One Life to Live (often abbreviated as OLTL) is an ABC network soap opera series created by Agnes Nixon.
The show aired on ABC from July 15, 1968, to January 13, 2012, and then on the internet as a web series on Hulu and iTunes via The Online Network from April 29 to August 19, 2013.
Set in the fictional town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, the series centered on the lives of the town's three families: the upper-crust Lord family, the powerful Buchanan clan and the feisty Cramer family.
Impressed with the ratings success of NBC's "Another World, ABC sought out "Another World" writer Agnes Nixon to create a serial for them.
Though Nixon's concept for the new series was "built along the classic soap formula of a rich family and a poor family," she was "tired of the restraints imposed by the WASPy, noncontroversial nature of daytime drama."
The show would emphasize "the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity" of the characters in its fictional setting.
The initial main titles of the series featured the image of a roaring fireplace, a visual representation of the originally proposed title "Between Heaven and Hell" which ultimately was changed to "One Life to Live" to avoid controversy.
The show's first sponsor was the Colgate-Palmolive company, who also sponsored The Doctors. ABC bought the show from Nixon in December 1974 when they purchased all stock to her Creative Horizons, Inc.
"One Life to Live" was originally a half-hour serial until it was expanded to 45 minutes on July 23, 1976, and to one hour on January 16, 1978.
From its debut episode, "One Life to Live" centered on fictional character Victoria "Viki" Lord (originated by Gillian Spencer), portrayed by six-time Emmy winner Erika Slezak for longer than any other "One Life to Live" series actor, from March 1971 through the series finale January 13, 2012.
Long-suffering heroine Viki weathered love and loss, widowhood, rape, divorce, stroke, and breast cancer, and was plagued by dissociative identity disorder (or DID, once known as multiple personality disorder) on and off for decades.
Viki also had heart problems and received a transplant from her dying husband Ben Davidson (Mark Derwin).
Featured male protagonist Dr. Larry Wolek also appeared at the debut episode and for 36 years, played from 1969 until the character's last appearance in 2004 by Emmy-nominated actor Michael Storm.
The apparent murder of Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony) by Victoria Lord and the ensuing prostitution storyline of Larry Wolek's wife, Karen Wolek (Judith Light), in 1979 garnered widespread critical acclaim and several Daytime Emmy Awards.
The 1980s brought great ratings success and rose to prominence Viki's sister, Tina (originally and last played by Andrea Evans), and the Buchanan family.
In the 1990s, the show introduced one of the first married interracial couples in soap operas with attorneys Hank and Nora Gannon (Nathan Purdee and Hillary B. Smith respectively), and the story of the involvement of Viki's estranged brother, Todd (Roger Howarth), with the rape of Marty Saybrooke (Susan Haskell), called "one of the show's most remembered and impactful."
In July of 2008, "One Life to Live" celebrated its 40th anniversary with the return of several former cast members and by revisiting notable plot lines from its past.
"Deceased" characters and even creator Agnes Nixon appeared in a storyline in which Slezak's Viki dies and visits Heaven, an homage to Viki's 1987 heavenly trip.
Daytime Emmy-nominee Andrea Evans and others returned for a tribute to Tina Lord's famous 1987 plunge over the Iguazu Falls and the 1990 royal wedding in fictional Mendorra.
And like the 1988 Old West storyline in which the character Clint Buchanan steps back 100 years in the past.
On July 21, 2008, Robert S. Woods began an extended storyline in which his character Bo Buchanan finds himself transplanted back into his own past—specifically 1968, the year of the series' inception—witnessing his family's back-story unfold.
Soap Opera Digest subsequently named "One Life to Live" their "Best Show" of 2008, calling it "the year's most compelling" series and citing a myriad of story lines the magazine found "heartbreaking," "stunning," and "gripping," as well as complimenting its risk-taking and "diverse and talented" cast.
On August 4, 2009, it was announced that One Life to Live, which taped in New York City, would move from ABC Studio 17 at 56 West 66th Street to Studio 23 at 320 West 66th Street, Manhattan in early 2010.
This studio was made available by the move of sister serial "All My Children" to a production facility in Los Angeles, where that series began taping on January 4, 2010.
The new studio was 30% larger than "One Life to Live"'s previous one, and both "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" were to be taped and broadcast in high-definition (HD) after their moves.
