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Series / One Life to Live

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...cause it's a brand new start.

Daytime soap opera that premiered on ABC in 1968.

The series originally focused on the wealthy Lord family and the blue-collar Riley family of Llanview, Pennsylvania. Heiress Victoria Lord (played by Erika Slezak since 1971) became the centerpiece of the show, later marrying into the Buchanan family, which has served as the series' core ever since. Over the years, Viki has suffered breast cancer, heart disease, a stroke, being shot, and most famously, Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The late 1980s brought a series of outlandish storylines. Viki's near-death experience took her to heaven, depicted as a spaceship inhabited by her departed relations. In 1988, Clint Buchanan fell off a horse and was transported to 1888, where he met his own ancestors, all lookalikes of his 1988 family. Most infamously, in 1989, several characters became trapped in Eterna, a secret city inside a mountain. In 2008, to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary, they 'revisited' two of these storylines. Viki again suffered a near-death experience, but this time Heaven was more like an office building, where she was taken by elevator to be briefly reunited with friends and loved ones. Show creator Agnes Nixon also made an appearance during this segment. In addition, Bo Buchanan (Clint's younger brother) and his nephew Rex Balsom were struck by lightning and transported back in time to 1968's Texas, where everyone believed that Bo was actually his father Asa and that Rex was actually Bo.

In the early 90s, OLTL returned to more socially-conscious storytelling. One story told of a gay teen who confronted homophobia in Llanview. Another featured party girl Marty Saybrooke's brutal gang rape at a fraternity party. This story introduced OLTL's most controversial character, Todd Manning, who led the gang rape. Much like Luke Spencer on General Hospital, the character was kept on the show due to female fans' attraction to him. Todd was discovered to be a long-lost Lord heir, and became a central character, driving away many viewers but like Luke Spencer again became one of the most popular characters and in turn, one of the most beloved anti-heroes in soap history.

Created by Agnes Nixon, OLTL shared its universe with Nixon's other soap, All My Children, and has had many crossovers with same, including a baby-switch story in 2004. One Life to Live aired its last episode on January 13th, 2012, and the characters of John McBain & the Mannings migrated to General Hospital until March 2013. Originally, a company named Prospect Park had purchased the rights to both One Life to Live and All My Children from ABC and was planning to continue the series either on a cable channel or possibly online. Those plans fell through, however, and when the show signed off in 2012, it was presumed that it was gone for good. As of early 2013, however, Prospect Park announced that they would be bringing both shows back after all, with distribution through Hulu and other online video providers. Many of the major performers have agreed to return to the show and shooting began in March 2013, with the premiere on April 29, 2013.

Unfortunately, the show was cancelled once again, this time for good, in September 2013, as a byproduct of a lawsuit between ABC & PP over characters loaned to General Hospital.

This series provides examples of:

  • AB Negative: Tina and CJ, among others
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Greg has to be at least in his early 40s to have been a practicing neurosurgeon for as long as he's explicitly stated to have been. The actress playing his mother is in her mid/late 40s. And he has a 15 year old sister, who's actually Greg's daughter.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: Despite being heterosexual, Andrew struggled with this stereotype during the legendary homophobia storyline in 1992—Marty spread rumors that he'd molested a teenage parishioner in revenge for him rebuffing her advances. Andrew was in fact counseling the boy about his own homosexuality and in the ensuing scandal, had to juggle several dilemmas—defending himself against the accusations, insisting that his personal life was no one's business but his regardless of his sexual orientation, and refusing to break the boy's confidentiality.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Daniel Colson and Oliver Fish.
  • The Baby Trap: Stacy to Rex.
    • Blair ensnared Todd this way into their first marriage to get her hands on his money. Todd became suspicious after her ex-husband Asa warned him that Blair had pulled the same stunt on him and demanded that she take a pregnancy test. Much to her shock and relief, it was positive—Blair had in fact conceived at some point. But she was still found out months later when she miscarried and Todd realized she wasn't as far along as she should have been.
