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One Life to Live

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One Life to Live

Missing image
Onelifetolive2004.jpg


Network ABC
Executive Producer Frank Valentini
Head Writer Dena Higley
Senior Cast Member Erika Slezak
Premiere Date July 15, 1968
Runtime 60 minutes (30 minutes from 1968 to 1978)
IMDb Page (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062595/)

One Life to Live is a soap opera which has been broadcast on the American ABC television network since July 15, 1968.

The show was originally a half-hour serial until it was expanded to 45 minutes in 1976 and to one hour in 1978. One Life to Live was created by Agnes Nixon, who was also responsible for the creation of All My Children (in 1970), and who served as the head writer of Another World and Guiding Light.

The title of the show was originally going to be Between Heaven and Hell. However, the sponsors wished that the name be changed to something less controversial. Even though the name change was made, the first opening titles were of a symbolic hellfire [1] (http://www.wost.org/oltl69v.ram) (in reality, the taped footage was of a burning fireplace, with the emphasis on the flames emitted).

The first sponsors of the show were the Colgate-Palmolive company, who also sponsored The Doctors. ABC bought the show from Agnes Nixon in the 1970s.

Contents

Title sequences

The original fireplace opening was replaced some time in the '70s with a visual of a mountain sunrise. This was replaced around 1980 with a longer sequence which showed not just a mountain sunrise, but also shots of birds and a close up of the sun, and eventually the title superimposed over a shot of a blue sky with clouds. The theme music was rearranged as well.

On December 17, 1984, a new sequence designed by Wayne Fitzgerald debuted, which featured shots of places in Llanview superimposed with headshots of the current cast members, and ended with the headshots being superimposed on to a building, with the title superimposed on top word-by-word in rhythm to a new theme by Dave Grusin. Peabo Bryson subsequently sung lyrics over this new theme in September 1985, and this vocal was used as the new opening theme by 1987.

On January 2, 1992, a new title sequence emphasizing the romantic angle of the show debuted. It featured, in a condensed form, a love story using the elements of a heroine, Mr. Wrong and Mr. Right. Prominently featured in the opening and closing visuals were swirling, windswept satin sheets. It was accompanied by theme music by Lee Holdridge, in a New Age-influenced arrangement.

On November 20, 1995, a new title sequence which featured posterized video headshots of each contract player and tinted action clips from the show superimposed over shots of landmarks and city scenes (elements of the 1984-90 opening) made its debut, with Lee Holdridge and David Nichtern providing a new upbeat theme song to accompany it.

The theme song was remixed in 2004, and accompanied a new set of visuals (all ABC soaps revamped their titles this year), consisting of headshots of cast members, and the title superimposed over the abbreviation OLTL.

Storylines and characters

Set in the fictional city of Llanview, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, the show originally concentrated on the wealthy Lord family, the less wealthy Siegels (the first and last attempt to showcase a Jewish family on daytime television) and the middle-class Rileys and Woleks. Since its inception, it has centered on the character of Victoria "Viki" Lord (first played by Gillian Spencer, she has been played since March 1971 by Erika Slezak). As a result of the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of her father, Victor (Ernest Graves), Viki blocked out the memory his molestation, which led to the development of her Dissociative Identity Disorder, better known as DID (characterized as having many personalities). Over the years, Viki has weathered widowhood, rape, divorce, stroke, breast cancer, and heart disease. Other early storylines focused around the starcrossed love between poor doctor Larry Wolek (played for the longest duration by Michael Storm), and sheltered heiress Meredith Lord.

Inception and the 1970s

The earliest details focused on Victoria Lord, a sexually repressed young woman who lived for her father Victor's approval. When brash reporter Joe Riley began to chip away at her defenses, a fun-loving alter (Niki Smith) began showing up at local bars. Joe's best friend, blue-collar Vince Wolek, fell in love with Niki, but when he realized she was really Viki, he told Joe the truth. A few years later, Joe was presumed dead, and Viki married reporter Steve Burke, who was stalked by pscyho Marcy Wade (Francesca James). Steve went on trial for her murder, and was ultimately cleared by none other than Joe himself. Viki and Joe reunited, but not before he had a child with Cathy Craig. When the child died, Cathy kidnapped Viki and Joe's baby, Kevin.

