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Seeing double: Soaps' most memorable twin stories

Big, red flashing arrows are all pointing to Mariah being the late Cassie’s long-lost twin on The Young & the Restless. The fact that Mariah’s mother was the nurse who delivered Cassie is one clue. That they’re played by the same actress is another.

It is truly amazing how often twins on a daytime drama are separated at birth, blithely living their appropriately drama-filled lives in complete ignorance of the other—until producers regret killing off a popular character and need a vaguely plausible way to bring back an actor. Or a popular actor starts clamoring for some Emmy-bait material.

Often, though, a soap-opera twin story written out of necessity can turn into a classic. Check out some of our favorites below!

The Emmy-Winning

Another World struck gold several times when they had sweet, shy, rich Marley, played by Ellen Wheeler, learn that she had a brassy, trashy, wrong-side-of-the-tracks twin named Vicky. Wheeler won an Emmy for her dual roles, as did her replacement, Anne Heche (yes, that Anne Heche). The final recast, Jensen Buchanan, was also nominated but never won, possibly because while Wheeler excelled at playing the fragile Marley, and Heche kicked butt as the wild-child Vicky, Buchanan’s twins were more alike than they were different. Eventually, the actress got tired of playing both roles, so Marley was injured in a fire that required extensive reconstructive surgery. When she emerged from underneath the bandages, Marley once again looked like Wheeler, who’d originated the role, while Buchanan continued playing Vicky. The show was canceled soon after.

As the World Turns’ to-the-manner-born (rather, adopted) Lily also got a polar opposite, Atlantic City showgirl twin named Rose, and actress Martha Byrne also got herself an Emmy for it. As did former castmate Julianne Moore (yes, that Julianne Moore), who once played identical half-sisters … and cousins, as explained at length here.

The Dead (Non-) End

Like Y&R’s Cassie, The Bold & the Beautiful killed off naïve ingénue Caroline early in the show’s run. She died from leukemia, leaving her husband, Ridge, to howl miserably in the pouring rain—prior to moving on to someone else. (It’s okay—Caroline gave him her blessing before expiring.) With viewers having witnessed Caroline’s shuffle off her mortal coil, it would have been tough for the writers to play the ol’ we-never-showed-you-the-body-so-psych! card (not that they didn’t do exactly that a few years later with yet another of Ridge’s presumed dead wives). Instead, they introduced us to Karen, the twin sister Caroline never knew about who’d been kidnapped at birth and—say it with me, now—raised on the wrong side of the tracks. (Question: If someone went to all the trouble of kidnapping a baby and selling it on the black market, wouldn’t you assume the buyers to be rich, not poor?)

All My Children got around this problem by making both twins Kitty and Kelly lower class (though with hearts of gold!). Both fell in love with WASP Linc, and both were disliked by Linc’s snobby mother, Pheobe, who did everything she could to break up the couple(s). What’s interesting here is that when AMC was revived on the web, Francesca James, who’d played Kitty (and then, after Kitty died, Kelly), was playing another character, Evelyn, the head of a posh girls’ school. Evelyn was seemingly no relation to Kitty and Kelly. Or was she?

The Simply Bizarre

Eileen Davidson began playing the role of Kristen on Days of Our Lives in 1993. A year later, she also took on the role of Susan. Susan was no relation to Kristen, but they did (coincidentally) look enough alike for Kristen to hire Susan to pretend to be Kristen and give birth to a baby that Kristen would then pass off as her own (and this was on one of Kristen’s more reasonable plans). But then it turned out that homeless waif Susan had a twin sister named Penelope, who was a British socialite. And another one named Mary Moira, a God-fearing—and somewhat sadistic—nun. And a brother named Thomas.

Davidson played them all.

As she summarized in my book, Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama’s Greatest Moments, “They worked me to death. I was going to leave after the first year I played Susan. And they asked me to stay an additional year to finish off the storyline, so I did. It was a great, great, great thing for me. I would do something like this again, but I would want to know a beginning and an end date. Even when I left Days, I knew that the shelf life of those characters was running out. It wasn’t something that could go on forever because it would lose its punch. I felt like I got out at the right time.”

Arguably, One Life to Live holds the record for most convoluted separated-at-birth twin stories.

First there was Jessica and Natalie. For years, Jessica was thought to be the daughter of community pillars Viki and Clint. Then, evil Alison claimed she had switched babies, and Jessica was actually the daughter of ditzy hairdresser Roxy, while Roxy’s presumed daughter, Natalie, was Viki and Clint’s real child. Then it turned out that Jessica and Natalie were actually twins—but with different fathers. (Viki didn’t remember giving birth to two babies—or having been raped by cult leader Mitch, who’d then arranged the switch so that his daughter could grow up in the lap of luxury, and Clint’s daughter in the lap of … um … hair products.) Finally, in the last episode of OLTL’s ABC run, it was revealed that Clint had fathered both girls.

Jessica and Natalie, however, were nothing compared to Todd and Victor. After Todd (whose convoluted parentage originally took years to come out) was presumed dead, a man came to town who was eventually unmasked as Todd—with extensive plastic surgery. This Todd lived in Llanview for years, marrying Todd’s ex-wives and raising Todd’s children. Then it came out that this Todd wasn’t really Todd, but Todd’s twin brother, Victor, who’d been given plastic surgery by their unhinged spy-master mother, Irene, so that Victor would not look like Todd, and then brainwashed into thinking that he was Todd. Oh, and Victor had been so developmentally delayed as a child that he could barely function, but the brainwashing process turned him into a criminal mastermind. Why Irene didn’t give up the spy business to make a fortune from her IQ-boosting device, I’ll never know.

Obviously, the above only scratches the surface of soaps’ most memorable twin stories. Which were your favorites? Tell us in the comments!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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