A Former Fan of ‘One Life to Live’ Says Farewell

COMMENTARY | The announcement by ABC that “One Life to Live” is being canceled was bittersweet for me. While I’m one of the estimated 5 million who watched daytime soaps in 1991 but no longer watch them today, I was a huge fan in the mid-’80s.

Citing changes in viewer desires, “One Life to Live” will air its final episode in January 2012 and be replaced with a talk show. In the official statement, Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney ABC/Television Group announced the network’s belief that daytime viewers want more talk shows, stressing the success of “The View.”

I watch less than six hours of television a week these days and none of it during the day. In an effort to increase daytime viewers, ABC is bringing “The Revolution” to the table as a replacement for “OLTL.” Touted as a show focusing on lifestyle and health issues, the hosts will include fashion guru Tim Gunn and former “American Idol” contestant Kimberly Locke.

I’m having a hard time understanding the life lessons the young Ms. Locke can offer that Viki Lord Banks didn’t already go through.

As a young mother, nap time was my time to settle in with some crochet or cross stitch every afternoon with Viki and her family. Llanview, Penn., was similar to my own small central Ohio town of Mount Vernon. There was a dividing line between the wealthy and the blue collar with a few mansions sprinkled into the mix.

Viki, to me, always demonstrated a gentle grace. She loved and protected her family and handled most of her battles with Dorian Lord with class.

Some of my favorite story arcs were those involving Viki’s Dissociative Identity Disorder. As a teen, I had read “Sybil” and “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” and I was dazzled by Erika Slezak’s seamless portrayal of the different characters. The first time I saw Niki Smith, she was walking into a bar. I can remember doing a double take and thinking “Wait – that’s Viki. Why is she in disguise?”

Jean Randolph holding Dorian Lord captive was a brilliant move by the producers for fans of Viki. It was something Mrs. Buchanan would never do on her own, but seeing payback for the years of torment from Dorian was a gem. The alter egos allowed Slezak to portray a “bad girl” once in awhile without damaging the reputation of Viki.

As life changes, so do television viewing habits. When I divorced in 1991, I went to work full time outside the home. I wasn’t technically savvy enough to set my VCR to tape the episodes, and without daily recaps and the Internet, I had no way to keep up. As my careers changed, I did occasionally try to tune in to “One Life to Live” on a day off of work, but it never held my interest as it did during my homemaker days.

Farewell, “One Life to Live.” Thanks for keeping me company.