In the early 1970s, a feud began between Victoria and Dorian Cramer (a role created by Nancy Pinkerton and played since 1979 by Robin Strasser) when Dorian married Viki's father after she erroneously believed Viki was partly responsible in her being fired from Llanview Hospital and eventually losing her license to practice medicine. Years later, Dorian regained and lost her license again, and again blamed Viki.

The show was the first soap opera to have a racially integrated cast. Additionally, it was the first to deal with interracial relationships. The character of Clara "Carla" Hall (played by Ellen Holly) was an African American woman trying to pass for white. Her mother, who was the maid at the Lord mansion, discovered that her daughter, Clara, was pretending to be a white woman, and eventually persuaded her to reveal her true ethnicity.

As social issue-oriented stories on matters such as race and drug addiction played themselves out, ratings fell; in response, in 1975 ABC hired high-priced Another World actors George Reinholt and Jacqueline Courtney to portray Tony Lord and Pat Kendall. The numbers rose, but the pairing never acheived the success expected by executives. Reinholt left after a few years; Courtney was fired in 1983.

Late 1970's - 1980s

At the end of the decade and into the '80s, the show found gold in the dysfunctional struggles of Karen Wolek (Judith Light). Echoing the "double life" theme, Karen was Larry's wife, who tried to be content with her husband's meager income. She began to have sex with men in exchange for gifts, and soon her old pimp Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony) showed up and blackmailed her into working for him. Marco blackmailed many Llanview citizens and was murdered in 1979 - Viki was put on trial for the crime, and when Karen tried to testify for her friend, she was badgered into confessing her prostitute past. Viewers were riveted - OLTL's ratings soared and Judith Light won back to back Daytime Emmy awards. Anthony was so popular with fans that he quickly returned (a quick rewrite revealed Marco's heretofore unknown twin brother Mario was killed; Marco impersonated him for several years). Karen was devoted to her saintly sister Jenny (Brynn Thayer) so much so that when Jenny's child died at birth Karen forced Marco to switch the child with fellow hooker Katrina Karr's child. Several years later, Jenny found out the truth and in a heartbreaking sequence, gave her daughter back to Katrina. These characters, along with Jenny's abusive husband Brad Vernon, were cornerstones of the show for nearly a decade. The reality-based tales took a turn towards the absurd by the early 80's, as Karen and Larry had control chips implanted in their brains by the evil Dr. Ivan Kipling (Jack Betts) and Larry had to save Karen from Kipling's jungle hideaway. In 1983 Karen fell in love with fugitive Steve (Robert Desederio, Light's real-life husband) and in spite of Larry urging her to remain in Llanview, decided she would rather go on the run with a man who needed her than stay with her old demons. After finally steering clear of Brad for good, Jenny became involved with pianist and spy David Rinaldi (Michael Zaslow). They left town in 1985, with Brad giving David his passport so that David and Jenny could live life under new names. A decade later, Jenny was killed offcamera in a skiing accident, and David briefly returned in 1998 (Zaslow had been diagnosed with ALS the previous year; he and the show decided to educate viewers about the disease; when Zaslow passed away in 1999 his family asked that the character remain alive offcamera).

When Viki was pregnant with Joey (whom she named after Joe posthumously), her husband, Joe Riley (Lee Patterson) was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Joe was forced to name a successor to own and editorialize Victor's former newspaper, The Banner (then, The Banner-Arizona), so he named Clint Buchanan (Clint Ritchie). When naming Clint, he asked him to look after Viki post his passing. After Clint moved to Llanview, his father, Asa (Philip Carey) decided to move the headquarters of his company, Buchanan Enterprises, to Llanview; Clint's brother, Beauregard, mostly referred to by his nickname, "Bo" (Robert S. Woods), soon followed. These characters were ABC's attempt to ape the success of Dallas.

