American Movie Classics’ swoony new sister network, Romance Classics, preempts its usual lineup of old movies and miniseries for a weeklong, round-the-clock marathon of Peyton Place. The first successful soap to air in prime time, the 1964-69 ABC melodrama launched the careers of Mia Farrow and Ryan O’Neal (as baby-faced sweeties Allison Mackenzie and Rodney Harrington) and a genre that continues to this day with Melrose Place and Pacific Palisades. Yet Peyton Place‘s greatest influence may have been on the work of David Lynch. Its vision of a placid-seeming small town with an ugly underbelly resonated in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. Peyton‘s plots seem tame by today’s standards, but in its heyday, its tales of adultery and betrayal were hot stuff. Farrow (who left the show in 1966) and O’Neal (who stayed for almost the entire run) weren’t the only familiar faces to pop up: Leslie Nielsen and Mariette Hartley played doctors during the 1965 season, and Gena Rowlands appeared as a gold digger in 1967. In a neat bit of TV foreshadowing, Christopher Connelly played O’Neal’s younger brother; a decade later, Connelly replaced O’Neal in ABC’s short-lived series based on O’Neal’s hit movie Paper Moon.

Peyton Place
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