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Encyclopedia

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One Life to Live
OLTL2008logo.jpg
Title card (2004―present)
Alternate titles OLTL
Genre Soap opera
Creator(s) Agnes Nixon
Senior cast member(s) Erika Slezak
Robert S. Woods
Robin Strasser
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 10,651 (as of March 12, 2010)
Production
Executive producer(s) Frank Valentini
Head writer(s) Ron Carlivati
Distributor ABC
Running time 30 minutes (1968-1976)
45 minutes (1976-1977)
60 minutes (1978-present)
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run July 15, 1968 (1968-07-15) – present
External links
Official website

One Life to Live (OLTL) is an American soap opera which has been broadcast on the ABC television network since July 15, 1968.[1][2] Created by Agnes Nixon, the series was the first daytime drama to primarily feature racially and socioeconomically diverse characters and consistently emphasize social issues.[1] Actress Erika Slezak has portrayed heroine Victoria "Viki" Lord on One Life to Live since March 1971,[1] and has won a record six Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.[3] The series itself won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2002.[4]

Daily repeat broadcasts of the series appear weeknights on SOAPnet.

Contents

Creation

Impressed with the ratings success of NBC's Another World, ABC sought out Another World writer Nixon to create a serial for them. Though Nixon's concept for the new series was "built along the classic soap formula of a rich family and a poor family," she was "tired of the restraints imposed by the WASPy, noncontroversial nature of daytime drama."[1] One Life to Live would emphasize "the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity" of the characters in its fictional setting.[1] Nixon would go on to create All My Children in 1970 and Loving in 1983.

The initial main titles of the series featured the image of a roaring fireplace, a visual representation of the originally proposed title — Between Heaven and Hell — ultimately changed to One Life to Live to avoid controversy.[5] OLTL's first sponsors were the Colgate-Palmolive company, who also sponsored The Doctors. ABC bought the show from Nixon in December 1974 when they purchased all stock to her Creative Horizons Inc. The show was originally a half-hour serial until it was expanded to 45 minutes on July 23, 1976, and to one hour on January 2, 1978.[2]

Series history

One Life to Live is set in the fictional city of Llanview, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] The show originally concentrated on the wealthy Lord family, the less wealthy Siegels (the first attempt to showcase a Jewish family on daytime television), the middle-class Rileys and Woleks, and the African-American Grays.[1] One Life to Live has been called "the most peculiarly American of soap operas: the first serial to present a vast array of ethnic types, broad comic situations, a constant emphasis on social issues, and strong male characters."[1]

Since its inception, One Life to Live has centered on the character of Victoria "Viki" Lord (originated by Gillian Spencer), who has been portrayed by six-time Emmy winner Erika Slezak since March 1971.[1] Long-suffering heroine Viki has weathered love and loss, widowhood, rape, divorce, stroke and breast cancer, and has been memorably plagued by dissociative identity disorder (or DID, once known as multiple personality disorder) on and off for decades. Viki has also had heart problems, leading up to having the heart of her dying husband transplanted into her, to save her life.

The 1993 story of Marty Saybrooke's gang rape has been called "one of the show's most remembered and impactful."[6]

One Life to Live celebrated its 40th anniversary in July 2008 with the return of several former cast members[7] and by revisiting notable plotlines from its past.[8] "Deceased" characters and even creator Agnes Nixon appeared in a storyline in which Slezak's Viki dies and visits Heaven, an homage to Viki's 1987 heavenly trip.[7][8][9][10] Daytime Emmy-nominee Andrea Evans and others returned for a tribute to Tina Lord's famous 1987 plunge over the Iguazu Falls[7][8][9][10] and the 1990 royal wedding in fictional Mendorra.[11][12] And like the 1988 Old West storyline in which the character Clint Buchanan steps back 100 years in the past, on July 21, 2008, Robert S. Woods began an extended storyline in which his character Bo Buchanan finds himself transplanted back into his own past—specifically 1968, the year of the series' inception—witnessing his family's back-story unfold.[7][8][9][13] Soap Opera Digest subsequently named One Life to Live their "Best Show" of 2008, calling it "the year's most compelling" series and citing a myriad of storylines the magazine found "heartbreaking", "stunning", and "gripping", as well as complimenting its risk-taking and "diverse and talented" cast.[14]

