On Tuesday, May 17, fans of ABC’s recently canceled “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” protested outside of the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City as the ABC Television Network presented its 2011-2012 broadcast television schedule to its owned & operated stations, affiliates, advertising partners, and the dozens of press outlets gobbling up everything said during the networks upfront presentation. Joining protesting fans were Colleen Zenk (ex-Barbara Ryan, “As The World Turns”), Mimi Torchin (founding Editor in Chief of Soap Opera Weekly), and “One Life to Live’s” Ilene Kristen (Roxy Balsom). Also making their presence known was the Broadcast Television Union NABET CWA Local 16.
The four hour event was the first opportunity for fans of the canceled daytime dramas to share their displeasure with Disney/ABC Television Group executives who were on hand to present ABC’s 13 new primetime television programs including soaps “Pan Am, “Good Christian Belles” and “Revenge” starring Emily VanCamp, who is best known for her starring roles in The WB’s “Everwood” and ABC’s recently canceled “Brothers & Sisters.” The new series join ABC’s current lineup of soap operas “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” in telling original and groundbreaking stories through “the power of ABC,” which is the theme for the network going into next season.
“The Power of ABC” is the Walt Disney Company owned networks way of touting its position as the No. 1 “must-keep” brand according to a recent poll by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group (SRG). Unfortunately, the “must-keep” network does not consider keeping programming that have collectively helped define the network during its best of times as well as its worst of times. That being “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” which combined have been on the air for 83-years. Individually, the soaps have been around since before the era of “Happy Days” and the groundbreaking mini-series “Roots.” During ABC’s great fall in the early 2000’s, the network continued to thrive with daytime programming while its primetime fortunes were placed in the basket of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” hosted by Regis Philbin. The game show aired four nights a week at one point before ABC found hits in “Housewives,” “Anatomy” and “Lost.”
Reporters from The Wrap, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times and CBC News (Canadian broadcast network) were on hand in covering the event alongside Soap Opera Network and We Love Soaps TV. All together more than 50 individuals showed up for all or part of the protest which was put together in support of canceled “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.” Approximately 25-30 people were present at any given moment according organizers Soap Fans United. This despite officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) frequently checking the validity of a permit registered with the city authorizing the protest from 2-6 PM. According to one of the officer’s we spoke with, they had been asked on numerous occasions by organizer’s of ABC’s upfront event at Lincoln Center whether the protest was legal. The officer’s checked the paperwork and deemed that it was on the up and up. Also in attendance was a producer from The Wendy Williams Show, who interviewed Ilene Kristen for a segment that is likely to appear during the hosts popular “Hot Topics” segment on the Wednesday, May 18 episode of the talk show, according to the producer. Following the end of the upfront and the beginning of the after parties, individuals leaving the ABC presentation were provided with a soap themed rendition of an original song that paid homage to “AMC” and “OLTL” by African-American singer/artist Alura. A full press release from protest organizers clearly pointing out their cause was handed out to departing patrons, who were also seen taking pictures of protesters as they walked to the ABC after party located across the street at the Atlantic Grill.
Brian Frons, President, Daytime, Disney/ABC Television Group, caused a ruckus and was booed by fans after going nearly unnoticed on his way over to the ABC party. The executive was spotted chuckling as he walked by protestors.