Dear Susan Lucci, My Only Agenda Is Saving Soaps
Daytime superstar Susan Lucci visited The Talk on Thursday and got fans buzzing about the possibility of All My Children continuing on another network. Before that, she mentioned not believing the AMC cancellation rumors initially because they came from a blogger, who she thought had a "negative agenda." As the blogger most likely in question, Ms. Lucci I must respectfully say, my only agenda has always been helping to save the soaps.
Like millions of soap fans, I adore these serials. Their characters are like family to me; their amazing stories, like treasured heirlooms. The not-so-great tales are like any family secrets, painful, and I'd like to forget them if at all possibly, but some drunk relative keeps bringing them up at the Fourth of July barbecue.
Ms. Lucci, growing up in a sports-obsessed town, straight out of Friday Night Lights, an overweight black kid who would rather read Soap Opera Weekly than play center on his high school football team wasn't in danger of winning any popularity contests. Soaps were my salvation until I could save myself by heading off for college to pursue a writing and broadcasting career.
While most of my peers at Southern Arkansas University were inspired by great writers like Samuel Clemens, Charles Dickens, Berstein and Woodward, I wanted to be the next Agnes Nixon or Bill Bell. This was a fact that netted me more than my fair share of eyerolls, smirks and giggles, but I didn't care. I knew soaps had the same transformative power of the best newspaper articles, plays or movies, because they had transformed me from someone who felt painfully unworthy, because I couldn't hit a fastball like one of my cousins— nor did I want to—into someone who believed I could escape small towns and small minds to lead a fabulous life full of romance, career success and the occasional battle with a Sweeps month serial killer.
Have I been highly critical about AMC's storytelling in recent years? Absolutely. I've been hyper critical of all bad soap stories, because I've born witness to the amazing sagas this genre can tell, as have my droves of readers and podcast listeners.
I would debate the snobbiest of film or theatre buffs on the social themes, characterization and acting chops displayed in such stories as Cindy Chandler's (Ellen Wheeler) battle with AIDS and prejudice in Pine Valley or Bianca Montgomery's (Eden Riegel) coming out. I'd even defend the splashy, escapist romance of Erica Kane and her Hungarian count Dimitri Marick (Michael Nader), or the delicious, melodramatic villainy of Erica's badseed daughter Kendall Hart (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alicia Minshew), and the campy hijinks of Opal (Jill Larson) and Palmer (the late James Mitchell), which is why stories about poisoned pancakes and unaborted fetuses made the whites of my eyes go black.
Never have I once criticized All My Children's veteran cast for the state the show was in. Although I have blasted TIIC's penchant for putting vapid newbies front and center at the expense of said veterans, such as yourself, Debbi Morgan, David Canary, Michael E. Knight, etc.
Have I reported on AMC executive producer Julie Hanan Caruther's inability to bring this show in under budget? Of course I have, because it was the truth. Countless sources have detailed to me what a major headache AMC's budgetary woes have been for Disney in recent years. ABC didn't move All My Children across the country for the weather.
I know Hanan Caruthers is popular with the cast and crew, but in these hard economic times—for all of network TV, not just daytime—it was her task as showrunner to do whatever it took to keep this show financially healthy. She didn't accomplish that. Not that it would have made any difference, since Frank Valentini reportedly has done his job managing One Life to Live's finances effectively and his show is getting the boot as well.
Ms. Lucci, you've mentioned ABC showing you a document stating AMC's financials were sound, however since the cancellations of AMC and OLTL were announced, Frons himself has said in countless interviews they weren't, so I am puzzled as to what exactly you read on my blog that "wasn't true"? I'm sorry, but once again these people lied to your face.
Back in 2008, I was the first person to report that ABC was forcing its daytime employees to take massive, across the board pay cuts. Mere hours after that report went up, ABC Daytime released a statement to Soap Opera Digest saying what I reported wasn't true. The next day, Agnes Nixon confirmed my story to Advertising Age.
I was also the first to report that All My Children would be moved to Los Angeles. ABC Daytime told Soap Central that report was "rumors that had been in the zeitgeist forever." When the move was announced, just days later, I reported that ABC came dangerously close to cancelling both AMC and OLTL, a fact that was angrily denied to the soap press, including me, in phone conversations with ABC Daytime's Vice-President of Publicity and True Lies Jori Petersen.
The PR peeps at ABC Daytime wanted me to be quiet. They even offered me greater access to their stars, interviews, etc. if I would basically just pipe down and be another publicity vehicle for ABC Daytime. As you've probably noticed, much like Julia Roberts' character in Something to Talk About, I have a problem eating poop politely, even for a Kim Zimmer interview.
Since I broke the story of the AMC move, I've ran numerous reports on Frons' aggressive development of vehicles to replace ABC's soaps—long before the mainstream media decided to go there—hoping that if I got the word out, fans and the industry could fight back a la the efforts to save primetime shows like Chuck and Fringe. Silly Jamey, tricks are for kids.
Over and over again my coverage of the state of ABC Daytime, my calls to action, were dismissed. Then, after Brian Frons broke the hearts of millions of soap fans by announcing the cancellations of two soaps at once, he went to Deadline and in one fell swoop, confirmed each and every expose, rumor report and breaking news item I've reported about ABC Daytime on this blog since 2008.
I am sorry Ms. Lucci, but the agenda you should have been focused on was Brian Frons', not mine. I'm simply a loudmouth, black, overweight fanboy from Texas who didn't want to see his 'stories' go away. I'm not the one with Erica Kane's blood on my hands—Mickey Mouse is.
At any rate, I still love me some Erica Kane and you, La Lucci, and pray you're right about someone picking up AMC, not to mention OLTL and GH, if and when it comes to that. In the meantime, I'm gonna keep on blogging and keep on watching you both on AMC and in interviews like the one below: