Deep Soap: Unanswered Questions About the Shelving of ‘One Life to Live’

"One Life to Live" (The Online Network)

Has “One Life to Live” been canceled for a second time? That’s what fans are wondering in light of the revelation Tuesday that The Online Network (TOLN) has shelved production on the show, claiming that it would return to production after the resolution of the lawsuit that TOLN filed against ABC for alleged breach of contract.

The news was buried at the end of a Los Angeles Times profile of TOLN topper Jeff Kwatinetz: “Since then, TOLN has not issued a press statement clarifying the fate of the show or made its executives available for interviews.” The cast of OLTL made it clear via social media that the article was how they learned that they may have lost their jobs. Though it is currently on hiatus, “All My Children” seems to be on more solid ground. According to the article, more people are watching it than OLTL and the show’s writers are hard at work, Soap Opera Digest reports that TOLN hopes to resume production on October 21.

Based on the fact that the writer seemingly accepted without question Kwatinetz’s claim that ABC killed off the major OLTL characters that TOLN licensed to “General Hospital” when, in fact, the three dead characters were a toddler, a fetus and a character who was written off the show years ago and only appeared during the ABC finale to craft a happily-ever-after ending for his love interest, I’m assuming that she has never watched OLTL or GH. I suspect if she were aware that she was breaking news, she would have crafted the article very differently.

I have so many questions about the fate of OLTL — the show stumbled creatively after a strong opening, but seemed to be finding its footing before the finale — which ended with a cliffhanger featuring the return of Alison Perkins that echoed the show’s ABC finale. So I am going to pose them here, with some commentary, in the hope that eventually the questions will be answered.

Seriously, you’re blaming “One Life To Live’s” possible cancellation on a lawsuit that you chose to file?

The entire text of the lawsuit has been published online, so fans know exactly how bizarre a lot of it is. While no one not directly involved has any idea whether or not ABC fulfilled all of its contractual obligations, all of your claims that you were creatively sabotaged were specious to anyone familiar with the soap genre. The three OLTL characters who became contract roles on GH were all alive and well at the time of OLTL’s debut. None of them had married other people, become psychopaths (or any more of a psycho than they were in Llanview), or otherwise materially changed to the point where they would no longer be viable characters on OLTL. In fact, you got the most important character to the OLTL canvas, Todd, back for the entire run. You also complained that ABC opted to create new characters for Roger Howarth, Kristen Alderson, and Michael Easton, which you said would be confusing to the audience, ignoring the fact that GH opted to do so specifically because you decided to demand that the characters be returned to OLTL. If this lawsuit didn’t stop OLTL from going into production in the first place, why would it be a factor in its continuation? If you had stated that you were benching OLTL because of low viewership and financial concerns, that would be a lot more plausible and engender a lot more sympathy in the show’s viewers.

Why did you antagonize ABC when they should be your biggest allies?

ABC should have been your partner in this venture. The network stood to make a lot of money in licensing fees if the shows were hits. If you stayed on good terms, ABC might have had the casts of AMC and OLTL on “The View” and promoted the soaps on its heavily trafficked websites and done everything it could to help you. Instead, you started a war with a dog who is a lot bigger than you are. What did you think that would accomplish?

What exactly were your plans for the dead characters?

You have claimed that Cole, Hope, and Victor and Tea’s fetus were crucial to OLTL’s success. What exactly were your plans for them? Was there a storyline planned for Llanview’s daycare center? Was Cole going to be paroled even though none of the characters he was connected to are a part of the new Llanview? Seriously, I would like to know.

Catch-up on Full Episodes of “One Life to Live” Here on xfinityTV

What did you think would happen when you licensed the characters back to ABC?

You did realize that when you allowed GH to use the OLTL characters, they were going to write stories about them that would inevitably impact OLTL. The lawsuit claims that GH was supposed to consult with you about storylines. Were the writers supposed to ask your permission for Todd to have sex with Carly or for John to join the Port Charles Police Department? What about crafting the backstory that John and Anna worked together when he was in the FBI? Was that okay? How about individual lines of dialogue? Given that your initial attempts to take OLTL online flopped, and you had no writers or producers or budget, who exactly were the GH writers supposed to consult with and why would they believe that OLTL would ever actually return?

Do you realize that by not leveling with the fans you have lost their trust?

The LA Times claimed that, when you opted to release two episodes a week instead of four, “Fans exploded in anger over the reduction in episodes.” Well, not exactly. First you said that there would be four episodes a week with several hiatuses a year. Then you said that there would be two episodes a week with no hiatuses, with AMC and OLTL being released on alternating days. Then you switched to releasing a week’s worth of episodes every Monday. Then, out of the blue, you sent out a press release announcing the season finales of both shows when, until that moment, no one had any idea that there were seasons. People are upset that you keep changing the release schedule with increasingly bogus seeming explanations.

Are you hoping to finance OLTL with proceeds from the lawsuit?

That’s the only reason I can come up with for how the lawsuit could have any impact on OLTL’s future. If that’s the case, then I applaud your creative financing attempts.

You do realize that OLTL had way more of its original cast members than AMC?

AMC launched without the show’s most iconic character, Erica. Other popular characters that are MIA due to the actors who played them opting not to join the show include Tad, Greenlee and Ryan. Yet, the show has done better than OLTL because it had overall better storytelling. OLTL has a far bigger percentage of its ABC cast intact. For whatever reason, the writers opted to move at a snail’s pace on OLTL and have numerous scenes of characters hanging out without actually doing anything. I’m not sure why it took months for Matthew (Rob Gorrie) to meet his online crush or why Natalie (Melissa Archer) occasionally flirts with Cutter (Josh Kelly) but isn’t in an actual relationship with him or why you introduced the provocative, genuinely interesting concept of Rama (Shenaz Treasury) and Vimal (Nick Choksi) being in an open marriage then didn’t have either of them sleep with other people. Meanwhile, over in Pine Valley, Jesse (Darnell Williams) and Zach (Thorsten Kaye) freed Cassandra from sex traffickers, Billy Clyde Tuggle (Matthew Cowles) came back from the dead and Colby (Brooke Newton) slept with both David (Vincent Irizarry) and Pete (Rob Wilson). AMC wasn’t perfect; the teen characters were dull and had a disproportionate amount of screentime, but it was better than its sad final years on ABC while OLTL was markedly worse. That was all about storytelling. OLTL could easily be fixed. I hope that you will find a way to raise the funds necessary to revive it and that when it makes its triumphant return you will be honest with viewers about the future of the show.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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