On the 26th Anniversary of the Debut of a Daring Soap Spinoff, We Look Back at What Might Have Been… and What Still Could Be
On November 13, 1995, Loving became The City.
OK, so it didn’t work. That in no way diminishes the excellent idea that was, rather than cancelling Loving altogether a quarter of a century ago, ABC reinventing it as The City.
Since its debut in 1983, Loving, created by the late, great Agnes Nixon (better known for All My Children and One Life to Live) and iconic As the World Turns headwriter Douglas Marland, had… let’s be kind and say that it had struggled to attract a robust audience. When finally the network took it off life support in 1995, ABC didn’t altogether condemn the show to the vast soap graveyard, it rolled the dice. It took a chance. It thought outside the box.
And it worked… to a point. The storyline that ushered Loving out of existence was a hit. Long-running Alexis Carrington stand-in Gwyneth Alden snapped, murdering everyone in her path in hopes of taking their pain away.
Those characters that remained standing — including Ally (Laura Wright, now Carly on General Hospital), Steffi (Amelia Heinle, now Victoria on The Young and the Restless), and Angie and Jacob (Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams, better known as All My Children’s Angie and Jesse) — did what any sensible person would and got the hell outta Dodge, moving to Manhattan’s trendy SoHo, setting of The City.
It was not entirely or even mostly successful. Though ABC is to be applauded for rebranding rather than altogether condemning Loving, it made a lot of questionable decisions when it came to The City. For instance, who thought that “name” hire Morgan Fairchild, the soap vet who’d technically never headlined a hit series, was the right person to attract eyeballs to the show — especially the kinda young eyeballs that make networks drool?
Then there was The City’s breakout storyline, an ahead-of-its-time plot involving a transgender model. Yes, the actress — Carlotta Chang, wife of As the World Turns’ Paolo Seganti (Damian) — was a dud. And maybe the tone was off. But rather than recast and recalibrate, the soap dropped the subject matter (which wouldn’t be revisited until more than a decade later on All My Children and not successfully until The Bold and the Beautiful outed Maya almost 10 years after that!).
Eventually, The City started throwing Hail Marys, crossing over producer Jane Elliot from General Hospital as her Port Charles alter ego, Tracy Quartermaine, and launching another serial-killer storyline. But the writing was on the wall. It read: Clean out your dressing rooms.
It’s a shame, too, because while the experiment wasn’t successful, it gave ABC room to play with the soap-opera genre. Like General Hospital spinoff Port Charles, it was an anything-goes sorta arena. And if the powers that be had stuck with The City, they could have morphed it into… frankly, any kinda soap they wanted. We still think that ABC should take another stab at daytime drama, combining General Hospital with elements of All My Children and One Life to Live. But you’ve probably already read our idea for a mash-up of the three shows. (No? You can check it out here.)
What do you remember about the soap? How would you have transitioned Loving to The City? Sound off in the comments below, and while you’re here, check out the below photo gallery — in a way, it’s a… well, a tour of The City.
<p><em>Search for Tomorrow</em> alum Morgan Fairchild, who’d appeared on primetime soaps <em>Dallas</em>, <em>Flamingo Road</em> and <em>Falcon Crest</em>, was intended to attract an audience as Sydney Chase. She… erm… didn’t.</p>
<p>ABC MVP Roscoe Born, previously Joe Novak on <em>Ryan’s Hope</em> and Mitch Laurence on <em>One Life to Live</em>, was tapped to play Nick Rivers, an old flame of Sydney’s that… well, never really reignited.</p>
<p><em>The City</em> came <em>thisclose</em> to a groundbreaking storyline with the relationship between shutterbug Bernardo Castro (Philip Anthony-Rodridguez) and transgender model Azure C (Carlotta Chang). But the show couldn’t stand the heat and got out of Hell’s Kitchen. Well, SoHo.</p>
<p>The <em>Loving</em> offshoot hoped to capitalize on Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan’s popularity as <em>All My Children</em>’s Jesse and Angie Hubbard by pairing her character with a Jesse lookalike named Jacob Foster. <em>All My Children</em> fared better when it just up and resurrected Jesse in 2008.</p>
<p>The younger <em>City</em> slickers were Corey Page as Richard Wilkins, George Palermo as Tony Soleito, Amelia Heinle (now Victoria on <em>The Young and the Restless</em>) as Steffi Brewster, Laura Wright (now Carly on <em>General Hospital</em>) as Ally Alden and Ted King as Danny Roberts.</p>
<p>Years after <em>The City</em> paired Wright and King as Ally and Danny, <em>General Hospital</em> re-teamed them as Carly and Lorenzo, the less villainous of the Alcazar twins.</p>
<p>Jocelyn Roberts (Lisa LoCicero, now Olivia on <em>General Hospital</em>) had it bad for good guy Alex Masters (Randolph Mantooth of <em>Emergency!</em> fame).</p>
<p>Before becoming <em>One Life to Live</em>’s conniving Lindsay, Catherine Hickland crossed over Tess from <em>Loving</em> to <em>The City.</em></p>
<p>When Fairchild bailed at the end of her one-year contract, <em>Loving</em> producer Jane Elliot was tasked with reprising her <em>General Hospital</em> role of Tracy Quartermaine. Which, frankly, should’ve worked.</p>
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