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OLTL and GH Expand to 45 Minutes!


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1/77 Daytime TV Stars, issue #18

On July 26th, ABC drastically changed its afternoon serial lineup. One Life to Live and General Hospital were both expanded to forty-five minutes, and their broadcasting order was reversed. One Life to Live now airs in the East from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m.; General Hospital runs from 3:15 to 4:00 p.m.

Many people in the serial world have questioned why ABC has chosen to expand two serials which, currently have low Nielsen ratings. Previously, only high-rated serials have had their formats enlarged: Another World, Days of Our Lives, and As the World Turns. Some people have speculated that ABC's move is some sort of extreme "test" to discover which of the two shows can compete successfully with the hour Another World, that the loser-show will then be cancelled and the winner will go to an hour.

"That theory is absolutely false," says Joe Stuart, assistant daytime head at ABC and former producer of The Doctors. "We feel that both One Life to Live and General Hospital have great potential, even though at the moment the ratings are low. There has been no discussion whatsoever of cancellation. What we're doing to improve the ratings is sharpening the writing of both shows - bringing them new vitality. The Pollocks, who did such a fine job with The Doctors before they were fired by the producers who came after me, are now writing General Hospital. They are bringing younger actors and more dramatic content to the show, and getting rid of some of the older characters who have lost appeal for viewers. There have also been a number of changes on One Life to Live. George Reinholt and Jacquie Courtney, for instance, are adding to the dramatic quality of that show.

"We've chosen to expand the formats of these shows for several reasons. We feel that in the forty-five minute property it is easier to sustain dramatic quality. The writers can say more with the same characters with forty-five minutes than they can in a half-hour. We're also enlarging both shows as a deliberate device to counterprogram Another World."

How making the two half-hour shows into forty-five minute shows will help ABC fight the high ratings of NBC's Another World is obvious from looking at the structure of the new time periods. Another World runs from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST, and along with All in the Family - 3:00 to 3:30 p.m. EST - practically owns most of the viewing audience in that time period. Because One Life to Live will now end at 3:15, fifteen minutes after the beginning of Another World and All in the Family, viewers who originally tuned into One Life and watch until the end will suddenly find that they have missed the beginnings of both competing shows and will tend to keep their dials tuned to General Hospital, which starts at 3:15. (It is even possible that ABC decided against the hour format in favor of the forty-five minute one in order to gain this new stronghold.)

Of course, none of these plans to raise ABC's ratings between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m. will work unless One Life to Live and General Hospital actually attract more viewers in and of themselves. Joe Stuart is realistic about the competition ABC faces. "We won't have trouble in the 2:30 time slot. Another World is certainly our strongest competition. It may be a little down now because of their major cast changes, but the show has been down before and has always bounced back. I know it won't be easy, but eventually we're going to get the ratings."

So the expansion of two shows to forty-five minutes is not the result of high ratings but a device to get them. Many viewers, incidentally, may wonder why the order of General Hospital (which used to be aired first) and One Life to Live has been changed. The answer is simple: it's another tactic. Since 2:30 starts ABC's afternoon block, One Life to Live, which has better ratings than General Hospital, was a natural choice for that time period. The assumption always is that once viewers begin watching a block of serials they stay with it. It's always better to start a block with the most popular show.

It seems no accident that ABC's ambitions to fight NBC's king-of-the-mountain status began with the addition of George Reinholt and Jacquie Courtney to One Life to Live some months back. Now George and Jacquie have become major weapons in ABC's all-out bloody war against NBC's Another World.

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It's so ironic. In another three or four years, AW would be in the ratings basement, while GH and OLTL would become top-rated shows. Were the Pollocks still writing GH when Gloria Monty came on board?

Schemering says that Irving and Tex Ellman took over "briefly" for the Pollocks (they were the ones who put Scotty and Laura together), then Richard and Suzanne Holland were brought back, then Doug Marland was hired by Jackie Smith, then Smith hired Gloria Monty.

I guess AW's issues were more about burnout and the 90 minute expansion but OLTL and GH having such a big revival in the late 70s were a real knockout punch for AW. Too bad NBC Daytime was so ineptly run by that time.

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Funny, no mention at all of AMC, which was still a half-hour after GH and OLTL expanded.

What's interesting is that Stuart was pretty much right and the whole thing turned into success for GH and OLTL. I think the thing that sealed the deal for them was finally closing up the gap between RH/AMC and those two.