Missing image
Onelifetolive1984.jpg
The title card for One Life to Live, in use from 1984 to 1991. Note past characters in the background, such as Ellen Holly in the role of Carla Hall, and Marilyn Chris in the role of Wanda Wolek.

Template:AmericanSoaps Clint tried to develop a relationship with Viki following Joe's death, but she turned away still distraught over Joe's passing. They eventually became involved with eachother, married, and had a child, Jessica (played by Bree Williamson since 2003), who was actually the child of Mitch Lawrence (Roscoe Born); Mitch previously raped Viki, in which, she blocked out the memory, which led to the return of her alter ego, Niki Smith. Clint and Viki's actual biological child, Natalie (Melissa Archer), was stolen by Mitch, and raised by Roxanne "Roxy" Balsom (Ilene Kristen).

OLTL became a larger-than-life campfest in the late 80's, with executive producer Paul Rauch ignoring past diversity (Carla and her mother were dumped from the show, as Ellen Holly recounted in her autobiography) in favor of time travel (Clint went back to the Old West), a trip underground (half the cast went to Eterna), and a slew of exploits by vixens such as Tina (Andrea Evans, Karen Witter, Krista Tesreau) and Gabrielle (Fiona Hutchison). The two even had a poor imitation of the Karen/Jenny baby switch storyline. Other fan favorites were bad boy Max Holden (James DePaiva) and soap actress Megan (Jessica Tuck), who was revealed to be the long-lost daughter of Viki. Rauch's peak of ratings success came in 1987 when Viki "died" and saw many of her deceased friends, relatives and foes in Heaven (a floating spaceship); the show went to #1 for that week. Rauch had notorious rivalries with a number of talented actresses; many viewers felt he ran Robin Strasser off the show and eliminated formerly important families like the Woleks. In 1991, faced with falling ratings and poor quality, ABC fired him.

The 1990s

One Life to Live was the first to deal with many issues, including teenage homosexuality. Ryan Phillippe played the role of Billy Douglas, a gay teen dealing with the difficulty of coming out to his parents and friends. The resident bad girl, Marty Saybrooke (Susan Haskell), accused Andrew Carpenter (Wortham Krimmer) of having a sexual relationship with Billy. Marty eventually had an epiphany about her ways, but it only came about after she was gang-raped, which was led by Todd Manning (originally portrayed by Roger Howarth), Viki's half brother. Todd hired Nora Hanen (Hillary B. Smith) to defend him when Marty filed a lawsuit. They nearly won the case when another woman claimed Todd raped her as well. He lost the case and swore revenge upon Marty and Nora. Nora's rivalry with her ex-husband Hank (Nathan Purdee), also a lawyer, provided for more story. Nora and Hank had a daughter, Rachel (Ellen Bethea, Mari Morrow, Sandra P. Grant), who was a law student but ended up becoming addicted to drugs. When Bo's beloved wife Sarah (Jensen Buchanan, Grace Phillips) was killed in a car crash, Bo nearly committed suicide (a story actor Robert S. Woods abhorred). Eventually he fell in love with Nora, and Nora, who suffered from blackouts, thought she had been the driver who had killed Sarah. Woods told the writers Bo would have a hard time loving his wife's murderer, so the story was changed. After Nora was cleared, she learned she had a brain tumor, and went blind while recuperating from the surgery. Alone at the beach house, she was nearly killed by Todd (in a homage to Wait After Dark) until Bo saved her.

