2 beloved TV soaps revived online starting Monday

Four half-hours a week promised on Hulu, iTunes
2013-04-26T00:00:00Z 2 beloved TV soaps revived online starting MondayThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

STAMFORD, Conn. - Taped to a wall at the entrance to the Connecticut Film Center in Stamford is this greeting: "Welcome (back) to Pine Valley."

Pine Valley, of course, is the mythical setting of "All My Children," a daytime drama that ran on ABC for nearly 41 years until it was snuffed in 2011.

But now, in one of those plot twists so common to soap operas but so rare in the real world, "All My Children" has been raised from the dead.

Was its cancellation just a bad dream, from which the show is now awakening? In any case, "AMC" will be back starting Monday with much of its august cast intact (including David Canary, Julia Barr, Jill Larson, Debbi Morgan and Cady McClain, and perhaps even Susan Lucci eventually returning to the fold), along with shiny new actors to add more pizazz.

But this time, "AMC" will not be on a broadcast network. It will be online.

So will "One Life to Live," another venerable soap cut down by ABC after 44 seasons. It, too, will spring back to life on Monday. (Welcome back to Llanview, everybody!) Returning fan favorites include Erika Slezak, Robert S. Woods, Robin Strasser and Hillary B. Smith, each of whom has logged decades on the show.

Each serial will unveil four daily half-hours per week, plus a recap/behind-the-scenes episode on Fridays, with 42 weeks of original programming promised for the first year.

They will be available for streaming on computers on the Hulu website. Subscribers to Hulu Plus can watch on a variety of other devices. And the episodes will be available for purchase on iTunes.

This resurrection could reverse the doomsday plot that has plagued soaps for decades as their viewership withered and their numbers sank (there are only four left on the broadcast networks; there were a dozen in 1991).

And it is somehow fitting that TV's oldest genre, carried over from radio, should now be making the transition to a 21st-century online platform complete with Agnes Nixon, who created both shows, as a digital pioneer.

Reflecting a new age of viewing patterns and business strategy, "AMC" and "OLTL" will be the first offerings of The Online Network, an ad-supported outlet for first-run entertainment delivered online.

"What better way to start than with two shows that have been watched by fanatical fans for as much as 40 years?" says Rich Frank, a partner of Prospect Park studios, which owns The Online Network.

He notes that even as ABC pronounced death for these two soaps, "AMC" was averaging 3.2 million viewers a day and "OLTL" had 3.8 million viewers. He sets the threshold of success for his new venture at "a very conservative percentage" of that broadcast audience.

"Being online is going to draw people in," predicts Jennifer Pepperman, "OLTL" executive producer. "You can click on it and watch it any time you like."

Meanwhile, the drama will adapt to its new medium.

"We don't want to totally reinvent the wheel, but we want to make the wheel turn better and turn quicker," Pepperman says.

"AMC" executive producer Ginger Smith echoes Pepperman.

"We want to keep the core," says Smith, who has risen on "AMC" from production assistant in 1988. "I still want escapism and romance, but we're going to have stories that are sometimes a little darker and edgier than we did on ABC."

At a glance

FROM SMALL SCREEN TO WEB: Two soap operas, both canceled in 2011 after more than four decades on TV, have found new life as Internet series.

THE SOAPS: "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" will each run a half-hour show on Mondays through Thursdays. The episodes will be available on Hulu and for purchase on iTunes.

THE BACK STORY: The genre has been declining for decades as viewership withered. There are only four soap operas left on the broadcast networks; there were a dozen in 1991.

The Associated Press

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