Is the Buchanan Dynasty nearing its end?
Rumors about Erika Slezak’s departure from the show refuse to die, making it impossible to ignore the potential exit of One Life to Live’s central character, Viki Lord Riley . . . Buchanan Davidson soon to be Banks. Viki’s daughters seem to be marginalized, her sons have been written off, and in order for Viki to have any screen time, she must be folded into Marty’s, Tea’s, Todd’s, Starr’s or Gigi’s stories as nothing more than a mere sounding board for those characters. In spite of my personal preference for Dorian Cramer, I’ve always recognized that Viki’s role is the more important one and that she, for all practical purposes, is THE “one life” in One Life to Live. Viki is the tie that binds or the common thread that has always been woven throughout all the stories to make everything connected in a way that makes sense, but it appears that may no longer be the case.
As for the rest of the Buchanans, what can we say about Clint? Not much. With the exception of inspired yet increasingly rare scenes with his daughters, Jessica and Natalie, he’s reduced to playing spoiler for Bo and Nora. I guess Bo and Nora and Matthew are faring slightly better. They haven’t had that much screen time so far, but I have faint hope that’s due to slow and careful development of what will become a front burner story. It’s nominally meaty material relative to anything the remaining members of the Buchanan clan receive these days, and I’m delighted to see the show utilizing the talents of Bob Woods and Hillary B. Smith more effectively, however, it’s hard to deny that the Buchanans appear to be fading to make way for the Morasco/Balsom family, and the Manning/Thornharts.
While Viki Lord has been the one constant on the show from its origination in 1968, the Buchanans were not always central to One Life to Live. They weren’t introduced until 1979 and were preceded by the Lords, Siegels, Rileys and the Woleks and I’m sure when the first Buchanans started to usurp those families’ positions, there were objections from viewers, but the show managed to survive and even thrive. It’s interesting to note that Bo, Clint and Asa’s arrivals in Llanview and their early years coincided with economic conditions in our nation that were remarkably similar to those we face today. There was an oil crisis, we suffered double digit inflation, forced government bailouts of Chrysler and Lockheed, and thousands of banks failed when the real estate boom of the early 80’s collapsed! Furthermore, the impact of rapidly advancing cable technology and The 1984 Cable Act on the competitive environment for television programmers, as well as on viewing patterns, was equally significant as that of the internet today. So perhaps if my fears come to pass, it is fitting that the Buchanan’s sun will set under much the same circumstances as it arose.
The plain unvarnished truth is that One Life to Live and the soap genre in general must adapt to survive. Survival is good. Former Days of Our Lives executive producer, Ed Scott offered words of hope for soap operas’ survival based on DAYS renaissance in a recent interview conducted with TVGuide Magazine.
“It’s proof a show can turn around in these difficult times, a soap can be saved,” Scott says. “There needs to be leadership, drive, positive energy and a respect for the audience—but that’s nothing new. It’s old-school stuff. Of course, you don’t have all the time in the world. You need to work hard and work fast.”
One of my fellow posters (thanks mjere) on the message boards expressed her opinion, with which I agree, that Brian Frons is firmly committed to finding solutions that will transition ABC Daytime into an evolving new media age. I frequently think his strategies are flawed and many of his decisions are misguided, but I am convinced he is neither stupid, nor does he lack the will to stay the course and see his decisions through. I sincerely wish him success.
If, as I suspect, Brian Frons and Frank Valentini are modeling the new One Life to Live after Days of Our Lives’ recent success, the departures of long time Days fan favorites Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, Mary Beth Evans and Steven Nichols, may lead them to presume that the old formula of keeping veterans at the center of stories is a strategy that can safely be abandoned. However, unlike One Life to Live, I continue to see Days fans excited about the stories and the spoilers for characters whose names I recognize though I haven’t watched that show in years. Days maintains a healthy balanced focus on stories for younger characters or teens that engage the veterans in significant and compelling ways. Furthermore, Days casting news isn’t limited exclusively to some favorite being released from the show to open the floodgates for a seemingly never ending rush of new characters who are then placed directly on the front burner and command the primary focus for the entire show. There are also significant returning veterans such as Wally Kurth and Crystal Chappell, that fans can be assured will drive story for current beloved vets and not simply dilute their already limited screen time further. One Life to Live needs to find that balance.
I personally cannot conceive of One Life to Live without the Buchanans. For me it is like Dynasty without the Carrington’s or Dallas without the Ewings, but I’m reminded that those shows aired their final episodes, not just years but decades ago. I’m forced to accept the harsh truth that I’m no longer valued as a viewer precisely because I can vividly remember those shows. It’s a vaguely familiar feeling, one for which I have to reach into the recesses of distant memory to recognize it as REJECTION! As ridiculous as it seems, this emotion is strangely reminiscent of how I felt that time the cute guy I was crushing on in college dumped me (a one time thing I assure you). I’m going through all the “What did I do wrong?" questions in my brain and I tick off all the ways I’ve faithfully proven my love for One Life to Live through the years.
1. I watched the show even when my favorite characters or couples were not being featured.
2. I remained loyal through disappointments where my girl didn’t get the guy, or worse, she did and he turned out to be a jackass.
3. I accepted that I wasn’t supposed to love EVERYTHING and certain characters had a purpose other than to annoy me.
4. I didn’t sweat the small stuff, like people returning from the dead or twins from different fathers, or SORASing.
5. I endured recasts. Perhaps I complained – a lot – but I endured.
6. Ok! I confess. I took breaks. But I never really meant it! I was always coming back!
7. I shared my guilty pleasure with friends and told them how wonderful the show is and got them hooked.
8. I purchased products from the advertisers who paid the bills for ABC.
After all the love I’ve shown, where did I go wrong? It’s a stretch, and I’m probably just trying to preserve some shred of dignity through this whole REJECTION thing (I have to put the word in all caps to truly own it, like part of some 12 step program), but maybe I became too smart and therefore unwilling to tolerate just any nonsense the powers that be wanted to sell, or maybe we just grew apart. Regardless, I know that this hurts me far worse than it hurts them, because part of me still feels the love and the powers that be just don’t seem to love me back. *sniff*
Thanks for checking out The Good The Bad and The Fugly. I appreciate all the feedback and comments both positive and . . . well not so positive. In my next column I will discuss the “business” of soaps and the ongoing ratings debate. What do ratings really measure and how low can they go? More importantly, how does Brian Frons keep his job? I’ll be interested to hear all your thoughts.