Nellie Andreeva

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FRONS SPEAKS: ABC Daytime Chief Explains Why ‘AMC’ & ‘OLTL’ Were Axed; Says ‘GH’ Is “Safe For Time Being”

UPDATED: Goodbye Erica Kane. It is a sad day for soap fans, who are losing two more long-running daytime dramas. After relentless speculation over the past couple of months that ABC will cancel at least one of its three daytime soaps, the network today announced it will pull the plug on both All My Children and One Life To Live. All My Children will end its 41-year run in September, One Life to Live will bow out in January after 43 years. They will be replaced by two new unscripted shows, The Chew and The Revolution, respectively. The move leaves General Hospital as the only soap in ABC’s daytime lineup.

Produced by Gordon Elliot (Paula Deen’s Home Cooking), The Chew is a live show about anything and everything related to the world of food and beyond. Hosts include Mario Batali (Iron Chef America), Clinton Kelly (TLC’s What Not to Wear), Carla Hall (Bravo’s Top Chef), Michael Symon (Iron Chef America), nutrition expert Daphne Oz and chef Danny Boome. The Revolution, from JD Roth and 3 Ball Prods. (The Biggest Loser), is a daily show about health and lifestyle transformations. The show, starring fashion expert Tim Gunn as well as celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and American Idol alum Kimberley Locke, each week follows one woman’s five-month weight loss journey, which unfold in five days, with daily results and a final transformational reveal on Friday.

With the drumbeat of a pending ABC daytime drama cancellation getting louder, attention focused on this week, which marked ABC daytime president Brian Frons’ return from vacation, as decision time. The writing had been on the wall: With ratings for daytime dramas continuing to decline, CBS and NBC had already pared down the number of their soaps, with CBS canceling The Guiding Light and As The World Turns and NBC pulling Passions. With three daytime dramas, ABC had as many as CBS and NBC combined, with AMC and OLTL ranking dead last in total viewers and AMC recently hitting a series of all-time lows in the key women 18-49 demographic. The only possible reason for ABC to keep that many soaps around, sister cable network SoapNet, which repurposes the series, is going away, replaced by Disney Jr next year. So the only question was what type of shows ABC would replace its soaps with. “While we are excited about our new shows and the shift in our business, I can’t help but recognize how bittersweet the change is,” Frons said today in making the announcement. “We are taking this bold step to expand our business because viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on ‘real life’ takeaways.” He also stressed the new shows’ “enormous opportunity for the creation of ancillary businesses and growth.” They also appear much cheaper than the dramas they are replacing.

As for AMC and OLTL, “they are iconic pieces of television that have made an indelible mark on our culture’s history,” Frons said. Both shows were created by Agnes Nixon. AMC is headlined by one of the most recognizable soap stars, Susan Lucci, who has been on the show since the very beginning playing Erica Kane, dubbed the most famous daytime soap character of all time. All My Children, which revolved around the lives of the residents of fictional Pine Valley, premiered on ABC on Jan. 5, 1970, as a half-hour show; it was expanded to an hour seven years later. One Life to Live, set in the fictional town of Llanview, debuted on ABC on July 15, 1968, also as a half-hour show. Ten years later, it was expanded to a full hour. Notable alumni of the two soaps include Kelly Ripa, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Melissa Leo, Christian Slater and Amanda Seyfried (AMC) and Ryan Phillippe, Nathan Fillion, Marcia Cross, Tommy Lee Jones and Judith Light (OLTL).

AFTRA, which represents all daytime drama performers, including the casts of AMC and OLTL, issued a statement, calling the cancellations ”a devastating loss for thousands of AFTRA members, union crew members and production staff in Los Angeles and New York.” (AMC is based in Los Angeles, where it was moved from New York in 2009 to cut costs. OLTL is being produced in New York.) AFTRA representatives are communicating with affected members in both cities to ensure they are fully informed of their rights and benefits under the AFTRA Network Television Code. Additionally, AFTRA is in contact with ABC representatives to oversee as smooth a transition as possible for these performers.”

WGAE, which represents daytime drama writers, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the cancellations. “These groundbreaking shows have provided entertainment and enlightenment to millions of viewers, and have provided good employment to dozens of talented, dedicated writers,” the union said. “We urge the company to reconsider.”

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