Generations (U.S. TV series)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2009)|
|Created by||Sally Sussman Morina|
Vivica A. Fox
Kristoff St. John
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||470|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Original run||March 27, 1989– January 25, 1991|
Generations is an American soap opera that aired on NBC from March 27, 1989, to January 25, 1991. The show was groundbreaking in that it was the first soap opera to feature from its inception an African-American family.
The series was set in Chicago.
The link between the Marshall and the Whitmore families extends back three generations to when Vivian Potter (Lynn Hamilton) and her young daughter Ruth (Joan Pringle) lived in the Whitmore mansion. Vivian worked as housekeeper and nanny for Rebecca Whitmore (Patricia Crowley, later played by Dorothy Lyman) and her daughter, Laura (Gail Ramsey).
Committed to rising above her humble beginnings, Ruth grows into a savvy and enterprising woman. Her strength and determination to improve her position in life is fueled by her husband Henry Marshall (Taurean Blacque, later played by James Reynolds). With the help of their longtime friend, Rebecca Whitmore, (Patricia Crowley, later played by Dorothy Lyman) an attorney, Henry was able to finance his own business, Marshall's Chicago Ice Cream. With five stores, he now provides a prosperous life for his family and Vivian, who lives with them. Their three children are Chantal (Sharon Brown, later played by Debbi Morgan), a lawyer; Jacquelyn Marshall Rhymes, a homemaker and mother; and Adam Marshall (Kristoff St. John), a college student.
Rebecca Whitmore, who was an heiress to her father's fortune, suffered an enormous financial and emotional setback when her ex-husband, Peter (Ron Harper), squandered her inheritance without her knowledge and seemingly abandoned her and their marriage. Peter had left Chicago and lived in Istanbul, Turkey for 20 years. As a divorced mother, Rebecca forced to make it on her own, she earned a law degree and eventually a partnership with a prestigious law firm. Her daughter Laura has been married many years to a successful advertising executive, Trevor McCallum (Andrew Masset), and has three children, the oldest being Monique (Nancy Sorel), a college student. Rebecca's other children are J.D. Whitmore (Gerard Prendergast), a once-successful rock star who is struggling to make a comeback, and Stephanie (Kelly Rutherford), nicknamed Sam, also a college student. Sam rose to become one of the series' most beloved and popular characters despite her early reputation as a troublemaker. Adam, Monique, and Sam are childhood friends and all lived together in the same apartment.
It was later revealed that Peter had unwillingly fallen in with an organized crime family and was forced to leave Rebecca to ensure her safety. He would return later in the series. Rebecca refused to forgive Peter, wrongly believing his reason for leaving her was a lie. Peter got an even more resentful outburst from Sam when she discovered he had returned, but later reconciled with him when she discovered his life was still in danger and realized he was telling the truth. It turns out that Jordan's family was involved in organized crime and he had severed ties with them years ago and that his half brother was the head of the family that Peter had become involved with.
The final episodes of the series set various unresolved storylines in motion. Sam was confronted by a young man named Dylan Hale, who claimed to be Jordan's son and had arrived in town to contest Jordan's will and claim the Hale Hotel franchise for himself. After Sam discovered Jessica and Sidney were helping Dylan discredit her, Sam finally gained her revenge on Jessica by firing her from her position as the Hale Hotel spokesperson in front of a lobby full of onlookers. Peter was reestablishing himself as part of Chicago's nightclub scene by reopening his club, The Music Box and asking Ruth to perform opening night. A jealous Doreen manipulated Vivian's longtime resentment of Peter and Henry's growing unease over Ruth performing to her advantage, but in the end, Ruth foiled her scheme, causing a rift between them. Chantal's relationship with Eric Royal was sent into a tailspin with the arrival of his former wife, Brandy (played by Lela Rochon). In the final episode, a distraught and drunken Henry walked out in the middle of Ruth's performance at the Music Box, followed by Doreen, who took him back to the Hale Hotel. Just as he is about to commit adultery with Doreen, Henry realizes how wrong he had been to abandon Ruth on her big night and is about to return to the Music Box to celebrate with her when he suddenly has a heart attack. A horrifed Doreen gets on top of Henry and desperately performed chest compressions on him, when Adam, looking for Henry, finds them in bed together. The scene freezes and the words "To Be Continued" rolled across the screen before fading to black, implying that a resolution to the loose ends left behind were planned, but never materialized.
