More than anything, soap fans seem most critical about their favorite show's writing. It may be twenty years after the fact, but a script writer had better not even think about mentioning that a character was wearing a blue dress in 1988 when the dress was actually red. Soap fans will remember. It takes more than just a writer who is gifted with words to please soap fans. It takes someone with a genuine interest in the show. One Life to Live fans believe they have found that in the show's head writer, Ron Carlivati.
Carlivati is being praised as one of the best writers to hit daytime in some time. He seems to understand the nuances of the genre -- cliffhangers and classic storylines -- and has been credited with turning One Life to Live into ABC's most watchable soap.
"I guess I am most influenced by the fact that I'm a fan," said One Life to Live's head writer Ron Carlivati.
One Life to Live celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and the show is planning a special two-day celebration that offers "riffs on classic moments" from the show's history. Among them are Tina Lord going over a waterfall, Clint going back in time and Viki dying and going to heaven.
Carlivati's philosophy of playing to existing soap fans seems to fly in the face of the belief that soaps need to do whatever they can to attract new viewers. It's sort of an unspoken rule that many soaps have adopted in recent years to try to stem the decline in the ratings.
"Again, being a fan I want to write for the fans that we have," Carlivati noted. "We'd love to have new viewers, of course, but I think that most of our [objective] is holding on to the viewers that we've had, in some cases, for 40 years."
For its writing clips, One Life to Live selected two very different episodes: a nearly all musical episode called "Prom Night: The Musical" and the show's 10,000th episode in which Asa Buchanan died. Killing off the Buchanan family patriarch was a very controversial move, one that Carlivati admits that he didn't think executive producer Frank Valentini would go for.
"Being our 10,000th episode, I went into Frank Valentini and said, 'How do you feel about killing Asa Buchanan?" Carlivati recalled. "His face went white. I thought I was going to get a big no. Phil Carey had left the show so we wanted to honor him in some way instead of saying 'Asa is upstairs.' That was the inspiration for that episode."
IN-DEPTHRead our Daily Recaps of the episode in which Llanview learned of the death of Asa Buchanan.
"Thank you, Frank Valentini for empowering us as directors and providing a space for creativity, passion and fun in our work," said director Jill Mitwell in accepting the Outstanding Directing Team award. "We are so proud and grateful to be a part of this Daytime community where we can tell stories in which hope, faith, and love prevail in this uncertain world."
Like the writing team, One Life to Live submitted two very different episodes to showcase the show. Its two clips were the hospital bombing, which was tied around a storyline on racism, and the Prom Night: The Musical.
With Guiding Light now using a brand new production model to help clip the show's operating expenses, the One Life to Live directors were asked if they had any interest in adopting that format for their show. The question seemed to throw the team, but they answered as diplomatically as possible.
"I'm not sure about style but I think that being on location is something that ABC is looking at very seriously," replied Larry Carpenter. "We're going on a lot more location shoots and trying to do what we're doing in the studio [remotely]."
And doing what they do in the studio requires quite a bit of work. In order to film their on-location scenes, One Life to Live utilizes three different cameras to make sure that the picture quality of their outdoor shoots remains top-notch.
"We do take out lighting people with us [to the outdoor locations] so that we can make the picture as beautiful as possible to match the great lighting design that we have in the studio," Carpenter added.