Saturday, July 30, 2011

FLASHBACK: Bridget & Jerome Dobson - SANTA BARBARA's Guiding Lights 1984


By Julie Richard
Los Angeles Times
July 28, 1984

While prime-time series come and go, daytime dramas generally go on and on, so when a new serial enters the field, the trick is to lure away loyal viewers already ensconced in the machinations of their favorite soap characters.

Two veteran soap writers, Bridget and Jerome Dobson, hope to do just that with SANTA BARBARA, which they've created, executive produce and write and which premieres on NBC on Monday at 2 p.m. The Dobsons are optimistic that SANTA BARBARA will not only find a niche in the soap world but also eventually become No. 1.

"It's young viewers we want to catch," Bridget said, "because viewers who've been watching soaps 20 years don't change. It's very hard to woo them away. It's the new viewers we want."

To that end, the Dobsons have developed a show which, as Bridget puts it, will be more humorous, more glamorous and more entertaining" than any other daytime drama.

Sitting in the production offices of NBC's Studio 11, a month-old $1.9-million facility built specifically for SANTA BARBARA, Bridget Dobson quietly explained why she thinks their show will be different from other soaps. Meanwhile, her husband and partner, Jerome, scurried in and out, pausing only long enough to add a few comments before rushing off to remedy last-minute difficulties on their first episode's taping day.

The series, which focuses on four families in the California coastal community, was "conceived as an American microcosm," Bridget said. The families--the Lockridges, Capwells, Perkinses and Andrades--represent a cross section of SANTA BARBARA.

"The Capwell family came over on the Mayflower," Bridget elaborated. "Whey they arrived, they were poor. Emmett Capwell vowed to his wife to do what was necessary to make the lives of their future generations good. They succeeded, and now their ancestors live in Santa Barbara.

"Now the Andrade family has come across the Rio Grande, and Ruben Andrade has vowed to his wife that he will do whatever is necessary for his future generations. He's starting his dream; the Capwells have theirs."

Themselves long-time residents of Santa Barbara, the Dobsons chose that setting for their soap because, Bridget said, the people there are "individualistic, nonconformists, outspoken, opinionated, and they hit all the extremes. Many represent the richest families in America. You have the poorest too."

In depicting the diversity of cultures they say comprise the city, the Dobsons have incorporated in their show a rarity on daytime TV, the use of minority characters as central figures. In this case, it's the Mexican Andrade family: Ruben, a gardener; Rose, his wife, who is a maid in the Capwell mansion, and their children, one of whom is an interior designer.

The Dobsons don't view having a Mexican family as part of the major story line unusual. "We're telling the story of Santa Barbara, and the Mexican community is a large part of that," Jerome said. "It doesn't feel like a minority/majority issue to us. This is just part of Santa Barbara. It's life. We don't consider it an issue."

The two added that their show won't be centered around issues at all, unlike some daytime dramas which have tackled social concerns from alcoholism to wife-beating, child abuse and rape.

"We're not going to be dealing with social issues, per se," Bridget said, "although they come out. We're going to be telling stories. It's going to be fun to watch. There are going to be strong dramatic things to see."

What viewers will see for at least the first month will be principally three story lines: the story of Joe Perkins who is released from prison after serving a five-year term for a crime he didn't commit, the struggle of the Andrades' daughter, Santana, to regain the child she was forced to give up, and Ted Capwell's search for self-identity.

The Dobsons will have a struggle of their own behind the scenes as their new show goes head to head with daytime's current No. 1 serial, GENERAL HOSPITAL. Ironically, Bridget's parents, Frank and Doris Hursley, created GENERAL HOSPITAL and she wrote for that serial for seven years. At that point, Jerome joined her and they became GENERAL HOSPITAL's head writing team for two more years.

"I have a personal affection for Gloria Monty (GENERAL HOSPITAL's producer) which conflicts very much with my strong competitive feeling," Bridget said. "I think in time we'll beat them, but it won't happen right away. I think we're going to have to endure a year and a half of low ratings."

While she believes it will take more than a year to accumulate a strong audience, NBC only has contractually committed to the show for six months. However, Bridget added, "we have a verbal agreement that they can't spend this kind of money and take us off after just six months."

The "kind of money" that NBC has spent includes the cost of the 18,000-square-foot studio, which houses more than 35 sets . Dobson estimates that by the end of a year, NBC will have spent "in excess of $30 million on the show."

She thinks the money is well spent because, she said, "nothing like these sets and the locations have ever been seen on daytime. And the cast is extraordinary. They're better actors from the beginning."

SANTA BARBARA's cast includes Dame Judith Anderson, in her first television series, and daytime Emmy-nominated actress Marcy Walker, who previously portrayed Liza Colby on ALL MY CHILDREN.

Originally one of the main characters, C.C. Capwell, head of the Capwell clan, was to be played by Lloyd Bochner. But according to Bridget, Bochner had to leave the cast for personal reasons after completing some outdoor sequences in Santa Barbara "and we had to recast overnight." Peter Mark Richman stepped into the role. The Dobsons said Bochner as "expressed a desire to return...He may be back in six to eight weeks. Or he might not come back at all. We're not sure yet."

The last-minute problems of cast changes and minor disasters on the set haven't overshadowed the Dobsons' enthusiasm. With a laugh, Bridget said, "We're trying to be the best show on the air, daytime or nighttime. If we fall short, I'll be surprised."


  1. Please a soap network not soap net owned by ABC.Bring back reuns of this and so many others also new soaps.Thanks

    1. bring back Santa Barbara please,please....

  2. I honestly knew from the start it wouldn't make it. The lawsuits should have ended it then