  • Big Bad: Being a soap opera spanning decades, there were quite a few, but the most notable is con-artist turned cult leader Mitch Lawrence, who was responsible for many of the really bad things to happen to the Buchanan and Lord-Manning families from the '80s on.
  • Big Fancy House: the Buchanan mansion, Llanfair and La Boulaie.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Several. But notably the Lords, the Cramers and the Buchanans.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The main character Viki's dad, Victor Lord Sr. Originally seen as simply domineering and overprotective during his original run on the show, it was revealed in the 1990s, presumably after his death, that he was a pedophile who molested Viki as a child. He briefly was revealed to have had his death faked in the early 2000s with Mitch Laurence's assistance, before dying again, during which we got to see the real, ugly Victor Lord Beneath the Mask.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Kevin and Rachel. Her father Hank pretty much hated Kevin and the idea of them dating and gave them grief the entire time (quite hypocritical considering that his ex-wife Nora, Rachel's mother, was white).
  • Bound and Gagged: Hardly uncommon on any soap, but a notable example came in 2003 with Mitch's kidnapping of Blair, who is next seen tied up in her underwear while Mitch calls her husband. She spends a good part of the following episode tied up and blindfolded.
  • Cliffhanger: The final scene of the ABC version revealed that Victor Lord, Jr. was still alive and is somehow being held by Allison Perkins. This also served as an example of Left Hanging; when the final episode was filmed, the show was supposed to continue online, where this plot point would be explained and resolved; indeed, in Episode 1 of the revival, Victor escapes Allison.
    • The revival ends on one too, as the above Alison Perkins was about to murder Clint, and his daughter Natalie walked in on her.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The PP version had much more colorful language, including three F-Bombs. These scenes were later edited down. When certain fans complained about the language, Sound-Effect Bleep came into play.
  • Convenient Coma: Evangeline Wiliamson. Went into a coma for three years after being exposed to a gas leak. She soon went off life support.
  • Crossover: mostly with All My Children, but with other ABC soaps as well.
    • After the show's cancellation, several characters (Starr Manning, Todd Manning, John Mc Bain) moved over to General Hospital, continuing some of the plot threads introduced towards the end of OLTL. Todd's ex-wives Blair Cramer & Tea Delgado made occasional appearances. This lasted until March 2013.
  • Damsel in Distress: Natalie used to often suffer from this back in the day, to be saved by John. This has not happened so much recently, however.
  • Darker and Edgier: Because the revival was an online show, all of the usual FCC restrictions were lifted, allowing for more profanity, and more mature content; while there was no nudity, the cast (specifically the younger cast) showed off a lot more skin.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: When Stacy gets Oliver drunk, sleeps with him in order to get pregnant, he's just a bit annoyed.
  • Downer Ending: Bobby Ford and Cole Thornhart are fighting to get out of Heaven to be with their loved ones, Bobby does the chivalrous thing and lets go moving on to other side. But as soon as Cole and Starr arrive in Port Charles, they get in a car accident and Cole and Hope are killed.
  • Dynamic Entry: Shaun comes to save Starr, Hope, and "Todd" from drug dealers.
    Sergei: (sees Shaun on phone's caller ID) Who is Shaun?
    Shaun: I'm Shaun.
    • Except the actor who plays Shaun sucks and his delivery of the line was more like "I'm Shaun" which didn't sound right and wasn't as cool.
    • Another example occurred when Sam burst into a hotel room where Echo had been holding Dorian hostage, in a Spiderman costume, and taking Echo down with toy web shooters. Did we mention the kid is seven?
