It's not exactly uncharted territory, but it is territory that hasn't been explored in almost twenty years.
One Life to Live will broadcast a week's worth of live episodes all this week. The last time daytime viewers saw a live broadcast of a soap opera, Ronald Reagan was still in the White House. On August 4th, 1983, Search For Tomorrow was forced to air a live episode because the show's taped episode had reportedly been stolen. Later, some claimed that the show's live broadcast as simply a publicity stunt.
The live broadcasts have drawn some detractors who are calling the planned live episodes a publicity stunt. The fact that the live broadcasts occur during a "Sweeps" period seems to bolster these claims. Two primetime shows have had recent success with live broadcasts -- NBC's perennially high-ranked medical drama ER
and ABC's The Drew Carey Show
. It should be noted that both of these shows' live broadcasts have also come during sweeps periods.
Since most soap operas are taped at least two weeks in advance, many of OLTL's performers have never had the experience of performing on live television. In fact, most soap opera performers in general have not had the experience of performing on live television. It is unclear how the show will handle the live broadcasts. The Manhattan studio in which One Life to Live is taped is one of the smallest soap studios. It is unclear if the studio's size will be a benefit or a hindrance. Even with its small size, it is still quite difficult to move the camera equipment from one scene to another. Unlike programs that are shot on location, soap operas have many different sets scattered about the studio where scenes are taped.
There is also a second issue that needs to be addressed by the live broadcast -- flubs and forgotten lines. Fans, it is said, usually tune into live broadcasts not to see a live production - but rather to see if the performers make any mistakes. If there are mistakes, it becomes the hot topic at the water cooler the next day. But if there are no mistakes, the performances are usually forgotten quickly and earn very little word-of-mouth promotion from viewers.
Rival soap As The World Turns reportedly promised to "crash" a location shoot in Central Park -- by streaking (yes, folks, naked soap stars). In many markets ATWT airs opposite OLTL.
Another possible opening for mistakes: OLTL will air a love scene during the week. It's been said that cameras could very easily end up broadcasting things viewers shouldn't see -- LIVE.
OLTL actors will do only one live show, but that same episode will air in all four time zones with no corrections or re-taping.