In 2002, the popularity of antihero Todd Manning (Roger Howarth) prompted ABC to market a rag doll of the character, complete with his signature scar.
It was first offered for sale on April 29, 2002, the doll was pulled on May 7, 2002, after a backlash begun when The Jack Myers Report "harshly criticized the network's judgment" on creating and releasing a doll based on Manning, a character who had notably been convicted of rape in 1993.
The New York Times later quoted then-ABC President Angela Shapiro stating, "I was insensitive and take total responsibility for it. I should have been sensitive to the history of the character and I wasn't."
Shortly after receiving a March 2005 GLAAD Media Award for its coverage of LGBT issues, the show was met with criticism when married district attorney Daniel Colson (Mark Dobies) was revealed to have murdered two people to cover up the fact that he was secretly gay.
GLAAD itself criticized the storyline "for reinforcing the idea that being gay is something to be ashamed of" while TV Guide noted, "It's hard to disagree with those who say that's a lousy representation of gay folks."
Executive Producer Frank Valentini defended the story, saying, "This is a story about the harsher side of intolerance and about one man not being true to himself. There are going to be meaningful, frank discussions that come out of this."
Then-head writer Dena Higley explained, "The number one rule of soap opera is never cut drama. Daniel being gay and keeping that a secret is a dramatic story."
In June of 2009, actress Patricia Mauceri (a performer on the series since 1995) was replaced in her role as Latin matriarch Carlotta Vega, reportedly after voicing personal religious objections to a planned storyline in which Carlotta would be supportive of a gay relationship.
On October 8, 2009, ABC announced that it had postponed the transition to HD for One Live to Live, citing the economic climate at the time, though an ABC spokesperson stated that they "...will re-examine it next year."
On December 6, 2010, "One Life to Live" became the fifth daytime serial to broadcast in the 16:9 widescreen picture format but still not in true HD, after "Days of Our Lives", "The Young and the Restless", and fellow ABC soap operas "All My Children" & "General Hospital", though those series are produced in high-definition.
ABC's picture disclaimers at the start of the program list it as being aired in "digital widescreen" rather than HD.
The September 17, 2010, series ending of "As the World Turns" left "One Life to Live" as the last remaining American daytime serial being produced in the New York City area as well as the only one produced outside the Greater Los Angeles area.
Rumors about a potential cancellation of the show arose from TV Guide Canada in late 2009, after ABC announced that it was moving "All My Children" from New York City to Los Angeles.
The show's lone presence in New York among the ABC soap operas, along its non-transition to HD and its struggling ratings, made it a program at risk of cancellation.
The article from TV Guide Canada also pointed that once "One Life to Live" is cancelled, some of the actors could be offered to join the cast of "All My Children" in Los Angeles.
In May of 2010, rumors of possible cancellation of not only One Life to Live, but this time of also All My Children and General Hospital, resurfaced when Disney–ABC Television Group officially announced that it was shutting down SOAPnet, effective in 2012.
After a failed attempt to give Aisha Tyler a talk show in 2009, ABC restarted auditioning a few pilot shows as candidates for its daytime lineup.
At this point, "All My Children" had the lowest ratings so rumors began heating up in March 2011 about the show's demise, with hints that "One Life to Live" was safe for a while longer.
However, early in April 2011, rumors suggested that both "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were in danger of cancellation. On April 14, 2011, after months of cancellation rumors, ABC announced that both shows would end their runs.
ABC cited "extensive research into what today’s daytime viewers want and the changing viewing patterns of the audience." The network stated it was replacing the show with a new production entitled "The Revolution," which would focus on health and lifestyles.
While the cancellations of both soap operas were announced on the same day, "One Life to Live" was to remain on the air four months longer because its replacement would not be ready until later. In response to the cancellations, vacuum cleaner manufacturer Hoover withdrew its advertising from all ABC programs out of protest.
The final episode aired on January 13, 2012, with villainess Allison Perkins (Barbara Garrick) narrating her views about the people of Llanview.
During the last minutes of the episode, Todd Manning (Howarth) is put under arrest for the murder of twin brother Victor Lord, Jr. (Trevor St. John). The series ends with the discovery that Victor Lord, Jr. is still alive and has been kidnapped by Perkins.
Perkins closes the 43-year-old soap opera by throwing the script of "One Life to Live" at Victor saying to him: "But why spoil what happens next. You of all people should know things are rarely what they appear".
