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'All My Children' signs off after 41 years

Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye and Jordi Vilasuso in

Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye and Jordi Vilasuso in the final episode of ABC Daytime's "All My Children" taped on August 30, 2011. Photo Credit: ABC

No, no, no! It's been too joyous a week on "All My Children" for ABC to stop now.

There was the return of patriarch / matriarch characters Joe and Ruth Martin, from the soap's 1970 beginnings. The return of teen cast member turned "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Sarah Michelle Gellar, as "Erica Kane's daughter" (announcing, "I saw them [vampires] before they were trendy"). The return of "dead" Dixie and "dead" Stuart, and "a happy ending" for supercouple Angie and Jesse -- swirling amid a windup story line in which Vincent Irizarry's love-to-hate brainiac Dr. David Hayward is literally resurrecting some of the show's most beloved characters.

Reunions, resolution and actors knocking it out of the park -- emotion has washed over the show like a drenching shower.

Yet Friday's ABC episode of "All My Children" was its final network hour (1 p.m. on WABC/7).

Or maybe this isn't The End? Production company Prospect Park ("Royal Pains") has purchased the rights to continue "AMC" and fellow ABC castoff "One Life to Live" (leaving in January), with plans to restart the soaps on the Web next year. Deals have been signed with "OLTL" linchpins Erika Slezak and Kassie DePaiva, plus executive producer Frank Valentini. But Prospect Park hasn't gotten "AMC" agreement from 40-year veteran (and Garden City resident) Susan Lucci to remain as larger-than-life diva Erica Kane. (They did sign top hunk Cameron Mathison and hot doctor Lindsay Hartley.) So "AMC's" fate remains unclear.

If the much-loved franchise dies, TV will again lose one of its mainstays, just like CBS' 72-year radio-to-TV title "Guiding Light" (replaced in 2009 by the cheaper, more product-placement-friendly "Let's Make a Deal") and 54-year tube titan "As the World Turns" (replaced last year by "The Talk"). These long-running, addictively ongoing dramas -- stirring fandom passed from generation to generation, giving rise to devoted websites and inspiring live-talent meet-ups -- keeps giving way to ephemeral amusements.

Creator Agnes Nixon's "AMC" didn't just touch viewer hearts. It also challenged their minds. (As did "OLTL," Nixon's first ABC creation.) Early seasons featured debate over the Vietnam War, Lucci's Erica Kane with TV's first post-Roe v. Wade legal abortion, and such touchy subjects as homosexuality and AIDS. In soaps' 1980s heyday and into the '90s, "AMC" pioneered "supercouples" like Greg (Laurence Lau) and Jenny (Kim Delaney), who are reuniting today at 11 a.m. on ABC's "The View," and especially Angie (Debbi Morgan) and Jesse (Darnell Williams), the first and most enduring black supercouple.

As the 2000s dawned, Nixon's trendsetter offered soaps' first gay main character: Erica Kane's daughter Bianca came out as a lesbian. The Iraq War also encroached on the Pennsylvania town of Pine Valley, with the addition of several military / veteran characters (one still played by real-life Army burn victim J.R. Martinez, now on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars").

On Monday, "AMC" disappears in favor of ABC's new lifestyle hour "The Chew." (Get it? "View" / "Chew.")

Something tells me it isn't likely to match a legacy like that.

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