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Off the top of my head: Ruth Marshall (Joan Pringle), matriarch of the African-American Marshall clan, faced terrible discrimination (threatening phone calls, obscene messages spray-painted on her walls, even a bomb scare at her housewarming party) when she bought the Whitmore mansion, which she'd been raised in as the maid, Vivian's (Lynn Hamilton), daughter.

 

As I've said in the past, Sally Sussman had trouble head-writing even her own show; however, I have to give her credit for following in Agnes Nixon's footsteps by giving such prominence to non-stereotypical characters of color.

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1 hour ago, Khan said:

Off the top of my head: Ruth Marshall (Joan Pringle), matriarch of the African-American Marshall clan, faced terrible discrimination (threatening phone calls, obscene messages spray-painted on her walls, even a bomb scare at her housewarming party) when she bought the Whitmore mansion, which she'd been raised in as the maid, Vivian's (Lynn Hamilton), daughter.

 

 

Was this a long-term storyline or was it a quick and done story?

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11 hours ago, chrisml said:

Was this a long-term storyline or was it a quick and done story?

 

IIRC, it was a long-term storyline (meaning, it wasn't over and done with in, say, two weeks) that affected other storylines as well.  (For instance, in order to afford the purchase of the mansion, Ruth sold her stocks in her husband's ice cream company to a business rival/competitor, which caused a strain between the Marshalls.)

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9 minutes ago, Paul Raven said:

Generations made so many mistakes getting off the ground.

 

#1 Making an ice cream company the family business,

 

#2 Beginning the premier episode with a scene from a fake soap opera.  Could anything be more confusing to a new audience?   

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Ruth's desire to purchase the old Whitmore estate was a story thread from the first episodes. In the opener, Rebecca learns that her old family home is for sale. When she passes the estate, Rebecca witnesses the Hassad family leaving because of a bank foreclosure. When the banker spots Rebecca, he tells her how the home should be owned by "a good old American like you." Rebecca reminds him that he foreclosed on her in that home too. In the second, Ruth, who grew up in the house as the maid's daughter, informed Henry that she wanted to buy the home. Ruth had a desire for social respectability which she associated with the Whitmore name. At one point, I believe Jessica Gardner comments how Ruth has even patterned herself after her white contempory, Laura Whitmore McCallum. in this context, Ruth's desire for a partnership between Marshall Ice Cream and Martin Jackson's company becomes a little more complex. Martin was old money; his father was a doctor and Martin was Ivy League educated. Ruth saw the connection to the Jacksons as a way of elevating her position in society. 

 

Ruth didn't get the Whitmore home at first. Rob Donnelly briefly bought it when he married Jessica Gardner. If I remember correctly, Rob and Jessica bought the money with the money from Hugh Gardner's estate when Jessica's son Jason Craig couldn't be located. I believe when Jason appeared the Donnellys were forced to put the house on the market in the fall of 1989. It was at that point that Ruth sold some or all of her shares of Marshall Ice Cream to Martin Jackson in order to put up the money to purchase the home from Rob Donnelly. 

 

In the meantime, Ruth had become involved with the Mayor's Art Council, which, again, was an attempt at Ruth developing the presence she had wanted since she was the little girl living with the Whitmore family. In order to become a part of the council, I believe she needed to be sponsored or voted in. At the Art Council, Ruth encountered women like Mary Gardner, who was more of a snob than a comical sociopath at this point, who made sure that everyone knew that it Ruth's mother had cleaned the toilets at the Whitmore home. Laura and Doreen Jackson were both a part of the council. Doreen and Laura both stood up for Ruth. Incidentally, it was at the Art Council meeting where we first meet Helen Mullens, then just a day player played by an unidentified actress. When the Marshalls purchase the estate in December, Helen Mullens return, the Marshalls new neighbor, with her husband, Charles Mullens. 

 

Initially, both Helen and Charles were racist and not pleased with the Marshalls moving into the neighborhood. No mention was made of the Hassads, which would have been a nice beat to play. When the Marshalls bought the house, they didn't move in right away. The house was in disrepair and Ruth was determined to restore it to its glory because, in Ruth's eyes, turning the Whitmore home into the Marshall estate would help her to achieve the self worth she was searching for. There was some vandalism during the construction phase and I believe the construction workers were involved with a white supremacist group. It is Ruth and Doreen who arrive at the home to find a nasty racial epithet sprayed on the newly painted walls. By this point, Helen had been softened and claimed that no one from the neighborhood would do such a thing. Doreen just saw Helen for who she was and Ruth was more concerned about getting the word off the wall. 

 

Once the work was done, the Marshalls moved in and Ruth was planning the housewarming party. I don't remember if Charles Mullens was behind the white supremacist attacks, but at the very least he was affiliated with the group. There wasn't a bomb scare at the housewarming; the bomb was detonated. Somehow the party guests were alerted there was a bomb (it was brought in by the caterers) and they managed to get it out the window or out of the room before it went off. The scene that followed was heartbreaking. Ruth, completely in shock, trying to find some way to salvage the evening after the horrific events that had just occurred. 