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In 2001, Jessica Buchanan's life got flipped turned upside down. First Allison claims she returned the wrong baby after baby Jessica (Natalie) was kidnapped. Then it's revealed Jessica and Natalie are half twins when it was discovered her father was Mitch Laurence and not Clint Buchanan. Then after developing DID to repress childhood sexual abuse, her alter falls in love with a man and gets pregnant by him, just as she comes around to loving the guy...he dies in a freak accident. That freak accident was caused by her aforementioned twin sister's deception. She lapses into her DID again and imprisons her sister, and she's pregnant again. Unfortunately this baby doesn't survive, so ANOTHER alter steals her teen cousin's baby. Eventually, the ruse is lifted and she loses another child. She gets institutionalized (a recurring theme) and finds love with another crazy. Mitch escapes and fucks that up by erasing her mind to when she was a teenager. Her new beau can't cope and thus sleeps with said twin sister. She comes back though...mid coitus with the town pervert who impregnates her. Despite this she attempts marry him, until the ugly truth comes out. You guessed it, DID time. She hooks up with the town pervert and begins to like him, but Jessica takes over again and it's square 1. Just as Jessica and the town pervert begin to fall in love, Mitch returns and kills HIM, somehow a DNA test is found and it's revealed that Clint's her biological father all along. Did I mention she lost a kid before all this too?
  • Entitled Bastard: Jack Manning becomes this in the final years of the ABC run, believing that, as the son of Todd Manning, a wealthy newspaper publisher, and the nephew of both Dorian Lord, Llanview's mayor, and her former stepdaughter and long time "frenemy", Victoria Lord, who, like Todd, is a wealthy newspaper publisher, he's entitled to do whatever he wants, such as ruthlessly bullying Shane Morasco to the point he's nearly Driven to Suicide. It's to the extent he has the gall to be furious at Starr for siding with Shane over him, expecting her to automatically take his side because they're family and calling her out for her "lack of loyalty."
  • Evil Old Folks: Victor Lord was one very vicious old man. Also, Echo Disavoy.
  • False Rape Accusation: Marty inadvertently makes this against Kevin after she's gang-raped, as she was so drunk and traumatized that she confused him with those who did assault her. It doesn't help that the clueless Kevin made a joke that was nearly identical to the taunts her attackers had made and that his sincere efforts at checking up on her came across as trying to intimidate her into keeping her mouth shut.
    • Marty deliberately did this a year earlier. Incensed when Reverend Andrew Carpenter rebuffed her advances, she spread rumors that he had molested a teenage boy.
    • Dorian convinces the dimwitted Emily to file a sexual harassment complaint against her professor Sloan (she wanted to get back at him for writing a tell-all book about her), convincing her that Sloan's completely innocent comments and questions about her schoolwork were in fact sleazy advances.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: Averted and lampshaded when during ex-husband Asa's "funeral" Blair (played by a Caucasian actress) flashbacked to her own wedding to Asa...which occurred when Blair was being played by an Asian American actress. Cue the confused look into the make-up compact.
    • Played straight otherwise. When Blair first returned to town, all of her flashbacks of her relationship with Max Holden were indeed with the blond actress rather than the Asian one.
  • Flash Forward: The revival is set six months after the ABC finale.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: From time to time, OLTL would ditch the storylines in favor of more offbeat plots, such as the cast trading roles, or their take on Chicago.
  • Glasses Are Sexy: A certain assistant DA always wore glasses but eventually admitted that he had 20/20 vision. He had started wearing them in law school because he wanted to be taken seriously but kept wearing them because he found that women loved them.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Blair refuses to abort Patrick's baby, despite the utterly disastrous circumstances—Patrick is in a relationship with Marty, while Blair is married to Todd, which is itself in an upheaval over Todd's return from the dead and kidnapping of their own child, Starr. (There was the Reality Subtext of Blair's portrayer being pregnant in Real Life and TPTB deciding to write it in). Later on, Marty herself becomes pregnant and insists that she will have the baby despite the risks to her health, even as Patrick begs her to reconsider (ironic, given his staunch Catholicism), not wanting to lose her.
  • Hot for Preacher: There must be something in the Llanview water. . .
    • Super Couple Max and Gabrielle ran into this problem, when she was so terrified of her feelings for him that she fled to a convent. Him tracking her down and them making love on the grounds of the rectory changed her mind.
