"How to create 21st-century excitement in shows behaving in 20th-century ways?" one commentator asked. In 1999, James E. Reilly of 'Days of our Lives' created 'Passions' which ran until 2007. Between 2007 and 2008, 'Passions' was shown on DirecTV. James made the observation in 2000, "The storyline is important but you also need the characters, romance, secrets, lies, deceptions and mysteries. You have to use those to intrigue the audience into coming back tomorrow. The audience loves the game and the hunt. They want you to build up the characters and the tension – that kind of push and pull so that when Romeo and Juliet finally get together, it is an explosive event. And it is a combination of writing, chemistry and casting. It's more difficult for a new soap to grab viewers because people are already used to the characters on older soaps (such as 'Another World'). It's like having old and new friends. You know so much about the history of the older friends; you can relate to them on so many levels. If something happens to that older friend, it can be earthshaking – as opposed to a new friend who you don't know much about. With a new soap, you have to pump up the action to get people vested in the characters."
It was reported in 2001, "One study commissioned by ABC (the American Broadcasting Company) found that if viewers don't develop a taste for soaps by age 24, they never will." The ABC Daytime representative was quoted saying, "The audience changes with every generation, as we know, but it's changing at lighting speed now (in 2001). We are definitely trying to keep pace. We know the traditional ways are no longer viable. We try every day to eliminate the concept that it's just my mother who watches soaps. We know people have very tight schedules. We've tried to bring to the audience all different ways (at the time SoapNet) of accessing our shows. What we do for a living is drama and story. We want people to watch our fables."
Set in the New England town of Harmony, 'Passions' centered around 4 families (the Cranes, the Bennetts, the Russells and the Lopez-Fitzgeralds), their romances and their relationships. However most of the focus was on attracting the younger audience of 18-plus. The response: One junior, "I like the parts with Timmy and Tabitha because they are very unreal and it is interesting." One sophomore, "They are not very realistic in some aspects but they can be with certain problems that occur in life." One freshman, "I feel that you have to watch the whole series to understand anything." And one senior, "I might watch soap operas if I had the time. Making fun of children's cartoons gets boring, so then I move on to making fun (of) soap operas for 10 minutes or so." The ABC Daytime representative added, "We've got to make noise. I'm asking for my audience's most valuable asset – their time. We've got to use every trick up our sleeves."
Taped at Studio City's CBS Studio Center in California, 'Passions' featured exterior scenes shot in Paris, France and the Maine seaside towns of Camden, Belfast and Rockland. Maine was chosen after producers met with delegates from the Maine Film Office at a trade show called Locations held in Los Angeles in February 1999. Juliet Mills played Tabitha Lennox who brought a child-sized doll to life called "Timmy" (played by Josh Ryan Evans). McKenzie Westmore played Princess Diana's best friend, Sheridan Crane and Susan Lucci's daughter Liza Huber played Gwen Hotchkiss, "The main quality I love about her is that even though she happens to be wealthy, she's very normal. She isn't snobbish or aloof. Many times, rich people are depicted as clichés but Gwen isn't that at all. She's a very warm, incredibly intelligent, independent woman." James had described 'Passions' as "'Peyton Place meets 'Dark Shadows' or 'The X-Files.'" He also mentioned, "Other shows have budgets that are much higher but they've been around a lot longer. We've been given enough to do what we want and everything I've asked for has been there. I wanted to start the show off with a carnival, so we built a carnival. We have to make the series look good because people expect that."