First episode date
30 July 1984
Number of episodes
Country of origin
No. of seasons
Final episode date
15 January 1993
Bridget DobsonJerome Dobson
Julie Hanan Carruthers, Charlotte Savitz, Steven Kent, Leonard Friedlander
Robin Wright, Marcy Walker, A Martinez, Lane Davies, Nancy Lee Grahn
Santa Barbara is an American television soap opera that aired on NBC from July 30, 1984 to January 15, 1993. The show revolves around the eventful lives of the wealthy Capwell family of Santa Barbara, California. Other prominent families featured on the soap were the rival Lockridge family, and the more modest Andrade and Perkins families.
- Crew and cast changes
- Cast and characters
- Crew history
- Ratings history
- Broadcasts outside the United States
- Other categories
- Other awards
The serial was produced by Dobson Productions and New World Television, which also served as distributor for the show in international markets. Santa Barbara was New World Television's first series. Due to the buyout of New World by (old) News Corporation in 1997, current rights to the series reside with the old News Corp's successor, 21st Century Fox, and its syndication arm, 20th Television.
Santa Barbara aired in the United States at 3:00 PM Eastern (2:00 PM Central) on NBC in the same time slot as General Hospital on ABC and Guiding Light on CBS and right after Another World. Santa Barbara aired in over 40 countries around the world. It became the longest-running television series in Russia, being aired there from 1992 to 2002. Santa Barbara won 24 Daytime Emmy Awards and was nominated 30 times for the same award. The show also won 18 Soap Opera Digest Awards, and won various other awards.
In 1993, NBC replaced Santa Barbara with game shows Scrabble and Scattergories. Shortly before the program was canceled by NBC, New World Television tried to shop Santa Barbara to other broadcast and cable networks, but failed to find one that would air the show.
Santa Barbara is notable for having a central plot around which many of the others revolve: the murder of Channing Capwell, Jr. This killing takes place five years before the series actually begins, at which point Joe Perkins, jailed for the murder, is paroled and returns to Santa Barbara determined to prove his innocence and renew his relationship with Kelly Capwell, sister of the victim. Over the course of the soap, almost every major character would be accused of the murder of Channing Capwell, Jr. or find his or her life involved in the incident in one way or another: from his illegitimate son to his mysterious, presumed-dead mother.
As for whether Santa Barbara really is worse than the soaps that are doing well in the ratings, that's a tough call. On the surface it doesn't appear to be inferior to all those other daytime offerings designed for people with too much time to kill.
Santa Barbara began on an unsteadily with one reviewer deeming the series "the worst program on television... maybe ever." Mark Dawidziak claimed in August 1984 that Santa Barbara was "a serial full of hammy acting, predictable story lines and atrocious dialogue." However, creators and executive producers Bridget and Jerome Dobson tightened the show's cast among a handful of popular characters and proceeded to kill off or write out weaker links and supporting characters via a natural disaster and the "Carnation Killer" serial killer storyline. The original plotline surrounded conflicts between the wealthy Capwell and Lockridge families. Stage legend and Oscar nominee Dame Judith Anderson received a great deal of publicity for headlining the cast as Lockridge matriarch, Minx, but other than a few attempts to give her a major storyline, she was rarely seen. When the Lockridges staged a comeback in the early 1990s, the much younger Broadway and movie veteran Janis Paige assumed the part. The soap showed promise with an early Alexis Carrington-style villainess, Augusta Lockridge (Louise Sorel), but even though critics praised her performance, her storyline was suddenly dropped and Sorel left the show. She would return later on a recurring basis and signed a contract when the Lockridges were written back in as regular characters.
When a major earthquake hit Santa Barbara, core character Danny Andrade slept through the whole thing. Minx Lockridge was unfazed, saying that the 1984 Santa Barbara earthquake was nothing like the one in 1925. She was later locked in an empty sarcophagus. Luckily, her grandchildren were around to let her out and she escaped with merely a bruised ego.
By concentrating on such popular characters as Eden Capwell and Cruz Castillo, C.C. Capwell and his wife Sophia, Mason Capwell and Julia Wainwright Capwell, Gina Blake DeMott Capwell Capwell Timmons Lockridge, Angela Raymond and Warren Lockridge, and Augusta and Lionel Lockridge, the program managed to achieve critical acclaim as well as slowly but surely rising ratings. The show was famous for its comedic style and offbeat writing. For example, in the July 14, 1986 episode, former nun Mary Duvall McCormick (Harley Jane Kozak) was killed by a giant neon letter "C" (for "Capwell") atop the Capwell Hotel toppling on her while she was standing on the hotel roof during an argument (this was later referenced in the American Dad! episode "Homeland Insecurity"). Despite an irate letter-writing campaign by the show's fans (and an offer from the soap to come back), Kozak was reported as saying that she had "no desire to return to SB", or in fact, any other daytime soap. Another example from 1989 involved Greg Hughes (Paul Johansson) having a dream while unconscious about Mason and Julia being aliens and being taken to "The Capwell Zone".
Crew and cast changes
In 1988, the Dobsons were locked out of NBC studios after repeated attempts to fire the head writer. They sued, and were eventually allowed to return to the program, but ratings never recovered, even as the show won three Daytime Emmys in a row for Outstanding Drama Series.
Under new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps' tenure, most of the show revolved around Cruz and Eden. One controversial storyline involved Eden being brutally raped, and later discovering that her assailant was her gynecologist Zack Kelton, who had examined her after her rape. Leigh McCloskey, the actor who played the role, stated that he was uncomfortable with the storyline as he felt that women had enough concerns about visiting gynecologists. After Zack's death, McCloskey returned as a new character, District Attorney Ethan Asher.
