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Philip Jeanmarie (at top) plays Vincent and Daphne Duplaix plays Valerie on the offbeat soap opera ‘Passions.’ On the show, the two are revealed to be the same person. (Photos courtesy of JPI Studios)

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TELEVISION

TV: ‘Passions’ features pregnant man
Campy soap finds new life on Direct TV and internet

By DAVID ALEXANDER NAHMOD
Thursday, November 29, 2007

FANS OF DAYTIME DRAMAS WERE NO doubt stunned when NBC premiered “Passions” on July 5, 1999, at 2 p.m. The show’s initial storylines involved a 300- year-old witch and her best “friend” — a doll she had brought to life — along with appearances by the ghost of Diana, princess of Wales.

This wasn’t “As the World Turns”!

Nor was it “Dark Shadows,” the now legendary horror themed soap of the 1960s, which played its spookery straight, so to speak. “Passions,” the brainchild of longtime soap scribe James E. Reilly, set about to turn the soap world on its ear with a bizarre mix of romantic triangles, TV spoofs and supernatural storylines that would have been right at home on an episode of “Bewitched.” In fact, during its first year, “Bewitched” characters Esmeralda and Dr. Bombay made a few appearances in “Passions,” played by their original actors.

“Passions” enjoyed an eight-year run on NBC. Though never a huge ratings hit, it maintained a small, fiercely loyal cult following of around 2 million viewers. In January 2007, NBC announced that it was canceling “Passions.” Though the audience was loyal, it was small, and the network felt that more revenue could be generated by expanding the “Today Show” by one hour.

But 2 million viewers is 2 million viewers. Satellite provider Direct TV, looking to expand its subscriber base, quickly bought the rights to “Passions.”

On Sept 17, 10 days after it last aired on NBC, “Passions” picked up where it left off on the 101, Direct TV's exclusive channel for original programming.

Direct TV is continuing the show's long history of bizarre storylines featuring offbeat, over-the-top characters. "We want the show to be even edgier than it was on NBC," said a Direct TV spokesperson.

She wasn't kidding. In the first major storyline on its new network, Vincent (Philip Jeanmarie), boy toy of the recently murdered Chad, has been revealed to also be Valerie (Daphne Duplaix Samuel), a long-running character who works at Crane Industries, the town’s largest and wealthiest employer. Yup, Vincent and Valerie are the same person. They’re intersexed, and they are pregnant! But who’s the daddy? Is it Chad, who made love to Vincent, or the evil billionaire Julian Crane, who had an affair with Valerie?

To find out, tune in tomorrow, as they say on soap land. Viewers have already seen the very male Jeanmarie, as Vincent, suffer from morning sickness.

During its run on NBC, Daytime TV had never before seen anything quite like Passions. The show occasionally flirted with real-life issues, such as in July 2005, when longtime character Simone Russell came out as a lesbian. James Reilly had no qualms about showing Simone and her girlfriend Rae in bed kissing.

Two years later, character Chad Harris, a married man with children, found himself embroiled in gay love affair with the sleazy tabloid reporter Vincent. Again, the show had the guts to show the two men getting into bed together, kissing while reaching for condoms.

And how is the almost indescribably strange “Passions” doing at its new home? According to a Direct TV spokesperson, it's the most watched show in the history of the 101.

So the question remains: Who's the baby's daddy? Will actor Philip Jeanmarie be able to play a pregnant man without laughing?

To find out, tune in to Direct TV’s “Passions.” Passions airs Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m. on Direct TV's The 101. Episodes are rerun at 7 p.m. each night, with a four-hour marathon of the previous week's episodes on Saturdays at 10 a.m. All times Eastern.

To order Direct TV, visit www.DirecTV.com. “Passions” can also be viewed online for a monthly fee. Visit NBC.com/Passions.

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