Before you wonder where the extra stages of grief came from, there really are just five stages of grief. Sadly, All My Children fans have had to endure the grieving process three times over: the original cancellation in April, the rumors of AMC's Internet shelving in late October, and now the official confirmation that All My Children will not return.
I love amusements parks -- and that includes the wildest roller coasters that modern engineers can dream up. I even love the twists and turns of the best soap opera storylines. But the emotional ups and downs -- Canceled! Un-canceled! Dead! -- has been way too much for my fragile soap-loving self to handle.
I suppose it is no coincidence that you can shift a few letters around and turn "Denial" into "Daniel." I'm not entirely sure what that anagram has to do with anything, but I am going to try to segue it into something philosophical.
I'm sure I am not the only person who didn't believe that ABC would cancel two soaps on the same day. There were rumors for years that One Life to Live was on its way out. That is not to say that I would have preferred to have All My Children spared at the expense of One Life to Live. If I had it my way, neither of these soaps would have been canceled.
In early 2009, Nelson Branco reported in TVGuide Canada that ABC was ""thisclose to canceling AMC. Real close. Scary close." I wrote an article about Branco's news item and was almost immediately contacted by ABC telling me that the article was unnecessarily causing angst among the cast and crew. I was assured by a network spokesperson that the show was not and had never been in any danger of being canceled.
Then there was that whole "zeitgeist" rumor of All My Children relocating to Los Angeles.
Killing two shows with millions of devoted fans was outrageous. It didn't help that ABC announced the end of a combined 80-plus years of soap telling as a footnote to its announcement that the network was "evolving" the face of daytime television.
Of course fans were going to be angry. Why wouldn't they?
ABC, in my opinion, could have saved itself a lot of headaches and fan resentment by having been upfront and honest from the start. If it is true that the network knew in 2009 that one or more of its soaps would be gone by 2011, why not reveal it then? Fans would still have been ticked off, but it would have allowed for a proper sendoff. Look at the mileage ABC is getting from the "Kiss Them Goodbye" campaign for Desperate Housewives.
More importantly, if ABC had been forthcoming, it would have allowed more time for companies to come up with a plan to save the two soaps. It's been said that Prospect Park may not have been the only company to submit an offer for All My Children and/or One Life to Live. Non-disclosure agreements will probably prevent us from ever knowing the truth about that, but I would think that someone could have squirreled away some money for 24 months and had a better go of having cash on hand to transition the soaps to the Internet or cable or... somewhere.
I did go through a brief bargaining phase. I offered to watch every episode of The Bachelor(ette) and Dancing With the Stars if ABC would keep its soaps. Then I realized that there was no way in hell that I could sit through one episode of The Bachelor, let alone an entire season.
Then I decided that I could buy All My Children. I cleaned out my piggy bank, looked under the sofa cushions, and scoured my car for all the change I could find. Sadly, I realized that I probably didn't even have enough cash to buy an hour of teatime with the little kid who plays Emma.
When it was announced that Prospect Park was going to save the day, I sent out a very thoughtful email introducing myself and availing my services to do whatever was necessary to make sure that people tuned in to the web versions of AMC and OLTL. It was the least I could do, I thought. I have been blessed to have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of soap fans who visit my Internet "home" every day -- and I figured that if anyone needed help in figuring out how to watch the soaps online, I could do an instructional video. I mean, I am the guy who produced videos on how to make a snow angel and how to cook a complete breakfast on the sidewalk in a heat wave.
I never heard a peep or even a prospect of a peep.
I don't drink alcohol, and I have to think that if I survived All My Children's death on three different occasions, I probably never will. The good news is that I know what not to do as an alcoholic thanks to most of the Chandler family.
I suppose that All My Children's cancellation hit me in a different way than a lot of you. For me it wasn't just the loss of a show that I love, it was also a direct hit on a business that I created 16 years earlier. All My Children was the reason that this whole web site came to be. I know, I know... you're tired of hearing me say it. I'm just trying to set the stage for my bombshell plot device: my sleepless nights. No, this is not some torrid, trashy romance novel. I literally couldn't sleep because my mind was all over the place.
I also felt a lot of pressure. When All My Children's final airdate was set, I knew that I had to devote an episode of Soap Central Live to celebrating AMC. As the "All My Children expert," I knew that the show would have to be tiptop. I scoured through interviews, video clips, and everything else that I could get my hands on to put that show together. The fact that so many AMC fans said that they could tell that love went into that show... well, that meant the world to me.
