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Paul Raven

Somerset Discussion Thread

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Ms. Channel's article might've been a hair too long, but it's probably hard, if not impossible, to refute her opinions about why the show ultimately failed. (I say "probably," b/c I've never seen an episode of SOMERSET, so I can't say whether or not she was astute about it.) From everything I've read about the show, however, it does appear that its biggest problem was a general lack of consistency in its storytelling, as well as an inability to set itself apart from its "mother" show, ANOTHER WORLD. Even when Henry Slesar took over as HW, and stories became more focused on crime and mystery, it seemed like it was playing second fiddle to EDGE OF NIGHT.

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To me the biggest problem with Somerset seems to be why was it created in the first place? Carol Roux left after six months...they had no way of guessing that? Ann Wedgworth was probably an obvious candidate for leaving too - I'm surprised she stayed as long as she did.

They did cast other very talented actors like Marie Wallace and Georgann Johnson but there never seemed to be a structure.

I've only seen two episodes - one on a tape (India and her husband were arguing in an empty dining room or something), and one put on Youtube.

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Beautiful photo. I think I'd only seen the B&W version of this. That's Audrey Landers in black and Veleka Gray sitting at the piano right? They look a little similar there.

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That's nice. When Dick grew into his looks he was gorgeous.

Susan dated the guy who played her brother. I don't know how long they were together.

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Yes she does. That must have been pretty early in her run. I didn't know she was ever on the cover. She was so striking. I'm sorry no soap ever made better use of her.

How long was Bob Gentry on A World Apart?

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That's great..First Somerset article I've seen from SOD. Lyle is talking it up,but the ratings were bad and it was soon over.

What was the storyline for Picon,Jacobi and Questel?

That constant change of headwriters is deadly.Surely when they appoint new writers,they approve the story plans? Somerset was only giving writers a few months,not enough time to set up new characters and stories.

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I think they had something with concepts like older Ellen with a younger man and daughter Jill with an older man. And maybe the crime stuff. But you have to wonder if viewers felt they could get that better, elsewhere, with EON.

I haven't checked the SOD synopses I have but looking through Bryna Laub's book for 1976, it looks like Picon/Sarah was one of those who was burglarized and attacked in a string of murders across Somerset. She helped clear Dale of the crime - the culprit was apparently a deranged man named Chris Kirby. There's a man named Dan Brisken, a retired millionaire, who buys the Register - he may have been related to Sarah.

This was the first Digest I ever read. I read it at a neighbor's house years and years ago - they had it with their old books or something. It kind of painted a skewed picture of the show for me, as there is no mention (aside from the cast list) of Joel Crothers. So I was surprised when I learned he was a big star on the show.

Edited by CarlD2

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May 1984 Digest. John Kelly Genovese remembers Somerset.

Spin-offs, popular in the days of radio soaps, were not nearly as successful when applied to the television serial form. "As the World Turns" began "Our Private World," a twice-weekly nighttime soap starring Eileen Fulton as Lisa, in 1965. It lasted four months and was promptly forgotten.

Well, almost. On March 30, 1970, another Procter & Gamble sponsored soap, NBC's "Another World," took the monumental risk of starting an offshoot entitled "Another World/Somerset." The "mother" serial became "Another World/Bay City." The powers at "Another World" at that time, producer Lyle Hill and head writer Robert Cenedella, created the core characters of "Somerset" to the small Michigan town located fifty miles from their former AW stomping ground: Missy Matthews (Carol Roux), newly-widowed daughter-in-law of interfering socialite, Liz Matthews (the late Nancy Wickwire, currently Irene Dailey); Ricky Matthews (Jason Bernard), Missy's toddler son; Sam Lucas (Jordan Charney), self-made attorney and younger brother of Ada (Constance Ford); and Sam's simple Southern wife, Lahoma Vane Lucas (Ann Wedgeworth). Within two years, the title was changed to simply "Somerset," and all four former Bay Cityites had split to other parts of the globe.