On August 4, 2009 it was announced that One Life to Live, which tapes in New York City, would move from its then-current stage to ABC's nearby television studio TV23 at 320 West 66th Street in Manhattan in early 2010. This studio will be made available by the move of sister soap opera All My Children to a production facility in Los Angeles, where that series began taping on January 4, 2010.[15][16] The new studio is 30% larger than One Life to Live's current one, and both One Life to Live and All My Children will be taped and broadcast in high-definition (HD) after their moves.[16] However on October 8, 2009, ABC announced that it had postponed the transition to HD for One Live to Live citing the economic climate at the time though an ABC spokesperson did state that they "...will re-examine it next year"[17]; as a result, OLTL is the last remaining ABC Daytime series continuing to broadcast in 480i standard definition.

Cast and characters

Controversy

In 2002, the popularity of antihero Todd Manning (Roger Howarth) prompted ABC to market a rag doll of the character, complete with his signature scar.[18][19] First offered for sale on April 29, 2002, the doll was pulled on May 7, 2002 after a backlash begun when The Jack Myers Report "harshly criticized the network's judgment" on creating and releasing a doll based on Manning, a character who had notably been convicted of rape in 1993.[18][19][20] The New York Times later quoted then-ABC President Angela Shapiro admitting, "I was insensitive and take total responsibility for it. I should have been sensitive to the history of the character and I wasn't."[18]

Shortly after receiving a March 2005 GLAAD Media Award for its coverage of LGBT issues,[21][22] One Life to Live was met with criticism when married district attorney Daniel Colson (Mark Dobies) was revealed to have murdered two people to cover up the fact that he is secretly gay.[23][24] GLAAD itself criticized the storyline "for reinforcing the idea that being gay is something to be ashamed of," while TV Guide noted "It's hard to disagree with those who say that's a lousy representation of gay folks."[23] Executive Producer Frank Valentini defended the story, saying "This is a story about the harsher side of intolerance and about one man not being true to himself. There are going to be meaningful, frank discussions that come out of this."[23] Then-head writer Dena Higley to explained, "The number one rule of soap opera is never cut drama. Daniel being gay and keeping that a secret is a dramatic story."[23]

In June 2009, actress Patricia Mauceri (a performer on the series since 1995) was reportedly replaced in her role as Latin matriarch Carlotta Vega after voicing personal religious objections to a planned storyline in which Carlotta would be supportive of a gay relationship.[25][26][27]

Historical storylines

Crossovers

Since the show's inception, the plotlines of One Life to Live have been established as existing in the same fictional universe as other ABC-owned daytime series, in particular Agnes Nixon's All My Children, which premiered in 1970. As noted from time to time in both series, fictional Pine Valley—the setting of All My Children—is located in Pennsylvania near One Life to Live's Llanview. Over the years, many characters have crossed over from one series to another in both short appearances and extended runs.[28] As early as 1968, General Hospital's Dr. Steve Hardy appeared in Llanview to consult on Meredith Lord Wolek's blood disease as a means to lead General Hospital viewers to the new series; similarly, One Life to Live's Dr. Larry Wolek visited All My Children shortly after its premiere in 1970.[28]

In 1999, Daytime Emmy Award-winner Linda Dano[29] returned to One Life to Live as Gretel "Rae" Cummings, a character she had previously played on the series from 1978 to 1980.[30][31][32] In a 2000 move of network synergy designed to "entice viewers to tune into soap operas that they might not have usually watched," then-President of ABC Daytime Angela Shapiro orchestrated Dano's concurrent appearance as Rae on the three other ABC soap operas at the time — All My Children, General Hospital, and Port Charles — in an extended crossover storyline[28] which was the first time a daytime character had ever appeared on four series.[30][33][34] Rae's search for the child she had given up for adoption takes her to All My Children, where she discovers in 2000 that her own birth mother is Pine Valley's Myrtle Fargate.[35] Following clues to Port Charles and General Hospital, Rae finally finds her daughter back in Llanview on One Life to Live: Skye Chandler, herself a former All My Children character who had relocated to One Life to Live in 1999.[28] Skye's adopted All My Children father Adam Chandler appears on One Life to Live in 2001, and Rae initially identifies Skye's biological father as Alan Quartermaine of General Hospital. Both women subsequently appear on that series, with Skye moving to General Hospital full-time in 2001 and Rae returning to One Life to Live until 2004, making some appearances on General Hospital later in 2002 and 2003.