    • Reverend Andrew Carpenter courted Megan Gordon, Cassie Callison, who he eventually married, and Tea Delgado (complicated by the fact that she herself was married)
    • Speaking of Andrew, shortly after being introduced, promiscuous troublemaker Marty Saybrooke repeatedly tried to seduce him. When he rebuffed her advances, she sought revenge by falsely accusing him of molesting a young boy. A few years later, after Marty's Rape Portrayed as Redemption, her feelings resurfaced. This time, Andrew reciprocated and the two had to legitimately struggle to keep their feelings in check, as Andrew was now Happily Married to Cassie.
    • When Andrew's cousin Maggie came to town, it was immediately obvious that she was slated to be a new love interest for the recently widowed Max Holden, given that they instantly took a dislike to each other. Problem is, Maggie was a postulate who was due to take her final vows any day now. She gave it up to be with Max, but left town to resume her studies when the relationship fell apart.
    • Roughly a decade after the Andrew/Marty storyline, Joey Buchanan returned to town as a new seminary graduate under Andrew's tutelage. He very quickly fell for the married Jen Rappaport, jeopardizing his career.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Justin greeted Matthew's return to school with a hurricane of Incredibly Lame Puns (including one on the figurative and literal meanings of the word "lame"); think Ignore the Disability done deliberately.
    Matthew:(disagreeing with the point of Lord of the Flies). I think most people are good.
    Teacher: Great, Matthew. Why don't you tell me why-
    Justin: -But you don't have a leg to stand on, Buchanan!
  • It's All About Me: Jack Manning becomes this near the end of the series, ruthlessly bullying
  • Jerkass: Todd Manning, full stop. Seems to have spread to his twin brother and son, though arguably both are worse.
  • Karma Houdini: Todd is at the top of the list, Cole's racing up it...
    • Inverted with Cole, because killing the serial killer who made everyone's lives hell landed him in prison. It's only 10 years, but enough time for James to get in with Starr...
    • Jack had this going for him for quite some time, but it seems like karma is finally catching up to him.
    • Don't forget Robert Ford. He kept an insane woman from getting treatment, broke her out of the mental institution, then kidnapped her again when she was healed. And she is the one to apologize?
    • When both Ford and Cole are on death's door, Ford is sent to Hell for having raped Jessica, while Cole is allowed to go to Heaven in spite of the murder. Ford finds his way into Heaven, but dies while Cole lives and is allowed to reunite with his parents. Ultimately averted though, Cole and his daughter die in a flaming wreck in Port Chuck.
  • Killed Off for Real: Several major characters throughout the show's run. Viki's sister Meredith was the first, and Viki's first husband Joe Riley was killed off for real before the 70s were over.
  • Lampshade Hanging mixed with Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Most of what David says throughout his storyline with his proposed reality show, and its subsequent turn into an internet telenovela. Memorably: "Thanks to the slow demise of serialized television, there are more and more time slots available for important programming. Like my reality show!" and "Do you have any idea how much money must be in reruns that play on the internet?"
    • In the late 80's Bo was the producer of the soap opera Fraternity Row, which was just an excuse for the writers to mock themselves and their actors. It was brilliant.
      • Robert S. Woods, the actor who plays Bo, also appeared in a commercial with a tagline around that time, and the writers took that as an excuse to have other characters wink and say it to him.
  • Little Miss Badass: Mr, actually. Mr. Samuel. Lord. Manning. Stared down the barrel of a .38. Didn't flinch. 8 years old.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Shane, literally. Diagnosed the very same week that Matthew was paralyzed in a car crash - at least one reviewer said that they risked alienating viewers by having so many horrible things happen to kids they've come to care about happen at once.
  • May–December Romance: Eelderly Victor Lord's off-screen but often-mentioned romance with college student Irene, which became creepier (but also more 'logical') when after a Retcon it was revealed that Victor was a pedophile who had sexually abused his daughter Viki all throughout childhood.
  • Medication Tampering: Determined to keep her mentally ill sister from revealing family secrets, Dorian Lord replaces her antipsychotics with sugar pills, prompting the woman to go off the deep end after years of stability.
