At ABC, Two Soaps Get Scrubbed

ABC is canceling two of its long-running daytime soap operas: All My Children and One Life to Life. The TV network is replacing the melodramas with two talk shows, hosted by fashion gurus Clinton Kelly of What Not to Wear fame and Tim Gunn from Project Runway.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

ABC is shaking up daytime TV. Say goodbye to multiple marriages, murders and mayhem. The network is canceling two of its long-running daytime soap operas: "All My Children" and "One Life to Live."

As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, they will be replaced by talk shows hosted by reality stars like Tim Gunn of "Project Runway" and famous chef Mario Batali.

(Soundbite of "All My Children" theme song)

CARRIE KAHN: Even with its updated theme music, cost-cutting move to Los Angeles and a push for contemporary themes like same-sex marriages, "All My Children" couldn't hold on.

(Soundbite of show, "All My Children")

Ms. SUSAN LUCCI (Actor): (As Erica Kane): No, no, you can't put her in the ground. No, mom, don't leave me.

KAHN: Just like Erica Kane, played by legendary daytime actress Susan Lucci, grieved over the death of her mother, soap fans are not taking the cancellations lightly. They've threatened boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, the works. But ratings have plummeted and maintaining casts with dozens of full-time actors is expensive.

The new shows ABC will put in their place will be focused on food, weight loss and makeovers. Entertainment Weekly's Lynette Rice says the costly, outdated soaps just couldn't compete.

Ms. LYNETTE RICE (Editor, Entertainment Weekly): A reality show, an unscripted show, a show about living your best life seems a little more contemporary than a show about a bunch of men and women who've been married dozens of times.

KAHN: And Rice says daytime viewers' habits have changed. Who now has time to invest hours following decades-long plots?

Ms. RICE: It's a genre that truly is built around the idea that you pass the habit down from grandmother to mother to daughter. And to see that go away, it's sad. It feels like a national pastime that we're saying goodbye to.

KAHN: "All My Children" will end its four-decade run in September, "One Life to Live" in January. But don't worry, ABC's president of daytime programs promises both shows will conclude in the manner that respects their legacies. Let's hope for steamy days this summer.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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