From its premiere in Jan. 1970 until its unexpected cancellation in September 2011, All My Children was a staple on ABC TV's daytime line-up. The wildly popular soap opera was perhaps best known for introducing Susan Lucci to the world. As the much married, self-absorbed vixen Erica Kane, a role she played for AMC's entire run, the stunningly beautiful, Emmy-winning actress became the first bona fide celebrity to emerge from the show's sudsy genre.
And now the show is back – kind of. It’s been given a new life online and will be available on Hulu, Hulu Plus, and iTunes. It’s already resumed production and will air four half hour episodes per week, with a recap episode on Fridays.
The soap opera was noted for its writing. The serial blended elements of drawing room comedy with tales that touched upon topical social issues of the day. In its early years, AMC raised many eyebrows when it took on the hot button issue of the Vietnam War — which it condemned wholeheartedly.
Created by long time soap scribe Agnes Nixon, whose sister soap One Life To Live dared to deal with racial issues, All My Children was perhaps the first daytime drama to present LGBT people in a positive light. As early as 1982, Saturday Night Fever veteran Donna Pescow was cast as Dr. Lynn Carson, a family therapist. Openly lesbian, Dr. Carson was forced to deal with a female client who was developing a crush on her.
During the 1990s, Chris Bruno joined AMC as schoolteacher Michael Delaney. In a groundbreaking storyline, Mr. Delaney comes out to his class. One of his students reacts to the news by also coming out.
Shortly before she retired in 2000, Agnes Nixon made one final, bold move. She outed Bianca, the teenaged daughter of Erica Kane, as a lesbian. As played by Eden Riegel, Bianca embraced her sexual identity. She had a number of girlfriends, including a 2006 fling with a pre-op, lesbian identified transgender named Zoe (Jeffrey Carlson), who was first seen as a man named Zarf.
Bianca became an icon to the lesbian community, and the series won several GLAAD media awards. When All My Children aired its final ABC episode, Bianca (then played by Christina Bennett Lind) was a happy mom in a new relationship with another mom.
But All My Children didn't fade quietly into the sunset. Amid public accusations from Susan Lucci that network executive Brian Frons had intentionally sabotaged a show he personally disliked, fans mounted a massive, relentless campaign to get it back.
And now, the impossible has indeed happened. In early March, All My Children, along with sister show One Life to Live, resumed production. To insure a smooth transition to their new online medium, the now 85-year-old Agnes Nixon has come out of retirement, working as a consultant to both series.
To the delight of the fan base, Eden Riegel, Bianca's original portrayal, has agreed to join other returning cast members. Chatting by phone from the AMC studios in Connecticut, Riegel described her return as a "guest story arc."
"There's trouble in paradise," she said. "Bianca is going through a rough time romantically." But as the actress pointed out, that kind of drama is what makes the show a soap. "I can't reveal too much because the producers want the launch to be spoiler-free." She did reveal that Bianca's daughter is now a teenager, and promised some mother-daughter drama.
Riegel described the show's revival as "kinda surreal. Everyone was shocked when it was pulled off the air. You don't expect people who are part of your life to disappear. Bianca is an important part of my life."
Riegel promises fans that the new AMC will return to the series' roots.
"Towards the end we were competing with prime time TV. Stories were event-driven, there were explosions. But at its heart and in its history, All My Children is relationship-driven, and the new regime is paying attention to the fans,” she said. “We're only a couple of days into shooting, and everyone is very optimistic."
"There's an appeal that these shows have that's not going away. There's a comfort to the intimate relationship that fans have with the soaps. People still crave stories that we can take our time in telling and that are developed over a long period of time. These stories are about relationships. And we're not holding back — we're going for it!"
The actress revealed that her own sister is a lesbian in a long-term relationship.
"She doesn't advise me at all," Riegel said. "She totally gave me permission to make the role my own. I grew up around people who are gay and in loving relationships, so this is an important story for me to tell."
Riegel wasn't able to say how long her current AMC run will last. At press time, she was taping episodes on the East Coast, while also preparing for a five week run in the play American Misfit at the Boston Court Theater in Pasadena CA. The post-Revolutionary War drama will run from April 4 through May 12. Bianca will remain a presence on All My Children, she said. "I'll appear on All My Children as my schedule allows," she said.
All My Children returns via Hulu, Hulu Plus and iTunes on Monday, April 29, 2013.
For updates on the show's progress, or to chat with other fans, visit soapcentral.comDavid-Elijah Nahmod