Wednesday, July 15, 2009 12:35 AM ET | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — A look to both the past and the future.
One of the best things about posting this bi-monthly column on the 15th and 30th of each month, is that it presents me with a unique opportunity every July 15th to pay homage to the soap I grew up with on its anniversary.
Without getting into the whole history of the show as I have done in past columns (and will soon delve into again with the re-posting of an article I wrote for SON in honor of the show’s 39th anniversary back in 2007), I would like to take a moment to recall the rich and endearing legacy that is Llanview and “One Life to Live.”
What began in the mid-1960s as an alternative plan for creator Agnes Nixon following the original rejection of the concept that would later become “All My Children,” “One Life to Live” was born and premiered on ABC on July 15, 1968. Considering the ‘Life’ the show has led in the 41 years that have followed, I can only image what the show would have been like had Nixon been allowed to keep her original title of “Between Heaven and Hell.”
It is difficult to comprehend just how many characters and actors (contract, recurring, dayplayers, extras, and special guests) have graced the “One Life to Live” studios during the past four decades. Some were more memorable than others, but all hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the more ardent “OLTL” fans. So, congratulations “One Life to Live” on 41 spectacular years, and here’s to many more years to come. Happy anniversary “OLTL!”
Speaking of the countless characters who have called Llanview home over the years, one of the best known is Dorian Cramer Lord, perhaps the second most recognizable character on the show (after, of course, Erika Slezak’s Victoria “Viki” Lord Davidson). Although she is one of five actresses who have tackled the role of the dastardly town villainess since the character first arrived in Llanview in 1973, Robin Strasser has become the most identifiable to many current and long-time “One Life” fans.
The evolution of the character known as Dorian began nearly five years after “OLTL’s” premiere, in April of 1973. First portrayed by Nancy Pinkerton, Dorian took a job as a doctor at Llanview Hospital, and almost immediately began having an affair with one of her married colleagues, Dr. Mark Toland. But it would be a few years before the character really took off when, in an attempt to get back at Viki (whom she blamed for helping to get her relieved of her duties at the hospital following the accidental death of one of her patients and the ensuing cover-up), Dorian married and became the personal nurse of Viki’s powerful father, Victor Lord. Following his death in 1976, Viki accused her new step-mother of murdering her father, and would continue to do so for nearly twenty years until the truth (or was it?) was finally revealed that Tori, one of Viki’s six alternate personalities, actually did the deed.
This and many other plot twists and turn over the years has given Dorian countless numbers of storyline opportunities, which added layers upon layers of depth to the character, who has developed into the exact opposite of the ultra sweet Viki (in a sense, the anti-Viki). The relationship has led much of the drama on “One Life” for decades. In 1974, Dixie Carter (best known as Julia Sugarbaker on the 1990s sitcom “Designing Women”), stepped into the role of Dorian for several months while Nancy Pinkerton was on maternity leave. After leaving the show in 1977, Pinkerton was replaced by actress Claire Milas. Strasser then took over the role 1979 and remained until 1987, when she was replaced by her erie look-alive Elaine Princi two years later. Strasser later returned to “One Life” in 1993, and left again in 2000, before returning the latest time in 2003.
Despite Strasser’s long tenure with the show, which has spanned roughly half of “OLTL’s” 41-year run, she apparently isn’t immune to getting the shaft by soap and network executives. In recent weeks, the actress has been imbattled in a no-win situation with her employers. In an era where ‘younger is better’ has become the industry norm, the 64-year Strasser, who has always had a flare for the dramatic, feels that she is being squeezed out. ABC has reportedly offered her a new ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ contract complete with a huge paycut. As a result, the soap vet has been taking a time out to mull over the offer, before announcing her decision to her legion of fans and supporters on her hotline.
As “One Life to Live” viewers anxiously await her decision, it provides a chance to examine if and how Llanview could survive without the character of Dorian Cramer Lord. Despite the fact that Dorian has become what some may call a ‘legacy character,’ one who has a long history with a particular show and has developed countless ties and connections to various other characters within the show, ”OLTL” could (and has) survive without the head of the Cramer family on canvas. ‘Life’ would go on, with the other veteran cast members and characters picking up the slack, as was the case in both 1987 and 2000.
However, that certainly does not mean that Dorian’s absence would go unnoticed. Llanview without Dorian Lord would create a huge void that would be difficult to fill. What would become of her family (Blair, Starr, Addie, Langston, etc…)? Who would Viki have to spar with? In short, what would become of the countless others Dorian has interacted with throughout Llanview? Dorian is a historic character and would be a tremendous lose to the show, much like when Asa Buchanan was written off. Even nearly two years after the show killed off the character, his absence is still strongly felt while watching the show. Removing Dorian from “OLTL” would have the same impact. It’s not like disposing of characters who have only called for a couple of years. Instead, a stupid move like this could cause a ripple effect that could result in the dismissal of other veteran castmembers and characters as well.
