Today One Life To Live aired its last episode. Well, there is a longshot that this obituary is premature, since the rights to the show belong to a company still trying to make it into a completely online program, but more and more the signs point toward today being the absolute end.
I won’t really review the finale in this space. I suspect most of my readers won’t get the references anyway and, besides, the whole thing was so much a consolatory letter to fans that it’s practically review-proof. I will say they probably took the best approach possible, treating it more or less like an average episode (and even ending with a twist/teaser, which I suspect they would have done even if the hopes that the show would go online weren’t still fresh at the time of filming) but at the same time providing a degree of closure to most of the on-screen characters.
I should add too that the showrunners have been superb with addressing their grieving fans. One of the storylines that started soon after news of the cancellation hit the news involved the cancellation of Fraternity Row, which had for many years been OLTL‘s “soap within a soap.” One character, Roxy, who matched nearly every popular stereotype about soap opera viewers from being…well, not exactly book smart to being aggressively low-class, organized a protest to save the show. The story culminated with Roxy (along with long-term character David Vickers) storming into the studio where Fraternity Row was filmed and Roxy having an elaborate fantasy where she, and most of the “real” cast, had become characters on Fraternity Row. The result was a single episode dedicated entirely not only to mocking soap conventions (and the less than stellar quality control!), but some of OLTL‘s own recent storylines. But even the lighthearted, postmodern joke episode had to end on a bittersweet note, as Roxy and David – and, of course, their actors – walked out of a vacant and darkened studio hand in hand.
Neither am I going to try to justify my sense of loss or write an apologia for soaps, which are probably the most maligned sub-genre of entertainment in the US right now (besides maybe pro-wrestling and reality TV). I already did all that, after all, and actress Erika Slezak, speaking through her character Vicki Lord (Riley Burke Riley Buchanan Carpenter Davidson Banks), put it all better than I did.
Instead, like any mourner, I’ll just speak briefly about what the deceased meant to me. Since both my parents worked during the day, I spent nearly every weekday with my grandmother, who happened to live next door. Her stories of choice were Days of our Lives and One Life to Live. Even as I got older, I kept watching via VHS tapes, savoring not just the ritual but also the very concept of watching this vast, complex, unfolding, and seemingly infinite story revolving around an entire community. In ’99 when I went off to college I stopped watching (and for the most part television in general). I started again in about 2004/2005, when re-entering academia freed up my schedule and I needed brain candy like never before.
So I literally grew up with the show. I definitely grew up alongside the character of Jessica Buchanan. We went to high school and college and got diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder at pretty much the same time! (I’m kidding about one of those…). Now of course I can’t say I’m devastated that the show is gone now, despite it being a small but constant part of my life for so long. However, it does feel…off, wrong even, that One Life To Live won’t be around for me to awkwardly confess to watching to my next boyfriend, for using as an excuse for a break while I iron out the last chapters of my dissertation, and for watching for the first time in the first home I plan to live indefinitely in. I can’t help but admit, that actually will hurt.