From the new opening credits to the influx of new actors playing aged up characters to spicier scenes, the retooled online versions of All My Children and One Life to Live are trying to show they’re not your mother’s soaps… while still trying to hold on to your mother as a viewer. If you have not seen the new shows yet, stop reading. Spoilers ahead.
The new 30-minute episodes from Prospect Park launched this morning on Hulu, set to post new episodes every weekday starting at 5 AM ET/2AM PT.
All My Children picks up five years after the cliffhanger finale in 2011, which saw a gun pointed at a room full Pine Valley’s elite and a shot ringing out. Having the new show begin with a reference to that night and reestablishing strong anchor characters Brooke (Julia Barr) and Adam (David Canary) was a smart move, serving as a kind of reassurance to longtime viewers. Shortly after that came the introduction of a teenage AJ (Eric Nelsen) and Bianca’s now-teen daughter Miranda (Denyse Tontz). The opener gives the signature All My Children red journal but also the new theme song “We are the love we give.”
While the language stayed pretty PG, the online serial reveled in the lack of broadcast constraints with a steamy (dream) scene between David Hayward (Vincent Irizarry) and Cara Castillo (Lindsay Hartley). It wasn’t overly graphic, but definitely showed more skin and had more suggestiveness than the show has done in the past. And fan favorites Angie (Debbi Morgan) and Jesse’s (Darnell Williams) playful, sexy banter reinforced that freedom.
The exterior shots, filmed in Connecticut, were beautiful but at times felt a little forced. It will be fun to see that finding a rhythm. And for the most part the older characters sound like themselves, the “people” you’ve come to know and love, like Opal (Jill Larson) spouting her country sayings or singing the praises of business tycoon son Petey (Robert Scott Wilson), and a fresh-from-prison and still sinister David with his cryptic sayings. There are enough allusions to what actually happened five years ago to make you think you know but keep you guessing.
Things took a darker turn over in Llanview both literally and figuratively. Most of the premiere One Life to Live episode played out at night, as the town prepared for the opening the new nightclub Shelter. And before the new credits kicked in, there was already a murder.
Again, good idea to start the show with its center, Viki (Erika Slezak), but also to play up the more humorous characters like Dorian (Robin Strasser) and David (Tuc Watkins), who would steal the show with his antics including a Saturday Night Fever-style strut down the red carpet. The club scenes felt very realistic with more extras to give it scope and recognizable pop music like One Republic’s “If I Lose Myself.”
There seemed to be accounting for storylines that moved forward over on General Hospital in the interim, as we saw Tea (Florencia Lozano) drowning in her sorrows, mourning her baby who died in Port Charles, and Natalie (Melissa Archer) out sans John (Michael Easton). Meanwhile, recast former teen parents Destiny (Laura Harrier) and Matthew (Robert Gorrie) exhibited a dynamic that could be pretty interesting moving forward. Corbin Bleu has jumped into the mix of the young people, with a history tying him to both Dani (Kelley Missal) and Matthew, and a present tied to Vicki as a reporter for her paper. And Todd (Roger Howarth) still has plenty of chemistry with Blair (Kassie DePaiva). But the show’s bad boy returned to town just in time to catch his drugging and boozing daughter Dani spiraling out of control. All this while an unidentified person bearing a tattoo’ed symbol connected to Todd was killed and dragged off.
The visuals on both shows is sharp. There’s a sense of striving for more of a nighttime soap aesthetic and the newer, younger viewers that could bring. AMC seems to be moving at a quicker pace of the two, something executive producer Ginger Smith told EW she definitely wanted to do, along with cutting back on the often repetitive nature of daily soaps. We’ve yet to see how much we’ll feel missing characters like Erica Kane in the mix. Similarly, for the One Life to Live characters who have not returned. But soap fans are used to a variety of characters on the canvas and even though these casts are smaller, as long as the stories remain engaging I suspect most fans are so happy to have them back that they will give the shows lots of leeway to get into a groove.
What did you think of the revamped shows? Were they what you hoped they’d be?
[Editor’s note: The actress who plays Opal was accidentally misidentified. She is played by Jill Larson.]