On Tuesday night the cast and crew of ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Prospect Park's Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz, a massive amount of press and a group of loyal fans packed NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts to watch the premiere episodes of the shows, which return Monday, April 29. We won't reveal any spoilers (and we really hope no one else does either!) but wanted to share some first thoughts after seeing the shows on the big screen. Here are some thoughts on ONE LIFE TO LIVE:
* Just like with ALL MY CHILDREN, the show looks beautiful, with both interior and exterior shots. But ONE LIFE TO LIVE has a different feel to it. Definitely targeted, rather aggressively, at a young demographic. Surprisingly, I don't think they sacrificed much (other than a little pride; it does seem a little self-conscious) in pursuit of the twentysomething set. We'll see...
* The show has not lost its sense of humor. It may be a little different in tone, but the laughs are just as much a part of overall experience as they used to be. Maybe even more so.
* One of the greatest Dynamic Duos in the history of television, Dorian and Viki (played by Robin Strasser and Erika Slezak), are right where they should be: in the middle of everything. Pure entertainment gold on any TV, as well as a big screen (like last night), or your office laptop computer, or an iPad - or any other device in the planet. May these two famous dames always remain front and center!
* The ONE LIFE TO LIVE narrative is in a completely different position than ALL MY CHILDREN, since it's continuing in real time (versus a five year leap) and, of course, some of the characters had moved (supposedly, but maybe they can write their way out of all that, who knows?) to GENERAL HOSPITAL's Port Charles. But, as with AMC, the show answers some enduring questions, and raises some brand new ones. I was fascinated, certainly, but didn't get as much of a sense about where things were going as I did with ALL MY CHILDREN, based on viewing one episode. Still, plenty of intrigue and a very rewarding pace. And keep in mind, I am amazed at how much story the AMC premiere delivered; OLTL may have a smidge less, but still, it's action-packed.
* There are enough familiar characters, and sets, that it absolutely feels like ONE LIFE TO LIVE, but with the (heavily promoted) nightclub Shelter in the mix, there is definitely going to be a very interesting new element in Llanview. Since the club opening is obviously a big, one-time event, this first episode may very well feature more Shelter scenes than most, but it's clear OLTL now has it's own raver-friendly version of Central Perk (the cafe from FRIENDS, of course!).
* I was totally into what was happening at the club, which was good, because the execution could have ended up a bit gimmicky. The music was exciting to the ears, the lighting and costumes thrilling to the eyes. True, there were times I couldn't hear some of the more intimate dialogue--and dialogue is still an important soap ingredient, no matter how on-fire the scene is. As someone who edited audio on a radio soap opera for six years, I'm very familiar with the challenges of actors shooting a scene in a club, when music is added later. They tend to speak their lines, versus almost yelling them at each other, like you would at an actual club. So nothing is at the levels it needs to be at... Does that make sense? The loud music (which, incidentally, totally rocked, by the way) seemed very appropriate, but I was sometimes forced to read the character's lips. This could also be an issue with the sound in the large theater last night... so looking forward to watching (and hearing) on Monday. Could be a non-issue.
* There's a new Matthew and Destiny, played by Rob Gorrie and Laura Harrier. Gorrie "fit" Matthew pretty well in my opinion. I'm very interested in what's in store for the new Destiny, but the recast was a bit jarring. If you never watched ONE LIFE TO LIVE before, it's undetectable. Otherwise... I'll just say, I'm going to give Harrier a chance (and you should too) because, in speaking with her a couple of times, it's obvious she loves the character, is invested, and is working hard. Recasts always require a leap of faith from the audience, and I'm prepared to take the plunge. I have faith in my New Destiny.
* The opening sequence reminds me of a certain classic season of THE COSBY SHOW. Other WLS contributors absolutely loved it, but me... and, I couldn't hear the Snoop Lion-penned and produced theme music (which I was very much anticipating) as well as I would have liked. However, openings should be a little over-stimulating the first time, since they're meant to be viewed again and again. And, it's definitely cute to see the actors dancing. But something bugged me...
