All My Children


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

All My Children (AMC) premiered on ABC on January 5, 1970. The second daytime drama created by Agnes Nixon, it aired in half-hour episodes until 1977, when it followed the lead of other serials in moving to an hour-long format. Nixon developed her skills in dialogue and story development while working for the legendary Irna Phillips, but she made her own mark on daytime drama with her first creation, One Life to Live (ABC, 1968-2012). Her programs combined the focus on interpersonal relationships that daytime viewers had come to expect with an exploration of social issues that made stories timely and relevant.

Three central families (the Tylers, the Martins, and the Brents) were positioned at the core of Pine Valley, a fictional suburb of Philadelphia, in AMC’s early years. As the show grew in popularity, its identity became inextricable from that of its most famous character, Erica Kane. From her introduction in the show’s first weeks on the air, Erica was a temptress and a villainess, the kind of character that daytime fans loved to watch. As portrayed by Susan Lucci, she was a gorgeous and unpredictable force to be reckoned with; she was capable of turning heads, breaking hearts, and disrupting lives. Over the course of more than four decades, Erica matured into a successful entrepreneur and a proud matriarch. The Daytime Emmys began in 1974, and Susan Lucci became a cultural reference point due to the number of Best Actress nominations that she secured without being awarded the statuette. Lucci’s 19th nomination proved the charm in 1999, and she earned four more nominations before the show’s network cancellation in 2011.

Dan Wakefield’s 1976 book All Her Children documented AMC’s production and cultural impact in its first years. The most-watched era of the daytime drama was yet to come, and Wakefield outlined signs of increasing interest, particularly among young people. He interviewed Agnes Nixon, and wrote about her visits to college campuses where cultural anthropology classes were examining “the soaps” as a social phenomenon. Common rooms in college dorms were packed with students eager to tune in to Erica Kane’s latest exploits.

Each daytime drama developed its own specific style and tone. Part of AMC’s breakout success was due to its focus on appealing young adult characters that were tied up in romantic dilemmas as well as issues of the day. In 1970, liberal Amy Tyler (Rosemary Prinz) butted heads with her wealthy and conservative in-laws over the war in Vietnam. In the early 1980s, Jesse Hubbard and Angie Baxter (portrayed by Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan) became the first African-American “supercouple” in a daytime drama. During this most-watched era, every soap opera attempted to develop popular romantic pairings who could inspire viewer loyalty. AMC’s Jesse and Angie were one of the most enduring of these pairings. Although the Jesse character died in a 1988 episode, he returned to the story canvas in 2007 as the show’s writers sought to revive viewer interest.

AMC was also groundbreaking in its development of storylines about sexual orientation and identity. Erica’s daughter Bianca (portrayed by Eden Riegel) came out as a lesbian at age 16. Erica was initially unsupportive, and Bianca’s conflicts with both family and friends offered a sensitive depiction of the struggles faced by queer youths. The story began in 2000, and continued to develop, coinciding with a major shift in cultural attitudes about homosexuality. Bianca Montgomery was the first gay character to appear in a major role in a daytime drama.

In 1971, Erica Kane became the first daytime television character to seek a legal abortion. More than thirty years later, Erica discovered that the unscrupulous doctor had performed a different operation, transferring the viable embryo to his own wife; the couple raised the baby as their own. Daytime drama viewers are accustomed to all manner of plot twists, but the introduction of Josh, Erica’s long-lost son, was controversial. The story of Erica’s abortion was significant because it engaged with a personal issue of social import, and as the character continued to thrive on the series, it demonstrated that terminating a pregnancy did not prevent her from finding love again and bearing children. The decision to rewrite that story was contentious with the show’s long-time fans.

