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All My Children (Series History/Overview)
Topic Started: Aug 16 2007, 10:35 AM (1,514 Views)
Steve Frame
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Posted Image All My Children

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Network: ABC
Premiere Date: January 5, 1970
Setting: Pine Valley, Pennsylvania
Created By: Agnes Nixon
Senior Cast Members: Ray MacDonnell & Susan Lucci
Studio: West 66th Street
Golden Periods: late 1970's/early 1980's followed by the early 1990's

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Broadcast History:

January 5, 1970-July 4, 1975: 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM
July 7, 1975-December 31, 1976: 12:30 PM to 1:00 PM
January 3, 1977-April 22, 1977: 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM
April 25, 1977-present: 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Except for a period between July 7, 1975 and December 31, 1976, when AMC ran at 12:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30 a.m. Central time in order to make way for the new Ryan's Hope, the show has aired since its inception at 1 p.m./12 Noon. It replaced the original version of the game show Dream House, which had been plagued by several prize-related scandals. The timeslot caused some ratings (and thus audience development) problems in the show's early years, as it faced local newscasts or tape-delayed games or soaps on NBC and CBS affiliates, but AMC persevered despite the handicap and fought very strongly against NBC's Days of Our Lives from 1979 onward. Unless one counts The Today Show, AMC has stayed in its timeslot longer than any other daytime program running on American broadcast television, having reached a total of 30 consecutive years of broadcasting daily at 1 p.m./Noon on January 3, 2007.

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Original Cast:

Mike Bersell (Bobby Martin)
Mark Dawson (Ted Brent)
Diana de Vegh (Ann Tyler)
Paul Dumont (Lincon Tyler)
Mary Fickett (Ruth Brent)
Hugh Franklin (Dr. Charles Tyler)
Karen Gorney (Tara Martin)
Richard Hatch (Philip Brent)
Hilda Haynes (Lois Sloane)
Frances Heflin (Mona Kane)
Lawrence Keith (Nick Davis)
Susan Lucci (Erica Kane)
Ray MacDonnell (Dr. Joseph Martin)
Rosemary Prinz (Amy Tyler)
Jack Stauffer (Chuck Tyler)
Christine Thomas (Kate Martin)
Ruth Warrick (Phoebe Tyler)

Brief Summary

For over thirty-seven years, America has been entertained by the trials and tribulations of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania – the setting of All My Children, a popular American soap opera that has been broadcast Monday through Friday on the ABC TV network since January 5, 1970. Originally a half-hour in length, the show expanded to an hour in 1977. It is recorded at ABC's television studio on West 66th Street in New York City. As of July 31, 2006, the show has a filmed (as opposed to taped) appearance.

All My Children was created by Agnes Nixon, who had previously created One Life to Live for ABC following her success as head writer for Another World and The Guiding Light. All My Children was her first love and first major creation. She set the show in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, a small suburb of Philadelphia.

The title of the show refers to the brotherhood of man. Nixon believed that it didn't matter who one was, what one looked like, or where one was from — for every human being was a child of God. The poem at the start of the All My Children photo album – written by Nixon herself – reads:

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

The poem epitomizes the goal of All My Children's storytelling. In it’s storytelling, the show is famous for dealing with many socially relevant issues reflective of the times. Such issues include child abuse (tied to a real organization in Philadelphia, which drew a strong and practical response), abortion, drug use, the Vietnam War, homosexuality, political nonconformity and rape. But it has always done it in a classy and intelligent way, which is why the show has lasted so long and remained so popular.

One example of social issue storytelling was the presentation of the first legal abortion on TV - Erica Kane's, in May 1973. Assuming the audience would be shocked, AMC's writers gave Erica a "bad" motive (she wanted a modeling job), and, following the abortion, septicemia (planned as educational as well as "poetic justice"). But Susan Lucci's fan mail cheered Erica on, and urged her to take the modeling job in spite of the objections of her then-husband, Jeff Martin. During Erica's infection, the switch-boards at ABC lit up with calls from doctors and nurses, offering their medical opinions on how best to treat the character's case. The controversy didn’t hurt ratings, which rose from an 8.2 to a 9.1 Household rating.

