‘One Life to Live’ Review: Returning to Llanview Feels Like We Never Left

Photo: Chapman Baehler/TOLN

It’s been over a year since One Life to Live aired its final episode, but you wouldn’t know it when watching the online premiere. Bold, fresh, exciting – adjectives that adequately describe the new beginning set forth by OLTL as fans embark on a new journey on The Online Network.

One Life to Live picked up right where it left off (with time elapsed, of course) and didn’t miss a beat. Instantly, you’re transported to a world with  legendary feuds (Viki and Dorian), single-motherhood (Natalie and Destiny), romance rekindled (Viki and Clint), a grieving mother (Tea), a child crying out for attention (Dani), a young man coming into his own and butting heads with his disapproving father (Matthew and Bo), a man struggling for redemption (Todd), a man determined to get to the life that was taken from him (man in the hood), starting anew (Cutter and Blair), fleeting relevance (David) and ambitious career paths (Jeffrey).

One Life’s slick production, directing, beautiful sets and realistic dialogue made for a seamless transition. As with All My Children, the show looked better than it did on traditional television. Also, little known fact, this was OLTL’s first time in HD. Kudos to executive producer Jennifer Pepperman for making history in that vein as well.

The dark tone took me a little by surprise. There were references to drug abuse, abandonment; there was violence from the mysterious man in the hood, who seemed to be on the hunt for Todd. Dorian and David provided the right touch of camp. Robin Strasser and Tuc Wakins make magic together. Also amusing was David’s delusion that he was so much cooler than he actually was during the grand opening of Cutter and Blair’s new club, Shelter.

Kassie DePaiva’s reaction shot when Blair is rebuffed by the young guy in the club was PERFECT. “Thanks lady, but I’m not really into cougars.” Cue the disgust and offense. The look Todd and Blair exchanged when they locked eyes in the club was everything and then some. Todd was more focused on finding Dani than dealing with Blair, but it reminded me of everything that I enjoyed about “classic” Todd and Blair.

New addition Robert Gorrie was excellent as the arrogant, brash Matthew Buchanan. He was kind of a dick, but still had some charm, especially when he showed compassion for Kelley Missal’s Danielle. There’s definite chemistry between those two, and that chemistry also works well for establishing Corbin Bleu’s character Jeffrey as a friend of theirs.

Danielle is desperately crying out for help through her drug use and partying. Her reason for partying hard in the premiere? It was her “dad’s” birthday – ie Victor, the man she and her brother Jack claim as their father, not their biological father, Todd. Andrew Trischitta’s appearance in the episode was brief, but his scenes were effective. Supporting his sister and basically giving his ass for Todd to kiss.

Melissa Archer looked absolutely amazing! I’m most interested in how Natalie’s life post-John shapes up. She’s a single mother, who was abandoned by the man she thought loved her. She attended the premiere of Shelter and put on a happy face, but the look she gave the couple putting on excessive displays of PDA conveyed just how deep and fresh her romantic wounds still are. Reformed con-man Cutter (Josh Kelly) provided some much needed distraction for Natalie, allowing her to bust a move on the dance floor and ignite the sexual tension that is just beginning to heat up. Excuse me while I fan boy out over them touching, dancing seductively and OH MY GOD THEY ALMOST KISSED. Natalie felt it too. Dude took her breath away. She would return home to her empty apartment (not before disrobing, of course) and curl up in a blanket, loneliness on full display.

The episode climaxed when Dani collapsed after too much partying. Her absentee father ran to her rescue as he carried her to medical help, but unbeknownst to everyone else, Victor Lord Jr. (thank the soap gods, Trevor St. John is back!) was close behind.

Editor’s Highlights

  • The Online Network’s slogan, “We’re not daytime, we’re anytime,” is true in every sense of the word. I watched the premiere four times on different devices: twice on my Xbox (thank you Hulu Plus), once on my iPhone (thank you iTunes) and once on my laptop (thank you Hulu). Each time I experienced something new, and each time I realized how liberating it was to be free from the shackles traditional airtimes.
  • Tea’s trance as she grieved the apparent loss of her child was overwhelmingly sad. What makes that scene even better was the subtext when Dani appeared. Dani wanted her mother’s attention, but Tea was too lost in her own coping to compliment her daughter. Has that been going on ever since Tea lost the baby? Is Dani acting out for attention? Even as adults, we crave the love of our parents. Maybe she feels like she isn’t getting it.
  • David’s 15 minutes are just about up and as such, he’s trying to recapture the public’s attention. There’s nothing sadder than a “celeb” who can’t admit when their time has passed. Loved how he saw Dorian’s crisis as an opportunity to help re-launch his fame.
  • The content wasn’t as racy as hyped. Yes, there was a scene implying fellatio at the night club, but something like that happened in the series premiere of The CW’s 90210.  I didn’t find it racy, but I’m sure some will. Also, the profanity was well done. They cursed when it fit, and didn’t go overboard like USA’s Suits where they say “bullshit” as many times as they can in an episode just because they can.
  • Natalie and Cutter have all the potential in the world. You can’t con a con, and Natalie is the original con of the 00s. Can she see the man he’s becoming instead of the man he was? Will he be able to eliminate the albatross (John) Natalie carries with her? Maybe Cutter won’t be true love, but he’ll be the guy she needs to direct her to the guy of in her future. What better way to get over someone, than getting under someone else?
  • Clint & Viki and Bo and Nora were the steady hands the episode needed. Their relationships are steady, at least based on outward appearances. Clint asking Bo to be his best man was a great touch, and showed just how far the two have come since the time Clint tried to kill him for being with Nora.
  • Was anyone surprised to see Victor Lord, Jr.? It was the biggest, worst-kept non-secret in anytime soaps.  Trevor St. John has always been a favorite of mine and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s happened to Victor over the months. Is he really out for revenge? Should Todd fear what his brother could do?

If the quality of the premiere is an indication of what’s to come, I think we’re in store for greatness. Thom Racina’s biggest challenge will be striking the right tone for storylines. How much camp is too much? Will fans be overwhelmed with dark, heavy storytelling? Racina’s determined to give fans bold, new, exciting stories and I believe he’s the right man for the job.

The rollout for these premieres has been A+ quality. From red carpet premieres to splashy mainstream interviews, everyone wants a piece of the anytime soaps. Will they still want one a week from now? A month? 6 months? I hope Prospect Park continues the promotional offensive in the coming months. It will be as, if not more, important to promote on television, online and through media outlets as it was in the weeks leading to the launch. Don’t forget to treat these actors, writers, producers, etc. as the superstars they are. And most importantly, don’t forget about the fans who helped make this possible.

Well done, One Life to Live. Well done, Prospect Park. Thank you.

Watch the premiere below..

Ryan White-Nobles
Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TV Source Magazine. He's began covering entertainment and soap operas in 2005. In 2009 he co-launched Soap Opera Source, and led the TV Source rebrand in 2012. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.

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