A December 30, 2003 visit by One Life to Live's Paul Cramer to his estranged secret wife Babe Carey on All My Children[34] ultimately leads to an extensive 2004 "baby switch" storyline which features crossovers of over 20 characters between the two series. With his sister Kelly desperate for a child to save her marriage after miscarrying her own, Paul finds himself delivering the babies of both Babe and her friend Bianca Montgomery during a rainstorm and subsequent flood in nearby Pine Valley on March 24, 2004. Paul stages a crash with his MEDEVAC helicopter; he takes Babe's son for Kelly,[28] gives Bianca's daughter to Babe, and tells Bianca that her baby had died in the accident. Unaware of the child's origins, Kelly brings Babe's infant back to Llanview, passing him off as her child with her husband Kevin Buchanan. Months later, Babe discovers that her daughter is really the grieving Bianca's, but remains silent and allows Paul to manipulate her. Meanwhile, a devastated Kelly discovers that Paul had stolen her son from his mother and, desperate for cash, he blackmails Kelly by threatening to reveal the secret to Kevin. Bianca's daughter is returned to her for Christmas 2004, and once Kevin learns the truth, he and Kelly return Babe's son as well in 2005.[36]

Awards

One Life to Live and many of its actors and crew have been nominated for dozens of awards, winning on many occasions. Erika Slezak has received six Daytime Emmy Awards for her acting, a feat tied only by Anthony Geary and Justin Deas.[3]

In 2005 the series was awarded a GLAAD Media Award for its coverage of LGBT issues in the 2004 coming out storyline of gay character Mark Solomon (Matt Cavenaugh).[21] One Life to Live was nominated again in 2010[37] for a well-publicized storyline in which police officer Oliver Fish comes out and reunites with his college boyfriend.[25][26][38][39]

Daytime Emmy Award wins

Category Recipient Role Year(s)
Outstanding Drama Series 2002[4]
Lead Actor Al Freeman, Jr.
Robert S. Woods
Ed Hall
Bo Buchanan
1979[40]
1983[41]
Lead Actress Judith Light
Robin Strasser
Erika Slezak
Hillary B. Smith
Susan Haskell
Karen Wolek
Dorian Lord
Victoria Lord
Nora Gannon
Marty Saybrooke
1980,[42] 1981[43]
1982[44]
1984,[45] 1986,[46] 1992,[47] 1995,[48] 1996,[49] 2005[50]
1994[51]
2009[52]
Supporting Actor Thom Christopher Carlo Hesser 1992[47]
Supporting Actress Susan Haskell Marty Saybrooke 1994[51]
Younger Actor Roger Howarth Todd Manning 1994[51]
Wins in other categories
  • 2009 Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for a Drama Series
  • 2009 Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Drama Series
  • 2009 Outstanding Drama Series Directing Team
  • 2009 Outstanding Original Song
  • 2008 Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for a Drama Series
  • 2008 Outstanding Achievement in Lighting Direction for a Drama Series
  • 2008 Outstanding Drama Series Directing Team
  • 2008 Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team
  • 2008 Outstanding Original Song (two awards for two One Life to Live songs, which tied)
  • 2007 Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design for a Drama Series
  • 2007 Outstanding Achievement in Multiple Camera Editing for a Drama Series
  • 2005 Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series (tied with All My Children)
  • 2005 Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Drama Series
  • 2003 Outstanding Achievement in Live & Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for a Drama Series
  • 2001 Outstanding Achievement in Live & Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for a Drama Series
  • 2001 Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Drama Series
  • 2000 Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for a Drama Series
  • 2000 Outstanding Outstanding Achievement in Live & Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for a Drama Series
  • 2000 Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series
  • 2000 Outstanding Original Song
  • 1994 Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team
  • 1987 Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team
  • 1984 Outstanding Achievement in Technical Excellence for a Daytime Drama Series
  • 1984 Outstanding Direction for a Daytime Drama Series
  • 1983 Outstanding Direction for a Daytime Drama Series
  • 1982 Outstanding Achievement in Any Area of Creative Technical Crafts: Lighting Direction (Everett Melosh)
  • 1976 Outstanding Individual Director for a Daytime Drama Series (David Pressman)
  • 1974 Outstanding Technical Direction and Electronic Camerawork