The decision to conclude "One Life to Live" with an open-ended story is because the serial was supposed to continue on another network at the time the last scenes were taped.
On the day of the final episode, "The View" hosted a tribute to One Life to Live where several actors were invited including Erika Slezak, Robert S. Woods, Robin Strasser, Hillary B. Smith, Kassie DePaiva, James DePaiva, Andrea Evans, Judith Light and the show's creator Agnes Nixon.
The departure of "One Life to Live" ended a 62-year history of daytime television soap operas taped in New York which started in 1950 with the CBS's daytime drama, "The First Hundred Years".
Unsuccessful revival attempt
On July 7, 2011, ABC announced that it had licensed the rights to "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" to television, film and music production company Prospect Park, allowing both series to continue producing new first-run episodes beyond the conclusion of their television runs on ABC, with the series moving to a new Hulu-style online channel currently in development by Prospect Park.
A result of the company's acquisition of the two soap operas, "One Life to Live" and "All My Children" would become the first soap operas to transition their first-run broadcasts from traditional television to internet television.
On September 16, 2011, executive producer Frank Valentini was retained by Prospect Park for that serial as well as "All My Children" when both shows would move to The Online Network.
On September 28, 2011, Prospect Park confirmed that One Life to Live would start on its The Online Network internet channel in January 2012, but without specifying the exact date.
On September 30, 2011, it was announced that head writer Ron Carlivati would be also heading to the internet version of the show.
Since the agreement made between ABC and Prospect Park was not limited to internet television and did allowed "One Life to Live" to be broadcast on traditional television, there was an announcement on August 3, 2011 about a possibility of "One Life to Live" airing on a cable channel.
On October 5, 2011, the project to bring "One Life to Live" to cable was reiterated in a New York Times article, where it was revealed that Prospect Park planned to first air episodes on The Online Network, then make them available on television on demand and, then weeks later, on cable television.
On November 23, 2011, Prospect Park officially suspended its plans to continue the show after its run on ABC.
The reasons given by Prospect Park included funding problems and poor negotiations with the unions representing the cast of "One Life to Live."
WGA and AFTRA (which respectively represent the writer and the actors) have expressed disappointment over Prospect Park's decision.
Though not one of the reasons given by Prospect Park, Deadline Hollywood suggested that the company's lack of success in finding a cable network to carry the show may have been instrumental in the company's decision to not pursue the project.
Despite its fruitless attempt to save the series, Prospect Park had succeeded in retaining 13 actors to sign for the online venture, compared to only two actors for "All My Children".
Matriarch actress Erika Slezak (Victoria Lord) was among the 13 actors. The 12 other actors were Melissa Archer (Nathalie Buchanan), Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer), Michael Easton (John McBain), Shenell Edmonds (Destiny Evans), Josh Kelly (Cutter Wentworth), Ted King (Tomás Delgado), Florencia Lozano (Tea Delgado), Kelley Missal (Danielle Manning), Sean Ringgold (Shaun Evans), Andrew Trischitta (Jack Manning), Jerry Ver Dorn (Clint Buchanan) and Tuc Watkins (David Vickers).
On January 7, 2013, Prospect Park made an official statement about its plans to restart production of One Life to Live and "All My Children" as web series.
The two soap operas would serve as anchor shows for The Online Network (Prospect Park's new online channel that was supposed to be launched during the original attempt in 2011).
Prospect Park inked deals with SAG-AFTRA and DGA.
Prospect Park confirmed that former coordinating producer, Jennifer Pepperman has signed on as the new executive producer for the web reboot of One Life to Live. Creator Agnes Nixon will work as consultant for the new web series.
On January 13, 2013 it was confirmed that soap opera writers Thom Racina and Susan Bedsow Horgan were named as the new Head Writers of "One Life to Live".
On April 9, 2013, it was reported that Horgan citing "personal reasons" has stepped down as co-HW, leaving Racina as OLTL's sole HW.
On January 22, 2013, Prospect Park released a full cast of the reboot of One Life to Live who signed on, which include Melissa Archer (Natalie Buchanan), Kassie DePaiva (Blair Cramer), Josh Kelly (Cutter Wentworth), Florencia Lozano (Tea Delgado), Kelley Missal (Danielle Manning), Erika Slezak (Victoria Lord), Hillary B. Smith (Nora Buchanan), Robin Strasser (Dorian Lord), Andrew Trischitta (Jack Manning), Jerry verDorn (Clint Buchanan), Tuc Watkins (David Vickers) and Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan). Recurring actors who have signed on are Sean Ringgold (Shaun Evans), Shenaz Treasury (Rama Patel), and Nick Choksi (Vimal Patel)
Production of One Life to Live began on February 25, 2013, with taping of new episodes beginning on March 18, 2013.
