Television

Soapocalypse: ABC Kills 'One Life To Live,' Abandons 'All My Children'

There's been a lot of this kind of action (here, between Susan Lucci and Cameron Mathison) since ABC introduced All My Children back in 1970. The network announced Thursday that it's canceling AMC and One Life to Live. i i

There's been a lot of this kind of action (here, between Susan Lucci and Cameron Mathison) since ABC introduced All My Children back in 1970. The network announced Thursday that it's canceling AMC and One Life to Live. AP Photo/ABC hide caption

itoggle caption AP Photo/ABC
There's been a lot of this kind of action (here, between Susan Lucci and Cameron Mathison) since ABC introduced All My Children back in 1970. The network announced Thursday that it's canceling AMC and One Life to Live.

There's been a lot of this kind of action (here, between Susan Lucci and Cameron Mathison) since ABC introduced All My Children back in 1970. The network announced Thursday that it's canceling AMC and One Life to Live.

AP Photo/ABC

There have been rumors for weeks — and rumblings for much longer — that ABC was on the verge of canceling All My Children and One Life To Live, daytime soaps that premiered in 1970 and 1968, respectively. Today, those cancellation rumors came true, with the announcement that All My Children will go off the air in September, and One Life To Live will follow in January. That's more than 80 combined years on the air, gone in a single press release.

All My Children, though two years younger, is probably the more famous of the two in the broader culture, simply because of Susan Lucci, who is about to be out of a job for the first time since I was born. She's been playing Erica Kane since the show premiered in January 1970, and everything about her — especially her notorious long run of Daytime Emmy nominations before she finally won in 1999 — has been about as mainstream as soaps get. Even people who know nothing about daytime at all have a decent chance of knowing her. Maybe just her, and Luke and Laura.

Speaking of whom, General Hospital, ABC's other soap, is avoiding the axe for now. But after CBS's As The World Turns and Guiding Light, this will be four long-running and iconic soaps that have left the air since September 2009. There will be only four English-language network soaps left: General Hospital, Days Of Our Lives, The Young And The Restless, and The Bold And The Beautiful.

What ABC will be using to replace the canceled shows says a lot about the economics and viewer habits that are driving the changes: they're adding two shows that the network says are inspired by the success of its talk show The View. While that sounds ... gross, the truth is that there are a couple of bright spots if you look closely.

The Chew is a new food show that will feature, among other hosts, Carla Hall, the absolutely delightful Top Chef contestant who has needed her own show forever. The Revolution is a show about lifestyle makeovers, which sounds a lot better when you hear that the lead host is Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn!

Honestly, it could be a lot worse, as far as replacements.

Still, there's no question that we are reaching a tipping point where soaps just aren't a thing anymore. There are four left, in total? Four? When I was younger, there were four just on CBS.

There are a lot of potential explanations for the decline of daytime soaps, and they've been rehashed many times. Unscripted programming always included daytime talk shows, but there are more different kinds of inexpensive shows than there were when it was mostly soaps and straight-up talk shows like Phil Donahue had.

Furthermore, there's so much serialized drama on TV that's really good now that it's difficult to justify watching serialized drama that has to be turned out on the five-day-a-week schedule that soaps require year-round. Fewer women stay home during the day, especially regularly. Those who are can watch reruns of Law & Order on cable during the day if they want to — an option the first audiences of All My Children and One Life To Live didn't have. There's the DVR. There's the internet.

Soaps still have die-hard fans, believe me. Some of them will be heartbroken at this news in a way that's tough to understand if your loyalties to television rarely last longer than six or seven seasons. There are people — mostly, but not exclusively, women — who have been watching these shows for the entire time they've been on, who have watched the same thing every afternoon for 40 years. They've grown up, had kids, maybe had grandkids, and they've been watching these shows the whole time. That's viewer loyalty of a kind that's extremely rare in the zillion-outlet, zillion-show, watch-everything-whenever landscape we have now.

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