Sometimes, I go back to Pine Valley. I can smell the perfumes, floral and feminine, as I walk through Lacey’s Department Store. I can hear the rhythmic thumping of techno coming from ConFusion Night Club. I can taste the flaky and decadent banana pancakes at BJ’s. And through it all, I see the faces of my past: Josh Duhamel, Michael B. Jordan, and of course the grand dame herself, Susan Lucci.
That is because Pine Valley is not a real place. It is a fictional suburb on the Philadelphia Main Line created by Agnes Nixon, the legendary and visionary creator of All My Children. Debuting in 1970, All My Children ran for more than 40 years on ABC, following the trials and tribulations of this Pennsylvania town and its eccentric but glamorous denizens. It also launched the careers of several Hollywood superstars, from Duhamel and Jordan to Amanda Seyfried and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The cancellation of this beloved show, which produced more than 10,000 episodes before it ended in 2011, devastated loyal viewers like me. We had come to see Pine Valley as more than just the setting of our favorite show, but a place where we could escape the struggles of our own lives, at least for an hour a day. Ever since, we have not given up hope that our beloved soap may one day return to our screens. Now, with a primetime reboot in the works at ABC, fans have more cause for excitement than ever before–so long as ABC does not let us down. Again.
News of the reboot first broke late last year. Variety reported that show alumni Mark Consuelos and Kelly Ripa–the real-life Hollywood power couple who met on set when they played Mateo Santos and Hayley Vaughan, respectively–were behind the new primetime adaptation. They are executive producing alongside Robert Nixon, the son of the show’s creator, and Leo Richardson, who had previously written for my favorite British soap, EastEnders.
There are no safer hands in which to place All My Children. With such a pedigreed team, fans have every reason to be confident that this reboot will remain faithful to the vision of Agnes Nixon and true to the show’s roots and history. That is, if it happens.
Fans of All My Children have learned not to get our hopes up before. Over the years, we have been treated abysmally by network executives, caught between their desire for high profits and ratings and a legal fight over creative rights that has prematurely ended one reboot already. We’ve been down this road before. It’s become part and parcel of the All My Children fan experience.
With Consuelos and Ripa on board, though, it seems like the project might actually have a chance. ABC made no mention of the project in its recent upfronts, devastating many fans, but it’s not over yet. Earlier this month, Richardson–who finished the pilot script in February–tweeted that they are still waiting to hear back from the network. He urged fans to “make some noise” for the reboot, as the more interest it generates, the more likely ABC is to greenlight the pilot.
As a fan, I am happy to do my part. It is the reason I am writing this article, and I hope it helps. All My Children is such an important part of my life. In my opinion, its cancellation was one of the biggest mistakes in television history. This is a chance for ABC to rectify it, finally doing right by the fans it frankly treated contemptuously 10 years ago. But it’s easy to understand the skepticism.
In my experience, those of us who grew up in the heyday of soaps. You grew up in an ABC, CBS, or NBC household. I myself grew up in a CBS soap family. One of my earliest memories is of my mom watching her “show poppers” and of the opening sequence of The Bold and the Beautiful. I was convinced it was a dirty show because you could see a woman’s cleavage. I was 3, and it was the 1980s. While the number of broadcast channels and outlets grew exponentially since then, the number of soaps has shrunk, leaving only four remaining on American networks.
I didn’t start watching All My Children until high school, and only then because of Bianca Montgomery (played by Eden Riegel). The daughter of Susan Lucci’s legendary Erica Kane, Bianca came out in 2000. This was a controversial and brave decision by the show’s creative team, lead by Agnes Nixon herself. As a young gay man coming to terms with his own sexual orientation, I could not believe it when I heard that a main character’s daughter was gay. Trying to imagine Victoria Newman or Rick Forrester coming out was impossible. Such an important character coming out felt revolutionary. I had to watch this show.
What I soon came to understand, both from the writing – full of such humanity and compassion – and from other fans was that for Agnes Nixon, this was just the latest in a line of groundbreaking and socially conscious stories. Nixon, who created All My Children‘s sister soap One Life to Live, always filled her shows with storylines tackling the issues of the day. One of the earliest OLTL storylines involved a Black woman passing as white (back in the 1960s!), while the early years of AMC (the show, not the network) saw protests against the Vietnam War and Erica Kane having the first legal abortion on television. Later stories involved the class struggles of Black supercouple Jesse and Angie, Bianca’s anorexia, and Erica’s addiction to painkillers.
That was the genius of Agnes Nixon. She understood the unique magic and possibilities of soap opera as a medium. Its serialized nature meant you could go deeper than in primetime, telling nuanced and timely stories without rushing. That it was on five days a week bred a familiarity with the characters which no other genre could match. Fans therefore felt even more of an affinity for them, which meant they were more likely to forgive their mistakes and accept their imperfections. This leant itself brilliantly to telling socially conscious stories, and Agnes did it with aplomb.
From the upright and moral Martins to the scheming and manipulative Chandlers to the ambitious and munificent Santos’, these families were like an extension of my own. Like millions of fans across the country and through the decades, I celebrated their triumphs, I wept at their tragedies, and I took to heart the lessons we learned. When Leo duPres, played by Josh Duhamel, plummeted to his death, I wept along with his widow, Greenlee. When Bianca got her baby back after it was kidnapped by Babe Carey, I celebrated along with the rest of the town. When Simone Torres broke into a sperm bank wearing a cat suit, I howled with laughter.
These are the memories I have. Through high school and college, Pine Valley was my second home. Yet throughout the ‘00s, as was the case across the soap opera industry, ratings declined. It was a trend that began in the 1990s and was the product of a changing world. Workdays were getting longer, attention spans shorter, and people simply weren’t home in the afternoons.
Yet All My Children‘s ratings were still respectable compared to other daytime soaps, and were actually increasing when Brian Frons, then the president of ABC Daytime, abruptly cancelled both All My Children and One Life to Live. It was like “the wind was taken out of me, because I didn’t see it coming,” Susan Lucci said in a 2019 interview. “They had just brought back Agnes Nixon and would allow her back in … so the show was in such good shape at that point, and I just couldn’t believe it.”
Neither could fans. Outraged that our show was being cancelled, and for the cast and crew who had uprooted their lives two years prior to move production from New York to Los Angeles, we rallied around the show. “The fans were so vocal, so upset that they were taking All My Children off the air that they crashed the computer system at ABC,” Lucci said, adding that ABC had to create a special hotline for fans to call because so many were calling in complaining. A petition was circulated to have Frons fired; he left ABC the following January.
Since then, fans like me have been waiting and hoping that one day, the show would be successfully revived. The thought that we are so close to seeing our favorite characters again, characters we grew up with and have known and loved for nearly 50 years, is exciting. ABC would be foolish not to capitalize on that nostalgia and excitement. I hope they realize it, and that I will once again be going home to Pine Valley.