In the past several months, there have been major behind-the-scenes changes at ABC, moves that have many critics wondering exactly what the alphabet network has planned.
Felicia Minei Behr, an Emmy-winning former executive producer for All My Children, was elevated to Senior Vice President of Programming for ABC Daytime this past summer. Behr's career in the soaps spans some three decades, with stops at All My Children, Ryan's Hope and, most recently, As The World Turns. Behr took over for Donna Cooper, who left the position at the end of the summer.
While significant, the Behr placement wasn't exactly visible or of much interest to the casual daytime viewer. In the wake of Behr's appointment came a more visible change with significantly more impact on the average soap opera fan. In early October, Agnes Nixon was named Overall Storyline Consultant for all four --- All My Children, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Port Charles --- ABC soaps. Nixon has an extensive history with daytime television, having created One Life to Live, All My Children and Loving.
The role to which Nixon was appointed is a new position within ABC. It is widely believed that Nixon will help oversee the increasing number of crossovers between the various soaps. For example, some fans grumbled that Linda Dano's much ballyhooed crossovers as Rae Cummings on all four ABC soaps could have been much better if her character has been better integrated into the various ongoing storylines. Additionally, All My Children's Skye Chandler set up shop in One Life to Live's fictional town of Llanview and Thorsten Kaye now plays a character on Port Charles that is the look-alike brother of the character he used to play on One Life to Live.
Though Nixon has proven skills in mastering delicate, controversial and powerful storylines, some fans remain critical of the multi-soap stories. "I don't want to have to watch other soaps to know what's happening to a character I like," remarks one ABC viewer. It is this sentiment that Nixon and others at ABC may have to overcome.
It should not be assumed that Nixon's only role in her new position will be that of overseer of crossovers. The very nature definition of her position seems almost to imply that Nixon will be dabbling in the creation, development and execution of various plots on all of the ABC soaps.
Shortly after the announcement that Nixon was leaving her stomping grounds at All My Children, ABC announced sweeping changes to its struggling soap, Port Charles. Out were its head writers and in were a series of changes to the way the show's storylines would take place. James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten signed to take over as head writers, marking the sixth change to the head writing team in Port Charles' three-year history. Lorraine Broderick, a familiar face within the network, was brought on as breakdown writer.
As its ratings continued to sag and the addition of powerhouse actress Kimberlin Brown (Rachel Locke and formerly Sheila Carter on The Bold and the Beautiful) failing to have positive upswing for the, Port Charles reached into its bag of tricks one more time. In an attempt to resuscitate the show, ABC decided that the typical soap opera storyline storytelling would fade away. In its place would be a "story arc" format, a 12-week storytelling format used by popular primetime drama series. The hope is that fans will tune in and be intrigued by stories that wrap up in a timely fashion. Gone will be most --- if not all --- of the ongoing, never-ending plots.