Phelps left the series in the early 1990s shortly after being demoted and replaced by John Conboy as executive producer. Finally, Paul Rauch became the last executive producer (all three would later be producers on the long-running daytime series Guiding Light). Many important actors had left the series for one reason or another. Robin Wright was the first to leave, in 1988, to focus on her film career following the success of The Princess Bride the previous year. Later in 1988, Justin Deas left, followed by Lane Davies in 1989 and Marcy Walker in 1991. Popular actress Louise Sorel was fired in 1991 because she did not want to have a romance with Dash Nichols, the man who had raped Augusta's sister Julia. Eden, Cruz, and most of the Lockridges had been written out while new characters played by stars from other shows such as Kim Zimmer, Jack Wagner, and Sydney Penny took up most of the airtime. Nicolas Coster had returned after a 2 1/2 year absence but his character disappeared soon after as Coster could not come to terms over the lack of storyline he had gotten after such promise when he first came back. By the time Coster had resolved the issues and returned permanently, Louise Sorel was on her way out, and Lionel was paired in a romance with C.C.'s former wife, Gina.
Ratings continued to collapse as more and more affiliates dropped the program. Many affiliates began moving the show to earlier time periods, as early as 10 a.m and 1 p.m. The final episode aired in January 1993. In the finale, Sophia and C.C. Capwell moved towards a reconciliation, Kelly found love with Connor McCabe, and at Warren and BJ's wedding, unbalanced Andie Klein aimed a gun at the crowd; however, she was quickly disarmed and carried away by Connor. This was then followed by a roll-call list of the cast and crew. The final shot consisted of executive producer Paul Rauch standing in front of the camera, smashing a cigar under his shoe, and walking away.
Cast and characters
Following common daytime drama practice, over the years the producers of Santa Barbara recast original characters multiple times. By the end of the series, almost every original character had been recast, excluding only Eden, Cruz, Lionel, and Augusta. Out of those four, not one stayed with the show during through the entire run. The characters of Kelly, C.C., and Santana had the highest number of recasts, four each. Some recasts proved successful, most notably Jed Allan (C.C. Capwell #4), Judith McConnell (Sophia Capwell #2) and Robin Mattson (Gina Blake DeMott #2), but many were upsetting to fans.
The first notable departure happened when Robin Wright ended her four-year run as the original Kelly Capwell, followed by the departure of Todd McKee as the original Ted Capwell, and the exit of Lane Davies as Mason Capwell. By 1992, most of the original characters had either been recast a few times or written out, and new characters arrived on the scene, causing the ratings to continue collapsing, until the show was finally canceled. In the final episode the only remaining original actor from the pilot was Margarita Cordova as the faithful Capwell housekeeper Rosa Andrade, although many of the original characters remained, including C.C., Sophia, Kelly, Mason, Ted, Warren Lockridge, Lionel, Gina, and Minx.
During the first three years of the show, the main crew of SB stayed the same, with the Dobsons taking on a double duty as both head writers and executive producers. Jeffrey Hayden served as co-executive producer during the first year, and Mary-Ellis Bunim took over after him. In 1987, after the Dobsons were abruptly fired, associate head writer Charles Pratt, Jr. received head writing status and Anne Howard Bailey joined him as co-head writer until 1989, when Sheri Anderson took over that duty.
Jill Farren Phelps took over as executive producer and kept the position until 1990, when she was replaced by John Conboy, although there was a five-month transition period where both were credited. In 1990, Pratt was fired and replaced by another associate writer, Maralyn Thoma, but her tenure was cut short when the Dobsons finally settled in court and returned to the series. Shortly before the Dobsons returned, Conboy was let go and Paul Rauch was brought on as executive producer in an ill-advised last-ditch attempt at saving the floundering soap. However, the Dobsons left their head writing duties in 1992, when Pam Long was hired as the show's final head writer.
NBC usually pitted Santa Barbara against General Hospital on ABC and Guiding Light on CBS, both of which enjoyed high ratings at the time in the same time slot across all markets. When NBC canceled the long-running soap Search for Tomorrow in 1986, it launched its "NBC Daytime... It Will Excite You" campaign, which promoted their three-hour block of serials starting with Days of Our Lives, followed by Another World, and ending with Santa Barbara in most markets across the U.S.
Although Santa Barbara enjoyed considerable worldwide popularity, it never achieved the same heights in the United States. In its debut (1984–1985) season, it finished in 11th place and 3.4, and edged up to 10th and 4.2 the next year. By 1987, however, it did begin to generate respectable numbers: it was still in 10th place, but achieved a 4.9 rating, the highest in the history of the show. (Incidentally, the 1987–1988 television season also proved to be the best ratings performance of the 1980s for NBC's daytime soap lineup, which had been in ratings trouble since the late 1970s).
As quickly as the ratings rose for Santa Barbara, they fell just as quickly. After recording a 4.8 rating in the 1988-89 season, the serial dropped a full ratings point the next season. Many of the stations airing the show began looking elsewhere for programming and began preempting Santa Barbara in favor of other shows. Some dropped the program altogether while others moved it to an earlier time slot, such as the open 12:00 PM slot that NBC gave back to the affiliates in 1991. In 1992, with ratings barely hovering above a 3.0, NBC decided to rework its daytime schedule. The network announced that Santa Barbara would be cancelled at the midway point of the 1992-93 season, with the final episode airing January 15, 1993. NBC would then give the 3:00 PM hour back to its affiliates, and in exchange for it they would take back the 12:00 PM hour which they had not programmed since Generations was cancelled. Santa Barbara saw its place on the schedule taken by two Reg Grundy-produced game shows, a revival of the company's earlier hit Scrabble and a new program based on the board game Scattergories.