  • Musical Episode: Prom Night, Starr X'd Lovers.
  • Mushroom Samba: Cole's withdrawal hallucinations of his family and friends berating him and telling him how he ruined their lives.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Bo Buchanan, multimillionaire oil heir and cop's cop.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: A soap magazine once asked Laura Koffman what kind of a mother her character Cassie would be. She responded, "Dorian (her mother) in disguise—very possessive of her child." Indeed, after miscarrying, she rushed into adopting an abandoned baby, tried to stop his birth mother from visiting, and even tried to kidnap the child, Dorian-like behavior that everyone pitied instead of condemned because of her loss. Both women even separately tried to pay the girl off, prompting her to snap, "First your daughter, now you. Well, now I see where she gets it from."
  • One-Steve Limit
  • Pass Fail: When Carla Benari couldn't get roles as a black actress, she pretended to be a white one. This caused tension between her and her mother Sadie.
  • Perky Female Minion: Allison Perkins
  • Put on a Bus: The characters of Shane, Rex, Gigi, Roxie, and Jessica were written out as of the revival.
  • The Rival: Dorian Cramer towards Viki.
  • Pretty in Mink: If a lady had money, she was occasionally going to wear a full length fur.
  • Rape Portrayed as Redemption: Played straight after Marty's gang rape—she went from a promiscuous, alcoholic, bitchy troublemaker to the town saint. Todd (who spearheaded the gang rape) practically lampshades this by telling her she should be grateful to him for her newfound status.
  • Retcon: Since this is a soap opera, waaaaaay too many to list. But it's worth mentioning one of the show's most infamous and most recurring: the cause of Viki's DID. First it was because her wealthy and powerful father had raised her so strictly and placed so many expectations on her she developed a split personality just to have all the fun and lack of responsibility she never could; then it was from a childhood trauma caused by seeing her parents argue and thinking (falsely) her father had deliberately pushed her mother down the stairs, causing her death; then it was because Viki had repressed memories of walking in on her college roommate and best friend Irene having sex with her father (leading to the birth of her sister Tina); next Viki's DID was because she had gotten pregnant while she was a teenager and her father put the child up for adoption and had her brainwashed into forgetting everything; and finally it was 'revealed' in 1995 that all along (inspired by Sybil and When Rabbit Howls) that Viki's DID was the result of her father routinely raping her from the age of seven until she was in college. To be fair, the 1995 story did tie most of these explanations together (except, understandably, the hyponitized into forgetting an entire pregnancy one).
  • Retired Monster: Victor Lord after he came Back from the Dead briefly before dying for good. He never actually retired, though, and right up until his death he was trying to take the heart of his daughter that he molested as his own.
  • Rivals Team Up: Viki and Dorian usually don't get along. But even they could find common ground to team up against the evil Echo Di Savoy.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Destiny, a Hollywood Homely Sassy Black Teenage Girl.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!:
  • Second Love: Marty is this to Patrick, despite his incredible passion for her, as his backstory includes a fiancée who was murdered. (Which explains why he's so desperate to hang on to her)
  • Serial Killer: the Music Box Killer
    • Also, the K.A.D Killer.
  • Shout-Out: Luna's walking into heaven is very similar to the ending of Ghost (1990).
  • Shower of Angst
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Tea's daughter Danielle (b.2003) who is now (2013) twenty-one.
    • Joey Buchanan. (Nathan Fillion plays the best Joey ever. Just sayin')
    • Most recently, Jack Manning, Todd's first son, who was born in 2001, is now (2013) eighteen.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Todd Manning. Rape Marty Saybrooke? Check. Save Marty Saybrooke? Check. Assault a blind Nora? Check. Save his long lost niece and nephew while on the run from the law? Check. Kill a man by exploding his yacht? You betcha. He's made a career on these.