But enough about me. I saw the message board postings, the tweets, and the emails I received. People were devastated by the very thought of having to give up a 41-year habit. There were messages from grandkids wondering how they'd tell their ailing grandmothers that their "stories" were going away.
To someone on the outside looking in, it may be unfathomable to understand why a silly soap opera has fans so riled up. To some it may be a sign of weakness: a bunch of bonbon-eating housewives sitting around on the sofa all day getting worked into a frenzy by which talentless hunky actor can rip off their shirt the best. And let's face it: there are people out there who truly believe that about soaps and soap fans.
On the other hand, I have always believed that soap fans' loyalty is something to be admired. I would think most entities with a product would want that kind of ardent support from a fanbase. Just because you don't understand something, it doesn't mean that something is wrong.
I don't know that I had accepted that All My Children was going away forever when the news leaked that a company wanted to buy the rights to the show. Because of that, I don't know that I ever gave the online transition the full attention that it deserved. Someone wants to save One Life to Live and All My Children? Yay! Let's support them.
I did, though, do the math -- with and without my abacus. I know what Internet sites charge for advertising, so I was able to figure out how much money the online venture could have netted from pre-rolls, those ads that play before you watch online video. I did not know how much could be made from rebroadcasting episodes on a cable channel or On Demand, so I couldn't really do a full accounting of their projected income.
Did it ever make 100% sense? I don't know. Maybe... maybe not.
Shortly after Prospect Park announced that its plans to move All My Children and One Life to Live to the web were dead, the Internet was flooded with message board posts, Facebook statuses, and tweets from two camps: those that were furious that they'd been "lied" to by Prospect Park, and those who proclaimed that they knew all along that the Internet move was too good to be true.
This may surprise you because I usually try to be diplomatic, but I was actually irritated by both sides. First and foremost, I do not think that Prospect Park was some sham organization set up by a diabolical Brian Frons to give AMC and OLTL fans false hope while at the same time taking the heat off of ABC for the cancellations. I admit that the scenario is certainly more plausible than a lot of web-based conspiracy theories that I've read. After all, one of the Prospectors was, after all, a former Disney/ABC employee.
I have noticed that in the wake of the deforestation of Prospect Park, there are a new round of rumors popping up. It's the same set of rumors -- perhaps tweaked a little -- that were whirling about when ABC made its cancellation announcement: NBC wants to buy one of the shows, there's a media company that wants to take the soaps to the Internet, a cable company wants to buy the rights.
The interesting thing in all of this is that All My Children continues to live on, even after two months without a new episode. Fans are still discussing their favorite memories (and reading one fan's weekly musings about the show here in this column), and they are even postulating what Pine Valley characters are up to now. Did JR shoot himself? Will Adam and Brooke live happily ever after? Did Bobby Martin ever really exist? Who is the second mystery patient that David has been nursing back to health?
Netflix, the company that made a whole lot of PR disasters of its own in recent months, recently announced that it would be reviving the short-lived FOX series Arrested Development... on the Internet. That's a series that hasn't been around since 2006. Never say never. Don't say can't or won't. Anything is, as they say, possible.
I don't have a degree in psychology, so I can't really help walk anyone through the steps of grief. And as far as I am concerned, I don't know that we have to accept that All My Children may not ever come back. I don't know that we don't have a right to be angry that the show as taken from us -- or that we never had the option to have the series wrapped up with a tidy little bow.
I am going to continue writing this column through the Best and Worst of 2011 columns that will run into early January. We've gotten this far together, and there's no reason why it can't continue a little while longer. I hope that you continue to write to me and share your thoughts on everything that has gone down in the past seven months, and also to share your All My Children memories. If you have $60 million to share, you can do that, too, and maybe we can buy All My Children outright and broadcast it right here on the original online network for soap operas.
But I leave you this week with some pearls of wisdom. So many bad fortune cookie parables seem to apply. "It is better to have loved All My Children and lost it, than to never have loved All My Children at all." Or what about, "All My Children is not really dead if we find a way to remember it."
I happen to prefer: It is better to not be able to watch All My Children than to ever watch an episode of The Show That Shall Not Be Named.