On the 27th 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.