 

The racist attacks ended with this, I believe, but the Mullens continued into the Daniel Reubens/Maya Reubens story. Daniel was on the run for an incident involving the death of a security guard at a pharmaceutical company. Daniel had been set up. His wife, Amy, had died after ingesting contaminated cough syrup. I believe the Mullens' daughter, Karen, a teenager at the time, died from the same substance. In the hospital, Helen had bonded with Amy's daughter, Maya. There was an entire thread between March and April 1990 where Maya was trying to determine how she knew Helen Mullens, who was constantly taking Maya's aerobics class at the Hale Hotel. Helen recognized Maya right away because she was a spitting image of her mother (Vivica A. Fox either appeared as Amy in flashbacks or was, at the very least, used in photographs as Amy). Anyway, it turned out Helen briefly had cared for Maya after Amy's death, but she couldn't keep her because of Charles' bigotry. In fact, Charles was involved in Daniel being on the run. When Adam, Daniel, and Rob Donnelly tracked down the guard's widow, Rita Barton, it turned out that she had a married lover supporting her since her husband's death. It turned out that Charles was Rita's sugar daddy who was somehow connected with her husband's death. My episodes end with this part of the story. 

 

In the aftermath of the bombing, Ruth just wants to forget the incident and bury the memory of that horrible evening. Her pal Doreen, who is about to give birth to Ruth's grandchild, unbeknownst to Ruth, brings a reporter to speak with Ruth about the bombing and the racism on the North Shore. Ruth was furious; she felt completely betrayed by Doreen. Doreen spoke about the importance of exposing these people, but Ruth was too raw. The bombing had had the potential to figuratively and literally blow up her dreams. I think Ruth and Doreen were able to resume their friendship until it was later revealed that Adam, not Martin, was the father of Doreen's baby. 

 

On a side note, Martin was cash strapped after purchasing Ruth's stock so he could have a controlling interest in Marshall's Ice Cream. It was about this time that the IRS audited Martin and he had owed money in back taxes. He arranged for someone to stage a robbery in the Jackson penthouse in order to collect the insurance money and the profit off the sale of the stolen property. It was Brad Russell, Kyle's cop buddy, who handled the burglary case. It was a nice story crossover. Also, during the heist, the robbers grabbed Doreen's mother's wedding ring. Doreen was pretty distraught, and Martin had to get it back. At the time, a lot of the stories really played well off one another. 

 

Back to Ruth, I think the desire to attain respect through the Whitmore name becomes even further complicated when you look into the final storyline: Peter Whitmore returns to town and it is revealed that Chantal is in fact Peter's daughter. Henry married Ruth aware that Ruth was pregnant with another man's baby, but he had never known who that man was. Vivian, Ruth's mother, knew, but she had kept her secret. The story also weaved in Doreen and Ruth's friendship with both women vying to sing at the reopening of Peter's nightclub, the Music Box, as well as the fact that Ruth's outrage over Doreen's paternity lie was about to be surpassed by Ruth's own deception involving Chantal's conception. It's a shame we never got to see how that all would have played out. Would Ruth have maintained the Marshall estate, kicked Henry out, and moved Peter in? Peter's departure is the reason the Whitmores had lost their money. There were some interesting plots boiling, but it was never was resolved.

 

The show made a significant mistake in shifting too much of the story to Sam and Kyle, who had immense chemistry and a strong triangle with Jordan Hale, but the show was so much better as a true ensemble where the stories were interconnected. With that said, I stan for Sam and Kyle, but I think Stacey Nelkins' Christy Russell is such a product of the NBC soap culture that I really cannot condone a lot of the story for the couple in mid 1990. There was enough going on with everything going on at the Hale hotel and Jordan's gangster past to keep that story going for quite a while without some generic psycho. I don't know if the Eric Royal murder trial story was a good idea either. I think Eric and Chantal became a very good couple, but it might have been more interesting to have involved Chantal and Eric in a story with Martin Jackson. When Sharon Brown played Chantal, they definitely tested her with Martin, but dropped the ball. I wonder if Sussman could have pulled it together in 1991. It seemed to be heading in that direction, but she struggled with building sustainable story. 

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1 hour ago, Neil Johnson said:

 

#2 Beginning the premier episode with a scene from a fake soap opera.  Could anything be more confusing to a new audience?   

#3 Not having James Reynolds and Debbi Morgan there from the beginning

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3 hours ago, Soaplovers said:

It sounds like Sussman needed a strong co head writer.

 

Sally Sussman had some really great ideas (and yes, some not-so-great ones), but she lacked the ability to carry out those ideas in ways that would compel the audience to watch and keep watching.  She definitely could have used a Bill Bell or Agnes Nixon in there, helping her map out the stories.

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