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Another example from early in the show was Nixon's dealing with the very relevant Vietnam War. Before All My Children debuted no show, let alone daytime soap, had discussed the war in any depth. There was the character of Phoebe, a conservative, and Amy, a free-spirited liberal, both butting heads over the war, with Amy often leading protests around Pine Valley. When the character of Amy left, Ruth took over as the anti-war voice. Nixon had the young hero, Phillip Brent, drafted against his will and later missing in action. Political pages in U.S. newspapers took note of a speech against the war by Ruth Martin (Mary Fickett), who had raised Phillip as her son: even the mothers on those escapist soap operas were against the war, the newspapers said. Fickett won the first Emmy given to a daytime performer, for her work during the 1972-73 season. In 1987, Agnes Nixon remembered simply, "I didn't feel that took so much courage. It was like a mother speaking. Like Friendly Fire." But Friendly Fire was not published until 1976. In 1974, Nixon turned to humanizing the Vietnamese, showing Phillip, in one of the few war scenes on TV soap opera, being rescued by a young Vietnamese (played by a man who had been adopted one of Nixon's friends).

With the death of core cast member Ruth Warrick in January 2005, only two original cast members remain - Ray MacDonnell and Susan Lucci.

The show's ratings did not start out strong, however. In its first year on the air, it ranked #17 out of 19 soaps. Despite this, its audience was building with each passing year, which kept both Nixon and ABC happy. At one time, the program was so popular that it was the most widely-recorded television show in the United States, and once had an audience that was estimated to be 30% male. The show ranked #1 in the daytime Nielsen ratings from 1978-1979. Throughout most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, All My Children was the #2 daytime soap opera on the air.

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How It Began

In the 1960s Agnes Nixon, then head writer for The Guiding Light, tried to sell a property called All My Children to NBC, then CBS, then NBC again through the auspices of sponsor Procter & Gamble. Not totally giving up but choosing to concentrate on her current work, she put the bible for All My Children aside and continued her work on The Guiding Light and then Another World. On Another World, she referred to her AMC bible and borrowed her mother/daughter team of Erica and Mona and retooled them in the new characters of Ada Davis and her daughter, Rachel Davis. Despite her continued success and sponsor support, it was not until the start of 1970 that her brainchild finally made it’s way on to the TV screens of American homes.

Several weeks before All My Children went on the air, local newspapers and TV listings carried an ad saying, “Penny is back.” What they meant was Rosemary Prinz had decided to return to daytime TV. Tiring of her role on As The World Turns several years earlier, she found the part of Amy Tyler, “a liberal political activist, dedicated to the peace movement” as a challenge and the type of role she had been looking for. As the show went on the air, she agreed to stay for six months and help build a lasting audience, which is just what she did.

Nixon strived to create a soap that was topical – dealing with “current political and social issues” which are often controversial but for both sides to always be given. She wanted to be able to illustrate social issues to the audience. She wanted all this while also injecting regular humor into the script. To keep the action more real, she allowed the audience to locate her fictional "Pine Valley" on a map: situated just outside of Philadelphia, it was a mere hour-long train ride from New York City.

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Early Stories/Story Highlights

The show's first action took place around several families and characters. Phoebe Tyler, who fashioned herself as "Queen of Pine Valley", was the definition of a rich snob. There was also single mother Mona Kane and her prima donna daughter, Erica. Contrasting this was the stable Martin Family, who have long been thought of as the symbolic foundation of All My Children.

If Phoebe was the "Queen of Pine Valley", then Susan Lucci's Erica Kane was definitely the "Princess". Kane's first scene in Pine Valley will live in infamy. She spelled out to her mother everything she was looking for in a husband, establishing her ambition and her knack for rich men. But deep inside, Erica was nursing the scars of her abandonment by her father, successful film director Eric Kane. At the same time, her father's life in Hollywood was the driving force for her longing to leave Pine Valley. Destined to break up the young romance of classmates Tara Martin (Karen Lynn Gorney) and Phil Brent (Richard Hatch), Erica found out that Phil was not Ruth's son, but the son of Amy (Rosemary Prinz). In a selfish attempt to break up Phil and Tara, she told everyone the truth.

Other early successes were the love triangle of Nick Davis, Ann Tyler, and Paul Martin; the romance of Lincoln Tyler and Kitty Shea; and the affair of Mona Kane and Charles Tyler.

Other story or show highlights through the years:

April 1972: Dr. Joe Martin wed Ruth Brent.
1973: Erica Kane has the first legal abortion on daytime TV
1973: Mary Fickett became the first daytime performer to win an Emmy for her acting in a daytime soap opera
1974: Margo Flax Martin’s facelift was one of the first major storylines on television discussing cosmetic surgery and its psychological effects.

