Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
The not-altogether-surprising intense protest sparked by ABC’s announced axing of its long-running soaps All My Children and One Life to Live demonstrated to ABC Daytime president Brian Frons that “we actually did a good job (promoting and nurturing them) for all of these last 40 years,” he told Deadline privately during a TCA lunch designed to promote one of the soaps’ daytime successors, the food show The Chew. “I think we’ve spent 40-plus years trying to keep the soap-opera audience happy. So in an odd way, (the outcry) is actually good. It’s just sad that we don’t have a solution.” However, a deal with producer Prospect Park has been cemented to relaunch both soaps during first-quarter 2012, and there’s been talk of enlisting a second production partner in cable television as well. But that remains uncertain.
Frons said that after the Prospect Park deal fell into place, All My Children‘s producers were forced to scramble to make the series ending more open-ended rather than final, since the series would now be continuing on after all. (All My Children is scheduled to leave ABC on Sept. 23; One Life to Live in January.) He added that the cancellations became necessary due to diminishing returns at the network. “We were at that point where we had to sit and look at what we were doing, and see if there were different opportunities for us in terms of serving a bigger audience. We looked at what was happening on cable — in the food space, the lifestyle space, the talk space, the reality space — and we just saw a very large audience and an opportunity.”
During a panel session promoting The Chew before lunch, a critic asked executive producer Gordon Elliott if he was worried about the online movement to boycott his show. The gregarious Aussie replied, “Look, I completely understand how the viewers feel, and I enjoyed those soaps too. But I don’t control the process that made that change. And while I’m sympathetic, I’m also greatly relieved to hear the shows are moving online. I hope the (fans of the shows) give us a break, and if they sit down for five minutes (and watch), they’ll really enjoy us.” Co-host Clinton Kelly was then moved to add, “I’d just like to go on the record that I love Susan Lucci so much. I think she’s fabulous.”
Later in the day, Charles Pratt, Jr., former head writer of All My Children, was asked to comment on the cancellation of the 2 ABC soaps during a panel for ABC Family’s The Lying Game, on which he serves as writer/executive producer. “You feel for the writers, producers and actors whom you worked with, but when you look at some primetime series that go 13 (episodes) and out, they got 28-30 years. I look back and say, ‘It was a good run’.”