ABC announced today that it's canceling All My Children and One Life to Live, two of the network's three long-running soap operas. Children has been on the air for 41 years, and will end in September, while One Life has been on for 43 years, and will air its last episode in January.
It's been speculated that the network might make a move like this, but it's still a sad day for fans of the two shows (as well as their casts and crews, we imagine). James Poniewozik at Time points out that "soap operas are an all-or-nothing thing; if you don't watch, they may as well not exist, but if you do, they're like no other commitment on TV ... Everyone hates having a favorite show cancelled. But your soap? Damn: that's getting a solid chunk of your life cancelled."
Elsewhere, the cancellations have led critics to reflect on the state of television. The New York Times calls the news a harbinger of "the demise of one of broadcasting's oldest institutions, the daytime soap opera." Entertainment Weekly says it's "a crushing blow" to the genre, while The AV Club notes that "poor Soap Opera Digest just lost one-third of its coverage." Gawker's Brian Moylan offers the observation that "the only form of media more endangered than magazines is soap operas."
The two soaps will be replaced with two new shows: The Chew, a cooking and nutrition program, and The Revolution, a show that will follow various women on a "five-month weight loss journey," according to Deadline. Brian Frons, daytime president of ABC, said that "viewers are looking for different types of programming these days. They are telling us there is room for informative, authentic and fun shows that are relatable, offer a wide variety of opinions and focus on 'real life' takeaways." (However, it's worth noting--as the Times does--that "the new shows are also far less expensive to produce than daily dramas, which employ costly actors, directors and writers.")
For those keeping score, CBS is now leading the pack on soap operas, with a grand total of two--The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. NBC has one, Days of Our Lives. And ABC is down to one as well--but it's General Hospital, which features James Franco as a recurring player. And Franco is basically a force of nature at this point, so it's hard to believe anything he's associated with could come to a premature end.