The storylines during this era (1992-1995) were produced by Linda Gottlieb written by Michael Malone, who later formed a partnership with Josh Griffith. Their stint writing the show is generally regarded as the renaissance of the series. Griffith left in early 1995 and Malone a year later. Gottlieb was replaced by Susan Bedsow Horgan who was replaced in 1996 by ABC executive Maxine Levenson. Around this time the network made major changes to all their soaps due to falling ratings. New headwriters focused on romance and supercouples, but the stories were criticized as cliched and repetitive (featuring a nun who left the convent for a man, fake paralysis, fake pregnany, and a poet who recited "Brown Penny" to his lady love over and over again). In 1995 Roger Howarth had left the series due to disgust at plans to pair Marty and Todd romantically (at public appearances, some fans cried "rape me, Todd!", which unnerved him all the more). When he returned due to the new headwriters, Todd had no sex scenes (reportedly due to a contract stipulation on the part of Howarth) and remained perpetually self-destructive and unhappy. Todd returned from the dead only to find his wife Blair (Kassie DePaiva) had been impregnated by Marty's true love, poet Patrick (Thorsten Kaye). In 1997, new headwriter Claire Labine "solved" the problem by having Blair's cousin Kelly crash into Blair and Patrick's car. Blair's unborn baby died, and she lashed out at Todd before going into a coma. Desperate to keep custody of their other child, Starr, Todd then married a woman he barely knew, Tea Delgado (Florencia Lozano) who accepted a million dollars to make a fake family life with Todd and represent him in the custody battle. Todd also got a parrot, and spent a number of scenes talking to the parrot about his life. Other stories at the time involved Marty and Patrick's wedding ending in a hail of gunfire and blood, Dorian's struggles to hide her dark family past, Nora struggling with peri-menopause, RJ opening a new bar with a transvestite mixologist, and most bizarre of all, Maggie Carpenter (Crystal Chappell) leaving Llanview to open a clown school in Paris, France.

The stories wandered aimlessly and in early 1998 ABC hired Jill Farren Phelps as executive producer and Pam Long as headwriter. Neither woman was a stranger to controversy, but the first few months of their tenure (featuring a mystery over who killed Nora's crazy assistant Georgie - the killer was Rachel) were well-received. Fans began to complain when core characters (such as Dorian's husband Mel and Bo's son Drew) were killed or (such as Dorian's daughter Cassie) written out, while longtime characters like Nora, Jessica and Viki were only given stories which revolved around the new Rappaport/Davidson family. Phelps hired many of her favorite actors (Mark Derwin, Kale Browne, John Bolger, Timothy Gibbs) to fill roles. Moments like Todd punching Tea in the face and Nora sleeping with her former lover Sam to give her sterile husband a child provided some powerful drama, but to many viewers, came at the expense of character integrity. Beloved couple Nora and Bo split bitterly and Hillary B. Smith was so unnerved by her character's behavior she actually asked Phelps to kill Nora off the show (which did not occur as Smith is still with the show). Meanwhile, beloved teen heroine Jessica (then Erin Torpey), who had worried about whether or not she wanted to sleep with boyfriend Cris, lost her virginity during a drunken night with Will Rappaport, the stepbrother she barely knew. She then became pregnant, but Dorian ran her down in her just as she was about to give labor; the baby died in childbirth and Jessica had amnesia, then began stalking Dorian. Soon she went on the run to Ireland with Cris and fugitive Will, singing in a rock'n'roll band. Throughout there was little to no mention of Jessica receiving therapy or counseling for all this trauma, and she spent far more time swapping beds with Cris and Will than she did thinking about what she had gone through. Years later Jessica would develop serious mental problems based upon all these years of trauma.

In early 1999, Long left, and Phelps (with some help from Harding Lemay) was essentially headwriter for an entire year. Eventually Megan McTavish took over as headwriter and created a series of dark storylines involving mobsters, the search for Asa's real son, and tortured love triangles (Kevin/Kelly/Joey; Max/Blair/Skye). The latter meandered for more than a year, as Max faked being Asa's son, developed a brain tumor, strung both ladies along, and was then shot in the back by Blair.

