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A Farewell (For Now) To 'All My Children'

by Michael Maloney, posted Sep 23rd 2011 2:30PM
All My ChildrenThe 'All My Children' scrapbook is closing. After a 41-year run, the series will broadcast its final episode today on ABC.

Created by Agnes Nixon, the serial debuted on January 5, 1970 and, from the beginning, blended social issues with a diverse cast of multi-generational characters set in the fictional town of Pine Valley.

Late soap opera historian Christopher Schemering called Nixon in 1988 "the most respected and influential writer in daytime drama" and wrote that 'AMC' was a "winning mixture of socially oriented drama, young love and drawing room comedy."

Nixon had actually written the bible for 'AMC' back in the '60s, but the show wasn't picked up until years later.

Agnes NixonIn the meantime, she incorporated elements from her 'AMC' treatment into the NBC sudser 'Another World,' which she was writing. The character of Rachel Davis shared similarities with 'AMC's' legendary Erica Kane (played by Emmy-winner Susan Lucci).

The success of Nixon's 'One Life to Live,' which debuted in 1968, prompted ABC to invite her to create another serial. "I got a lot of recognition from that show," Nixon has said. "And I gained a bit of confidence from its success."

It was Nixon's husband Bob who encouraged her to use her 'AMC' bible for ABC's new show. She dusted off the document, read it and realized that she still loved it.

Soon, 'AMC' went into production. Her theme for the show was the brotherhood of man as evidenced by a poem she wrote for the show:

The Great and the Least,
The Rich and the Poor,
In Sickness and in Health,
In Joy and Sorrow,
In Tragedy and Triumph,

Young lovers were part of the serial's canvas from the beginning with Erica, Phil, Chuck and Tara embroiled in a quadrangle.

"I felt if we showed what the kids were feeling, maybe parents could get a different perspective," Nixon told Dan Wakefield, author of 'All Her Children.' "We have a great opportunity, through dramatic entertainment, to help explain liberals to hard-hats, for instance, and parents to children, and vice-versa-to open people's minds a little bit."

Mary FickettThe show tackled social issues, too, with Ruth Martin (played by the late Mary Fickett) speaking out on the Vietnam War. The actress won an Emmy for her moving speech.

Other social issues were addressed, too, notably Erica getting television's first legal abortion. By the late '70s 'AMC' claimed the number one spot in the ratings, due in no small part to the storybook romance of star-crossed lovers Dr. Cliff Warner and Nina Cortlandt.

Soaps became more popular in the '80s, prompting celebrity fans including Carol Burnett, Elizabeth Taylor and Oprah Winfrey to make cameos, helping to fuel their popularity. 'AMC' created what can arguably be called daytime's most popular young love storyline with the relationship between upper-middle class Greg Nelson and poor Jenny Gardner. Their love was challenged by the devious Liza, Greg's interfering mother, Enid, and Jenny's sociopath fiance, Tony Barclay.

Long before cougars were all the rage, Marian Colby seduced ambitious Tad Martin. Michael E. Knight plays Tad with a comedic edge that's so engaging that even when he was the "bad boy" whom you "loved to hate," you still loved him, too.

In the mid-'80s, Pine Valley was rocked by the murder of Zach Grayson. Marian was the culprit. She was later paroled and showed a softer side by having an unlikely romance with Stuart Chandler, evil Adam's kinder twin. Throughout the '80s Nixon continued to address topical social issues including AIDS (Cindy Parker) and drug addiction (Erica's brother Mark).

Not surprisingly, 'AMC' Emmy winners read like a cast list of the show: Warren Burton (Eddie), Francesca James (Kitty/Kelly), Julia Barr (Brooke), Ellen Wheeler (Cindy), Kathleen Noone (Ellen), Darnell Williams (Jesse), Debbi Morgan (Angie), David Canary (Adam/Stuart), Eden Riegel (Bianca), Knight and Lucci are among the show's award-winning stars.

'AMC' created such memorable villains during its 41-year run as Palmer Cortlandt, Adam Chandler, Ray Gardner, Janet Marlowe, Billy Clyde Tuggle, Alec McIntyre and Michael Cambias, though some were more redeemable than others.

