It's the end of another soaptastic year -- the fictional one we see play out on television, though it's also the end of the year in the often too soapy real world, as well. As Soap Central has done every year since 1995, it's time to take a look back at everything that has happened in Genoa City, Los Angeles, Port Charles, and Salem over the last twelve months.
To be fair, there were so many things going on that it is impossible to list every single one in this special year-end column. We did, however, manage to break it down to some of the major categories. We have also provided links to even more of our special coverage of all things 2021, including links to our 2021: Year In Soaps hub, where you check out the most-read news stories of 2021, the most outrageous and talked-about Soap Central graphics, as well as a list of the daytime family members that we lost in the past year.
We've also posted links to our Two Scoops Best and Worst commentaries for each of the four soaps. You'll get two sets of opinions for each soap, for a whopping eight different points of view. Some you'll agree with, some you'll question, and, as we found when reading them, you might realize that there are a lot of things that you'd forgotten about!
So, without any further delay, here is a look back at The Year In Soaps: 2021.
It was nice to see daytime come to terms with its own lack of on-screen diversity. It was long overdue. However, daytime now needs to realize that simply having Black and brown faces on-screen isn't enough.
On The Young and the Restless, Genoa City's richest resident isn't Victor Newman. It's also not Jack Abbott. No, the true power player in GC is Devon Hamilton. But rather than craft a business-related storyline for the town's most prominent African American... the Y&R writers chose to make Devon a sperm donor... for one of the town's white couples. This, after the show had previously written that all of Devon's money had been taken from him (though he did get it back), disregarded the fact that Devon has wanted to be a father for as long as we can remember. Sure, Devon's selfless act might eventually lead to a front burner custody battle, but everything about the storyline has just felt wrong.
On The Bold and the Beautiful, Carter Walton was finally given a front burner storyline. He was having an affair with the wife of his boss. While that's nothing new in the world of soaps, the dynamics were different. Once Eric Forrester learned that Carter and Quinn were having an affair, Eric gave them a permission slip to fool around anytime they wanted. In fact, it was more of the wealthy, white Eric ordering his Black employee to pleasure his wife. The story came across as incredibly tone deaf, falling back on offensive stereotypes of Black men.
General Hospital gave new meaning to White Christmas with its "Happy Holiday" 2021 promotion. Despite the show having at least nine African American and three Asian American actors on the canvas, none of them appeared in the show's new one-minute holiday greeting. For a show that touts its inclusivity whenever possible, the promo comes across as anything but inclusive, and, even worse, it's offensive.
We'll start this off by saying what seems like an obvious statement, but here it is anyway: that there is nothing funny about Alzheimer's or dementia. However, leave it to Days of our Lives to find a way to turn the insidious ailment into one of the biggest gotcha moments in soap opera history.
The show teased that the beloved Doug Williams would be battling dementia. Even though the NBC soap had done a similar storyline before, many fans wondered if DAYS was attempting to follow in the footsteps of General Hospital and The Young and the Restless, which had won Emmys earlier in the year for Alzheimer's stories. It was eventually revealed that Doug's health issues weren't dementia or even age-related; he was possessed by the ultimate soap opera villain: Satan.
What made the gotcha even more, um, gotchaier was that Susan Seaforth-Hayes (Julie Willams) even gave interviews about the storyline and how she and real-life husband Bill Hayes felt about it. It turns out, Susan wasn't quite telling the truth. Why would she lie? Maybe the de -- well, you know.
Who knew that Comcast's fledgling streaming service Peacock would turn out to be a soap lover's BFF? The series greenlit a five-episode Days of our Lives spinoff series called Beyond Salem that brought fan favorites back into the fold, mixed in an international crime caper, and added a dash of drag queens for good measure.
If that wasn't enough, Peacock also gifted DAYS fans with the soap's first-ever Christmas movie. How is it that a show that is synonymous with hanging Christmas ornaments on the tree never had its own Christmas special?
While some fans fear that this could foreshadow the eventual transition of Days of our Lives to a streaming-only program, we're optimistic that these two streaming ventures are just the start of what could be a wonderful new partnership.