  • Split Personality: both Viki and her daughter Jessica
    • Viki's personalities were Niki (sexually promiscuous and fun-loving - although she was Flanderized throughout the show's run - as well as the one personality established the longest on the show and who makes the most appearances), Jean Randolph (the authoritative, emotionless personality who "cleaned up messes"), Tori (personable but sarcastic and ruthless, even violent), Tommy (a teenage boy with a raging temper but fiercely protective of Viki), Princess (modeled after Viki's seven year old self who first experienced her father's abuse), and Victor (how Viki saw her father). Jessica's were Tess (angry and hypersexual, like a combo of Niki and Tori), Bess (a lot like Viki's Jean personality), and Wes (modeled after a brash male Navy SEAL), with even more personalities hinted at before the show was cancelled.
  • Taking the Bullet: Bo for Rex. He lived.
  • Teens Are Monsters: the whole class laughed at Justin's above-described Hurricane of Puns as though it was genuinely funny.
    • Jack Manning is teetering on the line between a plain Jerkass and a monster, and he's trying every conceivable method to make himself into a Karma Houdini.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Starr recently had one of these. Markko and Langston were sure to use a condom when they did the deed, though Lola poking holes in Langston's nearly caused this. Gigi also had one with Shane. Destiny had Matthew's baby.
    • Jessica Buchanan was also pregnant as a teen, although the baby, who was named after her dead half-sister Megan, was stillborn after Jessica was hit by a car. Speaking of Megan, Viki was pregnant with her as a teenager, and the fact that Viki's father had her brainwashed into forgetting the pregnancy and birth ever happened was one of the explanations for Viki's DID before it was retconed into being childhood sexual abuse.
  • Their First Time: Starr and Cole, Langston and Markko.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Everyone has their moments.
    • Destiny's parents somehow make a bizarre cross between this and the Moral Event Horizon by indirectly being responsible for Greg's involvement with Elijah Clarke's schemes just because they're way too stubborn to admit that Destiny is not really their daughter.
  • Two-Teacher School: Llanview High. Physically, it's one re-dressable classroom set, a short stretch of hallway and the gym. It's fully rendered compared to the Warwick School, which consists of one dorm room, an even smaller bit of hallway, and a single Minerva McGonagall Expy.
  • Unexpected Positive: Blair was suffering from dizzy spells, but terrified of going to the doctor and finding out what might be wrong. On-again, off-again paramour Max offered to go with her. Sure enough, Blair only had an allergy, while Max was found to have an aneurysm.
  • Villain Has a Point: Carlo Hesser is an evil, murderous psychopath, but he's absolutely right to blast Alex for lying to him about being pregnant and her idiotic plans to procure a baby to pass of as theirs. He outright incredulously asks her how she thought she could get away with it.
  • Where da White Women At?: Hank and Nora, though their marriage happened off-screen as part of Hank's backstory. This made Hank's objections to their daughter Rachel dating the white Kevin quite hypocritical.
    • Hank's brother RJ had a long-lost daughter, fathered during a long-ago love affair with a white woman, with whom he briefly rekindled their relationship when she came to town.
    • Christian (Latino) and Jessica.
    • Antonio (Latino) and Andy.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: Many instances, but the volley between Sam and Bo over Matthew's paternity was especially prolonged.
    • Not to mention Rex, who's been wondering for a long time. It turned out his father was Mitch, but was then some fictional character, and finally revealed to be Charlie, only because Clint - the real father - faked the DNA test.
    • Played with during Stacy's pregnancy. When Stacy miscarried her child with Rex, she lost any sense of obligation he felt towards her, and so she immediately tried to find another man to get her pregnant. After hitting on Kyle, who revealed he was gay, and Schuyler, who didn't sleep with her even after she drugged him, so preyed on cop Oliver, who was drunk and struggling with his own coming out. The next day Stacy was pregnant and Oliver came out of the closet. Flash forward some months and Stacy has both Rex and Schuyler believing they are the father of her child, while assuring Oliver it isn't his baby.
  • Wicked Cultured: Carlo Hesser
  • Yandere: Crazy Hannah, complete with Murder the Hypotenuse.