The series premiered on April 29, 2013 at 12:00 PM Eastern.
The revived "One Life to Live" is a 30-minute program taped in Stamford Connecticut. It is available on Hulu and Hulu Plus as well as various iTunes applications including iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
On May 17, 2013 The Online Network announced that "All My Children" & "One Life To Live" will no longer air five days a week together, due to viewer ratings that have been seen as certain patterns that resemble more closely the typical patterns of online viewing rather than how one would watch traditional television.
Starting on May 20, 2013, "All My Children" and "One Life To Life," will be presented in a new schedule, with AMC airing on Mondays and Wednesdays and OLTL airing Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The recap shows "MORE All My Children" and "MORE One Life To Life" will also combine together as one show airing on Fridays.
The following day on May 18, 2013, both shows were noticeably missing from the FX Canada website and schedule, and subsequently were available on iTunes Canada, it was later revealed that FX Canada dropped "All My Children" and "One Life To Live" due the reduction of episodes, the carriage agreement called for four episodes a week of both shows.
With the reduction, FX Canada has said, "the agreement is no longer valid."
On May 20, 2013, the first episodes of the new All My Children and One Life To Live were available worldwide on The Online Network's YouTube page, TOLNSoaps.
On May 24, 2013, in a press release Prospect Park announced through Agnes Nixon that Racina will be out as head writer of "One Life to Live" and replaced by current script writers Jessica Klein and Marin Gazzaniga.
On June 5, 2013, due to a labor dispute with the I.A.T.S.E., "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" were forced into an early hiatus with the writers, directors and editors still working; there were talks of production being moved out of state, but those plans were later shelved.
On June 20, 2013, a deal was reached between Prospect Park and the Union and taping would resume on August 12, 2013.
On June 25, 2013, TOLN stated that there will be a scheduling switch for "One Life to Live" and "All My Children". Starting on July 1st (Monday), all episodes of the week for both shows, will be released on Mondays.
Beginning July 15, 2013, "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" aired for a 10-week limited engagement on the Oprah Winfrey Network Monday through Thursday at 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.
The first season finale of "One Life to Live" aired on August 19, 2013.
On September 3, 2013, a report from the Los Angeles Times stated that the second season of "One Life to Live" will be put on hold while Prospect Park deals with its lawsuit against ABC over loaned to General Hospital's treatment of "One Life to Live" characters, when they crossed over in 2012.
In December of 2016, the lawsuit was dismissed, with the rights to the series reverting to ABC.
ABC cemented its reputation as a youth-oriented network in daytime with the addition of "One Life to Live" to its schedule, with much of the rest of its lineup consisting of soap operas like "Dark Shadows", sitcom reruns, and game shows packaged by Chuck Barris.
"One Life to Live" replaced the short-lived "The Baby Game" in a three-way shuffle with ""Dark Shadows" and "The Dating Game."
The network placed the new serial at 3:30 PM EST, against CBS's established hit soap opera "The Edge of Night" and the popular NBC game show, "You Don't Say".
Despite the tough competition, the intense tone of the plot and strong characters allowed the show to get a leg up on "You Don't Say", wearing that game down to the point of its cancellation in September of 1969.
NBC replaced the Tom Kennedy-hosted game in that time slot with three unsuccessful serials: "Bright Promise", "Return to Peyton Place" and "How to Survive a Marriage".
"One Life to Live" initially enjoyed fair-to-middling ratings, but rose rapidly as it entered the 1970s, along with the rest of ABC's daytime lineup.
Matters greatly improved for "One Life to Live" in 1972, when CBS relocated "The Edge of Night" in response to packager Procter and Gamble's demands. The four-year-old show topped the ratings for the first time over CBS' declining "The Secret Storm" and later, the game "Hollywood's Talking" (which ran for only 13 weeks).
By 1975, NBC became a serious player in that time slot for the first time in over five years when it expanded its strong soap opera "Another World" to an hour, with its second half occupying the 3:30 timeslot.
