ABC kills long-running soaps ‘All My Children,’ ‘One Life to Live’

April 14, 2011

Two more iconic daytime soaps have bitten the dust: ABC announced Thursday that it’s driving a stake into “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” to launch two series similar to “The View.”

One of the new programs is about all things food, stars a bunch of foodies (duh) and is called “The Chew.” The other is about weight loss, stars the inimitable Tim Gunn (among others) and is called “The Revolution.”

Yes, ABC Daytime will not only help you put on, but also take off, the weight!

“ ‘General Hospital,’ the second-most popular show in daytime, is not impacted by this announcement and will remain on the air,” ABC stated emphatically — in case you were working up a good head of steam on that front.

The network was quick to add that it will “honor” the “core, passionate audience and their rich history with our soaps ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ ” by plowing them under “in a manner that respects their legacies and the long-standing hopes of many of their viewers.”


Cast member Susan Lucci and “All My Children” creator Agnes Nixon. (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Plus, Disney/ABC Television Group Daytime President Brian Frons, donning his wistful face, wanted to make it perfectly clear that “while we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can’t help but recognize how bittersweet the change is.”

Still sensing a coming outrage — those soap fanatics may be dwindling in numbers, but they’re crazy passionate! — ABC wasted no time in blaming the changes on, according to its announcement, “extensive research into what today’s daytime viewers want and the changing viewing patterns of the audience.”

Bottom line: Susan Lucci will be looking for work after September, and “One Life to Live” will be snuffed in January.

ABC went on to promote its new talk-happy foodie show. The title of “The Chew” is like “The View” — get it?

“As food has become the center of everyone’s life,” ABC said, “ ‘The Chew’ will focus on food from every angle — as a source of joy, health, family ritual, friendship, breaking news, dating, fitness, weight loss, travel adventures and life’s moments.”

(Don’t know why we just thought of it, but ABC’s we’re-killing-ourselves-with-food reality series, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” came back for its second season Tuesday. More than 5 million people watched.)

“The Chew’s” all-star foodie roundtable will include Mario Batali (Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”), entertaining expert Clinton Kelly (TLC’s “What Not to Wear”), Carla Hall (Bravo’s “Top Chef”), Michael Symon (Food Network’s “Iron Chef America”) and nutrition expert Daphne Oz. The show is produced by Gordon Elliot, who is the exec producer of “Paula Deen’s Home Cooking” and “Down Home With the Neelys.”

“The Chew” will be partnered with new “The Revolution,” which is from J.D. Roth, the guy who does NBC’s weight-loss reality series ,“The Biggest Loser,” and ABC’s coming prime-time series “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.”

Each week on “The Revolution,” one woman’s five-month “weight-loss journey” will unfold in just five days, with daily results. “A final transformational reveal” will happen every feel-good Friday.

The women will get lots of help in their transformations, from a celebrity team that includes Gunn, the “Project Runway” fashion expert; “celebrity trainer” (so says ABC) Harley Pasternak; and “American Idol” alum Kimberley Locke — who will contribute we’re not sure what.

“All My Children” revolves around the lives of the frisky residents of fictional Pine Valley, a town that ABC says “closely resembles the Philadelphia Main Line.” The soap premiered Jan. 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; seven years later, it expanded to an hour.

“One Live to Live” is set in the equally frisky fictional town of Llanview, which ABC says is “modeled on a Philadelphia suburb.” “One Life to Live” debuted July 15, 1968, as a half-hour show and grew to an hour 10 years later.

Both programs fell victim to the fickleness of Woman.

Each weekday in 1998, for instance, about 4 million people were regularly glued to “One Life to Live” and about 5 million to “All My Children.”

In each case, about 2 million of those viewers were women ages 25 to 54. They bought a lot of soap.

Now, both shows are struggling to hang on to half those crowds.

Meanwhile, “The View,” which in 1998 was averaging about 2 million viewers — about 800,000 of them being women ages 25 to 54 — is now clocking closer to 4 million viewers, and more than 1 million of them are 25-to-54-year-old women.

“All My Children” and “One Life to Live” continue a trend of long-running soaps that are handing in their dinner pails. In December 2009, CBS announced that it had canceled “As the World Turns” — the soap that over its 54 years introduced America to Meg Ryan, James Earl Jones, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei.

And that was the second soap scrubbed by CBS within weeks. “World” followed the career trajectory of “Guiding Light,” for which the fat lady had sung three months earlier, ending its 72-year reign. (Both of those shows were produced by Proctor & Gamble, which coined the phrase “soap opera” because the company used the shows to advertise the product.)