AMC was also known for incorporating a sense of levity that made it unusual among daytime dramas. The writers’ light touch was evident in characters including Stuart Chandler, the sweet-natured identical twin brother to hard-nosed businessman Adam Chandler (both portrayed by David Canary). Natalie Marlowe and Janet Green, originally both portrayed by Kate Collins, provided a variation on the same idea. Good sister Natalie was frequently tormented by a deranged Janet (sometimes referred to as “Janet from another planet”) who wreaked havoc by posing as her sister. The show’s sense of humor was also on display in 2000, when punch spiked with a drug called “Libidizone” lowered inhibitions and sparked unlikely couplings at a party attended by most Pine Valley residents. The incident had far-reaching implications for story developments and character interrelationships over the next several years.

AMC was also known for its strong performances, and a number of actors who became well-known appeared in regular roles at an early point in their careers. Over the four decades it aired, AMC featured Michael B. Jordan, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Melissa Leo, and Kelly Ripa, among many others. The cast of AMC won a total of 28 Daytime Emmys during its run.

ABC announced the series’ cancellation in 2011, as a result of declining viewership. Prospect Park purchased the rights to continue the series for internet distribution; fans were initially hopefully that the story might continue, but this reprieve was short-lived. The show’s demise was the result of a decline in the overall daytime audience and changes in the broadcast television industry as competition with streaming outlets led the networks to seek more cost-effective options. AMC was one of the most popular daytime dramas to ever air on U.S. television, launching iconic characters and storylines that resonated with viewers.

-Caryn Murphy, May 2019

FURTHER READING

Matelski, M. The Soap Opera Evolution: America’s Enduring Romance with Daytime Drama. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1988.

Spence, L. Watching Daytime Soap Operas: The Power of Pleasure. Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

Wakefield, D. All Her Children. New York: Doubleday, 1976.

Highlights
Agnes Nixon on coming up with the title of All My Children
Erika Slezak on auditioning for All My Children, which led to her role on One Life to Live
Agnes Nixon on creating the character "Erica Kane" on All My Children
Ruth Warrick on developing her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler" 
David Canary on "Stuart Chandler's" mind on All My Children
Susan Lucci on being cast as "Erica Kane" on All My Children
Who talked about this show

Larry Auerbach

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Larry Auerbach on packaging All My Children and One Life to Live

David Canary

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David Canary on how he got his start on All My Children  and why the show is a great work environment
David Canary on working with All My Children creator/head writer Agnes Nixon
David Canary on his first impressions of his All My Children character "Adam Chandler" and distinguishing him from his twin brother "Stuart Chandler"
David Canary on helping to craft his All My Children character "Stuart Chandler"
David Canary on how he films scenes playing twin brothers "Adam Chandler" and "Stuart Chandler" on All My Children
David Canary on how he plays twin brothers "Adam Chandler" and "Stuart Chandler" on All My Children
David Canary on "Stuart Chandler's" mind on All My Children
David Canary on the production details of All My Children
David Canary on his All My Children character "Adam Chandler" being a love interest for "Erica Kane" and working with Susan Lucci
David Canary on his All My Children character "Adam Chandler's" many loves
David Canary on working with his All My Children co-stars
David Canary on his Daytime Emmy wins for All My Children
David Canary on "Stuart Chandler's" mind on All My Children

Genie Francis

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Genie Francis on joining the cast of All My Children in 1990
Genie Francis on being forced to leave All My Children to make way for her return to General Hospital

Ellen Holly

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Ellen Holly on Agnes Nixon pairing One Life to Live with All My Children

