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Soap opera epidemics on par with Ebola

Hot on the heels of Ebola outbreak, producers Ridley Scott and Lynda Obst announced that they are developing a TV series based on the 1994 nonfiction, best-selling book The Hot Zone. (Instead of the ever-popular “disease of the week, it’s “disease every week!”)

When it comes to dramatized epidemics, primetime is, as usual, late to the party. Daytime has already tackled the subject. As only daytime can:

General Hospital (1979)
It’s only appropriate that a show set in a hospital should lead the charge. Lassa Fever came to Port Charles via Little Orphan Jeremy, who turned out to be an asymptomatic carrier who’d caught the disease from his pet bunny. The hospital was quarantined when Chief of Staff Steve became infected. While ill, Steve’s wife decided to tell his illegitimate son, Jeff (Richard Dean Anderson in his pre-MacGyver days), about his true parentage. Steve promptly shook off the acute viral hemorrhagic fever like it was an inconvenient case of the flu so that he and Jeff could properly bond.

Guiding Light (1984)
As GH continued to dominate the ratings with 11.3 million daily viewers, its time-slot competitor decided to whip up its own mysterious epidemic. They went with an imaginary Central American virus that caused non-stop dreaming, followed by death. They called it “The Dreaming Death” because, hey, doctors working around the clock don’t have time to be creative. The cure lay in an ancient Incan necklace. Scummy Warren broke into Dr. Jim’s lab to steal it, so he could sell a vaccine and make millions but, in the process, knocked over a cage of infected lab rats, one of whom escaped and bit Warren’s wife, Lesley Ann, causing her death. Bunnies, rats—the moral seems to be if you’re on a soap opera, stay away from furry creatures with four legs.

Days of Our Lives (1991)
No animals were harmed by the artificially created virus in Salem—only spies of the International Security Alliance (ISA). But, they were good spies. Good Spy Shane was tasked with finding who was behind it, but not before equally Good Cop Bo had his drink spiked and became infected. Luckily, his ex-girlfriend (then his biological father’s wife) was able to scrape up an antidote from a vial that had fallen on the floor. Wonder if the CDC has tried that yet?

One Life to Live (1994)
One of the highest-rated primetime miniseries of 1994 was Stephen King’s The Stand, which told the tale of most of Earth’s population being wiped out by a particularly virulent strain of flu (released into the world when a soldier disobeyed protocol and escaped lockdown with his family). On daytime, Llanview suffered through its own case of killer flu—though its only victim of consequence (i.e. contract player) was Beth, who conveniently keeled off in time to return her son to his adoptive parents (who had been on the show longer and thus were more deserving). Leading lady Viki survived her bout because, well, she’s the leading lady. She’s been to heaven and traveled back in time. She’s indestructible.

General Hospital (2006 & 2012)
GH went back to the (tainted) well with a mutated strain of encephalitis epidemic (spread by a monkey! What did I say about staying away from four-legged furballs?). This one got beloved doc Tony, less-beloved heroine Courtney, and Sam’s brother, Danny, who was pretty much only beloved by Sam, but seemed nice enough in the few minutes we knew him. Teenager Dillon thought he was going to die, so he badgered his mom into letting him marry his girlfriend. But then he recovered and, whoops, what do you know? The two unprepared kids were now married! Mobster Sonny was sick for a while, too. But, as par for the course, that just led to yet another woman declaring her love for him (in this case, Emily). Finally, the story was infamous for bringing back the character of Holly who, with husband Robert, had been the crime-busting, moral center of Port Charles in the 1980s. Now she was holding the entire town hostage, demanding a small fortune in exchange for the cure. Because…um…the actress was available?

Then, in 2012, Jerry tried the same trick, first contaminating the town’s water supply with a pathogen, then demanding a ransom for the antiserum. An ailing Edward sacrificed his share to little Emma and died a few months later. Jerry got away.

Which soap opera epidemic was your favorite?

(Writer’s note: The above list obviously excludes AIDS, which daytime drama tackled in a variety of ways, some of them Emmy-winning, and worthy of a post of its own.)

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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