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Plot-driven pretzels: ‘The Bold & the Beautiful’ edition

The Bold & The Beautiful had a classic, soapy story brewing. Ridge married Caroline, only to learn that she was pregnant with his son Thomas’ child, the result of a drunken hook-up when Ridge and Caroline were briefly on a break. (It was all Ridge’s fault, he dumped Caroline because he couldn’t give her the children she wanted. Then he got over it.) Caroline and Ridge assume the baby is Thomas’, because Ridge had a vasectomy (and those certainly never, ever go wrong on daytime). Ridge bullied Caroline into keeping the truth from Thomas and raising her baby boy as theirs, and Caroline went along with it because she truly loves her husband. And because Ridge bullied her.

But secrets never stay secrets on soaps for long, and viewers knew that little Douglas’ paternity was bound to come out sooner or later.

But did it have to be in such a clumsy and plot-driven manner?

How clumsy and plot-driven was it? Let me count the ways …

First, Thomas, a grown man with ambitions of running the family fashion empire and a sideline of seeing how many models and interns he could sleep with, suddenly became obsessed with his baby “brother.” He interrupted meetings to wax about the tot’s tiny fingers. He swore to always be there to protect him (as if they were actual forest dwellers, rather than the Foresters of Beverly Hills). He talked endlessly about how lucky his dad was to have a new son and what a great father Ridge was going to be to Douglas. It was obsessive. It was creepy. It was like getting hit over the head with anvils for a half-hour every weekday.

Then, while out to lunch with Caroline, Ridge ran into the doctor who’d told Ridge his vasectomy was irreversible. (Said doctor was portrayed by Mark Damon Espinoza, who played Andrea’s ex-husband, Jesse, on Beverly Hill 90210.) Dr. 90210 then guessed that Ridge couldn’t possibly be the father of his wife’s child, and proceeded to subtly threaten him. Ridge got upset and, after lobbing a few threats in return, stormed off.

Said storming-off was witnessed by Katie (one of Ridge’s many exes, now married to Caroline’s uncle Bill and flirting with Emmy-baiting alcoholism). Katie asked the doctor what he and Ridge were fighting about. And the doctor told her.

Really, Doc? Really? Did they not cover in Medical Blackmail 101 the crucial fact that, the more people who know the victim’s secret, the less likely you are to extort money out of them to continue keeping it a secret?

Later, Dr. 90210 demanded $100,000 from Ridge to keep his mouth shut. Who can blame the guy? We learned in the 90210 sequel series that Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez also goes to Beverly Hills High. And living in that school zone, as her mother frequently reminded us, doesn’t come cheap. Man’s got expenses!

Immediately after threatening Ridge, Dr. 90210 stepped in front of a speeding truck and was promptly killed. (This guy wasn’t just too stupid to blackmail, he was too stupid to live.)

Ridge saw the whole thing and thought, “Phew, good thing that’s all over. Now back to the wife who is less than half my age and named after her aunt, my first wife, but that’s not weird at all.”

Except … Katie (remember her?) saw a photo of Dr. 90210 stepping in front of that truck, and spied Ridge in the background. Despite the fact that he was clearly several yards away, Katie decided that Ridge had killed the doctor to protect his secret. (Maybe she was drunk at the time? She obviously wasn’t thinking clearly. Or she has really bad spatial skills.)

Katie confronted Ridge with what she knew, and Ridge made up a story about using an anonymous sperm donor. (At no point, however, did Ridge ask how any of this was even slightly, remotely, imaginably any of her business? Or why Katie appeared to believe that it was.)

Katie made a beeline for Caroline and professed that Ridge had told her everything. Caroline, without querying as to what, precisely, “everything” might mean, after months of keeping her secret, suddenly blurted out that Thomas was Douglas’ father.

And now, Katie believed it was her business to lecture Caroline and Ridge about their obligation to tell Thomas the truth. Or else she would. (Did anyone try offering her $100,000?)

So Ridge told Thomas the truth (after dangling inheriting the company in front of his nose — as long as Thomas was a good boy, as defined by Ridge). Ridge also informed his oldest son that the baby would remain officially Ridge’s, because, well, Ridge said so. (This was not unlike the method Ridge employed to make Caroline go along with him in the first place.) Meanwhile, Katie was goading Caroline about the obvious connection she must feel to Thomas as the father of her child. (Almost as if Katie, despite being married to another man, was still of the mindset that if she couldn’t have Ridge, nobody else should, either.)

It was a bizarre couple of weeks, marked by characters acting the way that they did because … it was in the script? Surely there could have been a more organic way to bring the truth to light, instead of twisting everyone into plot-driven pretzels. Plus, Douglas is still an infant. Some soaps have held on to paternity secrets for years. Decades! (Think The Young & the Restless’ Abby or Days of Our Lives’ Mike.) What’s the rush?

How did you feel about Douglas’ paternity reveal? Tell us in the comments below!

The Bold & the Beautiful airs weekdays on CBS.

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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