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Quite possibly the definitive Guilty Pleasure of a daytime Soap Opera. Had a particularly large fandom in the United Kingdom during its heyday. Such was its popularity over there that petitions were sent to the UK broadcaster (Channel Five) begging them to have it Un Cancelled in America. This was despite the fact that the quality fell into So Bad It's Good status several times. Wobbly scenery, dodgy dialogue and woeful acting were abound.
The plot featured Meg who, after discovering that her fiancé was cheating on her on their wedding day, packs her bags and leaves her Kansas home-town for a HandsomeStranger with whom she has been conversing via e-mail for months. She arrives at his home-town of Sunset Beach and lodges at his mansion. At first she finds Ben withdrawn and unsociable, which she later finds out is due to the death of his first wife at sea. He even keeps a large portrait of her dressed in white, on a swing-set in his living room.
Meg finds a rival for Ben's affections in his childhood friend Annie Douglas who takes an immediate dislike to her. The Ben, Annie and Meg Love Triangle takes up the first story arc of the series, expanding to include the other residents of Sunset Beach in various yet interlocking story-lines. Gregory Richards, the mogul of the town, owns the newspaper for which Meg works. His wife Olivia is a secret drunk. Their daughter Caitlin is involved in a torrid love affair with Cole Deschanel, a con-artist whom Gregory despises and with whom Olivia is having a secret affair. Ben finances some of Gregory's operations.
Meg makes friends with the local lifeguard Casey who at the time is dating Rae, who is also Meg's doctor... Phew, got that yet? Now, Casey is also friends with Michael, a lifeguard, later sports physician, who is currently dating Vanessa, a plucky reporter with a nose for trouble. Vanessa also works for the same newspaper as Meg. Olivia's best friend Bette, who is the town gossip and dispenser of sage advice, provides Meg with a kind ear and information about Ben's past. Ricardo hates Ben because his first wife was Ricardo's sister. Ricardo is in a relationship with Paula Stevens, a fellow police offer. Both are involved in Long Lost Sibling sideplots. Together all these shared lives and histories form the basis of plots for the series.
Tropes featured in the show:
- All Just a Dream: subverted.
- Betty and Veronica: For Ben, Meg was the Betty and interchangeably Annie/Maria were his Veronicas. For Meg, Ben was her Veronica and Tim was her Betty.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Richards family, as headed by their patriarch Gregory.
- Bishonen: Casey.
- Brainless Beauty: Caitlin Richards.
- Brainy Brunette: Meg, Maria, Gabby, several.
- Dead Man's Chest: Tim gets stuffed into a chest temporarily after being murdered, before finally being buried in cement.
- Distracted by the Sexy
- Dream Sequence: Often provided by Annie, but a feature of the other characters as well. Sometimes these would segue into flashback scenes.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Again Casey. But he gets his girl in the finale.
- Mr. Fanservice: A stellar example. One of the few things the show got right. Special mention goes to Cole Deschanel as played by Eddie Cibrian.
- Evil Redhead
- Evil Twin Derek to Ben. On a related note Gregory and Tobias, though it was more a case of Evil Nephew/Good Uncle. Sort of.
- Faking the Dead: Several recurring characters.
- Fake Brit: Ben. Again just Ben.
- Fish Out of Water: Meg on arrival at Sunset Beach.
- Flash Back: And how!
- Gilligan Cut: Any time a character had a flashback. Frequently became a Running Gag.
- Girl Next Door: Meg defines this trope.
- Hello, Nurse!: Annie to everyone except Ben.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Annie. Everyone wanted a piece of her in-show, except for the one guy she actually wanted to notice her.
- Hotter and Sexier: The mid-season re-tool.
- Hot Men At Work: The lifeguards especially.
- Hot Mom: Olivia, Bette, Maria. Quite a few actually. The show was fairly equal opportunity when it came to attractive cast members.
- Hot Dad: Gregory. Cole.
- Improbable Plot: Several but the one featuring cursed jewels stood out.
- Jerk Jock: Subverted. The head lifeguard, Casey was one of the nicest characters on the show.
- Lady Drunk: Olivia.
- Latin Lover: Take your pick. Cole. Ricardo. Antonio.
- Love Triangle: Several as part of the running side-plots.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Del for Annie. Derek and Tess for Benjy.]]
- Luke, You Are My Father: Bette is Annie's mother.
- Mistaken for Pregnant
- Money, Dear Boy: There were some notable actors among its cast list, namely Lesley-Anne Down and Sam Behrens who clearly enjoyed hamming up their scripts.
- Pair the Spares: Annie ultimately ends up with Jude. Maria ends up with the man of her dreams; George Glass.
- Replacement Love Interest: Meg thought she was this for Maria.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Gregory's preferred mode of operation.
- Shallow Love Interest: Maria for some viewers. Meg for the others.
Caitlin: Annie this isn't Melrose Place.
Annie: No, it's Sunset Beach.
- Rich Bitch: Annie after marrying Gregory for money. Caitlin is a milder example.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky / Tall, Dark and Handsome: Ben, just Ben.
- Sharp-Dressed Man : Ben and Gregory.
- Shirtless Scene: Every so other episode.
- Surfer Dude
- Switched At Birth
- Unholy Matrimony: Derek and Tess
- Unlucky Childhood Friend: Annie to Ben. Also Tim to Meg.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo
- The Vamp: Gabby's role in-show. Though she does show a softer side later on.
- Yandere: Had a memorable example in the character of Virginia. She was so obsessed with getting back her ex Michael, that she first tried to set up his current girlfriend Vanessa with her doctor to make it look as though they were cheating, then when that didn't work tried to impregnate Vanessa with the doctor's sperm via a turkey-baster and when that didn't work went to a voodoo specialist to give Vanessa a fictional illness called Martin's Syndrome.