"One Life to Live" lost a substantial audience share, but its lead-in, "General Hospital", experienced even worse losses.
ABC then expanded both "One Life to Live" and "General Hospital" to 45 minutes, with each composing half of a 90-minute block between 2:30 PM and 4 PM.
Beginning on July 26, 1976, "One Life to Live" assumed the first position, at 2:30. ABC bet its hopes on viewers staying tuned past the half hour, making them unlikely to switch channels to "Another World" & "All in the Family" reruns on CBS (or "The Match Game" in the case of "General Hospital" fans); this approach showed some promise, until November 7, 1977, when CBS expanded "Guiding Light" to an hour.
As "One Life to Live" struggled, its neighbor "General Hospital" was in danger of cancellation after a 15-year run.
ABC then expanded "One Life to Live" to an hour on January 16, 1978, in the 2:00 PM timeslot (with "General Hospital" following at 3:00 PM).
"The $20,000 Pyramid" was moved to noon for the rest of its ABC run to make room. ABC contemplated an expansion of "The Edge of Night" to a full hour if either of these shows were cancelled.
"General Hospital" rose rapidly to the top spot in the Nielsen ratings by 1979.
As for "One Life to Live", from its tenth birthday onward, its competitors declined in popularity. Search for Tomorrow, for instance, spent its last several months on CBS against the last half of "One Life to Live".
Its replacement, "Capitol" did little better, and after its cancellation, CBS aligned "As the World Turns" against One Life to Live and Another World, a configuration that stayed in place until the cancellation of "Another Wold" in 1999.
The 1980s saw One Life to Live reach the height of its popularity, with an estimate of nine million viewers early in the decade. The show typically ranked between the second and the fourth position during the 1980s.
Since 1991, "One Life to Live" returned to the middle of the pack, but its numbers declined, in common with all other soap operas.
By the decade's end, the show rested near the bottom of the ratings pack, and it continued to hover around the lower reaches of the weekly ratings throughout the 2000s in terms of total number of viewers; however, the show tended to rank in the mid-range for the target demographic of women aged 18–49, often higher than sister show "All My Children".
During the 2000s, the show ran about even with "As the World Turns" with NBC's "Another World" replacement "Passions" trailing significantly.
The 2009-2010 season was a particularly difficult year for "One Life to Live". During the week of June 28, 2010, the show ranked last among all soap operas with 2.1 million viewers, compared to 2.3 million for "As the World Turns."
As "One Life to Live" entered the 2010-2011 season, ratings improved, but not enough to prevent ABC from cancelling the program on April 14, 2011.
After the cancellation announcement, One Life to Live began to surpass "General Hospital" in total number of viewers, but "General Hospital" continued to dominate "One Life to Live" in several specific categories, most notably the key demographic of women between 18 and 49 years old, usually prioritized by daytime networks.
By November of 2011, "One Life to Live" had dethroned "General Hospital" in every category. Overall, the show was the third highest rated program among the five remaining soap operas in its last season (trailing "The Young and the Restless" & "The Bold and the Beautiful", but ahead of "General Hospital" & Days of Our Lives").
The show averaged 2.6 million viewers on a daily basis during its final weeks. Its final episode on January 13, 2012 drew more than 3.8 millions viewers, one of the highest ratings in the history of soap opera finales.
The "One Life to Live" continuation's ratings proved impressive. The first episode was the second most downloaded TV episode on iTunes and second most watched episode on Hulu, with the first place on both sites going to "All My Children" which premiered the same day.
"One Life to Live" and many of its actors and crew have been nominated for dozens of awards, winning on many occasions.
Erika Slezak has received six Daytime Emmy Awards for her acting, a feat tied only by Anthony Geary and Justin Deas.
In 1993, the series won its first GLAAD Media Award for its groundbreaking storyline on homosexuality and intolerance, featuring newcomer Ryan Phillippe as Billy Douglas, a teenager who amidst scandal confides his homosexuality in Andrew Carpenter, played by Wortham Krimmer.
The story arc also included an on-air ceremony for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In 2005, the series was awarded another GLAAD Media Award for its coverage of LGBT issues in the 2004 coming out storyline of gay character Mark Solomon (Matt Cavenaugh).
The series won the same award again in 2010 for a well-publicized storyline in which police officer Oliver Fish comes out and reunites with his former college boyfriend and medical school student Kyle Lewis.