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It's kind of strange to think that RH was one of their most popular soaps throughout the mid/late 70s, yet they were happy to throw it away for Loving.

It sounds like Joe Stuart was a smarter daytime planner than EP, going by his work on OLTL/RH/LOVING.

OLTL and GH both improved so much in quality. If soaps bothered to do that today things might be very different.

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I guess AW's issues were more about burnout and the 90 minute expansion but OLTL and GH having such a big revival in the late 70s were a real knockout punch for AW. Too bad NBC Daytime was so ineptly run by that time.

I think were several issues that brought AW down. The whole NBC prime time schedule was collapsing, the 90-minute format was unmanageable, they were trying to spin off Texas, and the show began suffering an identity crisis with the use of soap cliches that Lemay had managed to avoid. Also, the ABC shows at this point were tremendously appealing to younger viewers. AW, and the whole NBC daytime lineup for that matter, didn't stand a chance.

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I think were several issues that brought AW down. The whole NBC prime time schedule was collapsing, the 90-minute format was unmanageable, they were trying to spin off Texas, and the show began suffering an identity crisis with the use of soap cliches that Lemay had managed to avoid. Also, the ABC shows at this point were tremendously appealing to younger viewers. AW, and the whole NBC daytime lineup for that matter, didn't stand a chance.

I agree. There were a lot of other issues going on...it's just a shame though, because NBC had such unique shows and yet most of them are gone now and have been gone for ages. CBS managed to fight off ABC, yet NBC never did.

Even AW's last few years of popularity were, at least from what I've read and what Lemay and Schemering both said, shock value stuff which didn't match what Lemay wanted to do. OLTL and GH both had such strong identities - OLTL not so much over its lifespan but at that time it had one - and were done with real love and care. NBC just seemed to let AW flail about.

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I agree. There were a lot of other issues going on...it's just a shame though, because NBC had such unique shows and yet most of them are gone now and have been gone for ages. CBS managed to fight off ABC, yet NBC never did.

Even AW's last few years of popularity were, at least from what I've read and what Lemay and Schemering both said, shock value stuff which didn't match what Lemay wanted to do. OLTL and GH both had such strong identities - OLTL not so much over its lifespan but at that time it had one - and were done with real love and care. NBC just seemed to let AW flail about.

I remember reading in Schmering's book that the melodramatic elements that Lemay reluctantly began to introduce into the show spiked the ratings temporarily, but did a lot of damage to the show's integrity. If I remember correctly, Schmering cited the Sven kidnaps Rachel story and her subsequent blindness. The show was #1 or #2 during this storyline, but fell to #8 when it was over, and never ever recovered. Kind of hazy, but it was something to that effect. The cliches went againt the show's grain and became an end to themselves. Then all the shows began to GH-ify themselves, with action adventure stories and curly blond actors, which made matters worse. Wasn't The Doctors, a quiet little show for many years, doing a story about someone who discovered the fountain of youth? It was just ridiculous. I think they had 1.9 rating when they were cancelled, which was horrendous for that time.

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Yeah, The Doctors did that stuff as a last-ditch effort. Schemering blamed their falling ratings on the same problems GH had (he blamed overuse of medical stories) and that they weren't able to get out of the rut the way GH did.

They mentioned The Doctors in this issue, in that the ratings had been falling and that it didn't help that popular new actors quickly left, like Gil Gerard, or that Althea kept getting brain surgery over and over. From what some have said in The Doctors thread it was kind of a long, slow decline. I wonder how much was wrong place wrong time wrong network.

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OLTL was a bit of a lame duck at that time in that it had been on the air for almost 10 years and never really broken through in the ratings. Kind of like Loving in the 80's and 90's,in that it had a decent pedigree (Agnes Nixon).AMC by this stage,despite being 2 years younger had already powered into the top 5.

The difference between OLTL and Loving was that OLTL pretty much kept it's focus whereas Loving kept revamping stories,actors and direction.

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It was a mistake that Lemay and Rauch starting getting rid of the Matthews family, AW's core family beginning there in 1975. AW declined sharply along with the rest of Fred Silverman NBC era and the other P&G soaps(except GL). Not mention the 90-minute expansion, the bloated egos of Rauch and Lemay etc. An increase of better competition was just another punch the show got.

Although I don't know much about ABC soaps but it would have been jarring to me to have a new show come at :15 past the hour. I remember when TBS use to always schedule for shows to start at :05 and :35. I guess this was beneficial, if you didn't see what you liked the first 15 mins on AW, well...

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