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1976: The arrivals of Brooke English and Myrtle Lum
December 1976: Paul and Anne struggled to make future plans for their mentally handicapped daughter, Beth.
December 25, 1976: Phil and Tara wed.
January 1977: Mark Dalton, a promising composer, came to Pine Valley and discovered that the woman he was attracted to was his half sister, Erica.
1978: All My Children becomes the first soap to have an exotic location shoot, sending some of its actors to St. Croix.
September 6, 1978: Erica married former football hero Tom Cudahy on the rebound from her affair with Nick Davis. Erica & Tom's honeymoon was in St. Croix.

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1979: The arrivals of Palmer Cortlandt, Dr. Cliff Warner, and Nina Cortlandt and the beginning of AMC's 2nd big young love story.
1979: Phil Brent died in a plane crash
December 1979: Ruth, while over the age of 40, gave birth to a healthy son, Joey.
June 2, 1980: Langley Wallingford and Phoebe Tyler wed.
September 3, 1980: Cliff and Nina Warner wed on the grounds of Cortlandt Manor.
1982: Jenny and Jessie's summer in New York City which carried the show to #1 for 10 weeks.
1982: Daytime’s first black supercouple, All My Children’s Angie and Jesse, are introduced.
June 1982: Jesse Hubbard and Angie Baxter shared their first kiss.
1983: The show is the first daytime soap to tackle homosexuality when Devon McFadden (Tricia Pursley Hawkins) believed she was falling for her daughter's psychiatrist, Lynn Carson (Donna Pescow).
February 14, 1984: Greg Nelson and Jenny Gardner were married.
March 8, 1984: Erica Kane and Adam Chandler wed for the first time.
May 1984: Jenny died in a jet-ski explosion, which was rigged by her jilted fiancé, Tony.
February 1985: Tad and Hillary were married at Wallingford Mansion
April 12, 1985: Daisy was found standing over Zach’s dead body, holding a bloody knife. Later, it came out that Marian had killed the pimp/gigolo.
August 28, 1986: Wade Matthews conned Phoebe Wallingford into marriage.
December 22, 1986: In a ritzy, black-and-white ceremony at NYC’s Tavern On The Green, Dr. Cliff Warner, for the third time, wed Nina Cortlandt.

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1987: Mark Dalton's cocaine abuse story
1987-1988: The Cindy Parker AIDS story
Feb 1988: Erica gives birth to Bianca
March 2, 1988: Mark Dalton wed Ellen Shepard.
May 26, 1988: Stuart wed Cindy after revealing she had been diagnosed with HIV.
November 21, 1988: Jeremy Hunter wed Natalie Cortlandt while his presumed-dead ex-lover, Marissa, sat undetected in the back of the church
December 26, 1988: Nico Kelly (Maurice Benard) and Julie Chandler (Lauren Holly) were wed in a simple, country wedding. However, the wedding turned out to be invalid because the mayor who officiated at the ceremony was not authorized to perform marriages.
May 15, 1989: In 1989, Nico Kelly and Cecily Davidson first wed as a result of a business arrangement to gain access to her trust fund.
1989: Cindy Chandler passed away from AIDS
December 29, 1989: Tad and Dixie first walked down the aisle to become man and wife. However, the groom had a difficult time getting to the church — he arrived dirty and disheveled!
Early 1990's: Molly's leukemia, Ceara Connor (Genie Francis)’s incest, Mona’s lung cancer, and Deconstruction (a story about racism), were all praised in the soap magazines for their social conscience.
May 21, 1990: Erica and Travis wed again, on this date in 1990, but this time for the sake of their daughter, Bianca.
April 28, 1993: Gloria Marsh wed Adam Chandler
June 22, 1993: Erica wed the dashing Count Dimitri.
1994: All My Children wins it's first Daytime Emmy for Best Show
1994: Mona Kane Tyler dies
June 1994: Frances Heflin, who portrayed Erica’s understanding mother Mona, passed away.
March 11, 1994: Edmund Grey and Dr. Maria Santos were wed in a fairy-tale ceremony.
July 1994: A tornado tore through Pine Valley and leveled the Martin house, nearly killing Tad, who was crushed by the rubble.
Mid 1990's: Erica's drug addiction and the Michael Donnelly story of homophobia were highlights
1995-96: Erica's drug abuse story takes her to The Betty Ford Center.
1996: AMC became the first soap opera to begin each episode with a recap of the previous day and to end the show with a preview
June 7, 1996: Noah Keefer and Julia Santos had a Cinderella-style fairy-tale wedding.
July 4, 1996: Maria decides to flee the country so she doesn’t have to give up baby Sam.
1997: Bianca's anorexia
May 23, 1997: With the bride lying on a hospital bed, Hayley Vaughan wed Matéo Santos.
June 1997: Erica finally returned baby Sonya to biological mother Maria
April 16, 1998: Erica was shocked when she came face to face with her presumed-dead ex, Mike Roy.
July 15, 1998: Holidays, Hayley and Matéo’s bar, burned down due to Lee having tampered with the boiler to get even with Adam.
1999: AMC is chosen as the "Worst of 1998" by Soap Opera Digest Magazine
May 3, 1999: While trapped in Adam’s cabin during a storm, Liza went into labor.
August 1999: Dixie suffered a miscarriage.
September 28, 1999: Joan Rivers made a guest appearance in Pine Valley when David and Erica had a rendezvous in New York City.
June 2000: Cindy, who passed away in 1989 of AIDS, appeared to son Scott as a ghost during the AIDS Day Of Compassion.
July 27, 2000: Eden Riegel first aired as Erica Kane’s daughter, Bianca
Dec 2000: Bianca admits to Erica that she is a lesbian
January 29, 2001: Vanessa was shot by Adam’s private investigator, who mistook her for Arlene, who was really Hayley.
June 16, 2001: Hayley and Matéo wed.
June 25, 2001: Ryan watched as Gillian’s heart was given to Laura.
July 2001: Chris saved Bianca when a fire broke out at SOS
2003: Bianca's rape
2004-2005: The Baby Switch
December 16, 2004: All My Children's 9000th show
2005: The Return of Dixie
June 2005: The 10th wedding of Erica Kane - this time to Jackson Montgomery
Feb 2006: The reveal that Josh is the son Erica Kane & Jeff Martin whom she believed she aborted in 1973.
July 25, 2006: First episode using the simulated film look airs.
December 2006: Daytime's first transgendered character Zarf debuted.
2006-2007: The Satin Slayer