In the early months, familiar connections between the two shows' characters allowed for frequent intervisiting. Gerald Davis (Walter Matthews), the roguish owner of Somerset's Riverboat casino, was Ada's ex-husband and the long-estranged father of Rachel (Robin Strasser, now Victoria Wyndham). There was also a plot connection in which Bay City villain, Wayne Addison (Robert Milli), had once swindled Somerset resident Robert Delaney (Nicolas Coster). Ironically, both Davis and Delaney later became "Another World" characters, under the well-remembered auspices of executive producer Paul Rauch and head writer Harding ("Pete") Lemay. If it hadn't been for the positioning of "Bright Promise" in-between AW and its offshoot, the hour-long "Another World" would have actually been born in 1970 rather than 1975.

Though there were numerous cast and head writer changes on "Somerset" - its's storyline history can be broken down into two eras. The first involved the Cooper and Grant families and others involved Delaney Brands, a food chain which was Somerset's main bread and butter. Rex Cooper (Paul Sparer) was the fair-minded, understanding plant manager at the company, which was owned by his tyrannical father-in-law, Jasper Delaney (Ralph Clanton). Jasper tried to exercise his strong will on his three children - Laura (Dorothy Stinnette), Rex's unstable wife; Robert, a weakling married to selfish India (Marie Wallace) but in love with Riverboat singer Jessica Buchanan (Wynne Miller), and Peter (Len Gochman), who was secretly Jasper's favorite because he dared to become a teacher instead of joining the family business. India's older sister, Ellen (Georgann Johnson) was the motherly, hot-chocolate -dispensing wife of solid lawyer, Ben Grant (Edward Kemmer), and mother of teenagers Jill (Susan MacDonald) and David (Ron Martin). Jill and Pammy Davis (Pamela Toll), Gerald's daughters, were both in love with Laura and Rex's son, Tony Cooper (originally Doug Chapin), whose real father turned out to be Riverboat casino manager, Ike Harding (Fred J. Scollay).

After most of the above had either left town or died off, core tentpoles Rex Cooper and Ellen Grant became widowed and were placed in promising new romantic situations with others. Unfortunately, both characters then faded into the woodwork. On the plus side, the show acquired an attractive new group of characters after numerous transitions.

Head writer, Henry Slesar, replaced Cendella and turned "Somsert" into a more crime-oriented soap similar to "Edge of Night," which he wrote at the same time. He gradually edged out the Delaneys and devised a murder mystery involving a more Gothic, rich family, the Moores. A relative to them by marriage, neurotic ex-pianist Julian Cannell (Joel Crothers), grew to be such a popular character that he became the idealistic editor of the Somerset Register. His romantic entanglements were numerous, and usually were connected to bizarre, violent crimes which plagued "Somerset" long after writer Slesar left the show. Among his loves were Crystal Ames (Diahn Williams), who was murdered by Julian's insane ex, Zoe (Lois Smith); Eve Lawrence (Bibi Besch), a fashion plate whose daughter Heather (Audrey Landers) turned out to be illegitimate (she unwittingly fell for her brother); Kate Thornton (Tina Sloan), an aggressive lady publisher who turned into a basket-case like Zoe; and Victoria Paisley (Veleka Gray), a reformed "rich bitch" who helped Jlian cope with Eve's marriage to Victoria's brother, Ned Paisley (James Congdon). Carrie Wheeler (Jobeth Williams), a young investigative reporter, and her cohort/lover, Steve Slade (Gene Bua) also became prominent.

Despite its fine acting and well-drawn characters, "Somerset" had so little continuity and so many ill-conceived, loony crime stories that it seemed as if every week, another major character was meeting a sudden, violent end. Otherwise brilliant writers turned out scenarios about killers masquerading as clowns, astrology nuts forecasting nefarious happenings, and white-collar arson rings infiltrating newspapers. Eventually, these far-fetched attempts overshadowed "Somerset's" good points in the audience's minds. The series came to an end on December 31, 1976.

Edited by CarlD2

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For what it's worth, some of you may be aware that I write an updated version of "Somerset" over at DRTV. The show bears little resemblance to the NBC soap; it's more like a "What if you visited this place 30 years later?" type of atmosphere.

The central character is Susannah, Sam and Lahoma's daughter. Sam and Lahoma have made appearances, as have Tony and Ginger Cooper and Robert Delaney. I even resurrected Robert's brother Peter on Somerset.

My plots are more romantic entanglements with some melodrama thrown in.

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