For many people around the world, a Santa Barbara reunion cruise would be a dream come true. The television soap opera Santa Barbara may have gone off the air in the U.S. in 1993, but it never left the hearts of many of its fans around the world, and now some folks may have the opportunity to mingle with the original cast while aboard a ship.
The first-ever Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise sails on November 4th through 8th from Miami to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. The cruise will bring together six original Santa Barbara cast members: Lane Davies, A. Martinez, Judith McConnell, Harley Jane Kozak, Louise Sorel, and Nicolas Coster.
“I’m pleased, but more surprised that 30 years later we’re still as fondly remembered as we are,” Lane Davies told Soap Hub.
The show’s creators, Bridget and Jerry Dobson, are credited with its success as well as taking advantage of the 1980s timing, which was the perfect setting for its stories. Its popularity soared in 40 overseas markets, particularly in France, Eastern Europe, and, most of all, Russia. “I think we were so refreshing after communism and dark Siberian winter nights,” said Davies. “Something about the show really captured the Soviet imagination.”
When the series first appeared on NBC network in 1984, the American TV critics were not exactly blown away. One reviewer described it as “The worst program on television …. maybe ever.” But the fan base grew for the show that followed the tumultuous lives of the rich Capwells. The show garnered 24 Daytime Emmy Awards.
“Among daytime soaps, Santa Barbara was notable for its generous $30 million budget and its unique blend of romance, melodrama and black comedy (one popular character was killed when a giant neon letter ‘C’ fell from the Capwell Hotel sign, crushing her),” said History. “It was also the first soap with prominent Hispanic characters–notably Cruz Castillo (A. Martinez), who with Eden Capwell (Marcy Walker) formed one of the show’s resident ‘power couples’–and even featured a member of the British nobility, Dame Judith Anderson, as the grand dame Minx Lockridge.”
Despite the enthusiasm of such fans as Ronald and Nancy Regan, Santa Barbara never finished above 10th place in the ratings. But it remains a cult favorite around the world. Alumni of the series include Robin Wright and soap opera mainstay Jack Wagner.
Its longtime popularity in Russia is particularly remarkable. Santa Barbara was the first ever American soap opera to be broadcast on Russian television. It started airing on Jan. 2, 1992, with episode 217, and came to a close on April 17, 2002, with episode 2,040. For the first several years, the new episodes ran three evenings per week.
Foreign Policy wrote, “For 10 long years — all through the crime-ridden, chaotic 1990s, the early post-Soviet years of timelessness and hardship — life in large cities, small towns, industrial settlements, and snowbound villages across Russia’s 11 time zones would come to a standstill as the remarkably cheery sounds of Santa Barbara’s intro issued from millions of TV sets.”
Davies told Soap Hub that plenty of photo ops, autograph sessions, and “face time” are planned for the cruise. “There will be some panel stuff,” Davies said. “We’re planning a tribute not only to Jed Allan [who played C.C. Capwell], bless his soul, but everybody who has departed this mortal coil since the show ended.”
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He concluded, “What we’re really looking forward to is a shared experience with the fans. They’re not just going to go into a room with other fans and watch 20 minutes of Santa Barbara highlights. We’ll be there with them.”
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com