Original cast 
- Vivica A. Fox (Maya Reubens)
- Anthony Addabbo (Jason Craig)
- Jonelle Allen (Doreen Jackson)
- Jack Betts (Hugh Gardner)
- Taurean Blacque (Henry Marshall)
- Sharon Brown (Chantal Marshall)
- Patricia Crowley (Rebecca Whitmore)
- George DelHoyo (Rob Donnelly)
- Rick Fitts (Martin Jackson)
- Lynn Hamilton (Vivian Potter)
- Andrew Masset (Trevor McCallum)
- Joan Pringle (Ruth Marshall)
- Gail Ramsey (Laura McCallum)
- Barbara Rhoades (Jessica Gardner)
- Kelly Rutherford (Stephanie "Sam" Whitmore)
- Nancy Sorel (Monique McCallum)
- Kristoff St. John (Adam Marshall)
- Robert Torti (Lt. Kyle Masters)
Title sequence 
The Daytime Emmy-nominated title sequence (designed by Penelope Gottlieb, with the theme composed by Michael Gore) consisted of different scenarios across the generations. The first photos shown in the sequence are of a rich white family in the Gilded Age and black sharecroppers after Reconstruction, a nod to the supposed ancestors of the white and black families that Generations showed in the modern age. Later pictures in the sequence, both shown in sepia tones and in color, illustrate popular culture and American history throughout the 20th century, with the final pictures focusing on the actual characters of the series themselves.
Some of the clips in popular culture and American history include:
- A white woman working on the home front for the war effort during World War II
- A group of black people, fashionably dressed, enjoying a night out on the town in the 1940s
- A black child greeting her father with a kiss, just home from war
- A black family
- John F. Kennedy on television
- Two white teenagers, in love, feeding each other a banana split
- Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch
- Richard Nixon getting his shoes shined
- The Beatles from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
- Both white and black children being bussed to school
- Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon
- The Freedom Riders, holding up protest signs
- Martin Luther King, Jr. during one of his speeches
- The photograph Burst of Joy
- Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Mikhail Gorbachev
Reception and cancellation 
Generations was the third to occupy the time slot vacated by Search for Tomorrow in 1986, following the game shows Wordplay (which was cancelled due to poor ratings) and Scrabble (which was relocated to a morning time slot). The Nielsen ratings were very low, due mainly to it being aired directly opposite The Young and The Restless, and the show was canceled after just twenty-two months and 470 episodes. The series still has a small but dedicated fanbase today. Laurelle Brooks guest starred as DeDe in one of the last episodes. The last episode, which featured an appearance by Brandon Tartikoff, was not shown in some markets due to coverage of the Persian Gulf War, which had begun days earlier. It was broadcast in Turkey as "Hayat Ağacı" ("Tree of Life" in Turkish) by TRT. In the early 1990s Kelly Rutherford (as Sam) was pretty popular in Turkey and she visited Istanbul for an appearance on a TV talk show.
The series was aired syndication on the BET network, an American cable channel that specializes in black programming. The show ran on that channel until 1993.
- 1990 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Daytime Serial Nomination
- 1990 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Graphics and Title Design Win
- 1990 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Kristoff St. John) Nomination
- 1990 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design for a Drama Series Nomination
- 1990 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Drama Series Nomination
- 1990 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Drama Series Nomination
- 1990 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Daytime Serial Nomination
- 1991 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (James Reynolds) Nomination
- 1991 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series (Kristoff St. John) Nomination
- 1991 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Daytime Soap Nomination
- 1991 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Heroine: Daytime (Kelly Rutherford) Nomination
- 1991 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Male Newcomer: Daytime (Robert Torti) Nomination
- 1991 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor: Daytime (Richard Roundtree) Nomination
- 1991 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress: Daytime (Joan Pringle) Nomination
- 1992 Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Love Story: Daytime or Prime Time Kyle and Sam Nomination
- 1992 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Daytime Serial Nomination
- 1992 Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villain: Daytime (Robert Gentry) Nomination