In March, The Bold and the Beautiful's head honcho, Brad Bell, touted its upcoming murder mystery story as something that would "turn into a very complex mystery" with twists and surprises. Fans waited with anticipation for the show's first whodunit, only to find out there wasn't really a whodunit. We saw Liam dunit, with the dunit being crashing into Vinny while driving Bill's car. Bill and Liam eventually landed in jail -- where they rightly should have been for leaving the scene of an accident and obstructing justice -- but any sympathy the audience was supposed to feel for the two men quickly dried up.
What seemed like months later, the "twist" turned out to be that Vinny actually wanted to die and planned to be mowed down by Liam. With oodles of other ways that Vinny could have chosen to frame Liam, this did not seem to be the appropriate vehicle for that.
Chanel, one of our weekly Two Scoops commentary columnists for The Bold and the Beautiful, actually picked this as her favorite B&B storyline of the year. You can read her thoughts in The B&Best and the Worst of The Bold and the Beautiful, Part One.
We knew that The Bold and the Beautiful would have to find a way to write out Zoe Buckingham when Kiara Barnes landed a role on the FOX reboot of Fantasy Island. What we didn't expect is that the exit would be so... blah. After learning that Carter and Quinn had been having a torrid affair, there was no confrontation from Zoe, no angry voicemail, no venting FaceTime or Zoom, and barely an acknowledgement that anything messed up had taken place. Zoe skipped off to Paris (the city, not her sister, because apparently London and Milan weren't options), where she walks runways and exists on her own little storyline island.
General Hospital fans learned that Briana Nicole Henry was exiting her role as Jordan Ashford on the day of the character's final appearance. A mishap while working a case resulted in Jordan suffering serious kidney damage... so much damage that the character had to be shipped out of Port Charles for treatment. That would almost make sense if it were not for a critically injured Valentin being flown from Greece all the way back to Port Charles because General Hospital was the only location that could perform delicate surgery needed to save his life.
Also on General Hospital, GH touted its casting of Kim Delaney in the role of Jackie Templeton... and then the actress and character disappeared without so much as a goodbye.
With soaps airing over 200 episodes per year and some actors celebrating decades on their shows, viewers can sometimes forget or even take for granted just how talented some stars really are. In other instances, some actors see their characters languish without any meaty material for far too long.
Lawrence Saint-Victor has portrayed Carter Walton on The Bold and the Beautiful since 2013. For much of those eight years, he's been relegated to wedding officiant or semi-naked gym rat. We're not super upset about one of those. Finally, Saint-Victor was given a storyline that allowed him to flex his acting muscles. In scenes immediately after Quinn chose to go back to Eric, a heartbroken Carter told Katie, "You have no idea how alone I feel." The emotion and the delivery made this scene stand out as the best of Saint-Victor's career.
Also on The Bold and the Beautiful, Aaron D. Spears has played Justin Barber since 2009. For much of that time, Justin has been Bill Spencer's yes man. Even when the actor was on contract with B&B, it's hard to think of any significant storylines or scenes he's had. So, we were captivated when Justin turned on his boss and did everything he could to keep Bill languishing in jail. The Thomas-in-a-cage might have been a bit much, but it showed how broken Justin really was.
The highlight was the July showdown between Bill and Justin following Bill's release from jail. Justin unloaded, his voice cracking and tears flowing freely as he accused Bill of taking him for granted and not appreciating him. Bill lashed out, reminding Justin that while he thought of Justin as a brother, Justin was not his brother by blood. Soaps don't often explore male friendships, but B&B boldly did, and the result was golden.
Kirsten Storms was introduced to daytime audiences in 1999 when she took on the role of Belle Black on Days of our Lives. In 2005, Storms joined the cast of General Hospital, and she has been involved in numerous front burner storylines. But in 2021, viewers got a chance to see the actress with a fresh set of eyes.
In June, after Maxie nearly had her newborn child stolen from her, Maxie tore into Peter, the child's father who had planned the kidnapping. "I would say that you're as bad as your father, but you're not. At least Faison was an evil genius -- you're just some cheap imitation knockoff."