I’m by no means a television executive or insider, but it’s seems common sense to me that having a nice balance between younger and more mature castmembers on a show makes it more watchable and enjoyable, then if the cast was made up of nothing but pimple-faced teenagers and attractive young adults who couldn’t act themselves out of a paper bag. It’s often the older castmates that become the voice of reason on a show, and create a sense of stability. And, despite what the network brass may tell you, younger people actually enjoy watching older, more established actors on a show as much, if not more so, then people their own age. Take a close look at the weekly soap ratings sometime, and you will notice that on days when veteran castmembers are featured, the ratings tend to go up. I suppose one could say the bump was simply the result of more older viewers tuning in to see characters they actually recognize, but I have my doubts. It is more likely a combination of the two. And the powers that be should rejoice when the ratings go up for their shows, regardless of the reason. But, in reality, they’re not because all they care about is the young 18-34 year old demographic. Even though I myself fall into that particular age range (I’ll be 30 in December), I do not consider myself a part of specific demographic, mainly because I detest most of what advertisers and television programmers think I want to see. Perhaps I’m just different from others my age, or maybe (just maybe) these idoits have the wrong idea about what young people want. Either way, I enjoy seeing characters such as Dorian, Viki, Bo, Nora, Clint, Addie, Nigel, and Renee much more than Stacy, Rex, Gigi, Starr, and Cole. There are a few exceptions however. I adore Langston and Markko, as well as Marcie and Michael (damn “OLTL” for getting rid of them). However, in general, I prefer to watch the older actors and characters, and wish the sudser would bring back more faces from the past, especially those who called Llanview home back before I was born. I would pay good money to see that.
Well, it appears I have drifted off topic, instead finding a soap box and climbing atop it to spout my latest incoherent ramblings about things that grind my gears right now on “One Life to Live.” I tend to do that a lot as I get older, concerning just about anything in life that makes me mad. I suppose it’s just a sign that I’m becoming more set in my ways as I advance in years. I have found that I can be as stubborn and hard-headed as ever as I approach thirtysomething. At any rate, please just look over my madness and ignore me as I’m sure most of you often do anyway. Ha ha
In conclusion, I believe that “One Life to Live” has become somewhat stable in the weeks since my last column. It hasn’t gotten much better, but it also hasn’t gotten much worse. Even so, I take some solace (and a great deal of enjoyment) in the news that “OLTL” has been ABC’s top rated daytime drama for two straight weeks. I bet Brian Frons nearly crapped his pants when he saw that ABCD’s red-headed stepchild passed up the baby (“All My Children”) and the crown jewel (“General Hospital”) on the faltering network’s daytime line-up. Looks like that $3 million investment to broadcast “GH” in HD really paid off. Ha! I just hope “OLTL” can keep it up. Shame that the main reason it is highest of the three is because it sucks less than the other two, and not because the quality is so much better.
For those of you unable to figure out the answers to the trivia questions from my last column, here they are (correct answers in bold): Question #1: Back in 1988, Ursula Blackwell rigged something to blow up on Tina Lord when she remarried Cord Roberts. But what was it? a) the church, b) the bouquet, c) the wedding cake, or d) the horse-drawn carriage. Question #2: What were the names of the two warring gangs in Angel Square in 1996? a) The Arrows and the Prides, b) The Bullets and the Hawks, c) The Cutters and the Wolves, or d) The Diehards and the Falcons. Question #3: How did Margaret Cochran blackmail Todd into sleeping with her back in 2005? a) She threatened to kill Blair, b) She had kidnapped his children, c) She threatened to set fire to the bed in which he was tied, and d) She threatened to turn evidence against him over to the police. And Question #4: In 1976, what sport was Brad Vernon a professional in? a) baseball, b) football, c) tennis, or d) golf.
Hope you enjoyed those questions, and that they didn’t prove too difficult for you. Now time for this week’s trivia challenge: Question #1: In 1998, which supposedly deceased villain was Dorian Lord’s guide during her trip to hell? a) Mitch Laurence, b) Marco Dane, c) Carlo Hesser, or d) Victor Lord. Question #2: In 2001, Max Holden interrupted Asa’s marriage to Gabrielle Medina, mistakenly beleiving that he was marrying which one of his many ex-wives? a) Alex, b) Blair, c) Becky Lee, or d) Delila. Question #3: How much money did Todd Manning promise to give his lawyer Téa Delgado is she married him in 1997? a) Half a million dollars, b) $1 million, c) $5 million, or d) $10 million. And Question #4: What political office was Kevin Buchanan elected to back in 2004? a) mayor of Llanview, b) lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, c) state senator, or d) district attorney. I’ll have the answers in the July 15th edition of the column. But if you are stumped and can’t wait, you may want to consult a copy of The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book by Gerry Waggett. Just a suggestion…. but one you might find useful (except when trying to figure out first question, which I came up with myself. However the answer to it can be found elsewhere in this column).
That concludes yet another installment of “My View of Llanview.” Hope you enjoyed reading this latest installment of my column. Have a great summer, and I hope you will join me again on July 30 for more thoughts and opinions on Llanview.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…
“One Life to Live” airs Weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Check local listings.
Discussion: My View of Llanview: July 15 Edition