Both soaps “have had long and distinguished runs and their day is over,” CBS chief executive Les Moonves had observed on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” when his network pink-slipped “As the World Turns.” Les never was one to beat around the bush.

“All My Children” and “One Life to Live” also churned out a good-ish number of actors who have gone on greater glory. “One Life” was a testing ground for Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Cross, Blair Underwood, Phylicia Rashad, Tommy Lee Jones and Roma Downey, among many others. “AMC” once employed Christian Slater, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Melissa Leo, to name a few.

“ ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live’ are iconic pieces of television that have made an indelible mark on our culture’s history,” Frons reflected in Thursday’s announcement. “Each of the shows has touched millions and millions of viewers and informed the social consciousness. It has been a privilege to work with the extraordinary teams who brought the residents of Pine Valley and Llanview to life each day, and we thank the cast, crew, producers and most especially the fans for their commitment to the shows through their history.”

Nobody move! He’s not finished.

“None of this could have been possible without the extraordinary Agnes Nixon,” Frons continued — still wistful.

“More than 40 years ago, Agnes Nixon created both the worlds of ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life to Live,’ worlds that the rest of us have been privileged to live in. Her shows led the way forward, breaking a lot of rules along the way to defy expectations about what soaps can do and the issues they can cover.

“I am honored to have worked with her.”

New ‘guy’ channel

Rich guys and their cars — the leitmotif of a new channel unveiled Thursday by Discovery Communications.

The channel was the centerpiece of Discovery’s companywide presentation to advertisers of new-programming plans for next season.

If you’re not a guy making more than $150,000 a year, you’re not the target of the new Velocity network, launching in September in 40 million homes, replacing Discovery’s HD Theater network. The target audience is men such as — David Zaslav, Discovery Communications chief executive!

“We grew up dreaming about what the day would be like when we got our licenses and what cars we would drive,” Zaslav said in making Thursday’s announcement.

In other Discovery advertiser presentation news:

l Discovery’s Science channel has found a pretext for ordering another round of “An Idiot Abroad” from Ricky Gervais.

The first season of “An Idiot Abroad” — in which Gervais and writing partner Stephen Merchant sent their pal Karl Pilkington around the world to experience the Seven Wonders of the World — is the top-rated series in Science history.

The problem is, there are only seven of those official Wonders of the World, which made a second season challenging.

The second season will therefore be called “An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List,” and Pilkington will again be launched on a world tour — this time to sample adventures one ought to experience before one dies.

“I’ve never understood the ‘things to do before you die’ idea,” Pilkington said in Thursday’s announcement. “If I was ill, I’d be in no mood to have a swim with a dolphin.”

lDiscovery’s co-venture with Oprah Winfrey — the Oprah Winfrey Network — also unveiled a slew of six new series Thursday that both parties say they think will bolster the new network’s ratings.

Most notably, Oprah’s going to resurrect her syndicated talk show on OWN — sorta. A greatest-hits series, culled from the show’s 25 years, will start running on OWN in September, once the show is kaput in syndication.

The show will feature highlights from the talker, as well as previously unseen footage and new interviews. Celebrities will talk about their favorite Oprah show episodes. Viewers will see bloopers and learn about times on the show when something made Oprah angry and something made her sad.

“Confronting” will document an offender and an offendee as they try to achieve closure.

“Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal” will feature married couples who have “survived” infidelity.

“I Owe You My Life” will follow average people who took great risks to save lives.

“My Mom and Me” is for all of those who can’t get enough of contentious mother-daughter relationships.

“Louie Spence Dance Project” follows a choreographer in New York.

And “Sweetie Pie” stars a ’60s singer and her family as they work in their restaurant.

l Discovery Channel also announced a slew of new shows, including one, “Life on a Wire,” about the Flying Wallendas circus family.

l TLC network had its own slew of new shows, including “Baby’s First Day,” about the maternity ward at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. Then there’s “Extreme Christmas Trees,” which needs no explanation and which will no doubt be paired with TLC’s pickup of the series “Invasion of the Christmas Lights 3: Europe.”

And, American Gypsies and travelers are about to get the TLC treatment in “Gypsyville”; the network has also picked up the British series “Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”

l Meanwhile, Animal Planet has on its agenda: “Detroit Animal Tattoo,” “My Extreme Animal Phobia,” “Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer” and other projects too numerous to list here.

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