By Laurent Triqueneaux et Michèle Delage, Télé K7, 1987
They are at the same time the creators, the authors and the producers of Santa Barbara. In their office of NBC studios in Burbank, Jerome and Bridget Dobson tell us the story of one of the greatest televised successes of these last years. They are husband and wife. That is what makes the force of Jerome and Bridget Dobson. A force not to be neglected in the war that is given daily by the American television networks. They both created Santa Barbara only together, they are today also the producers of it. Nothing happens in Santa Barbara without their approbation. Bridget remembers the beginnings : "Everything started twenty-two years ago; at this time Jerome was still wearing bibs, my parents were the creators of General Hospital and I started, after having obtained my diploma in communication, to give them some help and even to write, finally, the shows by myself. I married Jerome in 1961, and he entered the "soap universe". "My own speciality, tells Jerome, was the culture of nuts. When I married Bridget, I found at the same time a terrible professor. While looking over her shoulder, I learned a new job. She was pitiless, I wrote a line, then two and more and more..."
"He has an abnormally eccentric mind, and that was especially useful. Our whimsical life and our phantasms are the beginning of the adventures of our heroes. Our characters realize what we cannot do for a reason or another. We thus carry on screen our sexual phantasms. It is a kind of therapy for us. It does not mean that our private life is boring, adds Bridget while laughing. The departure of our adventure, it is Santa Barbara where we were living with a lot of other stars. It is a very smart place, very beautiful and exotic. Moreover, get mingled there tourists, rich families, Mexicains and poverty. A totally contrasted city. We get based on some real little scandals which have occurred in these rich families to give birth to the soap. Eccentricity and spirit of enterprise, some money, enough of it to have the time to ask questions to yourself and to find ideas, here is what was at the origin of our success. Add to it the desire to escape from the characters of my parents in General Hospital and the necessity to be independent, and you will understand why the impossible challenge had to be taken up : to start a new soap on an encumbered market."
And the couple begins the evocation of the first cries of the soap. One of the most memorable : the meeting with Dame Judith Anderson, who will become Minx Lockridge. "Dame Judith is one of the stars who live in Santa Barbara, and we often meet her during parties. We had the idea to propose a role to her. She was the first of the cast. At the time of our first appointment, her dog bit Jerome very hard. My husband, heroic, did not say anything. Since that, the animal and he are the best friends of the world."
Then, it was necessary to fill the cast and to choose a team. A delicate course in the middle of hundreds of videotapes to make of Santa Barbara a single show full of "fresh" faces. "That was hard, and we made some mistakes. Bad luck too. The first C.C. Capwell made a heart attack on the stage and had never appeared on screen. He was however an excellent actor. We learned the rules of the game progressively, but it is quite obvious that we will continue to make errors. Our harder critics were always our two children. I remember my daughter, Mary, saying to me at the beginning, after a show : "How do you dare to make me lose 15 minutes of my time with such boring stories." We promised to her not to do it again until the day when, once certificated, she could take her pen to help us more. She is today assistant of the production director. Our son, Andy, also helped us while taking part in the administrative aspect of the things. We think of having succeeded since we are today the only soap whose ratings increase unceasingly. The others stagnate or lose televiewers. We just have now to gain the head of the group. We have to reach this objective in seven years. However, our first purpose remains to tell attractive stories with rich characters to give pleasure to our public. The only way to get it : to still work harder by saving this marvellous team spirit which already saved us."
To prove all the courage they still have, the Dobsons are full of projects. In negociation with New World, a movie project. Some television again with NBC and, why not, as we asked them, a French soap with French actors. Their proverb : "To continue is the only way to remain young !"