The 2000s

Into the new millenium, more new characters were introduced, including Lindsay (Catherine Hickland)'s saccharine sister Melanie (Darlene Vogel) and her crazy husband Colin (Ty Treadway). Onscreen, Treadway rarely kept his shirt on; his impressive body made him popular in spite of playing an abusive character. Colin was killed, but his twin brother was brought on the canvas (only to lose his mind and become a killer). Phelps, like Rauch before her, had a prickly relationship with some of her cast, and her tenure saw the departure of a number of long-running actors, such as Laura Koffman (Cassie), Clint Ritchie (Clint) and Strasser (again). In 1999 ABC lured Linda Dano to the show at great expense to revive her 70's-era character Rae. Rae was now a therapist.

When Phelps and McTavish left in early 2001, they were replaced by executive producer Gary Tomlin and writers Lorraine Broderick and Chris Whitesell. Most of Phelps' favorite actors (Gibbs, Bolger, Browne) were fired. Fan favorite Gabrielle returned after a ten-year absence and romanced Max, then Bo. Storylines became more campy, and the show had a much-acclaimed week in May 2002 where the episodes were broadcast live. This experimentation was mixed with truly dark tales such as Todd selling Blair's baby, telling her the child was dead, and then passing him off as an adopted baby when he realized he was the natural father. Another unpopular story involved Viki returning to her former split personality Niki Smith to block out the painful memory of being raped by Mitch Laurence (Roscoe Born). She had one child with Clint (Natalie) and the other child (Jessica) was fathered by Mitch. Another storyline rejected by many viewers was Antonio (Kamar de los Reyes) having a one-night stand with a woman who turned out to be his fiance Keri (Sherri Saum)'s mother. She then implanted her embryo into Keri, meaning that Keri was unknowingly giving birth to her fiance's child. Much airtime was devoted to Jennifer Rappaport (Jessica Morris) and her unstable mother Lindsey. Jennifer went from a gooey heroine to a vicious witch with no real explanation, as she schemed against her boyfriend Cristian (David Fumero) and his true love Natalie.

In early 2003 Malone and Griffith were rehired as head writers with Frank Valentini taking over as executive producer. Times had changed since their previous stint - budget considerations and an industry disdain towards older actors meant that Malone favorites such as Andrew Carpenter and Max Holden were written out. A new major storyline involved Mitch kidnapping sisters Natalie and Jessica to figure out which one's heart was a match for their grandfather. Victor had been faking his death (he was murdered by Viki in 1974, itself a rewrite since at the time viewers saw Dorian kill him), but his reasons for doing so were never properly explained. He was too ill to have major confrontations with his children, and died a few weeks into the story. Fan confusion quickly turned to anger as they saw no reason for this huge change of history. Dorian then showed up as Mitch's new bride, but her reasons for marrying a man who almost raped her daughter Cassie were never explored, as they became immeshed in an unpopular storyline involving a jewel hunt as well as a "curse" which blinded Mitch. Mitch was then killed by his daughter, Jessica. Another disliked story involving the return of Tina and Cord's daughter, Sarah Roberts, as an obnoxious rock singer Flash (Shanelle Workman). Much of the show during this period seemed very unfinished and overrun by network interference.

Roger Howarth had come and gone several times but quit for good in early 2003. Mitch had him kidnapped; when the character returned several months later, he was posing as Mitch's brother Walker and was played by Trevor St. John. Apparently Todd had been so badly beaten that he had to get extensive plastic surgery. In spite of much fear that viewers would never accept any other actor as Todd, the talented St. John became popular and Todd, for the first time in a decade, had love scenes as well as a semi-functional relationship with Blair.

