Sordid secrets, evil twins, mind-blowing returns from the dead and love in the afternoon so lushly romantic it makes our knees buckle. We're talking, of course, about daytime soaps, which have been bubbling over with escapist thrills since 1946. Here, like sands through the hourglass, are the grandest, wildest, most shocking moments of our soap-viewing lives — the ones that made us all tune in tomorrow.
1. Luke and Laura's Wedding, General Hospital (1981)
A record 30 million people — many who skipped class or called in sick to work — watched as raucous rebel Lucas Lorenzo Spencer (Anthony Geary) married his earth angel, Laura Baldwin (Genie Francis). It's been 31 years and those two still make us swoon.
2. BJ's heart, General Hospital (1994)
After a devastating school-van accident, the heart of little BJ Jones was transplanted into her dying cousin, Maxie. Tragedy met catharsis when BJ's dad, Tony (Brad Maule), laid his head on his niece's chest and quietly listened to his daughter's heart, once again pulsing with life.
3. Marlena's possession, Days of Our Lives (1995)
Satan raised holy hell in the sleepy town of Salem, desecrating the local Catholic church and fighting for the body and soul of trusted shrink Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall). In one cheesetastic scene, Marlena levitated. So did the ratings.
4. Bert's diagnosis, Guiding Light (1962)
In daytime's first social-issue storyline, Springfield mom Bert Bauer (Charita Bauer) contracted uterine cancer but found out in time, thanks to an early pap smear. Public response was huge and positive, proving soaps don't just entertain, they also educate — and maybe even save lives.
5. Karen's testimony, One Life to Live (1979)
In a scorching courtroom meltdown, Llanview hausfrau Karen Wolek (Judith Light) was forced to reveal her secret life as a prostitute. Her blindsided hubby, Larry (Michael Storm), immediately demanded a divorce. The upside: Light won an Emmy.
6. Katherine's facelift, The Young and the Restless (1984)
When daytime's most daring diva, Jeanne Cooper, had a cosmetic overhaul in real life, so did her rich-bitch character, Katherine Chancellor. In a pioneering preview of reality TV, graphic footage of Cooper's actual surgery aired on Y&R.
7. Erica's abortion, All My Children (1973)
Fashion model Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) found herself with child but chose to end the pregnancy — without telling her husband — in TV's first post-Roe v. Wade abortion. In the dumbest writer decision ever, the fetus was "unaborted" in 2005. Don't get us started.
8. Jeff's death in a car crash, As the World Turns (1962)
Young marrieds Penny and Jeff (soaps' first superstars, Rosemary Prinz and Mark Rydell) were all set for happiness when legendary scribe Irna Phillips abruptly ended Jeff's life. CBS's switchboards blew up, and we called it the "automobile accident that shook the nation."
9. Viki's out-of-body experience, One Life to Live (1987)
Ushering in the new, anything-goes era in soaps, Llanview's premier citizen (Erika Slezak) "died" during brain surgery and wound up in heaven. Fortunately, it was a round-trip. In a kooky follow-up plot, Viki visited the lost underground world of Eterna!
10. Reva's dip in the fountain, Guiding Light (1985)
When hot-to-trot Reva (the ferocious Kim Zimmer) was accused of infidelity by her bitter stepson Josh (Robert Newman), she didn't deny it. Instead, she stripped down to her undies in the country club fountain and baptized herself "the slut of Springfield."
The Other 50:
11. Lisa hits Oakdale, ATWT (1960)
12. Roger rapes Holly, GL (1979)
13. Carla is black! OLTL (1969)
14. Tracy withholds Edward's heart meds, GH (1980)
15. Bianca comes out to Erica, AMC (2000)
16. The Salem Strangler "kills" Marlena, Days (1982)
17. Robin is diagnosed with HIV, GH (1995)
18. Nola's movie fantasies, GL (1981)
19. Margo euthanizes Casey, ATWT (1990)
20. Marlena is a serial killer, Days (2004)
21. The Kristen-Susan craziness, Days (1997)
22. David Kimble's killer forehead, Y&R (1991)
23. Lucy Coe is a secret ho! GH (1986)
24. Maureen dies, GL (1993)
25. Maeve sings "Danny Boy," Ryan's Hope (1989)
26. Mona's funeral, AMC (1994)
27. Marty is gang-raped, OLTL (1993)
28. Barnabas Collins is a vampire! Dark Shadows (1967)
29. Caleb Morley is a vampire! Port Charles (2001)
30. Felicia's intervention, Another World (1992)
31. Andrea's trial, Search for Tomorrow (1968)
32. Rachel kills Janice, AW (1981)
33. Doug elopes with Addie, Days (1972)
34. Cliff and Nina's wedding, AMC (1980)
35. Stephanie succumbs to cancer, The Bold and the Beautiful (2012)
36. Sloane faces the firing squad, Capitol (1987)
37. Jenny dies by Jet Ski, AMC (1984)
38. Ridge is not a Forrester, B&B (2001)
39. Nancy and Mike break up, The Edge of Night (1976)
40. Adam is murdered, EON (1977)
41. Cindy loses her battle with AIDS, AMC (1989)
42. Tina's wedding screwup, OLTL (1988)
43. Caroline's death, B&B (1990)
44. Bo and Hope go on the run, Days (1984)
45. Timmy the doll becomes a real boy, Passions (2002)
46. Reva is cloned, GL (1998)
47. Tad the Cad beds Marian, AMC (1983)
48. Mary is murdered by the Mob, RH (1979)
49. The AIDS quilt visits Llanview, OLTL (1992)
50. Doug stalks Kim, ATWT (1986)
51. J.R. fires gun during Pine Valley party, AMC (2011)
52. Janet pushes Natalie down a well, AMC (1991)
53. Ryan and Vicky reunite in Heaven, AW (1997)
54. Joan Crawford fills in as Joan Kane, The Secret Storm (1968)
55. Vincent gets pregnant by his own father, Passions (2007)
56. Luke and Noah kiss, ATWT (2007)
57. Bob trysts with Susan, ATWT (1990)
58. Mary is killed by the big C, Santa Barbara (1986)
59. Luke rapes Laura, GH (1979)
60. Jo has soaps' first pregnancy, SFT (1956)