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All My Children's first success was its telling of young love. ABC wanted a soap opera that would bring in young viewers, and slowly the program was accomplishing just that. The presentation of young love was a theme AMC carried for many years. Their great young love couples through the years have been Phil and Tara, Cliff and Nina, Greg and Jenny, Tad and Dixie, Jesse and Angie, Cecily and Nico, Noah and Julia & Leo and Greenlee. The show has attempted in recent years to capture the earlier successes of these young couples but have not fully done so at this point. Presently the team of Sean and Colby looks promising.

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Behind the Scenes Highlights

The earliest production schedule I have discovered for the show was in a 1974 issue of Daytime TV magazine. In it listed as Producer was Bud Kloss; Associate Producer was Felicia Behr; and writers were Agnes Nixon, Kathryn McCabe, Wisner Washam, and Kitty Basky. The show was taped approximately two weeks in advance at the time.

From 1970 and into the 1980s, the show was either written by Nixon herself or by her protégé, Wisner Washam. He was groomed by Nixon to take the reins in the 1980s while she focused on other endeavors, like creating and launching Loving in 1983. Lorraine Broderick and Margaret DePriest also had brief stints as head writers in the 1980s.

By 1989, ABC wanted changes at All My Children. The show was getting about 6.5 million viewers per episode, but many felt that the program had lost its unique sense of humor. Agnes Nixon and Wisner Washam, who had both written the show since the '70s, were faced with a merry-go-round of executive producers, starting in the mid-'80s when producer Jacqueline Babbin left. Jorn Winther was hired to executive produce the show. Efforts were made to bring the show back to the glory days of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. This would mean adding a mixture of both social issues and also the intelligent satire that the show had been known for.

Felicia Minei Behr was hired as the new executive producer in early 1989. Having been a producer on Ryan's Hope, Behr was familiar with All My Children, having been a crew member dating back to 1970. Behr welcomed the input of both Nixon and Washam. In the eyes of Agnes Nixon, the show finally had a stable executive producer.

At the time of Behr's hiring in early 1989, the show usually ranked around #4 in the ratings, by 1990, the show had inched up to the #3 spot. ABC chose Megan McTavish, a former actress who had been on the writing team since 1987, to be its new head writer. She was promoted to head writer in 1992, with Nixon serving as Executive Head Writer.

