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 life...by 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