In December, Maxie got to rip into Peter once again, this time while he was handcuffed in a police interrogation room. When the delusional criminal talked about how he, Maxie, and their child would one day be a family again, Maxie informed Peter that he would rot in jail then she snarled, "Think about that. Choke on it." It was a line that thousands of GH fans cheered -- and probably wanted to say themselves. More importantly, it allowed Storms to play a different side of Maxie, one that reminded us why we need more Maxie on our screen.
Due to safety protocols that have been put in place, the number of actors that were permitted to appear on-set at a given time was greatly restricted. That has meant an end (for now) to the big, lavish events and galas that we've been used to seeing. Nothing good ever happens when the entire town gets together, so that might have been good news to the fictional townspeople of the four soaps.
If you've tuned in to Days of our Lives' Christmas movie on Peacock, you have probably noticed a new cozy and romantic inn that was created for the film. The set was created by DAYS' set designer Tom Early, and it is totally different from anything we've seen on DAYS in recent years. In fact, we're not the only fans. Deidre Hall (Marlena) tells Soap Central that when she first saw the set, she thought, "I want this to be a permanent set!" Hall adds, "I loved the little wood frame, the staircase, the tiny little fireplace. I just loved it."
General Hospital, meanwhile, went upward for one of its new sets: a rooftop pool. From concept to completion, it took GH production designers Jennifer Elliot and Andrew Evashchen three months to get the Metro Court's pool deck just right. Not only is the set beautiful -- it's also functional. The pool is deep enough to allow actors to take a dip or -- since it's a soap -- get pushed in.
General Hospital introduced more new sets than other soaps. Some of the other new, revamped, or repurposed sets include prisons and living areas on Cassadine Island, the Savoy, a yoga studio, new offices at the hospital, and some new rooms at the Quartermaine mansion.
In years past, soaps might have traveled abroad or even ventured to a scenic California location for a wedding, but that wasn't possible, either. So, the set designers of The Young and the Restless did the next best thing, they created an entire Newman villa set just for Ashland and Victoria's wedding. Creating sets isn't cheap, but Y&R stepped things up for the week-long celebration. They even found a way to get Janice Lynde (Leslie Brooks) to bless us with her incredible piano-playing talent.
But not all of Y&R's weddings were winners. Fans of Kyle and Summer, or Skyle, were crushed when a contract impasse led to both Michael Mealor and Hunter King being written off the show. But things were made even worse when the star-crossed lovers finally married... and fans didn't get to see a single second of the ceremony because it happened off-screen. Yes, Skyle fans wanted a happy ending for the couple, but denying them the chance to see the couple tie the knot definitely qualifies as the "for worse" part of the vows.
When any long-time performer passes away, we are among the first to take to social media or our Two Scoops commentaries to demand a tribute episode. In May, General Hospital dedicated an episode to the late John Reilly, who played WSB boss Sean Donely. The episode reunited veteran performers and introduced GH viewers to Reilly's real-life daughter, Caitlin Reilly. In the episode, Sean's friends attended a wake... and then disappeared one by one. It wasn't anything sinister, just a test to see if Sean's grieving daughter had what it took to be a WSB agent herself. The idea was intriguing, but it got lost somewhere in translation. And we would have loved to see a lot more flashbacks.
The Bold and the Beautiful could benefit from a few new sets. It seems odd that an international fashion house would have everyone sharing two rooms -- one of which is an executive suite that sees more foot traffic than any of Los Angeles' subway stations. And while we like seeing Brooke's home, it was odd to see everyone having Thanksgiving dinner scattered around Brooke's living room. Does Brooke not have a formal dining room, or is sitting on the couch to chow down on turkey part of some new Beverly Hills trend?
We've put out an APB for Bob Moss (switch the first letters!), the name affectionately given to the bowl of moss that used to reside on the Corinthoses' kitchen counter. The miniature lily pond just isn't cutting it.
