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Blood isn't thicker than water: When soap-opera parents play favorites

On General Hospital, Sonny has 99 problems, and 98 of them have to do with being in jail, Ava, being in jail, Julian, being in jail, Johnny, and being in jail. But what is occupying the bulk of his mumbling and obsessing time?

How about the fact that Michael has turned his back on his adoptive dad, Sonny (well, both his parents—mom Carly, too), and returned to his biological father’s family, the Quartermaines? (We shall now take a moment to recall that Sonny managed to adopt Michael by hanging his bio dad on a meat hook and threatening to kill him unless he signed the papers; so it wasn’t exactly voluntary.)

But Sonny has always been more obsessed with Michael than he is interested in his natural children, including Dante (okay, Sonny didn’t know about him growing up; but he also shot him in the chest), Morgan (he shot Morgan’s mother in the head during delivery), Kristina (she’s a girl, so, whatever), and the newborn Avery (who had an equally good shot at turning out to be Sonny’s granddaughter due to her mother, Ava, also sleeping with the aforementioned Morgan).

Maybe Sonny loves Michael more because he’s named after him. Or maybe it’s because Sonny really enjoys taking things that are rightfully theirs away from other people. (Probably why he went into the mobstering business.) Or maybe it’s because, since they’re not biologically related, Michael always had the option of choosing someone else over Sonny. And Sonny really, really hates coming in second place. (Just ask Jax.)

On soaps, disputed paternity (and sometimes even maternity) is a near-daily occurrence. As a result, a lot of importance is placed on blood being thicker than water. Children are routinely handed over following the latest blood test, no matter how bonded they may have been to the original, presumed parent.

Every once in a while, however, some soap-opera parents prioritize their adoptive child over all the rest. Those instances are so rare, they deserve deeper exploration. Check out some of our favorites:

The Bold and the Beautiful

Ridge was always his mother’s favorite. Stephanie made no secret of that. And her husband, Eric, made no secret of the fact that he’d only married Stephanie because she was pregnant with Ridge. Yet, years ago, Eric found out that Ridge wasn’t his biological son. Not only did Eric’s feelings for Ridge not change, but Eric has spent the past few months agonizing over whom to hand over his company to: Eric’s son with Brooke, Rick (short for Eric Jr., no less; Stephanie never named any of her kids after Eric), or … Ridge. That’s it. Those were his only choices. Remember Eric’s other children—Thorne, Felicia, Kristen, and Bridget? Never even under consideration. It was Rick or Ridge. And as Rick helpfully pointed out on numerous occasions, Ridge wasn’t even really his son.

That didn’t matter to Eric.

Why not? Is it simply because he can’t stop thinking of Ridge as his firstborn? Is it because Ridge is the one with the designing talent? Or is it simply because, when your alternative is Rick … heck, who cares about bloodlines?

Guiding Light

Growing up, Phillip thought he was the son of Alan Spaulding. But Alan always knew the truth. He’d adopted Phillip illegally at birth and swapped him in for his wife’s stillborn son. (That’s just the short version; the much, much more complicated tale can be found here.) During his 30-plus years in Springfield, Alan would go on to discover several illegitimate offspring, and even father a legitimate namesake, Alan-Michael. But his priority—and his favorite child, bar none—always remained Phillip. The theory here is that Alan, who was no stranger to self-loathing, saw himself and his rotten qualities in his biological children, while Phillip remained his pure, untainted golden boy. Even after Alan was forced to shoot him.

As the World Turns

Born poor and neglected Mary Ellen Walters, Lucinda Walsh made a pit stop on her journey to becoming rich and powerful to marry a South American despot, give birth to his child, Sierra, cheat on him, and get banished (South American despots hate coming in second almost as much as American mobsters). She left her toddler daughter behind in Montega without so much as a second thought. A few years later, Lucinda adopted her precious Lily. And Lily became the center of her universe. (For a while in the 1980s, she was also the focus of the Oakdale universe, to the point where, as noted by Soap Opera Digest, the biggest holiday of the year was not Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, but Lily’s birthday.)

Lucinda was focused on Lily to the exclusion of everything else. So when a grown Sierra came to town and finally learned who her mother really was, Lucinda cared more about how Lily would react to having a heretofore unknown sister than about how the traumatized Sierra was dealing with it.

In a fit of pique, Lily would later go so far as to have her adoption nullified. Didn’t phase Lucinda one bit. The world still turned around Lily and always would.

Maybe Lily represented the well-heeled, spoiled princess Lucinda always wished she’d been. Maybe Lily’s tendency to throw tantrums and have nervous breakdowns at the slightest hint of not getting her way made Lucinda believe her younger daughter was fragile in a way that Sierra, who’d lived in the jungle with rebels after the revolution that deposed her father, never would be.

Or maybe the real answer is something else all together. Those are my theories about Sonny, Eric, Alan and Lucinda. Let’s hear yours!

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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