The end of an era – The American Soap Opera

One Life to Live

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In what could the beginning of the end for all afternoon soap operas, ABC announced this week that All My Children and One Life to Live would not be renewed for next season.

This will surely come as shock to millions of viewers who faithfully tune in every day to see how the characters are doing. Who is leaving whom; who is getting married; who is getting divorced; who is getting hired; who is getting fired; have all been part of the daily happenings on these shows. Both shows were created by Agnes Nixon. Nixon created One Life to Live first. It debuted on ABC, July 15, 1968 as a half hour daytime drama. Viewers loved the dramatic plot lines and too-close-to-reality scripts which regularly turned the fictional town of Llanview upside down. Nixon modeled her ground breaking show on an actual Philadelphia suburb and everyone thought they knew someone who a particular character was based on. Viewers simply could not get enough of the weddings, babies, divorces, affairs and comings and goings of every citizen of Llanview.

One Life To Live became known as a true envelope pusher. They were the first daytime television series to offer story lines which revolved around interracial romance, illiteracy, medical misdiagnosis, racial prejudice, gang violence and teen issues, such as drug abuse and pregnancy.

In 1992 One Life To Live achieved critical acclaim when it introduced the first gay teenage character, portrayed by the then unknown actor Ryan Phillippe.  That story line culminated with the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. One Life To Live received the Outstanding Daytime Drama Award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in 1993, 2005 and 2010. It was the first daytime show to offer a full week of live-televised programming in 2002, the same year it received its first daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. It was nominated again for the award in 2007 and 2008.

One Life To Live celebrated its 10,000th episode on August 17, 2007. The story was much the same for Nixon’s other hit daytime soap opera, All My Children. Like One Life To Live before it, All My Children debuted on ABC, January 5, 1970, as a half hour show. It immediately struck a chord with viewers who loved the twists and turns of the daily soap. They tuned in faithfully, day after day, pushing up the ratings and leading ABC to move the show to a full hour in 1970. All My Children was based around the fictional town of Pine Valley, loosely based on the Philadelphia Main Line.

In 1992 All My Children received its first Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. It won the award again in 1994 and 1998. In all, the daytime drama won more than 30 Emmy Awards for outstanding programming. Plot lines for All My Children have tackled everything from cochlear implants, homosexuality, pet therapy, organ donation, abortion, adoption, racial bias and Vietnam MIAs. Nothing was off limits to the writers of All My Children and they tackled every subject with the fervor reserved for afternoon soaps. Nothing could possibly be over-melodramatic enough.

On the heels of their announcement that these two iconic shows would be canceled ABC announced their replacements: The Chew a talk/reality show about healthy eating and The Revolution a talk/reality show about healthy living. Sure, the theme of the new ABC afternoon lineup might sound healthy, but whether or not it will resonate with viewers, thousands of whom have already started sounding off their dissatisfaction on forums and comment sections at the ABC web site, well, that’s another matter altogether.


Sara is an avid follower of the daytime soap opera’s and have reviewed many tv shows in the past year. She also runs a successful Virtual Assistant company and helps many clients with their Virtual Assistance needs. To find out more visit her website.

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