2 beloved TV soaps revived online starting Monday
This March 18, 2013 publicity photo released by The Online Network shows Corbin Bleu as Jeffrey King, left, and Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord, on the set of "One Life To Live" in Stamford, Conn. Two soap operas "All My Children," and "One Life to Live," canceled by ABC, will unveil four daily half-hours per week, plus a recap/behind-the-scenes episode on Fridays, with 42 weeks of original programming promised for the first year, on the Hulu website.(AP Photo/The Online Network, David M. Russell)
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Taped to a wall at the entrance to the Connecticut Film Center in Stamford is this greeting: "Welcome (back) to Pine Valley."
Pine Valley, of course, is the mythical setting of "All My Children," a daytime drama that ran on ABC for nearly 41 years until it was snuffed in 2011.
But now, in one of those plot twists so common to soap operas but so rare in the real world, "All My Children" has been raised from the dead.
Was its cancellation just a bad dream, from which the show is now awakening? In any case, "AMC" will be back starting Monday with much of its august cast intact (including David Canary, Julia Barr, Jill Larson, Debbi Morgan and Cady McClain, and perhaps even Susan Lucci eventually returning to the fold), along with shiny new actors to add more pizazz.
But this time, "AMC" will not be on a broadcast network. It will be online.
So will "One Life to Live," another venerable soap cut down by ABC after 44 seasons. It, too, will spring back to life on Monday. (Welcome back to Llanview, everybody!) Returning fan favorites include Erika Slezak, Robert S. Woods, Robin Strasser and Hillary B. Smith, each of whom has logged decades on the show.
Each serial will unveil four daily half-hours per week, plus a recap/behind-the-scenes episode on Fridays, with 42 weeks of original programming promised for the first year.
They will be available for streaming on computers on the Hulu website. Subscribers to Hulu Plus can watch on a variety of other devices. And the episodes will be available for purchase on iTunes.
This resurrection could reverse the doomsday plot that has plagued soaps for decades as their viewership withered and their numbers sank (there are only four left on the broadcast networks; there were a dozen in 1991).
And it is somehow fitting that TV's oldest genre, carried over from radio, should now be making the transition to a 21st-century online platform complete with Agnes Nixon, who created both shows, as a digital pioneer. It's a potentially restorative move that could prove the TV medium failed soaps, not the other way around.
Reflecting a new age of viewing patterns and business strategy, "AMC" and "OLTL" will be the first offerings of The Online Network, an ad-supported outlet for first-run entertainment delivered online.
"What better way to start than with two shows that have been watched by fanatical fans for as much as 40 years?" says Rich Frank, a partner of Prospect Park studios, which owns The Online Network.
He notes that even as ABC pronounced death for these two soaps, "AMC" was averaging 3.2 million viewers a day and "OLTL" had 3.8 million viewers. He sets the threshold of success for his new venture at "a very conservative percentage" of that broadcast audience.
"Being online is going to draw people in," predicts Jennifer Pepperman, "OLTL" executive producer. "You can click on it and watch it any time you like."
Meanwhile, the drama will adapt to its new medium.
"We don't want to totally reinvent the wheel, but we want to make the wheel turn better and turn quicker," Pepperman says.
"AMC" executive producer Ginger Smith echoes Pepperman from her office a few steps away at the just-moved-in-looking, bustling headquarters the two shows share.