) told Olivia the baby Alison was carrying was his since she made a wish on his ring…oh, and Imani was revealed to be a werewolf. Even though “Port Charles” ended, “General Hospital” picked up the final storyline when Michael Easton did a dual role as Caleb and Lt. John McBain (from the also cancelled “One Life To Live”). Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring) visited the morgue and was convinced that Caleb had died and left…however, Caleb switched bodies with the medical examiner and left.
15. JESSICA’S EXECUTION AND THE AMBUSH-“Soap” (Sony Pictures Television)
“Soap” was an American orignal in every sense of the word. It took a satirical stab at the soap opera genre. When it ended, it ended on a cliffhanger. Jessica Tate got kidnapped by South American revolutionary El Puerco; after four seasons of dealing with oft-cheating husband Chester, she decided to stay with El Puerco in the jungles. By season’s end, she was kidnapped by El Puerco’s adversaries and was facing a firing squad. On another front, Bert and Danny were being set up for a mob hit. As they were opening the door to the rendez-vous, the mob was waiting on the other side, guns drawn. After the commercial break, Rod Roddy (the show’s announcer) did the usual “life-or-death questions” that helped fuel the show, leaving Jessica’s death and the ambush in limbo. However, Jessica’s death was confirmed on the series spin-off “Benson” where she appeared as a ghost to Benson and she explained that she had died from a mysterious disease she contracted in South America.
14. SYDNEY’S DEMISE AND THE MOB-“The City” (Dramatic Creations/ABC Daytime)
A reboot of the soap “Loving”, “The City” was cutting edge for its’ time. They shot interiors and exteriors at a building the network rented in Soho; they used the filmlook process for the show’s entire run; they had Morgan Fairchild as Sydney Chase, but all that was not enough to bring up the ratings, so it was gone in 1997. However, the last episode provided enough to make some sparks fly. First, the producers wanted Fairchild to sign on for another year and she decided not to. So, in the final episode, the show killed Syndey off. The murderer? None other than Molly Malone, the “Happy Now” killer. On another front, Tracy Quartermaine fell in love with mobster Gino Solieto. He was killed off but Tracy inherited his business. When the show ended, Tracy headed back to “General Hospital”.
13. SLOANE’S EXECUTION-“Capitol” (John Conboy Productions)
“Capitol” was the first political daytime drama with two feuding families trying to wield power. It was low rated at 5.0 (today’s daytime soaps wished they had these numbers), so it was axed to make room for “The Bold and The Beautiful” in 1987. But unlike “Soap” six years before it, executive producer John Conboy was angry that his show managed to keep an audience but still got yanked. So instead of wrapping up things in a neat little bow, he ramped up the drama to the very end. Reporter Sloane Denning married Prince Ali of fictitious Middle Eastern country named Baracq in a royal wedding ceremony. However, the prince’s enemies started a revolution, kidnapped Sloane and planned to execute her via firing squad. The camera focused on a close-up of her eyes as the general gave the command.
12. CAUGHT WITH HIS PANTS DOWN-“Generations” (Old Forest Hill/NBC Productions)
“Generations” was the first American soap opera that featured a Black family as one of its’ core families. And pushing the envelope was nothing new for the soap. Its demise was harsh as it got away from the core values of the storyline. Nevertheless, it ended with a tryst. The Marshall clan’s storyline was thrown a curveball when Jackson entered the picture. His underappreciated wife Doreen made a pass at Adam Marshall and then his father Henry. At the series end, Henry and Doreen had a love-making session and Henry died from a heart attack in the middle of the hotel room and Adam walked in on the aftermath and the phrase, “To Be Continued…” scrolled across the bottom of the screen. “Generations” was original and it was groundbreaking.
11. IT WAS A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM WITHIN REALITY-“Sunset Beach” (Spelling Entertainment/NBC Studios)
“Sunset Beach” had the misfortune of being cancelled in the same year as “Another World”. Not to mention that they had the fastest closing credits in daytime history (I’m not talking about the squeeze credits on the side-I’m talking about the actual roll). Nevertheless, the show started as Meg runs away from her own wedding in Kansas to head to Sunset Beach. On the series end, she wakes up from a dream, and then that “Meg” passes out and then she wakes up to reality to her marriage to Ben…still in Kansas.
10. RIDE THE END WITH US-“One Life To Live” (ABC Daytime)
In April 2011, then-ABC Daytime president Brian Frons announced the cancellations of both “All My Children” and “One Life To Live”. While they both ended with a WTF moment, “One Life To Live” dcided to blur that line between fantasy and reality that kept it more entertaining. Starting off with the announcement of the cancellation of “Fraternity Row” (their ‘soap-within-a-soap’ which the whole town was hooked), it was told mostly through Roxie; but the soap was to go to The Online Network, so it ended with Allison reading a “final draft” of the show’s final episode. By the episode’s end, we find out that she is holding Trevor hostage.
7. THE END-“Guiding Light” (Procter and Gamble Productions)
“Guiding Light” ended with a lot of humor and pathos. Within the final week, Alan Spaulding died while Philip was talking to him, Fletcher ran away with Holly, Ed married Lilian, the Four Musketeers reunited and married the right person (Mindy with Rick; Philip with Beth), Richard chased after Edmund in a cat-and-mouse spy game, Olivia and Natalie wed and Josh made a vow to Reva to return a year later to see if she still wanted to leave. Flash forward to a year later at the final Bauer barbecue, everyone is with babies and family and friends. Reva met Josh at the lighthouse and they took off in his truck.