Keith Hamilton Cobb and Sydney PennyThe show continued to introduce new families and romantic duos in the '90s. Viewers embraced the Santos clan, which led to popular pairings of Maria and Edmund, Julia and Noah, and Mateo and Hayley.

Sarah Michelle Gellar arrived on the scene in 1993 as Kendall Hart, the daughter that Erica Kane gave up for adoption. Erica and Kendall were at odds, but over time they grew to love one another. Also in the '90s the show acquired a bad boy-turned-romantic lead Ryan Lavery, played by fan favorite Cameron Mathison.

As beloved cast members passed away in real life, the show produced loving stand-alone episodes that paid homage to them. Actors from the show's past were invited back to pay tribute to Mona, Phoebe, Myrtle and Palmer.

The late '90s and early 2000s proved to be a challenging time for all daytime dramas, and 'AMC' was no exception. A standout storyline written by Nixon had Bianca coming out as a lesbian to her mother, Erica. "I got wonderful letters from some mothers who said, 'If only I'd seen the Bianca story when I was younger,'" Nixon recalled to 'Variety' in 2010.

Other popular characters (Babe, Krystal) were added to the canvas, but throughout the next decade ratings for all soaps continued to slide. ABC announced in 2009 that 'AMC' would move its production from New York to Los Angeles in a cost-cutting effort to help keep the show in production. There was buzz that 'AMC' had a three-year commitment because of the move, but on April 14, 2011 ABC announced that the show had been canceled.

In early July, production company Prospect Park announced that it would be continuing both 'AMC' and 'OLTL' with new episodes on-line. Ironing out the details has taken time, but it was recently announced that both Mathison and Lindsay Hartley (Cara) would be partaking in the new venture. Stay tuned.
There are many theories as to what led to the demise of 'AMC' and other soaps. Changing lifestyles, preempting the show too often (as occurred during the O.J. Simpson trial), a revolving door of head writers, micro-managing from network executives, losing veteran characters (Brooke, for example) and killing off a favorite like Dixie with poison pancakes all played a role in driving fans away.

Susan Lucci
"There's a certain poetry to it," Walt Willey (Jackson) says of 'AMC' being the first soap to possibly move to the Web. "This show is responsible for many groundbreaking social issues. Why not be in on the ground floor [of shows going to the Internet]?"

Writers and producers usually give viewers (mostly) happy endings when series conclude. Many actors including Gellar, Eva LaRue (Maria), Barr and Canary returned for final episodes. Deceased characters came back, too, which was a bit of a stretch for 'AMC,' which is more grounded in reality than other soaps. But viewers were more than forgiving since it meant they got to see past favorites like Zach and Stuart once more. Leo and Gillian appeared in fantasy sequences with respective true loves Greenlee and Ryan, too.

Because the stories of 'AMC' may pick up again next year online, there are rumors the show will literally go out with a bang today so that viewers will have something to tune into in the future.

If the show does make it to the Web, Knight says the ultimate credit will belong to Nixon. "It's due to the heart and soul that Agnes put into the show over 40 years ago," he says.

It's unconfirmed if Lucci will partake in the Web version of 'AMC.' Meanwhile, only the writers and actors know if Erica will give up an opportunity in Hollywood in order to stay with Jackson.

"If Erica were smart, she'd recognize that clearly this man would be the love of any woman's life," Lucci told reporters back in August. "But because she has had abandonment issues she's on this quest. She knows something's not quite right. Is she someone who's capable of having a lasting relationship? What a tragedy [if she's not] because Jackson is such a great man."

Tune in to the finale to see what Erica decides and how the show concludes its ABC run.

While this is goodbye to 'AMC' on ABC, viewers will hopefully get to revisit their Pine Valley pals when the show returns online in 2012.

Check out the shocking 'All My Children' cliffhanger:

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I have watched AMC since it first aired... This is such a terrible loss for daytime television. First they take all of you out on New York - make you relocated to California and then they cancel the show. What a shame!! So looking forward to AMC coming back - even if it is online. Better this than nothing at all. Today is Monday and the day feels so empty without all of you in my house. Best of everything that life has to offer to all of you!

September 26 2011 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The idiots at ABC think putting a show called "the Chew" is good marketing , at least as the boycott occurs they make it easy!!!!

September 23 2011 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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