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They're back: 'All My Children,' 'One Life to Live'

Back from the beyond . . . two soaps living in their own soap opera . . . reborn, revived, re-some-other-word: ""All My Children" and "One Life to Live" began again Monday morning and they're online now. Easiest access at Hulu.

What do I think of the reanimated (aah, that was the other word) versions? From what I've seen, they look just fine to me: The same old bodice-rippers that millions came to know and love. Because this is a historic TV moment -- first revival ever of a soap, and the beginning of a whole new genre, online soaps -- I've posted chapter one, part one -- aka, the first episodes -- of "All My Children" and "OLTL" below.

Fans will doubtless recognize some very familiar faces.  But first, here's a piece running in today's paper that offers some background on how this all came together . . . first episode er . . . Bon voyage, "OLTL" and "AMC:" 

Cady McClain is a famous soap actress whose character -- Dixie Louise Cooney Chandler Martin Bodine Martin -- once died, then came back, then died again, and . . . came back . . . over the course of about 300 episodes on "All My Children."

Long story, but poison pancakes, angels, dream sequences and a dozen other soap trompe l'oeils played a role.

"I'm very familiar with the back-from-dead story," McClain said cheerfully in a recent interview.

Except, she admits, this one. It is the most unexpected back-from-from-the-dead story in soap TV history, unfolding not far from where she is sitting, in a nondescript Stamford, Conn., office building that houses a cavernous studio half the size of a football field.

On a spring day, it is a thrum of life: Actors and actresses running through their lines, crew members are milling around, a director tells someone to hit their mark . . . "AMC," which ended Sept. 23, 2011, at age 41, along with 44-year-old sister show, "One Life to Live" -- dearly departed Jan. 13, 2012 -- have been reborn right here and unless appearances deceive, the delivery was a success. Fans will be the final arbiter, of course.

Both can be seen on Hulu, iTunes and the Online Network, free of charge, starting Monday. Just to be perfectly clear, these are not intended to be pallid in-name-only knock-offs of the beloved originals. Most cast members -- including Erica Slezak's Victoria Lord Buchanan of "OLTL" ---have returned, though key holdouts for the moment include "AMC's" Michael Knight and Susan Lucci (she's starring in the Lifetime summer series "Devious Maids") Both are expected back though it's unclear when.

And at about 26 minutes in length, each is only slightly shorter than their old ABC versions.

Original episodes will run every day. Even Agnes Nixon, the doyenne of soaps and creator of these, is involved.

So, really: They're back.

"A lot of the actors felt burned and were not exactly trusting when we asked them" to return, said "AMC" showrunner Ginger Smith. Now, "the energy is unbelievable It's stressful but not the kind of stress where we know the end is coming but the kind that we know we're working toward something. Everybody wants to be here."

"There's a positive energy throughout this building because this is a second chance for us, and you don't get a second chance that often," says "OLTL'" boss, Jennifer Pepperman.

The guys who wrote this particular soap script are Hollywood veterans intimately familiar with one of the cardinal rules of television -- that when a show is canceled, it almost always stays canceled. But not long after Rich Frank, a former president of Walt Disney Studios and Jeff Kwatinetz, former chief of Hollywood talent agency, the Firm, launched their Internet TV company, Prospect Park, ABC unexpectedly -- no doubt unintentionally, too -- handed them a gift.

Two, in fact. "These shows have 40 years of fans and 40 years of advertising relationships," he said from his office at the Stamford complex. "They're shows we liked and also thought we could add to and help creatively." Prospect Park's model is to stream shows embedded with ads on any device -- mobile is considered the optimum delivery device -- at any time. It's a model, by the way, the rest of the TV business is scrutinizing. "Online is more convenient" than broadcast for viewers, he said, "and to me this was always about convenience."

Meanwhile, Prospect Park owns the rights to "General Hospital," too. "I don't know what ABC's going to do," Kwatinetz says, "but I didn't read about any two or three year pickup." In fact, "GH" got just a one-year deal, and if ABC gets out of the soap business this fall -- as some in the TV industry expect -- there is a guardian angel in Stamford.

Tags: all my children , one life to live , abc , hulu

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