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G E N E R A T I O N S
by chrissy n 5.26.00


It was television's first interracial soap, focusing on the African-American Marshall and white Whitmore families.

Both well-to-do, but the Marshall's didn't start out that way.

Henry Marshall had a dream to open an ice cream store.

I think he used his grandmother's homemade recipe. Henry's mother-in-law, Vivian Potter worked as a maid for the Whitmore's.

The charming Rebecca co-signed the loan for Henry to attain the money to open his first store, which mushroomed into many and Marshall's ice cream became the talk of southside Chicago. Everybody loved Marshall's ice cream.

Rolling in the bucks entrepreneur, Martin Jackson wanted to take the product national. He approached the Marshalls about doing so.

Henry's grasping wife, Ruth was eager to comply. The Whitmore estate was on the market.

Years ago, Rebecca's drunken, weak-willed husband, Peter had absconded, leaving her penniless, and with young children to rear.

Rebecca had grown up with money, but her family lost their fortune, and couldn't help her. She was unable to meet her mortgage payments, and the bank foreclosed.

Rebecca, who was as bright as forsythias in April didn't crumble. She found a job, rented an apartment, and put herself through law school.

When times were tight, Henry loaned her money.

Contrary to what some people think, decency and people supporting each other can be interesting viewing.

As I said before, soaps fuel fantasies, and not all fantasies are sexual. People yearn for loving families and supportive friends.

Ruth subtly gloated that the Whitmores had lost the estate, and she wanted to buy it.

Her mother had worked as a maid there, and Ruth bitterly recalled summers bringing out trays of ice tea for teen age Laura Whitmore and her friends who lazed by the pool.

Ruth remembered cleaning silver and vacuuming floors.

She convinced Henry to take the product national. Joan Pringle, Ruth's portrayer was clearly a theater trained thespian.

It would have been an honor for any author to write for the actress, whom was deservedly kept in the story's spotlight during the show's far too brief run.

Henry relented to please his Ruthie, and soon Marshall's ice cream was in supermarket freezers across the country.

But Martin Jackson was underhanded.

To scrimp on production costs, he had the manufacturers use a cheaper chocolate, and vanilla in the creamy dessert. Henry was livid.

Martin's wife, Doreen was a pill-popping, rummy, bored, and neglected.

She craved her former life as a nightclub chanteuse, which Martin made her relinquish when she became his wife. "No wife of Martin Jackson's will be singing in a dive. It doesn't look good for my image," Martin said.

The Jacksons were snobs.

Martin's father never approved of Doreen's impoverished background, and when he was in her company, he let her know he saw her as an inferior.

Ruth, being the social climber that she was, befriended Doreen, who made Ruth a part of her exclusive club, introducing her to important women in the community.

Ruth was antsy about meeting the supercilious women. But was calmed when Doreen laughed at the charity organizers behind their backs.

Doreen unwittingly had an affair with and became pregnant by Ruth's son, Adam. I think Doe met Adam in a park, and to maintain anonymity, she told him her name was Eve. Haha!

They trysted in various spots--the backseat of a limo; a hotel's presidential suite.

Eventually, Doreen became pregnant and gave birth to a little girl, Danielle.

When Martin learned the child wasn't his, he set out to demolish Adam's life, paying a no-good cop to plant cocaine in Adam's red as an apple sport's car. Of course, Adam fought his way out of the jam, but he almost landed in jail.

The first few months of GEN was painful viewing, unfocused, pointless, meandering.

But when veteran soap producer, Jorn Winther was brought aboard, the show rapidly began to exhibit signs of life. The pace, dialogue, directing infinitely improved. The story was tightened; periphery characters, removed.

The scribes delved into Doreen's family life, introducing her street-kid, nephew Tyrell.

Chantal, the Marshall's daughter, fell head-over-heels with sexy as a Playgirl centerfold, Eric Royal, a football player who became involved in a hit-and-run accident resulting in the death of a woman.

Chantal prosecuted the case, becoming persona non grata in the black community. Eric Royal was a "brother," and Chantal was a "sistah" prosecuting him.

Ruth moved into the Whitmore estate, and racists tried to prevent her from inhabiting the neighborhood.

There was talk about how people should keep with their own. And not mix. The characters discussed hate groups.

While the house was being refurbished, someone spray-painted racial epithets above the fireplace.

GENERATIONS was dewy-fresh, engaging with adorable black and white characters.

The show aired on NBC; some viewers found it "boring."

By and large, GEN was INTELLIGENT. Though nonsense, undoubtedly mandated by NBC found its way into the narrative.

There was some silliness with Aunt Mary, who was originally shown as an interesting, judgmental spinster, whom I liked tremendously.

She detested her niece, soap actress Jessica Gardner for having an illegitimate kid.

So much could have been done with that. If I wrote it, Mary would have coveted Jessica's youth and beauty. In her youth, Mary resembled Jessica. I would have crafted a story for the two women that had Gothic overtones.

But Mary became a murderess and stuffed diamonds in a moose head. She was shown in nun's habit, while wearing sneakers and parachuting from planes.

It was laughably dreadful. In fact, it was not harmonious with the show's overall theme and thrust.

Some people complained that the Marshalls were not realistic because they were black, educated and monied. How utterly ridiculous.

The world is filled with affluent, powerful or simply well-to-do blacks, even when GEN existed.

There are plenty of blacks who don't fret about paying the bills--professors, doctors, therapists, broadcast journalists, sports figures and crooners. The former owner of Motown.

The owner of BET televison network recently purchased an airline.

How silly to suggest that educated blacks with bulging wallets is a fallacy.

Blacks were certainly on sudsers prior to GENERATIONS, but the show paved the way for juicier, more multi-layered blacks to appear on soaps.

At one time, the blacks on soaps were nice, yawn-inducing and middle-class, but GEN helped to change that.

Before the show was off the air, Kristoff St. John joined Y&R as Neil Winters, a truly insipid character.

I think the show would have thrived on ABC.

Some of the white viewers who carped about the show's writing were bigots.

If the Marshalls were white, much of the story would have been lauded and embraced. I've seen whites play the Marshall's characterizations countless times.

The Marshalls were simply dunked in magic shell.

For some, perhaps that was the problem.

But those same people have no problem with the Cranes, which is an atrocious moniker for a well-to-do soap family.

Snotty, designer-clad wife and snobbish, ascot wearing husband swapping insults, sexually betraying each other, guzzling brandy, having children with other people.

Hardly innovative. I wonder how the Cranes would have been received had they had been black?

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