Like Victor Lord Sr. rising from the ashes nearly 30 years after his on-screen death, the revival of One Life to Live after ABC pulled the plug in January 2012 was a plot twist I never thought I'd see in my lifetime. But unlike the offensive and preposterous resurrection of the long-dead Lord patriarch, One Life to Live's rebirth is music to this long-time fan's ears.
Sure, the road to get here was rocky to say the least. We went from mourning the premature passing of our beloved OLTL when ABC foolishly announced the sudser's cancellation in April 2011 to breathing a huge sigh of relief three months later when a little-known production company called Prospect Park announced it would continue the show online after the last episode aired on ABC.
Then in November 2011, just days after OLTL filmed its last episode for ABC, Prospect Park announced that the deal had fallen through and it would, in fact, not be resurrecting the show after all. The brilliant final episode of OLTL aired on January 13, 2012, with a spectacular cliffhanger revealing that believed-dead Victor Lord Jr. was alive and being held captive by crazed baby-snatcher Allison Perkins. But with no deal in place to continue the show online, it seemed like we might never get to see Victor reunite with Téa, or find out if Viki accepted Clint's marriage proposal, or catch another glimpse of Roxy's prickly beaver ... er, porcupine, Morris.
Sure, part of Llanview lived on through the handful of characters who inexplicably found themselves wandering the halls of General Hospital and other alien locales in upstate Port Charles, New York. And I did find solace in knowing that OLTL was still alive in some small way. I mourned as Starr lost Cole and Hope in a tragic car crash and struggled to pick up the pieces of her broken dreams. I swooned as a more vibrant John McBain met a strangely familiar female private detective, Sam McCall, and teetered on the edge of giving in to his desire for her. I shook my head as Todd got himself embroiled in yet another dead baby lie -- this time, passing off Sam's healthy newborn as Téa's -- and marveled as he wormed his way out of facing any legal repercussions for his deception.
Still, watching these characters continue on General Hospital wasn't the same as having my show back. So when Prospect Park made the surprising announcement in January that it was bringing back OLTL after all (along with also-cancelled sister soap, All My Children), I was overjoyed -- although admittedly hesitant at first. Fool me once and all that business, you know. But with veteran actor after veteran actor signing on to the relaunch, it quickly became clear that this time, the revival was for real -- and not a soap character's terrible dream.
So One Life to Live is back, starting April 29. But what does it all mean, really? Well, for starters, watching the show won't be the same as it was when you could simply turn on the television at 2:00 p.m. Monday through Friday (or, if you couldn't watch live, pop in a VHS tape or schedule the TiVo to record it to watch later). Each show will run 30 minutes, instead of an hour, and will be broadcast strictly online, at least for now, on a couple of different platforms. Probably the most popular option (and the only one that's free) will be to watch the show using a computer through the Hulu website (http://www.hulu.com/one-life-to-live). If you sign up for Hulu's monthly subscription service, Hulu Plus, you will be able to watch the show using a variety of methods, including Internet-enabled televisions or Blu-ray players, smartphones and hand-held tablets, game systems such as Wii and PlayStation 3, and streaming players like Roku and Apple TV. In addition, the series will also be available to purchase through iTunes, although pricing details haven't been announced.
As someone who is accustomed to watching TV series using my iPad or computer, thanks to my Netflix subscription, watching daily episodes of OLTL online won't be a huge adjustment. Frankly, I think being able to watch television shows on demand through a variety of platforms is the wave of the future, and it's nice to think of soap operas being in the vanguard of this new revolution. Although, I might miss plopping down on the sofa after a hard day's work to catch up on the latest trials and tribulations of the Lord, Buchanan, and Cramer clans on my widescreen TV. Might have to see about that upgraded Hulu Plus subscription after all...
As to what we will see when the story continues on April 29, I'm excited by what I've heard so far. First off, OLTL is blessed to have most of the core cast returning. Frankly, I could watch Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser read the phone book for 30 minutes a day and never get bored, so knowing that Viki and Dorian will be back is a welcome relief. They have always been the yin and yang, the angel and devil, the heaven and hell at the core of OLTL, and without them, I think this revival would have had little chance of success.
But they are hardly alone. In fact, at least 18 actors from the original series will be back in character when OLTL relaunches online, from veteran actor Robert S. Woods as Bo Buchanan to relative newcomer Josh Kelly as Cutter Wentworth. I'm especially excited that Shenaz Treasury and Nick Choksi will be back as Rama and Vimal Patel, since they provide both the diversity and levity that has always made OLTL stand out from other soaps. And I'm relieved that Prospect Park and ABC were able to work out a deal for Roger Howarth to bring Todd Manning back to Llanview, at least for the time being. Frankly, I'm okay with Starr and McBain staying put in Port Charles, since I think their characters are more interesting on General Hospital than they were on One Life to Live. But with so much of Todd's story left to be told in Llanview, his presence would have been sorely missed.
Only two existing characters have been recast so far: Matthew Buchanan and Destiny Evans, who had just had a child together as the show ended its network run. Former As the World Turns actor Robert Gorrie will take over for Eddie Alderson as Matthew, while newcomer Laura Harrier will take over for Shenell Edmonds as Destiny. Even though we watched Eddie grow up on the show, it's the recasting of Destiny that will take the biggest adjustment. As played by Shenell, Destiny was an overweight, insecure, but good-natured teen who battled adversity with a tough skin and a tender heart.
Laura Harrier physically bears little resemblance to Shenell -- she's tall and model thin, so it will be interesting to see if big brother Sean Evans continues to call her "Little D." And according to a widely circulated casting breakdown, Destiny will be in a much darker place when we see her again and will be engaging in activity that would have seemed unimaginable with Shenell in the role. It may play out better on-screen than it does on paper, but it's one of the biggest question marks facing the show as it continues online.
Still, I'm excited to see that the show is willing to take chances and step outside the comfort zone as it blazes a new trail online. Moving online gives the show's writers, producers and actors the freedom to try things that wouldn't have been permitted on network television, such as courser language, darker themes, and perhaps even partial nudity. This will no doubt bring a new level of energy and excitement to the show, and it could help attract new viewers who are used to seeing these traits on cable series. But ultimately, it's the writing and acting that will sell the new show and keep folks coming back for more.
After so many ups and downs, it's hard to believe that OLTL will be back on our screens in just over a month. But having watched the show for most of my life, I should have known that when it comes to soap operas, death is rarely a permanent condition. Just as Victor Jr. managed to survive after dying before our eyes, One Life to Live has managed to escape the Grim Reaper and prove that sometimes, you actually can get a second chance at life. I for one can't wait for it to start.