However, by the early-mid-1990s, some of McTavish's storytelling received criticism for being gimmick-driven (i.e. multiple dual roles, bomb plots). Reports soon surfaced that Behr and McTavish were having conflicts about storylines and the direction of AMC. After the O.J. Simpson trial pre-empted daytime television programs throughout late 1994 and into 1995, many soaps saw their ratings decline, and All My Children was no different. When Megan McTavish was fired from her head writing post in the spring, former associate head writer Lorraine Broderick was tapped by Behr as the new head writer.

Broderick's tenure under Behr was popular among critics and fans for returning AMC to its socially relevant, character-driven roots. Her biggest successes were Erica's drug addiction story (with the character receiving treatment at the Betty Ford Center), and also the story of a homophobia over a gay high school boy and a history teacher. But with the ratings still stagnant, ABC fired longtime executive producer Felicia Minei Behr, and brought in Francesca James (who had previously won an Emmy award acting on the show as twins Kitty and Kelly).

Despite winning three consecutive Daytime Emmys for writing during her tenure on AMC, Broderick was replaced in December 1997 by her predecessor, McTavish. In 1998 the show, yet again, got a new executive producer, Jean Dadario Burke, taking over from Francesca James. She would become known to many speculating fans as a weak producer with little vision.

As ratings began to fall in the late 1990s, ABC convinced Agnes Nixon to make a brief return.

After even more staff turnover in recent years, Megan McTavish, who wrote the show for most of the '90s, again returned. Her storylines began airing in July 2003, which included the controversial rape of Bianca.

Gone upon McTavish's latest return was Jean Dadario Burke as executive producer, being replaced with Julie Hanan Carruthers.

Under McTavish, ratings bounced from the middle of the pack and the bottom. McTavish resorted to quick thinking and stunt casting to lure back long-time viewers. Despite some brief success, this tenure as head writer quickly became a bust, especially due to the rewriting of history for several characters esp. the rewriting of the first legal abortion by having Erica's child to have lived. This did not sit well with viewers or the critics.

It was officially announced February 2007 that Megan McTavish had been fired to the great relief of many fans. The new head writers of All My Children were announced May 21 to be Barbara J. Esensten and James Harmon Brown, a team who have written for Loving, The City, Port Charles and Days of Our Lives among other popular shows.

Starting with the July 25, 2006 episode, All My Children is being shown in the simulated film look which has drawn some viewer criticism (this look had previously been seen on Disney Channel sitcoms, such as That's So Raven and Hannah Montana). It is still shot on videotape, like other soap operas but they apply a digital process in post production which edits out every other frame, giving the show a distorted faux film look. Previews in the end credits are still seen in the normal unprocessed video. Hand held cameras were heavily used as well, but are now being used less often.

Famous Graduates: Mischa Barton, Jonathan Bennett, Lacey Chabert, Kim Delaney, Josh Duhamel, Jesse McCartney, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lauren Holly, Michelle Trachtenburg, Kelly Ripa, and Mark Consuelos

Seeing Double: Regularly appearing characters played by the same person: Kitty and Kelly Cole (Francesca James), Adam and Stuart Chandler (David Canary), Natalie Dillon and Janet Green (Kate Collins), Lily Montgomery and Ava Benton (Leven Rambin), Cindy Chandler and Karen Parker (Ellen Wheeler), Maggie/Frankie (Elizabeth Hendrickson); Tad Martin and Ted Orsini (Michael E. Knight); and Alex Marick & Anna Devane Scorpio (Finola Hughes).

Steve Frame (July 24, 2007; updated & corrected July 26, 2007)

Sources: Wikipedia.org; TV.com; Daytime TV Super Special, No. 1; The Best of Daytime TV, 10th Anniversary Issue 1966-1976; "Sex and Suffering in the Afternoon," Time, Jan 12, 1976; Museum of Broadcast History: Agnes Nixon; MemorableTV.com; Almost Human
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Thanks so much!
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Bella Principessa
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Oh, I didnt know we could customize this! LOL

Aug 16 2007, 10:35 AM

September 28, 1999: Joan Rivers made a guest appearance in Pine Valley when David and Erica had a rendezvous in New York City.

I really liked Joan in this. LOL

Here's the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQERCHwcGtY

This is awesome. So very cool. :D
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Steve Frame
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Updated some Feb. 16, 2008
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Thanks Steve. I don't watch AMC (I only watched from 93 to 00) anymore but I love reading about the history of each soap.

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