Susan Lucci

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Susan Lucci on being cast as "Erica Kane" on All My Children
Susan Lucci on auditioning for the character of "Erica Kane" on All My Children and finding out she got the part
Susan Lucci on her feelings about being cast in a daytime drama
Susan Lucci on taping the first few episodes of All My Children
Susan Lucci on her All My Children character "Erica Kane" 
Susan Lucci on her All My Children character "Erica Kane" being a breakout character and the popularity of the show
Susan Lucci on working with show creator Agnes Nixon on All My Children
Susan Lucci on the writing of her All My Children character "Erica Kane"
Susan Lucci on the love life of her All My Children character "Erica Kane"
Susan Lucci on taping intimate scenes for All My Children
Susan Lucci on her All My Children character "Erica Kane's" sense of fashion
Susan Lucci on her All My Children character "Erica Kane's" career and motherhood
Susan Lucci on the producers of All My Children and shooting on location
Susan Lucci on receiving and learning her All My Children scripts and the rehearsal process
Susan Lucci on the standout storylines for her All My Children character "Erica Kane"
Susan Lucci on her character "Erica Kane's" drug addiction storyline on All My Children
Susan Lucci on All My Children's  controversial abortion storyline
Susan Lucci on the coming out of "Erica Kane's" daughter storyline on All My Children
Susan Lucci on the villainous aspects of her All My Children character "Erica Kane"
Susan Lucci on All My Children being in production on 9/11 and her reaction to it
Susan Lucci on her All My Children fan and their reaction to her Emmy experiences
Susan Lucci on her notorious Emmy losing streak
Susan Lucci on breaking her Emmy losing streak in 1999
Susan Lucci on the end of All My Children
Susan Lucci on taping the final episodes of All My Children
Susan Lucci on the prospect of her appearing on the online version of All My Children
Susan Lucci on the longevity of her All My Children character "Erica Kane"
Susan Lucci on being able to do projects outside of All My Children
Susan Lucci on her relationship with ABC

Randolph Mantooth

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Randolph Mantooth on appearing on All My Children and As the World Turns

Anne Meara

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Anne Meara on appearing on All My Children in the 1990s

Agnes Nixon

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Agnes Nixon on creating All My Children
Agnes Nixon on creating All My Children (contd.) but not getting it on the air on CBS as planned
Agnes Nixon on creating One Life to Live and then reviving All My Children
Agnes Nixon on the creation of All My Children and how it reflected its era
Agnes Nixon on coming up with the title of All My Children
Agnes Nixon on the Pine Valley setting of All My Children
Agnes Nixon on creating the character "Erica Kane" on All My Children
Agnes Nixon on the humor and characters on All My Children
Agnes Nixon on the then-recent (1997) introduction of a gay character on All My Children
Agnes Nixon on production on All My Children
Agnes Nixon on keeping All My Children fresh over the years

Roscoe Orman

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Roscoe Orman on his role on All My Children

Erika Slezak

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Erika Slezak on auditioning for All My Children, which led to her role on One Life to Live
Erika Slezak on auditioning for All My Children, which led to her role on One Life to Live

Brandon Stoddard

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Brandon Stoddard on going to work for ABC and launching All My Children

Ruth Warrick

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Ruth Warrick on Carol Burnett appearing on All My Children
Ruth Warrick on developing her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler" 
Ruth Warrick on being cast as "Phoebe Tyler" on All My Children
Ruth Warrick on her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler"
Ruth Warrick on working with Hugh Franklin on All My Children
Ruth Warrick on her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler"
Ruth Warrick on the relationships of her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler"
Ruth Warrick on All My Children's groundbreaking AIDS storyline
Ruth Warrick on All My Children's controversial storylines
Ruth Warrick on All My Children's casting and staying true to her character "Phoebe Tyler" and to her fans
Ruth Warrick on All My Children expanding to an hour-long format
Ruth Warrick on All My Children being the first daytime drama to shoot on-location and what people learn from daytime drama
Ruth Warrick on the challenges on being on All My Children for over thirty years
Ruth Warrick on what she's learned from her All My Children character "Phoebe Tyler"
Ruth Warrick on the power of television and Susan Lucci winning her Emmy for All My Children
Ruth Warrick on working with Agnes Nixon on All My Children

Ellen Wheeler

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Ellen Wheeler on being cast as "Cindy Parker" on All My Children
Ellen Wheeler on her All My Children character "Cindy Parker" and her AIDS storyline
Ellen Wheeler on working with All My Children creator Agnes Nixon
Ellen Wheeler on winning a Daytime Emmy for All My Children
Ellen Wheeler on once again playing twins on All My Children
Ellen Wheeler on leaving All My Children
Ellen Wheeler on returning to All My Children

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