On Tuesday night, April 23rd at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU in New York City, the stars, executives, press, and fans, converged for the highly anticipated premiere of the return of the iconic soaps, All My Children and One Life to Live. After being swiftly axed off the ABC Daytime canvas in 2011, this was a night of smiles, tears, and community for everyone who has worked so tirelessly to resurrect the shows. From the fans “never say die” attitude and spirit, to Prospect Park’s relentless efforts to revive the shows under adversity, but with a passion not often seen in the soap genre.
The night began with moving speeches from Prospect Park’s Jeff Kwatinetz and Rich Frank, to One Life to Live’s executive producer, Jennifer Pepperman, to All My Children’s EP, Ginger Smith. It was Smith who had the honors to say to the audience, “And now All My Children!” And with that, and to excited applause, we all were ready for the unveiling of the much talked about revival of Pine Valley. After the first episode of AMC was unveiled, next came the premiere episode of One Life to Live.
So let’s break this down with our thoughts and addressing yours, the fans, concerns. I can tell you, not only was I in need of my much need hankies, but I, along with several AMC and OLTL cast members, clapped and cheered throughout the episodes seeing beloved faces we have all missed for over a year and half from our daily soap viewing habits.
This will be a SPOILER FREE review. I will not divulge any major plot points or surprises, Needless to say, there are some jaw-droppers! And I mean that in the best possible way!
The Look and Feel: Both shows are two very distinct shows. They are unique on to themselves. If there were any concerns about production values, stop right there! The shows look fully realized in HD. Sets are reminiscent of the old AMC and OLTL but reinvigorated as if they had a much-needed face-lift. When shooting exterior scenes, no Guiding Light here! (And you guys and gals know what I mean!). They are fresh and work within the framework of the storytelling. When you watch AMC, you get the sense of family, Pine Valley, relationships, the new kids and the veterans we have come to love. When you watch OLTL, you get the sense of the dark storytelling that always made this show that sleeper hit, intense, controversial, with probably one of, if not, the best core cast in daytime. It’s all there. One Life’s first episode which takes place at the opening night of Club Shelter, was so well-done it could have been a the first episode of a cable primetime dramatic series. You got the feeling of a kick-off, a brand new start! Music is used in both soaps to invigorate the shows, and it does.
The Use of New Young Characters vs. The Use of Veteran Characters: So I am sure many of you are expecting that your favorite core characters might be kicked to the curb? Not so, I am happy to report. All My Children as you know is the show that has more young characters that were either SORAS’d, or who had not been seen before. But what AMC did in the premiere was anchor them to the vets. You saw Rob Scott Wilson as Pete Corlandt with his mother, Opal played by Jill Larson before he bumped into new gal, Celia played by Jordan Lane Price. And then we saw Eric Nelsen’s AJ Chandler with Denyse Tontz’s Miranda Montgomery in a scene with Julia Barr and David Canary as Brooke and Adam. Now I am telling you here … the breakout new star of the series is poised to be Eric Nelsen! And Rob Scott Wilson also brought some heart to his role. But that being said, Jesse and Angie are BACK! And they have MAJOR story!
Over at One Life to Live, while at first it may be jarring to some to see a grown up Matthew Buchanan (Robert Gorrie) and Destiny Evans (Laura Harrier) it’s OK, because Bo and Nora (Robert S. Woods and Hillary B. Smith) are there concerned for Matthew. The younger set is a major component to the club opening at Shelter, but it also serves as a backdrop for the converging of many Llanview favorites whose issues are overwhelming them including: Melissa Archer’s Natalie and Florencia Lozano’s Tea Delgado.
The Opening Title Sequences: OMG! One Life to Live’s almost had us reach for the hankies! You will see! It’s touching seeing those familiar couples from Llanview dancing! For All My Children, it went the much more traditional soap route with the use of chyroned character names. Actor names were shown at the end of the episodes.
The Storylines: All My Children jumps five years ahead in story, but nothing is forgotten! That fatal night when JR fired the gun is a major plot point of the opening. We just get hints at who could have been shot, and it plays out throughout. The ABC finale is honored and it helps kick-off the story of where the characters are now in their lives. There is much, I mean much, mystery involved, and it does focus on the core characters. There were several cliffhanger moments in the opener and it certainly did not feel like some short 30-minute soap with no content. It felt full and realized and every scene and moment had a purpose.
For One Life to Live, we couldn’t have been more pleased, because Viki and Clint were Viki and Clint, Bo and Nora were as you would expect and scene stealers- Robin Strasser and Tuc Watkins, each in their own right, stole the episode! Tuc had one of the funniest and one of the most touching moments as David in the premiere and Robin Strasser … there are no words. Dorian is right as you imagined she would be, and her feud with Viki is going to bust wide open. As for Corbin Bleu’s Jeffrey King, he is endearing and intriguing, so no worries there. But there is a danger, sexual energy abound, lust and a mystery in the premiere episode. It felt raw and real, and not manufactured. It was if the show got grittier, but it still served the through line of One Life. But I will tell you right now, you will need hankies again, when you see Florencia Lozano’s opening scene as Tea! Give this woman an Emmy already! And seeing Roger Howarth again back in Llanview as Todd Manning mixing it up with Blair … how cool! Right?
Sexually graphic scenes and use of foul language – First off, I recall hearing not one cuss word in the opener of either soap. So if there was one, it went by in a millisecond and did not impede or offend. As far as the concerns of more sexual content – there are some moments in AMC that have much more sexual overtones then will have ever have seen on ABC’s version. But remember, online programming does not have the same standards and practices barriers. On OLTL, you will see more skin and gyrating bodies dancing in a frenzy in the first episode, but it was part of the energy of the scene and the story. I was not taken aback. It was a minute of, “Oh, OK! Now I get where they are going with this.”
There is so much more I want to tell you, but I can’t. You need to tune in on Monday April 29to Hulu, HuluPlus and iTunes and begin the journey with millions of fans who fought for these shows and brought them back. Is there a difference from the versions you knew before? Yes! Does that mean it won’t be as good? Hell No! I think you are going to be seduced, excited, and thrilled when you see Pine Valley and Llanview again in a more contemporized version and as the initial shows for The Online Network. I am sure there will be much discussion in the days and weeks to come, but from my vantage point, and through my joy and tears, the shows you love are there waiting for you to come and check them out!
So now that you read my review, will you be watching on April 29th? You don’t want to miss it, and being part of soap opera history in the making!