When I Watched… “One Life to Live”

one_life_to_liveIn the late 1970’s my sister conned me into watching All My Children on sunny summer days so she could go in the back yard and tan and I would relay to her the events in Pine Valley upon her return.  The things people did before VCRs… It wasn’t long before I was hooked on All My Children, and soon after I started watching One Life to Live.

Llanview in the 70’s was a special place.  Vicki loved Joe.  Becky Lee loved Richard.  And Karen Wolek was a bored housewife who turned tricks to earn extra cash.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand what Karen was doing, but I knew it was wrong and it was a secret and it was fun to watch and see if anyone would find out. And find out they did!  When Vicki was on trial for the murder of Marco Dane, Judith Light (Karen) acted out one of the finest scenes in daytime television as she finally came clean about her past – setting Vicki free and destroying her marriage to Larry in the process.

In the early 1980’s, the oil-rich Buchanan family moved from Texas to Llanview and viewers were taken in by the adventures of Asa and his sons Bo and Clint.  Vicki’s goddaughter Tina Clayton turned out to be her sister, and Vicki’s alter ego Nicki Smith came back – several times.  By the mid to late 1980’s, One Life to Live had taken on a more fanciful tone of storytelling.  Stories still revolved around love and betrayal, but took place along the backdrop of visits to Heaven, the Wild West, and the secret underground city of Eterna.

In the 90’s, One Life to Live returned to the realistic and socially conscious storytelling of it’s heritage.  Head writer Michael Malone crafted stories about Billy Douglas, a gay teen who struggled with his identity, and the tragic gang rape of Marty Saybrooke at the hands of Todd Manning and his frat brothers.  Viewers were drawn to these stories, along with the romance of Max and Luna, and the escapades of Asa and Alex.  One Life to Live was at it’s best.

After Malone left, the show went through several head writers, none capturing the imagination of the audience.  By the end of 1996, I had stopped watching One Life to Live.  I tuned in out of curiosity here and there: during the “live week” in 2000, Asa’s fake funeral in 2001 and his real one in 2007.  Malone returned to One Life to Live in 2003 but the magic would not be recreated.  Instead, he resurrected Vicki’s long dead father (in 1995 Malone himself had finally written the finale to the long standing mystery of the Lord patriarch’s 1976 death) and created convoluted story lines that didn’t do much to interest viewers.  One may wonder how much of the show Malone actually wrote during this period and how much was created by network interference.

Currently, fans are furious over the recent romantic pairing of amnesiac Marty Saybrooke and her rapist, Todd Manning.  I don’t know if this storyline will still be playing out when I watch One Life to Live for one week starting on January 12, but I hope it’s long gone by then. Either way, I’ll let you know what I think of the current version of One Life to Live.

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2 Responses to “When I Watched… “One Life to Live””

  1. you’re feeling pretty much the way i did back in june, when the overwhelming critical praise for OLTL from people whose opinions i respect. now, it’s the one show that gives me hope for the future of soaps. i’ve posted several times, in particular, “n=1,” and most recently “shades of grey,” on the todd/marty saga.

    i still watch “as the world turns,” mostly out of habit; it doesn’t take long to ff through it. not so with oltl. i think, and hope, that you will be pleasantly surprised.

  2. lizzyluvscowboys Says:

    I started watching OLTL about the same time that you did, only I was a little older, not much… I was 19, now I’m almost fifty. That’s a lot of years, ya know?

    I’ve been absent from the happenings in Llanview since May, I’m gonna be brave and give it a week. We’ll see, Llanview was a stellar place back in the day though.

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