Scheduling/ratings history

For historical ratings information, see List of US daytime soap opera ratings

ABC cemented its reputation as a youth-oriented network in daytime with the addition of OLTL to its schedule, with much of the rest of its lineup consisting of fashionable soaps like Dark Shadows, sitcom reruns, and game shows packaged by Chuck Barris. The network placed the new serial at 3:30 p.m./2:30 Central, against CBS' established hit Edge of Night and the popular NBC game You Don't Say. OLTL replaced the short-lived Baby Game, in a three-way shuffle with Dark Shadows and Dating Game.

Despite the tough competition, the intense tone of the plot and strong characters allowed the show to get a leg up on YDS, wearing that game down to the point of its cancellation in September 1969; NBC replaced the Tom Kennedy-hosted game in that timeslot with three unsuccessful serials: Bright Promise (1969–1972), Return to Peyton Place (1972–1974), and How to Survive a Marriage (1974–1975).

Things greatly improved for OLTL in 1972, when CBS relocated Edge in response to packager Procter and Gamble's demands. The four-year-old show managed to top the ratings for the first time over CBS' declining Secret Storm, and later, the game Hollywood's Talking, which ran only 13 weeks. However, trouble loomed on the horizon as OLTL anticipated its fifth birthday, with the coming of CBS' revival of Goodson-Todman's Match Game. Some months after its debut in July 1973, that show became the daytime phenomenon of the mid-1970s, becoming the top-rated of all daytime shows by Thanksgiving. ABC stood by OLTL, however, keeping it put at 3:30/2:30.

By 1975, though, NBC became a serious player in that timeslot for the first time in over five years when it expanded its strong soap Another World to a full hour, its second half occupying the 3:30/2:30 period. This would cause OLTL to lose a substantial audience share, but its lead-in, General Hospital, experienced even worse losses. ABC decided to take an unusual approach in addressing the competition: it expanded both OLTL and GH to 45 minutes, with each composing a half of a 90-minute block between 2:30/1:30 and 4/3. Beginning on July 26, 1976, OLTL assumed the first position, at 2:30/1:30. ABC bet its hopes on viewers staying tuned past the half hour, making them unlikely to switch channels to AW or All in the Family reruns on CBS (for GH fans, turning to Match Game).

This approach showed some promise, until November 7, 1977, when CBS expanded Guiding Light to a full hour at 2:30/1:30. As OLTL struggled, its neighbor, GH, was in danger of cancellation after a 15-year run. So, in a "make it or break it" ultimatum to GH, ABC finally gave an hour to both shows, on January 16, 1978, with OLTL occupying the 2-3/1-2 p.m. slot; The $20,000 Pyramid, which enjoyed three solid years of success at 2/1, got dispatched to Noon/11 a.m. for the rest of its ABC run, to make room for OLTL.

This proved to be decisive for the long-term survival of both shows, as GH rose rapidly to the top spot in the Nielsens through its brash, youthful storylines (culminating in the hugely popular "Luke and Laura" storyline by 1979-1980). As for OLTL, from its tenth birthday onward, it took advantage of the decline in quality and popularity of its competitors, all Procter and Gamble productions. Search for Tomorrow, for instance, spent its last several months on CBS against the last half of OLTL. Its replacement, Capitol, which ran from 1982 to 1987, did little better, and after its cancellation, CBS aligned As the World Turns against OLTL and AW, a configuration that stayed in place until AW's cancellation in 1999. During the 2000s thus far, OLTL has run about even with ATWT, with NBC's AW replacement Passions trailing significantly (Passions was canceled by NBC in September 2007 and moved to the DirecTV channel The 101; the network no longer programs in that time slot).