In a time where musicians score contracts from their work on TikTok and YouTube, it shouldn't be all that surprising that actors can land roles via social media. Way back in January 2020 -- that seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it? -- a throwaway Twitter exchange between DAYS head writer Ron Carlivati and actress Jackée Harry apparently planted seeds for Harry's eventual touchdown in Salem, USA. Jackée's Paulina has provided yet another reason to tune in to DAYS. More importantly, this wasn't just stunt casting for Sweeps. Jackée Harry has been front and center in storylines and even in the Beyond Salem streaming series and DAYS Christmas movie, A Very Salem Christmas.
While Ms. Harry's addition to the DAYS cast is worthy of the Biggest Casting Coup title in its own right, DAYS went even further by hiring the legendary Marla Gibbs to play Jackée's on-screen mother, Olivia. It was the 227 reunion that no one knew they wanted. Unfortunately, TVLine apparently still isn't aware that it happened.
If Days of our Lives is taking requests for 2022, we'd love to see Regina King - another 227 alum -- somehow take a detour from all of her Oscar- and Emmy-winning work to visit Mary and Sandra, er, Paulina and Olivia in Salem.
Tony and Laurisa, our weekly Two Scoops commentary columnists for Days of our Lives, also liked Jackée Harry's addition to the DAYS cast. You can read their thoughts in The 15th Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2021.
The space/time continuum has always been a little suspect in the world of soaps. Small, sleepy towns with direct flights to exotic foreign locations? That might explain how someone can fly from Europe to the States in the same amount of time that it takes someone else to get across town. We're not counting The Bold and the Beautiful because... L.A. traffic.
But the weirdest bit of geography seems to have started years ago on All My Children with the... creation?... of the Pennsylvania Ocean. New Jersey apparently became the victim of global warming and rising sea levels way back in the 90s. Somehow, General Hospital's Sonny Corinthos was shot in Secaucus, New Jersey, and floated downstream to suburban Philadelphia.
Things got extra tricksy when we learned that Crete -- yes, the very same Crete that is a Greek island -- might also be in that same ocean. And global warming seems to have also claimed much of continental Europe because, as mentioned earlier in this column, a character needed very high-risk surgery and there was nowhere between Crete and Port Charles, New York, that was capable of doing the surgery. But that makes a little more sense now that we've learned that Crete is somewhere off the coast of Long Island.
While all four soaps chose not to include the COVID-19 crisis in their stories, General Hospital found itself having to address the issue in the fall of 2021 when it released two veteran performers for not complying with ABC's vaccine mandate. Ingo Rademacher and Steve Burton left their roles as Jasper Jacks and Jason Morgan, respectively.
Jax's decision to leave Port Charles didn't have the same punch as Jason being killed by the collapsing tunnels on Cassadine Island. We're pretty sure that Jason isn't really dead-dead -- the whole no body thing was a pretty big giveaway -- but Jason's death, perhaps more than any other character's, impacts the most characters on the canvas. There may come a time when Jason resurfaces -- either with Burton in the role or someone else -- but for now, his presumed death provides just the shot in the arm that GH's storylines need heading into a new year.
Every soap has been criticized over the years for not having a particular character at a major event. You know, the so-and-so is in the other room excuse. The Bold and the Beautiful took some heat for Taylor Hayes not showing up at daughter Steffy's wedding... or the birth of her son. It seemed obvious that at some point, the CBS soap would need to figure out how to address the character's absence. What we didn't expect was that B&B would recast the role.
Maybe it shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise that the show made the decision to recast. After all, in recent years, the roles of Ridge and Thorne Forrester were unexpectedly recast.
There's still no official word on why Hunter Tylo did not reprise the role she created, but B&B deserves applause for its selection of DAYS alum Krista Allen as its new Taylor. It couldn't have been easy for Allen to step into the role. In fact, she took to social media in the days leading up to her first on-air appearance to musingly liken it to being "about to be introduced to my fiancé's mom for the very first time -- but she's made it very clear that his ex is the only one for him." But even with just a few episodes under her belt, we're definitely looking forward to seeing how Allen puts her own spin on the iconic role.
Nearly a decade ago, three characters moved from Llanview to Port Charles following the unceremonious cancellation of One Life to Live. For more than a year, Roger Howarth's Todd Manning mixed and mingled, not necessarily to a jinglin' beat, with the residents of Port Charles -- until a legal spat over One Life to Live and All My Children's online revivals forced ABC to stop using the characters that had transitioned from OLTL to GH. As a result, Howarth was given a new role: notorious murderer-slash-artist Franco, previously played by actor James Franco.
