Hitting the Target,
But Wide of the Mark?
So, three weeks into the resurrection of All My Children and One Life to Live, which were appear four times a week as half-hour episodes, their resurrector, Prospect Park, announced that the viewing habits were not supporting a 4X/week schedule. According to a long press release, PP said, and Hulu apparently according to PP agrees, that having two half-hourly episodes per week per show is the new schedule for these much-missed shows.
When ABC announced they were cancelling All My Children and One Life to Live back in April 2011, there was a lot of anger and outrage, and Prospect Park announced a month or two later they were going to license the shows from ABC and air them at the same rate and length (5x/week, one-hour episodes) on the Internet, to pick up the Monday after the final air dates of the ABC versions. But Prospect Park kept very quiet and people started to doubt it was possible. Then, around a month before AMC was going to go off the air, they said AMC would debut online when OLTL went off the air. Meanwhile, AMC was forced into a cliffhanger show, and AMC abandonned some scenes that would have provided more closure.
By November 2011, OLTL finished taping, around Thanksgiving, and the day after taping stopped, Prospect Park announced they didn't have the financing.
And for about a year, that was it. The two soaps had semi-satisfying endings, and no new episodes.
In January 2013, the shows are suddenly coming back! And suddenly, there's a lot of activity, mostly from the actors, showing sets being built, and interviews with the stars. Videos of a promotional photoshoot. And then it is announced that April 29, 2013 is the day the shows will kick off on Hulu.com, HuluPlus, and iTunes. Then, we find out FX Canada will be airing the shows in the afternoon.
And then after a lot of fanfare and a big premiere party and a lot of press coverage, the shows come on. The reviews were mediocre. The shows feature a lot of swearing, teen and young adult stories, drugs and sex slavery, etc. But both show have a LOT of veterans, and characters we know and love with recasts. And with the shows shooting on alternating 4- or 5-week schedules, you figure, if the shows need tweaking, there's time to fix them and make them better.
So now, we have a situation where AMC and OLTL are not being watched by most viewers--they are choosing one or the other, and PP feels they need to scale back the schedules for both. Personally, I like both of them enough to keep watching them. I "invested" $7.99 a month for HuluPlus so I can watch on TV or my phone and not just on a computer. And HuluPlus offers me a lot of other TV and movie selections so that I feel for now it's worth having. But if the soaps were the only reason I was buying HuluPlus and I only really liked one of the two shows, only having them every other week might piss me off also.
The other problem is that it will now take a lot longer to fix any problems the shows have, based on viewer feedback. Some viewers are upset that the shows are not free and on regular broadcast or cable channels. Well, that was not likely to happen. Nobody else stepped up to claim these shows. Nobody.
A lot of people are complaining about too many youth-oriented storylines. People are complaining about the more salacious aspects of the show, like swearing and lubricious scenes (like the simulated fellatio in the premiere episode of OLTL). With four episodes a week, there would be time to address and fix some problems. It will take much longer now for viewers to see anything that gets changed.
I also think Prospect Park probably did not do its homework. I also think the rush to production made it impossible. Actress Jill Larson (Opal, AMC) told us via her Facebook page how everything sort of got thrown together all at once, and how they practically didn't have pen and paper to even write the show while the sets started going up. OLTL headwriter Thom Racina told Soap Opera Digest that they had to keep changing story gears based on whether or not Roger Howarth (Todd, OLTL) or Trevor St. John (Victor, OLTL) were available. Their availability seemed to change at least twice in the course of the shows being written.
Jeff Kwatinetz, one of Prospect Park's founders, seems to have some other business failures in his past. I have to wonder if he did enough research into what the actual viewers want. If ABC failed to bring in new viewers, I am not sure how he thought he would. I have read a slew of comments on bulletin boards and reader comments on news stories about this, and one thing that keeps coming up is that not enough vets are back, and too many teen stories. Personally, I am happy with the shows for the most part, but I think that if PP had waited a little bit, to make sure Michael Knight and Susan Lucci could come back to AMC, that really would have helped the shows take off better. It would have also given them more time to really develop better stories. Before the shows even came back, one of the two headwriters of One Life to Live departed the show. It's hard to feel that having more time would have helped create more solid returns.
The problem with bringing back two shows with more than 40 years of time on the air per show is that most of the viewers are former ABC viewers who will understand the context of a comment. Most new viewers won't understand even current references to what happened right before the shows went off the air. As a New York Times review of the shows pointed out, a lot of the information we're getting from the new shows are very much "insider comments." And for two longstanding soaps, that is to be expected.
While Agnes Nixon, who created both shows, is on hand as a storyline consultant, it's obvious that the lightening speed these shows came back into production is hurting the shows in a way nobody could help. Not even Agnes Nixon. From storyline issues that don't make sense, to sets that don't make sense (like bedroom doors that open out into hallways instead of into the bedroom), there are many obvious signs that the sloppiness is related to rushing into production.
The question now is, will the viewers wait around long enough for these shows to get fixed, or are they just going to end when PP's commitment to the shows end?