8. IT WAS CANCELLED?-“For Richer For Poorer” (Procter and Gamble Productions)
In 1977, NBC and Procter & Gamble gave Harding LeMay a soap. At first, it was “Lovers and Friends” but it was taken off and then six months later, it reappeared as “For Richer For Poorer”. Although the former was a much livelier entry than its’ predecessor, the ratings continued to wane; even with the appearances of Mac and Rachel Cory from Bay City and “Another World” doing some business in Chicago it wasn’t enough to save it. Finally, NBC decided to cancel the soap…and it was if they didn’t tell anybody. Viewers were caught off- guard by a King Tut special (which also pre-empted “The Doctors”) on the day before it was supposed to end. The episode did air on Friday but on the following Monday, “For Richer For Poorer” was not on the air.
7. ONE HELL OF A TRIAL/CLASSY EXIT-“Love of Life” (CBS Productions)
“Love of Life” was a popular soap but over time like most soaps, the ratings dove and the network tries to save it but it was all for naught. But to go out with a bang they did. Betsy Lang left her hospital bed to testify at the trial of Ben Harper. When she stood up on the the witness stand, she passed out. When it came back from commercial, the show’s logo was seen as well as the names of the people behind the soap while the camera followed longtime director Larry Auerbach through empty sets as he exited the studio.
6. THE DEVIL MADE HIM DO IT-“Dallas” (Lorimar-Telepictures)
“Dallas” had a huge audience but threw it all away in one swoop. What happened was that Patrick Duffy wanted to leave the role of Bobby Ewing and the show killed him off. The next season turned out to be Pam’s bad dream. And then the ratings tanked. But the show ended in their take on “It’s a Wonderful Life”. J.R. was in his office drunk when an angel appeared and showed J.R. what life would be like without him. When that made J.R. more depressed, he pulled out a gun – and then the angel turned into a demon urging J.R. to take his life. We hear the gun go off and Bobby rushing in and screaming, “No!” Decades later, when the series returned to TNT, picking up from where the original “Dallas” left off with J.R. shooting a mirror he never liked.
5. THEY’RE BAAAAAAAACK!-“The Edge of Night” (Procter & Gamble Productions)
“The Edge of Night” was an original: it was a mystery serial that ran for 28 years and it hooked a male audience. But its fortunes changed when it went to ABC where over half of its affiliates either dropped it or moved it all over the schedule. Went even harder when all of ABC’s 30 minute soaps (Edge, “Ryan’s Hope” and “Loving”) were off the schdules during the 1984 Summer Olympics and more affiliates dropped it. Since ABC wanted P&G to pick up the production costs and P&G said no, ABC dropped it. But not before the show set up the return of maniac sociopath Jerry Van Dyne. In the previous year, new headwriter Lee Sheldon took the reins from longtime scribe Henry Slesar after 15 years. Sheldon set up a mind-control storyline that had Van Dyne and henchman Donald Hext controlling the minds of various citizens of Monticello, but Hext died in a swordfight and fell from the top of the Isis Tower. A year later, Detective Chris Egan was walking along a side alley marked Wondeland Lane-only to discover that Van Dyne stabbed his sister Alicia to death and Hext was still alive. She bolted out of there to make it to the Carrs to warn them about what she had discovered. As the show’s theme played, everyone was in panic mode except for Sky and Raven Whitney, who were looking to celebrate the night, only to see the sword left by Hext waiting on the Carr’s doorstep.
3. “O DANNY BOY” ONE LAST TIME-“Ryan’s Hope” (ABC Daytime)
Soaps have always managed to do traditions related to their characters, and “Ryan’s Hope” was no exception. Nearly every year around St. Patrick’s Day, Ryan matriarch Maeve Ryan would sing “Danny Boy” for the pub’s patrons as part of the celebrations. It was poignant that, on January 13, 1989, Maeve Ryan would sing the song to close out the episode.
2. TO TEXAS-“Texas” (Procter and Gamble Productions)
“Texas” was born out of “Another World” scaling back from 90 minutes to one hour and sending Iris Wheeler to Houston. The show was opposite “General Hospital” and “Guiding Light” in most markets, and was starting to gain ground until two of the characters decided they wanted to go on an adventure and one said to the other, “You mean like Luke and Laura?” and the network moved them to the morning. Cancelled the same day as “The Doctors”, “Texas” has a lot of finality to it. The employees at TV Station KVIK were all fired by the new owners and the cast broke out singing “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. Then they had a bittersweet toast, “To Texas!”
1. NEARLY EVERYBODY DIES IN THE FUTURE-“Al Diablo Con Los Guapos (To Hell With The Beautiful)” (Televisa/Univision)
“Al Diablo Con Los Guapos” was a telenovela that aired on Univision for a few months, which is the way telenovelas go and they have finales called “gran finales”…and they score big in major markets where they air; some even go to #1 in their time periods. Anyhow, the episode started the way it ended (sort of) with Mili and Alejandro walking on the beach. As young lovers they made a vow to meet at the beach when they got old. And in the future, mostly everyone dies, except the next generation of kids…and you see them die from natural cuases. When it comes to Mili and Alejandro’s turn (as old people), they sit on a couch and remember one last time. Then they both die off.