One Life to Live enjoyed fair-to-middling ratings throughout most of its first decade, but rose rapidly as it entered its second, along with the rest of ABC's daytime lineup. The 1980s saw the show reach the height of its popularity, occupying a top-four place for almost all of the decade. Since 1991, it returned to the middle of the pack, but its numbers declined, in common with all other soaps. By decade's end, the show rested near the bottom of the ratings pack, and continues to sit in the lower reaches of the weekly ratings as of today.

Executive producers and head writers

Executive producers

Duration Name
January 2003 to present Frank Valentini
January 2001 to December 2002 Gary Tomlin
December 1997 to January 2001 Jill Farren Phelps
October 1996 to December 1997 Maxine Levinson
July 1994 to October 1996 Susan Bedsow Horgan
July 1991 to June 1994 Linda Gottlieb
June 1984 to June 1991 Paul Rauch
August 1983 to June 1984 Jean Arley
July 1977 to August 1983 Joseph Stuart
July 1968 to July 1977 Doris Quinlan

Head writers

Duration Name(s)
May 2, 2008 to present Ron Carlivati
February 15, 2008 to May 1, 2008 Gary Tomlin (During WGA strike)
September 11, 2007 to February 14, 2008 Ron Carlivati
May 8, 2007 to September 10, 2007 Dena Higley
Ron Carlivati
December 13, 2004 to May 7, 2007 Dena Higley
November 29, 2004 to December 10, 2004 Brian Frons
Frank Valentini
March 23, 2004 to November 24, 2004 Michael Malone
March 10, 2003 to March 22, 2004 Josh Griffith
Michael Malone
February 3, 2003 to March 7, 2003 Josh Griffith
January 2001 to January 31, 2003 Lorraine Broderick
Christopher Whitesell
July 1999 to January 2001 Megan McTavish (uncredited consultant from March 1999)
January 1999 to July 1999 No Headwriter was credited at this time
March 30th, 1998 to December 31, 1998 Pamela K. Long
June 1997 to March 29th 1998 Claire Labine
Matthew Labine
December 1996-June 1997 Jean Passanante
Peggy Sloane (co-headwriter)
April 1996 to December 1996 Leah Laiman
Jean Passanante
Peggy Sloane
March 1995 to March 1996 Michael Malone
January 1992 to February 1995 Josh Griffith
Michael Malone
August 1991 to January 1992 Michael Malone
May 1991 to August 1991 Craig Carlson
September 1990 to May 1991 Craig Carlson and Leah Laiman
July 1990 to September 1990 Margaret DePriest (interim)
July 1987 to July 1990 S. Michael Schnessel
July 1984 to June 1987 Peggy O'Shea
December 1983 to June 1984 Sam Hall
Peggy O'Shea
June 1983 to December 1983 John William Corrington
Joyce Corrington
February 1983 to June 1983 Henry Slesar
July 1982 to January 1983 Sam Hall
Henry Slesar
March 1980 to May 1982 Sam Hall
Peggy O'Shea
November 1978 to March 1980 Gordon Russell
Sam Hall
September 1973 to October 1978 Gordon Russell
August 1972 to September 1973 Agnes Nixon
Gordon Russell
July 1968 to July 1972 Agnes Nixon
Paul Roberts
Don Wallace

International broadcasting

One Life to Live currently airs on SunTv at 1:00 PM PT, 2:00 PM ET in Canada. The series was previously broadcast on A and the Citytv stations in Calgary (CKAL-TV), Edmonton (CKEM-TV), and Winnipeg (CHMI-TV). One Life to Live aired in the early 1990s on the CBC Television network following All My Children, but it was discontinued in 1997.

In Italy One Life to Live, under the title Una vita da vivere, aired in the afternoon from November 1982 to September 1985 on Canale 5 (1978-1981 US episodes). The series returned with new episodes in July 1988, this time on Rete 4 in the afternoon. In September 1989 it was moved to 8.30 A.M., and stopped airing in June 1991 (1984 UU episodes). Reruns aired from 1987 to 1990 on Italia 7 and briefly in 1994 on Tivù Italia.

130 episodes of One Life to Live from 1980-1981 were broadcast under the title Solo se vive una vez in Spain on TVE1 starting August 11, 1986 at 11.30 a.m. daily.

See also

References

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