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OLTL: Between Heaven and Hell; 10,000 ep with show's best moments ever!
Topic Started: Aug 17 2007, 08:26 AM (823 Views)

The daytime television landscape was forever changed on July 15, 1968, when soap impresario Agnes Nixon proved you could entertain and enlighten at the same time when she gave birth to her socially relevant serial One Life to Live — originally titled Between Heaven and Hell.

Richly diverse characters – including the Polish Wolek family; the wealthy and powerful Lord dynasty; Jewish-Catholic spouses David Siegel and Eileen Riley; and African-American Gray family – populated Llanview, giving daytime TV not only street cred, but also respectability by some of the most noted journals in America.

Along with its colourful canvas, OLTL achieved a myriad of “firsts” in the genre by tackling subjects that even the network evening news was scared to approach. For example, long before Lindsay Lohan, OLTL broke new ground by merging reality and fiction when it televised group therapy sessions between real-life teenage drug addicts at Odyssey House in New York City in 1970.

I’ve always believed OLTL is the smart person’s soap opera — a delicious potluck of responsible storytelling, complex characters, adult romances, and realistic communities with a touch of the science fiction and adventure thrown in for good measure.

Which is why in 1986, when I was just 12, OLTL hooked me for life — and there was no going back. Having welcomed Llanview into my home for more than half my life, I’m proud to call it one of my all-time favourite shows — and certainly my fave soap of all time, despite its creative descent beginning in the mid ‘90s.

Today, Llanview is a much different town than the one I first became acquainted with. However, for the first time since former top honchos Michael Malone and Linda Gottlieb reinvented OLTL, there’s hope on the horizon. It comes in the form of new heardwriter Ron Carlivati, who as a long-time fan and writer of the soap promises to return it to its former status as daytime’s best soap.

And he’s not wasting any time. Today and tomorrow, Aug. 17, OLTL welcomes back Nathan Fillion (Joey), John Loprieno (Cord), James DePaiva (Max), Tonya Walker (Alex), and Dan Gauthier (Dan) as the Buchanan patriarch Asa dies in his sleep. In honour of the show’s milestone this week, we thought we’d pick our favourite moments from this sudser. See if you agree.

The scenery didn’t stand a chance when two-time Daytime Emmy winner Judith Light — inarguably the best actor to ever grace OLTL — testified as Karen Wolek. She admitted that she worked as a hooker while being married to respected Dr. Larry Wolek, while at Viki’s murder trial in 1979 for killing Marco Dane, Karen’s pimp. Want to check out this historic moment — which many believe is the greatest performance ever in daytime? Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ez79MbbIeFA

Next to Judith Light's shining moment, our favourite OLTL acting scene of all time has to be when one of daytime’s smartest and funniest heroines Megan Gordon Harrison died in the arms of her husband Jake after losing her battle to Lupus. Tuck was nominated for a lead actress Emmy, but many felt she unfairly lost to her co-star, Emmy champ Erika Slezak (Viki) for the same scenes.

OLTL was ahead of its time once again when viewers learned that its heroine Viki Lord suffered from multiple personalities. It was a storyline that began, believe it or not, in its first year, 1968, when the first of her alters, trampy Niki Smith, popped up. Slezak won many of her six Daytime Emmy Awards because of this recurring story thread, which still resonates almost four decades later. However, our favourite arc has to be when we finally learned that Viki split into seven personalities — which included an angry boy, Tommy; and the strict, humourless gatekeeper, Jean — because her father, Victor raped his daughter as a child.

In perhaps OLTL’s most progressive stories ever, we learned that Sadie Gray was depressed over her daughter Clara’s disappearance. Clara had bolted from home at the age of 15. Fast-forward to 1968: Italian-American struggling actress Carla is actually Clara, after months of viewers assuming the actor and character were white. Carla would later became engaged to white Dr. Jim Craig, but later found love with his black colleague Dr. Price Trainor.

Viewers were literally transported to another time and place in one of OLTL’s riskiest storylines ever by then executive producer, the great Paul Rauch. After hitting his head in the desert, Clint traveled back in time to the Old West in 1888, where he formed a beautiful friendship with Buddy McGillis, whose family feared losing their farm to Clint’s greedy ancestor, Buck Buchanan. Clint would fall in love with Viki’s great-grandmother, Ginny Fletcher, and almost married her when he thought all hope of returning to the future was lost. From the authentic costumes, to the stunning location shoots, to the glorious writing, OLTL was on top of its game here in 1988.

On Dec. 17, 1984, inarguably the best opening credits and theme music debuted on daytime TV. Created by Wayne Fitzgerald, the theme music was composed by Dave Grusin with translucent headshots of the cast superimposed over Llanview locations, ending with the title superimposed on a tableau of cast photos. Peabo Bryson lent the catchy lyrics in 1985. Note to producers: this is how you do an opening theme properly. Head to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8bm8XdwYsE to see what we mean.

Long before As the World Turns’ Luke and Noah and All My Children’s Bianca and Lena, OLTL told a masterful umbrella storyline about homophobia revolving around Ryan Phillippe’s character, Billy Douglas in 1992. The epic saga ended with Billy’s confidant, Reverend Andrew Carpenter, paying homage to his late brother’s life by adding a quilt to the rarely seen on TV Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1992. Criminally, OLTL did not win one single Emmy for this heartbreaking storyline, nor were any of its actors or writers nominated.

Rape is not new to daytime, but OLTL was one of the few soaps that took this crime seriously by delving into college gang rapes. Bravely, the soap involved a major character, Kevin Buchanan, while the victim, Marty Saybrooke, tested how society often blamed the women for their attacks especially if they were sexually promiscuous. Luckily, this time around, OLTL earned Emmy Awards for best writing for Michael Malone, best younger actor for Roger Howarth (Todd), best supporting actress for Susan Haskill (Marty), and best actress for Hillary B. Smith (Nora).

Nowadays, there’s something wrong with you as a soap character if you haven’t visited heaven, but back in 1987, OLTL made this now-common plot device a huge event by trailblazing the way. When Viki underwent brain surgery thanks to a tumor, she was reunited with her first love, Joe Riley, among other old-time favourites, as Clint begged his wife to return to her family on earth.

Oh, Tina Lord Roberts — how we miss you! Setting off a classic tale of paternity that would spin off years of stories, our favourite vixen Tina, who was carrying Cord’s baby, was believed to have died when she plunged over the Iguazo Falls in Argentina, where she was visiting with her beau Max Holden in 1987. Months later, Tina showed up at Cord and Kate’s wedding with baby in hand. Turns out Tina convinced new pal Gabrielle Medina to give her and Max’s child Al to pose as CJ. The real kicker, however, came when viewers and Tina learned she had given birth to her baby after surviving the fall!

OLTL once again thought outside the box when it introduced one of its most memorable characters, Megan Gordon. The sassy blonde starred on college soap Fraternity Row, which would later be executive-produced by Bo Buchanan when the series moved to Llanview. Through this inventive storyline, OLTL’s executive producer Paul Rauch hilariously and satirically spoofed the world of daytime. However, it was his piece de resistance, The Daisy Awards, that had us not only laughing, but also singing along in their comical musical homage to the world of soaps in the number “Here’s to the Show,” sung by Megan and her soap rival, Spring Skye! Critics loved it, stating that the Daisy Awards were more entertaining and better produced than the actual real-life Emmy Awards!

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