Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Life To Live: The Little Soap That Could

I keep waiting for the 'mainstream' press to pick up on this story, but alas-- I guess it shall be I that  writes about the little miracle that is OLTL on ABC. 
Sit back and listen ..

Once upon a time, the evil heads of the studio took a look at the daytime lineup and declared it was "dead in the moat" and should be replaced with other riff-raf (ie: cheaper) programming. They sealed their fate and walked away. Turned a blind eye to the millions of "peasants' protesting the cuts, basically calling them insignificant and too "old" to matter. 

 Knight in Shining Armor

A curious thing happened though. Under the helm of Frank Valenti and Ron Carlivati, (above) the soap One Life to Live refused to just lay down and die. Not only didn't it die, it gained defying the odds and adding viewers after decades of decline for soaps across the board. They did this without any promotion from ABC, despite being canceled and overlooked for years on well deserved Daytime Emmys. They were also the soap not chosen to move to LA when AMC picked up to go HD. OLTL was left behind in NYC to fend for itself. And did it ever. 

The soap is, as they say, "The Step-Child" of the ABC daytime line up. My mother used to call it  "that show with Vicki right after All My Children". Sandwiched between AMC and GH, it seemed to be a time filler. Sure, it had it's moments. The famous Judith Light courtroom scene is used as one  of the finest examples of daytime angst-acting there is. Agnes Nixon created the soap but over the years it has proven to be a bit more wacky than her other, less campy AMC. We had "Eterna" city under the ground, time travel and various other weird story lines.  Dorian and Vicky have always been a highlight, as has the "Dallas Style" Buchanan family. What Ron has begun to do however, is actually create a drama-camp that's somewhere between the "Xfiles" and "Mystery Theater 3000", making the soap a must see in the afternoon.

It's interesting that ABC dismisses this rating spike  as a "fluke" because, according to head man Brian Frons, if the numbers on General Hospital rose, they wouldn't cancel that show. (Which, we know is probably a total lie since The Katie Couric Chat-fest is slanted to move right into GH's time slot.) I don't think it's a "fluke" that One Life's ratings have risen steadily over months and months. More people are watching because the show is that good. Twitter has a steady stream of fans and many of us bloggers out here in cyber-space have encouraged people to watch. I've heard from viewers that left and come back but I've also heard from new viewers that are digging the show. Isn't that exactly what ABC wants? 

One Life beat the powerhouse The Young and the Restless last week one day for women viewers (hit the link for full ratings breakdown). Imagine that. A canceled show, putting up numbers to rival daytime's best. One Life even beat “The Talk,”  by 865,000 viewers last week. Uh, knock, knock--but doesn't that tell you anything?? 

I have to give it to the actors on screen because they bring it--every dang day. They always have. No one phones it in-- not once. I can't imagine year after year being passed over for the Emmy and still hanging in there like they have. The humor is infectious as well. Older vets are used and because so many are still around, it's natural to have history pop up in your face when you least expect it. It's the only soap on my DVR right now. For me, that's huge. I don't DVR for hardly anything; daytime or primetime!

I can't imagine what must be going on in Anne Sweeney's mind right about now where this is concerned. We know she's washed her hands of scripted daytime programming. There has to be a bit of uncomfortable silence at the table when the ratings come in each week though. With AMC and OLTL going cyber, I can only hope that the shows remain something of themselves when the transition happens. Oprah missed such an opportunity to bring viewers to OWN when she dismissed soapers pleas to consider putting them on her network. We are a built in, loyal and powerful fanbase. People are missing the boat left and right. Not to mention the uncounted views online, DVR and SoapNet. If ABC had a brain, they'd demand the ratings counts be changed to bring in the real numbers and advertisers with them. Instead, they just go along like dinosaurs and plug in cheap recycled "reality" for us to watch. Do we really need to know how to use "mismatched plates" to create a "fun-table" or that shrimp come in 3 different sizes? Er.. no. Not even close.

Despite plunging a sword into the heart of the show, OLTL just keeps delivering day after day, and bringing viewers right along. If these numbers can't save it, what can? Someone needs to call out the decision of this crew before it's all over. I honestly hope the ratings keep soaring to the point where no one can ignore them anymore. That, and they sweep the Emmys next year (ha, right like that would ever happen).  

Right now, ABC's needs to step-up and justify canceling shows who's ratings are going UP. Nothing against GH as that's my show, but their numbers? Not going up so much--and it's the one that's saved. Ah, Hollyweird. 

*note: Hit the Ron Carlivati link for a stellar interview with Michael Fairman


  1. As usual you hit it right on its head too bad its not Fron's head.I am going to miss them and trust me I'm not going to watch no show called The Chew they can watch my show called Kiss my Arse :))

  2. LOL, Mama. And Karen, sister, you rock!
    What a great article.

    I love irony. It's perfect.

