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ABC cancels 'All My Children' and 'One Life to Live'

In an undated image, All My Children actor Susan Lucci, left, performs a scene after a tornado hit the fictional town of Pine Valley. The last episode of All My Children will air in September. 


In an undated image, All My Children actor Susan Lucci, left, performs a scene after a tornado hit the fictional town of Pine Valley. The last episode of All My Children will air in September. 

Thirty years after her mother's death, Christy Chamness still treasures the memory of joining her mom to watch the doings in Pine Valley through daily doses of ABC's classic soap opera All My Children.

After September, Chamness will have to find a new spark for those happy thoughts, following news that ABC is scheduled to pull All My Children from the air this fall after 41 years.

A few months later, the network will also end the 43-year run of another classic soap opera, One Life to Live, benching that show in January. ABC announced Thursday both series would end, saying research revealed viewers wanted different programming in daytime.

If so, someone forget to ask fans like Chamness, who said the cancellation felt like losing a friend or family member.

"This is breaking my heart. … I've known these characters for so long," she said from her home in St. Petersburg. "You can kind of take a break from your own problems and get into theirs. For me, it's been a wonderful escape."

Her dismay was echoed by famous fans such as The Office star Rainn Wilson, who noted on Twitter: "RIP "One Life to Live". The show that gave me my 1st TV gig. 1997. Casey Keegan, homicidal stand-up comic. #truestory"

But the cancellations also herald a new age in television, as daytime programming turns to cheaper, easier to produce talk shows and a changing audience.

ABC will replace All My Children with a program featuring chef Mario Batali called The Chew. One Life to Live steps aside for a weight loss-makeover show starring Project Runway's Tim Gunn and American Idol alum Kimberly Locke dubbed The Revolution.

"While we are excited … I can't help but recognize how bittersweet the change is," Brian Frons, president of daytime for Disney/ABC, said in a statement that cited ABC's daytime talk show The View as inspiration.

But another motivation may have come from a competitor: The Talk.

When CBS replaced long-running soap As the World Turns with the chatfest The Talk in October, first week ratings rose nearly 30 percent among young female viewers, threatening the time slot dominance of another soap: ABC's One Life to Live.

The numbers are simple: soap operas produce up to 260 episodes annually with huge casts making shows with sinking ratings. Talk shows have smaller staffs, make fewer episodes and are gaining audience.

"Even if the ratings (for the talk shows) aren't as high, the network can make more money because the costs are lower," said Stephanie Sloane, editor of Soap Opera Digest magazine.

These days, there are fewer housewives at home, once a captive audience for stories of escape. And in a TV world that values the kinetic energy of Jersey Shore over the scripted predictability of Law & Order, it's not hard to see why soaps have fallen on hard times.

"In one sense it's not surprising or sad that soaps are disappearing — don't we want women to have fulfilling careers after all?" wrote University of California at Berkeley assistant professor Abigail De Kosnik, co-editor of the book The Survival of Soap Operas, in an e-mail to the St. Petersburg Times.

Still, soaps also offer unique storytelling opportunities.

"You could watch young couples become parents and then grandparents and you could see fresh young actors come (in) with a network of relationships they fit right into," De Kosnik wrote. "Only from soaps can you get that sweeping sense of individuals' and families' histories."

Another loss with the vanishing soap opera: a training ground for young actors.

"It's a special kind of acting all its own," said Ray Bouchard, a Dunedin resident who had small roles on All My Children and other soaps in the 1980s. "The experience of being on set and following cues — it was an amazing learning experience."

Still, fans say they will support the four soaps that remain, hopeful to keep a tradition alive reaching back to broadcast entertainment's earliest days.

"I think (these cancellations) will hurt TV," said Jason Dowd, 32, of Tampa, who once watched soap operas with his mother and kept synopses of All My Children episodes on his website, "I mean, how many more judge shows can you watch, anyway?"

Times researchers Carolyn Edds and Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.


All My Children

. Premiered: Jan. 5, 1970

. Longtime star: Susan Lucci as Erica Kane

. Famous alums: Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, talk star Kelly Ripa

One Life to Live

. Premiered: July 15, 1968

. Longtime star: Erika Slezak as Victoria "Vicki" Lord Banks

. Famous alums: Tommy Lee Jones, Laurence


Left standing

. General Hospital (ABC)

. The Young and the Restless (CBS)

. The Bold and the

Beautiful (CBS)

. Days of Our Lives (NBC)

ABC cancels 'All My Children' and 'One Life to Live' 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 10:39pm]
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