It had a cult following as big as Passions, yet when most people think of a crazy soap opera, they think of the one with zombies and witches and tiny dolls. But fans of the NBC soap opera Sunset Beach know that in one fateful summer 15 years ago, this show managed to outdo any of the insanity Passions could muster with two simple words.
If you know what that’s referring to, then you’re already having flashbacks to the most ridiculous soap opera story ever cooked up. And that’s saying something when it aired alongside the aforementioned Passions and Days Of Our Lives, both of which have tapped into the demonic possession well. But this show didn’t need monsters to lure people in, it starred hot actors and was set on a beach, so it was essentially Baywatch with crazier storylines.
The show only aired from 1997 to 1999, but let’s all take a look back at the summer that our lives were changed forever and we were never able to look at Thanksgiving dinner the same again.
Sunset Beach was the first daytime soap opera produced by hit-maker Aaron Spelling (Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210) and dove headfirst into the exciting world of “the internet” that young people were into in 1998. Meg Cummings (basically Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, right down to the living on a farm in Kansas part) discovered her fiancé was cheating on her and so she ran away to Sunset Beach to be with a man she met online named SB. As you do. SB turned out to be Ben Evans, a really hot, wealthy recluse so it’s a good thing that worked out for her. Meg spent all of her time trying to make Ben love her, doing psychotic things like breaking into his home and dressing up in his dead wife’s clothes.
The show borrowed heavily from pop culture. Characters frequently had fantasies that they were on programs like The Jerry Springer Show and Friends, Pop-Up Video-style captions appeared in the middle of scenes, and there was a summer long Scream
rip-off homage with a summer-long storyline called “Terror Island” where a slasher picked off none of the important cast members. Cast members were made up of scheming Annie who accidentally buried herself alive, the hunky Father Antonio who accidentally made a sex tape with his brother’s fiancé, and Real Housewife Brandi Glanville’s philandering ex Eddie Cibrian walked around with his shirt off a lot.
But the characters at the center of the show’s most controversial storyline — yes, this is about the turkey baster — were lovers Michael and Vanessa.
Michael Bourne was the resident hot lifeguard. He found love when he rescued sexy reporter Vanessa Hart from drowning. And from getting mugged. And every other bad thing that happened to this walking disaster magnet. Eventually they started a romance, but as it always goes on soaps, no two people can be in love without a crazy psycho coming between them.
Virginia was old friend of Michael’s and she was OBSESSED with him. She had a son, Jimmy, who she constantly used to get Michael to spend time with her. She made it her mission to break up Vanessa and Michael. When Michael and Vanessa went away to a romantic cabin? SHE SET IT ON FIRE. When she found out that Vanessa’s mother had Martin’s Syndrome, a disease that you can inherit from your parents and leads to mental retardation and facial deformities, Virginia went to the local soothsayer Mrs. Moreau to help her cook up a potion to make Vanessa think she inherited it.
Vanessa tried to skip town, but Michael found her, they ended up in an earthquake and their love conquered all. That and the ugly potion wore off. This obviously pissed off Virginia to no end, so for her final scheme she needed something worse than CONJURING UP VOODOO.
Virginia knew that a doctor named Tyus had the hots for Vanessa, so she came up with a plan she repeatedly called “Operation Insemination.” She drugged Vanessa and Tyus and made them think they slept together. Then she STOLE HIS SPERM that he was keeping in a sperm back and PUT IT INTO A TURKEY BASTER. Without Vanessa realizing it, Virginia stuck the turkey baster into her lady parts and impregnated her with Tyus’ sperm.
Michael and Vanessa broke up because she was having another man’s baby. Virginia worked on getting her hooks into Michael, all the while showing up at Vanessa’s home with turkey basters in her purse to taunt the audience. One such instance was when she brought her own turkey baster to Thanksgiving dinner and the show put a pop-up on the screen to let us know that it wasn’t the SAME turkey baster. We were thankful that the show didn’t want to COMPLETELY gross us out.
All bad things must come to an end.
As happens to all evil plans on soaps, it blew up in Virginia’s face when Michael overheard her blackmailing Vanessa’s doctor to change the due date of her pregnancy. And then Virginia attacked Vanessa and caused her to miscarry the baby anyway. Then she went on a long rant in the hospital, exposing her evil plans like a Bond villain before she was carted off to a mental institution.
Sunset Beach had quite a few other memorable storylines, but this one sticks out as the weirdest, grossest, most ill-conceived story in its three year history. People who didn’t even watch the show immediately think of this show when they hear the word “turkey baster.”
Let’s just dwell on the fact that a show designed to appeal to women had a long-running storyline where a woman was raped with a turkey baster. That’s soaps for you.