It’s been five weeks since AMC and OLTL debuted on the Internet, and we’ve all learned a lot of lessons.
I learned how to watch a TV show on Hulu. You learned how to download a podcast. And Prospect Park learned that they bit off more than they could chew when they tried to mount two soap operas in a new studio in six weeks.
“When we first arrived, the building was almost bare,” wrote Jill Larson (Opal, AMC) on her Facebook page. “PA’s were running around buying hangers for the costume dept, toilet paper for the johns, we had NOTHING. They had to buy pens, chairs to sit on, everything.”
PP also rushed into hiring their head writers, as evidenced by the fact that both teams have already been let go. AMC replaced Marlene McPherson and Elizabeth Snyder with Chip Hayes and Lisa Connor. Susie Bedsow Horgan departed OLTL before the show started airing, leaving Thom Racina as sole head writer. Jessica Klein and Marin Gazzaniga have now taken over at OLTL.
Obviously PP wasn’t happy with the direction of the shows, so this is a good move. The recent announcement that AMC and OLTL will cut back from posting four episodes a week online to two gives the new writers time to refocus the shows on stories that fans want to see. (No more raping women!)
However, this move could cause complications with the actors, who are contractually free to pursue other jobs during their time off. AMC will now be dark until August 12. OLTL will pick up filming in mid-September. Both new teams are rewriting major story, as well as changing course with a budding AMC couple due to an actress’s real-life pregnancy. And look for another big name to return…
“This is a start-up,” explains AMC supervising producer Sonia Blangiardo. (Blangiardo is also the creator and Executive Producer of Tainted Dreams, filming this summer in New York.) “We got feedback that 62% of our viewers are new, and we made changes. According to data collected from Hulu and iTunes, four hours a week is too much programming for new viewers. So we said, ‘If they’re only watching two hours, let’s give them two hours.’ We’re reinventing the wheel here; merging different genres. It’s all new.”
“Considering that many of our favorite nighttime shows are one hour per week with only 13 episodes per season, our one hour each week at 110 or more for the year is an embarrassment of riches,” wrote Vincent Irizarry (David) of AMC on his website.
In my opinion, PP should position AMC and OLTL more like nighttime shows instead of as traditional five-day-a-week daytime soap operas. Why not have a season for each show? That way, they could give us a season cliffhanger, like Dallas and Mad Men.
They should also release better, more complete teasers to the soap world to pique fans interest and make them want to watch every episode. (Eg: “You won’t believe what David does to Dorian tomorrow on OLTL. Hint: It involves a parrot and a feather boa.” Who wouldn’t watch that?!)
And they really need to figure out a way to put positive PR out there about these shows. Press releases about singers don’t get traction. Put the actors, writers, producers on the phone with every possible media outlet and let them tell the story of each show. Because it’s a good one.
A year ago, AMC and OLTL were deader than Billy Clyde Tuggle. (Oh, wait – he’s not dead!) Yes PP should have taken more time to reboot them, but they’re here and they’re alive. Enjoy the one hour of each soap being offered per week, and wait for the next phase of this wheel to be reinvented.
Because honestly, there seems to be only one downside to cutting back to an hour a week: “The kids are going to summer school,” previews Blangiardo with a laugh, “which will now air in October.”