    I hope every damned one of those lofty, out-of-touch decision makers are squirming and babbling over each other to explain what has happened at the Mouse House.

    I do know one thing. After the cancellations, I won't be watching ANY daytime programming on ABC. If I want fashion, lifestyle, cooking and home design trends I have 24/7 programming on the other networks who do it and do
    it very well. I predict that "The Chew" and "Katie" are going to struggle for ratings. We know already that ABC and Mr. Frons have screwed over their built-in daytime viewers so, yeah, good luck with that ABCD.

  3. I agree with both of you....
    they have know they blew it, the amount of commercials for these new shows is increasing and definitely getting a bit desperate...
    they have never understood the love and loyalty in a SoapLovers heart.....
    soaps off abc off...even local shows...

  4. I watched One Life from day one and it was love at first sight for me. The Wollacks and the Lords were such great soap families, and the dialogue was riveting. One stand-out moment for me was Karen Wollack on the witness stand and its still one of the best things I've ever seen on film or television. The show deserved so much more respect than it ever got from ABC. I agree with everything everyone has said here and won't be watching The Chew or Katie, either. Ever. A pox on ABC daytime and the idiots in charge.

  5. Karen, I will again give you a huge THANK YOU for turning me on to OLTL after many years away. Everything you said in your blog is true. This show is so above and beyond anything else on TV, and no bland talk show will ever be able to top the humor, drama, and pure love of OLTL. There are so many creative and talented people working on this show, and I'm sure they will all find success with Prospect Park or elsewhere.

  6. oh,so true,I have been a one life to live fan for 28 years...and still going know ABC will admit to their failings...and boy are they going to fail.They do not have honer for their viewers be it night time or day time,look at all the wonderful shows they have put under the bus,Life on Mars,Men in trees to name a few now since they have chosen to ruin night time they set their sights on daytime.They want to be reality TV all day think about it.12:00,T he Chew,1:00 another talk show,2:00 katie....another talk show...and then we have Dr.oz at 3:00....really???ummmm..oh ya,I will race home or DVR these shows...oh wait,no I won't because I can see these shows on cable,and done much better thank,thank you for a great,true article.....

  7. I have never really gotten into AMC, but GH was my favorite since I was 12 (1979), with OLTL my 2nd. Then GH became Mobster HQ and OLTL got really good. So OLTL has been in my life for 33 years now.

  8. Judith Light blew that courtroom scene UP...It can effortlessly stand with the best of ANY scripted drama, let alone daytime tv.
    Man, I miss Marco Dane too...The only character ever to win two daytime emmys on two different soaps.
    -Old School GH Fan

  9. What is truly weird is that Mario Batali was fired from the Food Network due to low ratings. If nobody watched him there why would anybody think people would watch him on ABC?


  10. Bingo. This was right on. OLTL has been my favorite soap since I first tuned in in 1973. I've watched AMC and GH off and on, but I've never missed an OLTL if I could help it. It may be cold comfort, but at least we know what a fine show OLTL is now that Frons is ignoring it.

  11. Get a load of these ratings, this year vs last year ... i'm no network exec but i can tell which one is the winner. Can you?

    Total Viewers – Full Daytime
    comparison week-to-week/year-to-year for the week of August 8-12, 2011:

    1. The Price is Right 2 (CBS) 4,621,000 (TBD /-512,000)
    2. The Young and the Restless (CBS) 4,587,000 (-162,000/-448,000)
    3. The Price is Right 1 (CBS) 3,965,000 (TBD /-171,000)
    4. The Bold and the Beautiful (CBS) 2,946,000 (-161,000/-358,000)
    5. One Life to Live (ABC) 2,888,000 (-24,000/+641,000)
    6. The View (ABC) 2,729,000 (TBD /+87,000)
    7. General Hospital (ABC) 2,573,000 (+69,000/+25,000)
    8. All My Children (ABC) 2,552,000 (+42,000/+94,000)
    9. Let’s Make a Deal 2 (CBS) 2,428,000 (TBD /-48,000)
    10. Days of our Lives (NBC) 2,349,000 (+37,000/-145,000)
    11. Let’s Make a Deal 1 (CBS) 2,100,00 ( /-7,000)
    12. The Talk (CBS) 2,023,000 (TBD / N/A)

  12. Great article! i don't know what ABC & the mouse house are thinking, but their actiions are certainly not smart. Brian Frons is an idiot, and everyone knows it! How does he still have his job? Of course I won't watch the replacement shows. The ads alone are enough to make me gag. I hope & believe that both AMC & OLTL with thrive and be magnificent under Prospect Park.