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History and Background of ABC's One Life to Live Soap Opera

A Glimpse of the Diverse Background and History of OLTL

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On Set For 'One Live To Live'
Bryan Bedder / Staff /Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
History and Background of ABC's One Life to Live Soap Opera

Phil Carey "Asa Buchanan"

Copyright by ABC, Inc. 2008
History and Background of ABC's One Life to Live Soap Opera

OLTL Cast

Copyright by ABC, Inc. 2008
One Life to Live began airing on network television on July 15, 1968. From 1968-1976 the show was only 30 minutes long, but then developed into a 45-minute show during the years 1976-1978. Eventually, however, OLTL became an hour-long show towards the end of 1978, and continues to be today. As of February 29, 2008, there have been 10,140 episodes produced. The original creator of OLTL was one of soap opera’s best-known writers and producers, Agnes Nixon. Ms. Nixon was often referred to as the “Queen” of the modern soap opera. In 1970, after successfully creating OLTL, Ms. Nixon went on to start the production of a new soap opera, entitled All My Children and until 1992 was also involved in the writing of every AMC episode produced. Later, Ms. Nixon went on to produce the soap opera, Loving, which aired from 1983-1995.

The current Executive Producer of OLTL is Frank Valentini, whom has spent most of his career working on the show in some capacity since 1985. The current Head Writer is Ron Carlivati, who began his career on the show back in 1996 as a Writer’s Assistant, then as a Script Writer, a Breakdown Writer, and then became Co-Head Writer for a brief time before finally assuming the Head Writer position in September, 2007.

Ms. Nixon’s original premise for the show was built along the classic soap formula of a rich family and a poor family, however, the main center of attention was to be on the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the citizens of Llanview, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. The original title of OLTL was going to be Between Heaven and Hell, but the sponsors for the show, at that time, felt the name was too controversial and the title change was made to One Life to Live.

The fictional city of Llanview was actually modeled after the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. When OLTL first aired, there were four main families the show centered on. The families consisted of the wealthy Lord family, the less wealthy Siegels, and middle-class families of the Rileys and the Woleks. Since its inception, however, OLTL has mostly focused on the character of Victoria “Viki” Lord, who has been portrayed since 1971, by six-time Emmy award winner, Erika Slezak. Ms. Slezak won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 2005. Slezak’s character Viki has been married and divorced several times throughout the years and her full legal name is now Victoria Lord Riley Burke Riley Buchanan Buchanan Carpenter Davidson. In addition to her three children Kevin, Joey and Jessica, Viki has also discovered over the years she had two long-lost daughters named Megan and Natalie (Jessica’s fraternal twin). Viki has encountered countless numbers of tragedies, but weathered through them all, including many loves and losses, widowhood, rape, several divorces, stroke, breast cancer and even a heart transplant, who was donated to her by her dying husband Ben Davidson. But the most memorably condition of Viki’s life over the years has most notable been her struggle with DID (dissociative identity disorder, once known as multiple personalities). Viki’s struggle over her DID resulted into many storylines dealing with her multiple alters and the consequences of the damage they did over the years to numerous other characters.

One Life to Live was the first daytime drama to depict an interracial relationship, and among the first soap opera to deal directly with drug addiction. OLTL has also delved into an out-of-body experience to Heaven, time travel back to 1888, cultism, international terrorists, and even the discovery of a secret underground city, known as Eterna. Although the main storylines have stemmed mainly from the Lord family (Victor, Meredith and Viki) and the Buchanan family (Asa, Clint, Bo, Renee, Cord, Joey, Kevin, Ben, Jessica, Natalie and David (who doesn't know yet he is a Buchanan), there have also been many other new families integrated into the workings of day-to-day life in Llanview. Some of these other important families include, the Cramers (Dorian, Addie, Blair, Cassie, Adriana and Kelly) the Vegas (Carlotta, Antonio and Cristian), the Gannons (Hank, RJ, Nora and Rachel), the Mannings (Todd, Blair, Starr, Jack and Sam), the Rappaports (Sam, Lindsay, Will, Jen and Ben [until the discovery that he was also a Buchanan), the McBains (Michael, John and Marcie), the Balsoms (Roxy and Rex) and the Williamsons (Evangeline and Layla), plus, not counting all the other various characters introduced over the years.

OLTL has no doubt made its mark in soap opera history with its vibrant and exciting storylines it has created thus far. This remarkable soap opera will hopefully continue on for many more years to come and will continue to entertain its countless fans, not only in the United States, but in many parts all over the world.

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