GENERATIONS: 30 Years Later

I have to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the premiere of GENERATIONS, the first daytime soap opera to have joint core African-American and White families from the beginning, on NBC. It aired on Monday, March 27, 1989 after THE MARSHA WARFIELD SHOW at 12:00 Noon.

It starred Taurean Blacque, Joan Pringle, Kristoff St. John, Sharon Brown, Lynn Hamilton, Jonelle Allen, Rick Fitts, Patricia Crowley, Gail Ramsey, Kelly Rutherford, Nancy Sorel, Barbara Rhodes, George Deloy, Anthony Addabbo, Vivica A. Fox, Richard Roundtree, Smokey Robinson, George Duke, Marla Adams, Kathleen Freeman, Jack Betts, James Reynolds, Debbi Morgan, Randy Brooks, Janet MacLachlan, Mina Kolb, Dorothy Lyman, Ron Harper, Andrew Masset, Linda Gibboney, Stacy Nelkin, Ian Ogilvie, Robert Gentry, Gina Gallego, Robert Torti, Joseph Whipp, Gerard Prendergrast, Tonya Lee Williams, Myles Thoroughgood, Sheila Wills, Butch Hartman, and others.

It was created by Sally Sussman Morina and the head writing team included Thom Racina, Elizabeth Harrower (the mother of soap opera royalty Susan Seaforth Hayes), Michele Val Jean, and the late Judi Ann Mason. The theme song was performed by the late musician George Duke, who had a recurring role as Johnny, a friend of Doreen Jackson (Jonelle Allen).

I watched it off-and-on as a 12-year-old boy but still remained devoted to my ABC TV soaps. I was not conscious quite yet about soap operas with many Black people on them at one time because I grew up watching mostly Caucasian people on the daytime and prime-time soap operas. I kept abreast of GENERATIONS from reading my numerous issues of Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly.

I was saddened that NBC cancelled the soap two years later in 1991 when it began getting good. Some insiders claim low ratings. Some insiders claim racism. Some insiders claim its inability to beat THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in many markets. Many people labeled it “a Black soap” but it was not “a Black soap”. It was the first soap to have 50 percent of the cast Caucasian and the other 50 percent of the cast African-American.

I felt GENERATIONS was way ahead of its time in its storytelling with Blacks as core family characters with an extended/inter-generational presence and the issues of race and class involving the Marshalls who ran an ice-cream empire in Chicago, the upstairs-downstairs relationship between Vivian Potter (Lynn Hamilton), the matriarch of the Black Marshall family, and her former employer, Rebecca Whitmore (Patricia Crowley, Dorothy Lyman), the matriarch of the White Whitmore family, and the intersections between the Marshalls and Martin (Rick Fitts) and Doreen Jackson. It should have aired for many years but many in America were NOT ready for a soap opera to show Blacks in a fashion out of the 1980s soap opera Black Story ghetto where Blacks were marginalized and pigeonholed into certain characterizations.

BET (Black Entertainment Television) agreed to air the reruns of the entire run with the intention of picking it up with an original run but it did not go any further than that.

I want to get the entire run on DVD and watch it.

Things happen for a reason but GENERATIONS is not forgotten to the many fans who still love it. Happy 30th Anniversary, GENERATIONS!



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