It was initially a hard sell having Howarth as a new character -- particularly one that didn't seem to be needed on the canvas. Somehow, through the use of dog crates and experimental memory implantation, Franco became a vital piece of the GH puzzle, and he even found someone to love. Then he was whacked by the why-isn't-he-dead-yet Peter August. The death was shocking and another cruel twist for Elizabeth Webber (who at the time of this writing still hasn't learned that another of her loves, Jason Morgan, is dead).
Then came another twist: Roger Howarth wasn't leaving GH. The actor was given some much-deserved time off before returning as another new character, Austin Gatlin-Holt. At least Austin has ties to the Quartermaines, but did GH really need to create another role for Howarth? Was Todd Manning really not an option? Sources tell Soap Central that Todd's checkered past made him problematic for current-day GH, which did not want to incorporate another rapist into the show. Could Franco have been revealed to have faked his death? To be clear, we want to see Howarth on General Hospital, but we just wish it wasn't the result of this clunky twist.
As we've already mentioned, taking over the role of an established character isn't easy. It's even harder when the actor being replaced has made said character their own. That was the challenge facing Nicholas Alexander Chavez when he assumed the role of Spencer Cassadine from Nicolas Bechtel this year.
Fans had watched Spencer (and Bechtel) grow up before their eyes from the time he assumed the role in 2013 to his final appearance in 2020. It seemed a given that anyone following him would have a tough time winning over viewers.
Chavez was a welcome surprise when he landed in Port Charles in July. The actor embraced much of what fans loved about Bechtel's portrayal, but at the same time, he made the role his own -- a more grown-up, if still-at-times immature, Spence(r) Cassadine. Chavez wasn't given much time to find his footing. In his first scenes, he was arranging for fake blood to be Carrie-esquely dumped on the young woman who became an unwitting side in one of daytime's best teen love polygons in several generations.
The Bold and the Beautiful's Steffy and Finn named their newborn son Hayes in honor of Steffy's mother, Taylor Hayes. Awww. How sweet, right? Not really. First, Hayes is not Taylor's maiden name as implied. That was Hamilton. Hayes is the last name of Taylor's abusive, stalker first ex-husband.
Couples, like seemingly everything else nowadays, can be a highly subjective thing. While we don't watch any soap just for a particular couple, that doesn't mean that we don't have our favorites.
The Bold and the Beautiful spent most of the year with its couples intact. The Leffy Lope saga took some time off. There was one unexpected couple, and we feel bad for "shipping" an adulterous coupling. Carter and Quinn were totally unexpected, and perhaps that's the reason we liked them together. Carter and Quinn had traveled in separate orbits prior to their unexpected bonding over love lost. It would have been refreshing to see Quinn choose Carter over Eric, especially after that icky sex contract. But, alas, things changed at the drop of a Quarter.
Happy couples make boring couples. I'm not sure who first said that. I am not entirely sure that it's accurate, at least in real life. But on soaps, it seems writers always struggle to create storylines for couples that do not involve a long-lost spouse/child or cheating. Days of our Lives has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Ben and Ciara -- but that could always happen during the next Sweeps period. We want Ben and Ciara to be happy, and there's something weirdly satisfying about seeing true love win out in the end. Anything less would be a Cin.
General Hospital has a bunch of fledgling couples and even some non-couples. Anna and Valentin have a twisted past, but they've somehow managed to put that all aside and grow closer. The only thing that's annoying about the pairing is that their couple smooshed name, Vanna, trends on Twitter under the headline of Wheel of Fortune. Scott and Liesl might be the oddest pairing in the history of soaps, but it works. And clearly, Kin Shriner and Kathleen Gati are having a ball with it. We're also looking forward to seeing what bubbles up for Fiz -- Finn and Elizabeth. The non-couple that has our attention is Spencer and Trina. They were never officially a couple, but, oh, would we want them to be. If you'll allow us to repurpose an Internet meme: Get you someone who looks at you like Spencer looks at Trina. (Sorry, Esme)
The Young and the Restless saw quite a few couples break up in 2021. We like that Tessa and Mariah remain committed, despite some bumps in the road along the way. We're hoping that -- no matter how tempting it might be -- Y&R doesn't have Noah play the third side in a love triangle.
