"All My Children" and "One Life to Live" – both decades-old soap operas canceled by ABC in 2011 – have found a new life online, thanks to the efforts of Jeffrey Kwatinetz and Rich Frank.
Prospect Park, the production company owned by the two veteran TV execs, was able to reboot the shows, with many of the same cast members. And online streaming company Hulu and iTunes are offering new episodes starting today.
If the shows find success on the new platform – The New York Times reports they will need 500,000 viewers (a mere sixth of their network audience when they were canceled) to break even – then the online-only reboot might be seen as the next step in what appears to be an Internet television revolution.
Netflix has claimed considerable success with "House of Cards", the DVD rental and video streaming company's closely-watched venture into original programming. And its release of another season of "Arrested Development," a three-season Fox comedy canceled in 2006, is one of the most buzzed about entertainment events of the year.
Kwatinetz told the New York Times he would like to see the reincarnated soaps gain a following among both longtime fans and new viewers – in his words, the "younger people who are already watching most of their TV online."
But don't expect a "House of Cards"-esque binge watch of your favorite soap. Episodes will trickle out daily and watchers can access 10 episodes for free, and more with a subscription.
So will this re-invention of the daytime soap work for a younger, internet-savvy viewer?
It just so happens I fit exactly in that demographic — a young, female, avid television watcher (and would be even if this wasn't my job) who has discovered television programming through online streaming services like Hulu, but never really watched soaps. Do I see these shows getting my attention, as its execs hope?
The ease of use. I found the first episode without any problem on Hulu. It is at the top of hulu.com, a website I'd visit even if I was looking for another show and not "All My Children."
The length. The down-sized, 30-minute episodes of "All My Children" as well as "One Life to Life" are short enough to easily burn through the episodes, making them an easy addition to a pre-work, evening or bedtime routine.
The sex appeal. The sex scenes were racy and hit the viewers early in the show, a nod to what watchers of so-called "prestige dramas" like "The Americans" and "Breaking Bad" have become accustomed to. And there's more uncensored language to round out the modern reality producers are going for.
The production value. Young people like myself were raised on the flashy teen dramas like "Gossip Girl" and "The OC," so they may not be able to get past grainy camera work, flimsy sets or cheesy music that older fans know and love about the genre (though including the song "Internet Killed the Radio Star" was a clever touch, I see what you're doing there "All My Children"). And Hunter – the character described as the hottest boy in school – is no Chace Crawford.
The 42 weeks of progamming. Though I complain when the season finale of a show I love comes around, in reality the 10 to 13 episode season arch that premium cable channels have made their norm is relieving. My obsession will last a month or two, and getting caught up on the show everyone else is talking about can usually be done in a weekend. But 42 weeks — with four new episodes a week? That's just plain daunting to the uninitiated viewer.
In this balancing act of pleasing old and attracting new viewers, "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" are including both old characters and storylines unresolved from the pre-cancellation days as well as new, high school-y cast mates to hook in younger viewers. But despite its modern touches and internet streaming delivery, I don't know if I am willing to give "All My Children the Time."