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News 8 Throwback: Behind the scenes of popular daytime soap operas in the 1980s and ‘90s

Our reporters visited the sets of "The Young and the Restless," "The Bold and the Beautiful," "General Hospital," and more when soaps were enjoying peak popularity.
Credit: KFMB

LOS ANGELES — Daytime soap operas can be a great escape from daily life. And couldn’t we all use a little bit of that right now?  

This week’s News 8 Throwback digs into our archives for all the drama soaps were offering in the 1980s and ‘90s. The hair was big but the catfights were bigger. 

In 1980, News 8’s Janet Zappala went behind the scenes of soap operas for a three-part look at their appeal with growing audiences. In part one, Janet found one reason: the 13 soaps that were on at the time portrayed sex scenes even more than primetime television. Maybe that’s why fans of the shows were growing to include teen and male viewers. 

Soap-lovers explained that the shows could be informational and also therapeutic as a form of escapism. Even the stars of the shows themselves told our reporter about their fandom for soaps. 

In part two, Mike Hanks the casting director of “The Young and the Restless” talked about his process for finding talent for the show and gave Janet a chance to test her acting chops. Actors from various soaps also talked about the dramatic storylines and how much of themselves they brought to the role. 

In part three, Janet spoke to the actors more about their characters and experiences playing them. 

In December 1990, News 8’s Marianne Kushi reported about the most popular soap opera of the time: “The Young and the Restless” - then in its 17th season. According to the show’s actors, one reason for its success was the comradery on the set. Even if two actors were duking it out on screen, they were supportive friends when behind the scenes. Marianne got an up-close look at actors preparing for scenes, the sets themselves and how crew members made the episodes come together. She also got to speak to the show's co-creators Lee Phillip Bell and William J. Bell – who was also head writer.  

Barb Nielsen, Throwback archives editor was a sound technician on the Young and the Restless 1990 shoot. She shares her memories below:  

Katherine Chancellor, the grande dame of The Young and the Restless and her arch-nemesis Jill Abbott, off-camera, were the best of friends. Jeanne Cooper and Jess Walton were so much fun, and I was thrilled to meet them. It's apparent in the video. They seemed to enjoy having us there and were very kind to us. All the cast and crew were very welcoming. I was excited to meet Lee Phillip Bell, the show's co-creator. I grew up in the Chicago area and watched The Lee Phillip Show. She and her husband, creator and head writer William J. Bell were as nice as can be. Peter Bergman plays Jack Abbott. He was a relative newcomer as he started at The Young and the Restless in November 1989. He replaced Terry Lester who was great as Jack. It's never easy to replace a popular character but Bergman rose to the task and has now played Jack for more than thirty years. 

It was a very exciting and memorable day meeting the people I grew up watching every day. Their off-air personas did not disappoint. 

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In 1993, News 8 reporter Sandra Maas made her national television debut – though not on the CBS Evening News as she may have dreamed. The first of this three-part series chronicles Sandra’s experience on the set of “The Young and the Restless” where she played Nurse Sally Winslow a character with no lines. Behind the scenes, Sandra got a tour of the set and then got some tips from the director on how to take a pulse. Next up was hair and makeup before getting in place. Sandra nailed her big scene in one take and even got praise from “The Y and the R” star Peter Bergman. Sandra made $125 for her 13 seconds on camera.

 In part two, Sandra takes a look at all the steamy, sexy storylines and quintessential catfights of daytime dramas. Two of the show’s stars Jeanne Cooper and Jess Walton talked about the changes in sexual themes on soaps – and in movies. 

In part three, Sandra spoke with Christian LeBlanc who played villain Michael Baldwin and his female counterpart Kimberlin Brown who played the “wicked” Sheila Carter. Fun fact: Kimberlin is a San Diego native who grew up in La Mesa and attended Grossmont High School. What was supposed to be a few months on the soap, turned into years for Kimberlin who also appeared as Sheila on “The Bold and the Beautiful” as recently as 2018.  

News 8 entertainment reporter George Pennacchio visited the set of “The Bold and the Beautiful” in 1994. He spoke with stars of the show including Michael Sabatino, Bobbie Eakes and “Queen of Daytime” Darlene Conley who passed away in 2007. George asked the actors about filming love scenes and tried his hand at picking up Miss Conley in a scene that left our reporter blushing. 

The second part of George’s piece is all about "The B and the B" heartthrob Ronn Moss who was heating up the small screen as Ridge Forrester while playing the role of new father at home. Ronn talked about his role on the show, his baby daughter and his plans to reform his band Player who had a hit song called “Baby Come Back” in 1978.  

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