2021 was the year that Days of our Lives threw everything against the wall to see what would stick. Usually, that's meant as an insult. In this case, it is totally meant as a compliment. Much of what has failed soap operas over the last decade has been the genre's unwillingness or hesitance to take chances for fear of negatively impacting their ratings.
Days of our Lives has not been afraid to take chances over the past year. Need proof? There was a You-style girl in a box story, the walking dead caused a ruckus (and it wasn't a Halloween dream), a character was transformed into a cat, and Satan bounced from person to person like the ball over the lyrics in one of those family sing-along specials.
Not everything was over the top. There were soap staples like amnesia, maternity secrets, and weddings, and DAYS also had an actual whodunit mystery with the death of Charlie. Even the casting has been entertaining. In addition to the aforementioned Jackée Harry and Marla Gibbs, Days of our Lives cast the amazing Linda Dano for a brief stint as Vivian Alamain.
Days of our Lives also deserves praise for paying attention to the dialogue. Even the best storyline can flounder if the characters aren't saying things that are interesting. On DAYS, the characters were saying things that were witty, downright funny, shocking, risqué, and, yes, interesting.
Not everything was a home run -- we're still not over Gwen killing Laura -- but even with its flaws, DAYS remained wholly entertaining from January through December.
It's never easy to pick the best of anything. There will always be someone to argue the point and list reasons why that selection shouldn't be the best. It's important to remember that just because you don't care for a storyline or perhaps your favorite couple isn't together, that doesn't mean that a show is bad or that the writers are terrible.
Throughout this year-end review, we've listed some of the highlights of General Hospital's 2021. We've also listed things that didn't work. And to be clear, there are a lot more goods and a lot more bads that we didn't have the space to list.
What made General Hospital the best soap of the year was the show's ability to make every day a must-see. Unlike a couple of the other soaps, we didn't have to scroll through 52 weeks of recaps to remind us if anything exciting happened on the show. Something actually happened every day. Characters didn't just sit around and tell each other about things that had already happened, characters actually did things. Need proof?
In the course of twelve months, there were soap opera staples: amnesia, paternity uncertainty, love triangles, mystery and intrigue, comedy, stalkers, evil twins, a case of wedding interruptus, a death that didn't take, a car bomb detonation, a shocking murder, tribute episodes, a hostage situation, a baby swap and faked kidnapping, new couples, reunited former couples, forbidden love, love triangles, the return of a vibrant teen scene, the discussion of contemporary health topics, a raging inferno, half-naked men, creepy newcomers, a daughter harpooning her mother by accident, new sets, a tunnel collapse, mourning and grief, love, and rivals smashing things with baseball bats and hockey sticks.
And all of these things happened in the age of COVID, when budgets are extra tight and safety measures have forced changes to the way things are done both on-screen and behind the scenes. Of the four soaps, General Hospital appears the least impacted -- at least on-screen. It's made watching GH remind us of a time before "social distancing."
More than any other soap, General Hospital appears willing to take risks. Why one of those risks isn't planning a Peter August whodunit, we're not sure.
GH's biggest risk-taking move of 2021 involved the action that took place in Nixon Falls, Pennsylvania. The storyline split fans into two camps, the "love it"s and the "hate it"s. For nine months, mobster Sonny lived life as carefree barkeep "Mike." It was a side to Sonny that many viewers didn't think could exist. Even those who disliked the idea of Nina wedging her way into Sonny's life -- and potentially between Sonny and Carly -- admitted to liking the softer side of Sonny. Did the story go on too long? Depends. Having the story play out over a longer period of time at least made it believable. Having "Mike" and Nina develop strong feelings over three or four weeks would have been laughable. After all, GH is not The Bachelor.
Do you agree the choices we made? Are there any that you disagree with? If so, why, and what are your bests and worsts of 2021? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.