* Still digesting that opening! I will truly judge this when I can watch again on Monday. BUT: the first thought that popped into my head was (forgive me!) that someone came up with a cool concept that didn't quite get executed as well as it could have. Then again, I was on a conference call this afternoon with Debbi Morgan, from AMC of course, and she told us how she loved the ONE LIFE opening. So there's another take!
* I was tentative about the interactions between Corbin Bleu, a Disney megastar with a huge 18 to 25 following, and Erika Slezak, veteran soap royalty. Worlds colliding and all that. Happy to report that my concerns were unfounded. In fact, I have to hand it to them: there was chemistry there. Always a joyful moment, to see two actors I've enjoyed in such separate contexts come together and just... click! An odd couple, a famous pair, and a very watchable new power dynamic.
* It's not all dancing and laughter, not by a longshot... Hillary B. Smith (Nora) and Robert S. Woods (Bo) restart their storylines with some serious family drama, right off the bat, and Florencia Lazano actually (oh boy I'm admitting this) made my eyes wet...
* And finally, a shout-out to my buddy Tuc. Mr. Watkins was in top form. Yes indeed! In full effect, and out of control. What a trip! Loved every minute, Tuc, if you're reading! But seriously, in a sense, Watkins' expert clowning serves to seduce the audience into accepting the fact that David Vickers is, arguably, the protagonist of this first episode - at least in the sense that we see much of the action through his eyes. I know, can you imagine? A bit zany, a little disorienting, and a ton of fun. Bonus: he and Dorian join powers throughout for a postmodern subplot concerning "reality" TV. It really succeeded in making this viewer just a little bit proud to be a lifelong soap fan.
It's even harder to reflect meaningfully on OLTL than AMC without revealing plot points. I don't mean to be cryptic, but I absolutely believe in the sanctity of the storyline, so re-read this after you have a chance to view for yourself, if you must. In the meantime, please, ask questions! But I may have to say, "I can't tell you that." I am so proud of Prospect Park for paying more than just lip service (you know who I'm thinking of) to the value and significance of no spoilers meaning NO SPOILERS! I am proud to support that 100%.
In closing, I will absolutely be re-watching OLTL and AMC Monday, as well as every episode thereafter. I think I'm going to like OLTL just as much as I did before, and (I can hardly believe we're this lucky) AMC has the potential to be much better than before.
Finally, a plea. The whole world will be watching us, as we're watching those hulu premieres on Monday. The business world, the technology world, of course the entertainment world... in many ways, this launch is a test, for them, and for all of us. And the results could possibly herald the resurrection of more lost soaps - if we make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
High viewership numbers will make headlines. That's a fact. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, front page kind of headlines, possibly. Please, dare to dream with me! What have we got to lose? Let's send a message: "If you bring back a soap, you will have the full support of the soap community at large, and be celebrated by your peers as a success."
Tell all your friends, tell your relatives, tell your rivals! Forgive my language, but on the Internet there's no hand-wavy, arbitrary, prejudicial Nielsen Ratings bullshit to hide behind: every one of us will actually be counted. Finally. So please, be counted this Monday, and... make it count. Grab everyone and every device you can and send them to hulu! It's free, and its the future. Thank you.
Again, you can watch OLTL for FREE (with commercials) at www.hulu.com, and view an almost commercial-free version (with other enhanced features) by paying $7.99 a month for Hulu Plus (sign up button is below). For easy instructions on how to watch TV from your computer on the nice, big flat-screen in your living room, visit this post.
- PHOTOS: ALL MY CHILDREN & ONE LIFE TO LIVE Premiere Event
- How To Watch Free Episodes of ALL MY CHILDREN & ONE LIFE TO LIVE (Video)
- ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Robin Strasser, Corbin Bleu & Thom Racina Plus Alex McCord & Colleen Zenk On WE LOVE SOAPS TV