What worked, what didn't on OLTL's first online season

For the Week of September 16, 2013
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OLTL Two Scoops: What worked, what didn't on OLTL's first online season
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With One Life to Live on indefinite hiatus, now is a perfect time to look back at what worked during the first online season and what things should be improved upon if and when the show returns to the air. Plus, a Top Ten wish list for Season 2.

Talk about a really depressing cliffhanger. Less than two weeks after One Life to Live wrapped its first season online, Prospect Park announced that it was putting the show on indefinite hiatus pending the outcome of a lawsuit it filed against ABC regarding the show's transition from the network to the Internet.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I have a feeling that there's more to this hiatus than Prospect Park is letting on. Unless Prospect Park intends to bankroll another season of OLTL with proceeds from winning or settling the lawsuit, I don't see how one thing has anything to do with the other.

As I understand it, the crux of the lawsuit is that ABC didn't confer with Prospect Park regarding the use of OLTL characters that were on loan to General Hospital and allowed three OLTL characters to be killed off. However, there was little indication during this time that OLTL would ever return to the airwaves, so I'm not sure who ABC would have had discussions with regarding the use of the OLTL characters. And the three characters that were killed off -- Cole, Hope, and Victor and Téa's stillborn baby --were hardly central to the story that unfolded this year on the relaunched OLTL.

I suspect that the real issue why OLTL isn't returning is that the show generated a smaller audience than All My Children, even though OLTL was the higher rated soap when it aired on ABC. With a limited budget, Prospect Park is choosing to invest in the more successful program and get AMC back on the air as soon as possible.

Hopefully, Prospect Park is working feverishly behind the scenes to determine why OLTL didn't perform as well as it should have and is using this downtime to craft new storylines and attract new and returning cast members who will ensure a more successful second season.

With that in mind, I'd like to present my own ideas on what worked and what didn't during OLTL's first online season.

What worked: Familiar faces. While All My Children returned without its leading star, Susan Lucci, and with a plethora of recasted younger actors, OLTL was blessed with having a large number of veteran cast members return for the online relaunch. The actors portraying Viki, Clint, Dorian, David, Bo, Nora, Blair, Téa, Cutter, Rama, Danielle, and Jack all returned for the entire season. Roger Howarth brought Todd back for most of the season, despite the acrimony between Prospect Park and ABC, and we were even treated to a welcome but all-too-brief return of Trevor St. John as Victor.

What didn't: Too much focus on the younger set. Despite the wealth of seasoned actors, too much of the action this season focused on the younger generation, including several new or recasted characters. While Corbin Bleu was a welcome addition to the cast as young reporter Jeffrey King, he was featured entirely too much for a new character. And to make matters worse, most of his scenes were with two unfamiliar faces -- the new actors playing Matthew Buchanan and Destiny Evans. The early episodes were especially uneven, with scene after scene of Matthew, Jeffrey, and Danielle drinking in their apartment or at Shelter. The best scenes for all of these younger actors were with their more seasoned peers: Jeffrey with Viki, Matthew with his parents and Clint, Danielle with her parents and later Arturo, and Destiny with her brother Shaun and Nora.

Meanwhile, the characters in the "middle generation," for lack of a better term, were left scrambling for any scraps of story they could find. Cutter Wentworth has the potential to be a leading man scallywag akin to Brad Vernon or Marco Dane, yet he was woefully underutilized. We should have seen him dating Natalie while stepping out with Nikki and Rama and whoever else. We should have learned much more about what's really going on at Shelter and what

role Cutter, Dean, Bruce, Nikki, and Diego each play in the underground drug trade. What worked: Compelling story ideas. The stories that were laid out from the beginning of the season held much promise. Viki finally was front and center with a story surrounding the impending collapse of the Banner. The existence of covert operations by the CIA felled Dorian's Senate career, reignited the feud between Dorian and Viki, and seemed like it could be tied to the undercover operation Todd and Victor's mother Irene had been running. Todd and Victor were embroiled in a mystery surrounding a dangerous tattooed organization that also appeared connected to highly toxic drugs being circulated in town through Blair's new club, Shelter. Danielle was spiraling out of control on a mix of drugs and alcohol and lashing out at anyone who tried to help her. Rama and Vimal were exploring the concept of an open marriage.

What didn't work: Lack of follow-through. None of the stories outlined above came to a satisfying conclusion. Viki's story about saving the Banner morphed into a story about Clint having an epic breakdown after Viki ridiculously dumped him for secretly replacing money she had lost in a bad investment. The black ops story was never mentioned again after Dorian resigned from the Senate. We learned that the tattoo organization sent Todd to Llanview to kill Victor and threatened to harm their entirely family if he didn't comply, but we still don't know who's behind the organization and what is the ultimate goal. Dani stopped her partying ways incredibly fast and soon became embroiled in a mystery surrounding the death of a woman we barely met. Rama pushed for an open marriage but then never slept with anyone else.

What worked: Great dialogue. The writers must be commended for penning scripts chock full of snappy one-liners, biting put-downs, emotional honesty, and comedic gold. The writing for Dorian, Clint, and David was exceptionally witty and true to character. The conversations among Blair, Todd, Téa, and Victor were emotionally raw and soaked in the complex and sordid history the characters share. Some of the early scenes with the younger characters rang true because the dialogue, while a bit vulgar for some ears, felt real and unscripted. I feel the producers went too far in stripping all of the racy dialogue from latter episodes, especially since doing so required replacing curse words with awkward silences that distracted more than the four-letter words ever did.

What didn't: Choppy pacing. This was a problem throughout the season, beginning with the moment a supposedly dead Victor Jr. rushed into the hospital lobby and Viki barely batted an eye. Victor's explanation of where he had been was dealt with off-screen, with Viki "having heard" that Allison had been holding Victor captive, only to have Allison's reappearance at Clint's bedside become the cliffhanging scene of the season. I understand the producers had Trevor St. John for a limited amount of time. But certainly Victor's return from the grave warranted a few additional reaction scenes and some explanation of where he had been and how he had escaped.

While some scenes felt rushed, others felt like they dragged on forever. The build-up to Matthew meeting his online crush went on for way too long, especially since Michelle so far has ended up being nothing more than a shy girl with some honesty issues. The police department's investigation into Briana Marland's death and the tainted drug dealing operation floundered without any payoff. The tattoo organization storyline also meandered, with the only real game-changing development occurring late in the season with the revelation that Jeffrey is working for the organization.

With that being said, here's my Top Ten wish list for OLTL
10. A fully planned and executed season with a beginning, middle, and end

9. The return of more iconic sets, including Angel Square, the Palace, and the country club

8. The return of more legacy characters, specifically Kevin Buchanan, Alex Olanov, and Jessica Buchanan

7. David and Alex teaming up to plan the perfect con on Dorian

6. Jessica and Natalie fighting for the affections of Cutter

5. Nora and Téa battling it out in the courtroom

4. Clint and Bo teaming up to rescue Todd and Victor

3. Dorian in a real romance

2. Viki forgiving Clint and finally remarrying him

1. Another season of One Life to Live so all my wishes can become reality!

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