On the 54th Anniversary of One Life to Live’s Debut, a Tribute to the Brilliance of Agnes Nixon’s ‘Baby’ — and a Photo Album So Full of Memories, It’ll Make You Feel Like You Never Left Llanview
The soap opera that ABC debuted on July 15, 1968, would change the face of daytime TV forever.
Agnes Nixon wasn’t interested in repeating herself. “Been there” and “done that” were four words that the Another World writer and future soap legend never wanted to utter, even as far back as the late 1960s. So when ABC, wowed by her work at NBC, beseeched her to whip it up a new show, she refused to trot out the same-old, same-old — you know, vanilla characters with vanilla problems.
Instead, the visionary conceived One Life to Live as a more diverse drama than daytime had ever known and created in its setting of Llanview a true melting pot where characters of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds could and would intersect and connect. And what a revelation it was: a soap that actually looked and felt like real life, warts and all.
“I used to say that I was taking the soap out of WASP valley,” Nixon recalled for the Archive of American Television in 2011. “We had blue-collar and very low-income [families] and and, of course, an integrated cast, Black and white. It was different in that way.”
And spectacularly so. In the decades that followed, One Life to Live would become arguably better known for its flights of fancy, audacious gambles that miraculously paid off though they took characters to heaven (and back!), the Wild West and even the underground city of Eterna.
But the show’s surrender to sensationalism does nothing to take away from its initial magnificence. For a time, it was to afternoon TV what Norman Lear’s sitcoms were to nighttime: daring in its honesty and defiant in its determination to enlighten. If a subject made you uncomfortable, big whoop — Nixon was still going to pry open your eyes, and you’d go along with it, too, because you couldn’t wait to tune in tomorrow to see what was going to happen next.
On this momentous occasion, the anniversary of One Life to Live’s debut, join us, won’t you, in taking a stroll down Memory Lane via the below photo gallery, a collection of rare (or at least rarely seen) images from the much-missed soap’s entire ABC run.