Viki received a few smidgens of storyline (a romance with the governor did not pan out), as she developed heart trouble and was saved by a heart transplant from her comatose husband Ben. The most appreciated storyline of the second Malone/Griffith era was Marcie Walsh (Kathy Brier)'s struggle with her weight and her love story with Al Holden (Nathaniel Marston). Viewers were in an uproar when ABC fired Marston and killed Al. Perhaps realizing their error, they quickly rehired Marston, and Al's spirit took over Dr. Michael McBain. Brooding actor Michael Easton (who had a following on Port Charles) was hired as Michael's cop brother John McBain (their mother and cousin came and went in a short-lived attempt to establish them as a core family). The show began to move towards crime, as Gabrielle was murdered in a serial killer plot. Next came the saga of the Santi mobster family, whom Antonio learned he was related to. Much of the action centered around new characters (Tico, Sonia, Angelina), full of violence and bad acting that drove ratings to all-time lows.

Finally ABC and Malone had enough of each other and split ways (Griffith had left a few months earlier). Dena Higley was hired (after many years at Days of our Lives) and pushed even more crime and violence. Todd was kidnapped by a psychotic named Margaret who, in a homage to Misery tied him up for weeks while he recovered from injuries. She then forced him to have sex with her, in a throwback to his past history of rape. Jessica developed a split personality which goaded Viki into a heart attack. John McBain was torn between Natalie and Evangeline (Renee Goldsberry) even as he tried to solve a back-to-back series of murder mysteries (Marcie's book, The Killing Club began to spill into her real life as people she used in the book were murdered). Kelly Cramer's brother Paul (David Tom) was murdered and Jennifer (who had by then become somewhat popular with viewers) was the prime suspect). The real killer was her boyfriend's father, Llanview District Attorney Daniel Colson (Mark Dobies). Colson killed Paul because Paul was blackmailing him over his homosexuality. Colson's dilemma was a return to the show's old "double life" theme, as he secretly romanced attractive college student Mark (Matt Cavanaugh) while marrying Nora for the sake of his political career. He then murdered Jen, framing her death as a suicide (with Sam killed in 2003, Will long-gone, and Catherine Hickland put on recurring status, this marked the end of the Rappaport family). The storyline was criticized by GLAAD for its revival of negative stereotypes about gay men (the ads implied that being gay was a "dark secret" worth killing over) but upon Daniel's arrest and exposure, OLTL briefly became ABC's highest-rated soap, something it had not been in years.

Today, the character of Victoria Lord still remains the center of One Life to Live as the actress who plays her, Erika Slezak, garnered the show six Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Cast

Current Cast Members

Recurring Cast Members

Coming and Going Cast Members

Deceased Cast Members

Before They Were Stars

Among the many who got their start on One Life to Live are:

Awards

The shows, as well as many of its actors and crew, have been nominated for dozens of awards, winning on many occasions. The Daytime Emmy Awards and Soap Opera Digest Awards wins are noted below.

Daytime Emmy Awards

Show

  • 2005 "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series
  • 2005 "Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Drama Series
  • 2002 "Outstanding Drama Series"
  • 2001 "Outstanding Achievement in Live & Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for a Drama Series"
  • 2001 "Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camera/Video Control for a Drama Series"
  • 2000 "Outstanding Original Song"
  • 2000 "Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for a Drama Series"
  • 2000 "Outstanding Achievement in Live & Direct to Tape Sound Mixing for a Drama Series"
  • 2000 "Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series"
  • 1996 "Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team"
  • 1994 "Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team"

Individuals

  • 2005 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1996 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1995 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1994 "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series" Susan Haskell
  • 1994 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Hillary B. Smith
  • 1994 "Outstanding Younger Leading Actor in a Drama Series" Roger Howarth
  • 1992 "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series" Thom Christopher
  • 1992 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1986 "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1984 "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" Erika Slezak
  • 1983 "Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series" Robert S. Woods
  • 1982 "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" Robin Strasser
  • 1981 "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" Judith Light
  • 1980 "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" Judith Light
  • 1979 "Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series" Al Freeman, Jr.

Soap Opera Digest Awards

Individuals

Directors Guild of America Awards

      • In the 1990's the DGA began to recognise outstanding work in Daytime Television. The Award is presented for a single episode to the director, stage managers, associate directors and production managers. These are the years the award has been presented to OLTL :
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