“Here’s what to do when you don’t find that rainbow’s end … this time … Here’s where you go when it looks like when the rain won’t end … don’t cry … I’ll give you tomorrow, let me be the one to share it with … And each day that follows … ‘cause we only have one life to live …!”
—Grammy winner Peabo Bryson in One Life’s ‘90s legendary opening credits

Somewhere lurking between the glowing heavens and fiery hells lies a sudsy paradise called Llanview, a place where you allegedly only have one life to live. The best part? You don’t need a passport to visit. And on this show, it’s quality, not quantity, that matters.

There, in this magical and luxurious place named Llanview, you will find intelligent drama, infectious characters, laugh-out-loud hilarity, sweeping romance, imperfect gods and goddesses, and complex psychologies that will systemically capture your imagination, heart and mind.

In July of 1968, soap opera impresario, Agnes Nixon — who has seemingly come out of retirement to promote the future of the worst TV show on air, her bastard child, All My Children instead of her other darling baby, the best soap on TV, the one which is in the most danger of being cancelled — created one of the most special and unique soap operas ever to air, La One Life To Live. According to Nixon, she gave birth to the special entity, not only to entertain, but also to educate and enlighten.

Nixon relays that the germination of Llanview was born during an Aspen television conference helmed by Saul Alinsky.

The Emmy-winning icon wrote in Gary Warner’s One Life’s official 30th anniversary book, “A renowned social activist and front-line fighter in the war against poverty and injustice posited that until diverse human beings better understand and respect one another, we can never live in harmony and peace on the planet. By definition, all television entertainment shows have a mandate to entertain. If they fail, they go off the air. But isn’t an expansion of mental horizons a key ingredient of entertainment?”

Originally titled Between Heaven and Hell, Nixon created a socially responsible yet fascinating and addictive soap opera that resonated with smart and passionate soap fans across the world. Her mission statement? It was simply, in her words, “to fashion stories about richly diverse people as their lives intertwined, as they interacted with one another … To explain the hopes and hardships, the goals, fights, and failures that are ultimately shared by all mankind no matter how desperate their lifestyles.”

Forty-two years later, head writer Ron Carlivati and executive producer Frank Valentini were granted loving custody of Nixon’s baby, and despite the economic and political obstacles in their way, these two angels nurtured this historic, precious legacy and evolved it. In fact, some critics would argue that One Life has never been this superior since its debut. Today, One Life is soaring in all aspects — except in the dog-eat-dog world of ratings. It’s sad because One Life is the closest thing soap fans have to a post-modern Santa Barbara, and many pundits hail it as the best daytime drama to ever air.

However, no one ever lost a dollar underestimating the taste of the public (or One Life’s disappointing, inept publicity department). One only has to take a depressing glance at the highly flawed Nielsen ratings, to know that’s true. It’s a scary day when a poor excuse for a serial drama like All My Children is making mincemeat out of the superlative One Life To Live in the ratings. And why ABC is throwing their resources towards saving AMC, and not my dear, beloved One Life is extremely telling. To focus this picture clearer, let us compare it by saying that the viewers are the liberal and free democrats, and ABC is the  taxing, self-serving Republican party.

For Emmy winner Judith Light, who is now ironically toiling on One Life’s prime-time equivalent, Ugly Betty, she’s furious if ABC is even thinking of cancelling this iconic, enveloping soap opera. Our friend tells TVGuide.ca, “The show is very close to my heart. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Llanview. It was the smart person’s soap — and still is. We need One Life … because it’s relevant.”

Even soaps’ most powerful and popular superstar, Crystal Chappell raves about all things Llanview! “One Life is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve been a fan since I was a girl. One Life will always have  a special place in my heart and life. Yes, my One Life character, Maggie, wasn’t a breakout hit, but I was still honoured to be a part of this iconic show. One Life rules! Start watching, people!”

TVGuide.ca urges everyone — and their lovers, friends, children, neighbours, enemies, and rapemance victims — to start tuning into One Life, the soap nearly every soap critic named the best of 2009 in their best-and-worst lists. If you’re not satisfied with your experience, ABC will refund your money.

 

Photo credit: Steven Bergman

1. THE PLAYERS
Uber-talented and passionate executive producer Frank Valentini and Emmy-winning head writer Ron Carlivati genuinely care and love their little show that could — and most importantly, its fans. In this day and age, that’s unheard of. The blessed fans of One Life are eternally grateful to know that every day they get to digest a show that is good for them spiritually and artistically. Also, Carlivati is one of the only out-and-proud gay artists in the business — and in the process, his relentless pride, humanity, and personal freedom has infused One Life with a undying spirit that has never been witnessed before in soap opera land. Yes, Douglas Marland would be proud of Carlivati.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

2. ROBIN STRASSER AND TREVOR ST. JOHN
In the annals of daytime, the divine and delicious Emmy-winning diva, Robin Strasser, and the criminally sexy and  mercurial Trevor St. John prove that the best acting in entertainment is happening right on daytime television. It is an honour and a privilege to watch these two unbelievably authentic thespians work on a daily basis. Acting students, pay attention — these are masters in your midst. Look up passion and pride in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of Strasser and St. John. It’s a shame that these two acting stallions don’t have more Emmys on their mantles. Or Oscars.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

3. DIVERSITY RULES
Black, gay, brown, white, and green — One Life has inspiringly integrated a richly diverse canvas like no other soap opera ever before. Or will ever.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

4. NINE!
Federico Fellini would never suffer from writer’s block if he wrote One Life To Live! From La Strasser, Erika Slezak, Florencia Lozano, Kassie DePaiva, Gina Tognoni, Melissa Fumero, Tika Sumpter, Hillary B. Smith, and Susan Haskell, this ABC sudser boasts the best actresses in daytime. Now that’s something to sing about, Kate Hudson!

 

One Life to Live, ABC

5. LIGHTS, CAMERA, SETS!
Emmy-winning set designer/director Roger Mooney is the best aesthetic mastermind in daytime. One Life defies the antiquated stereotype that daytime is just three cardboard walls. Bravo, Mr. Mooney! Llanview feels like a real town that I have lived in or want to move to — and that’s an accomplishment. On most soaps, a sudsy town consist of three cold sets, but Llanview is a real destination.

 

6. KISH, BABY!
Once upon a time, a closeted gay cop and an out-and-proud homosexual med student fell in love. And just like that — America fell in love, too. Carlivati has been criticized by many, including myself, for dismantling certain past storylines (ahem, Todd and Marty), but Carlivati redeemed himself by paying homage to his Emmy-winning peer, the incomparable novelist-turned-soap writer, Michael Malone, who penned the definitive coming-out storyline involving then-unknown Ryan Phillippe. Mr. Carlivati paid it forward with the near-perfect Kish love story. OK, it was perfect from start to present … yes, Carly-vati should be very proud of himself. The soap god actually wed 21 gay couples on his show — and managed to get away with it! Now that’s impressive.

 

7. SETTON PLACE
Andrea Evans who? There is a rising star raising hell on One Life and her name is Lady Amanda Setton, one of the most beautiful, talented, and sexiest newcomers soap opera has encountered in years. As ex-stripper Kim, Setton proves there are no small mediums, just small actors. Sign her to an infinite contract, One Life, before she bolts for the bright lights of Hollywood. In simpler terms, Setton is One Life’s female Billy Miller.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

8. IT’S THE CHARACTER ACTORS, STUPID!
One Life’s casting department should be applauded for hiring and maintaining an incomparable ensemble that rivals the old days of soap opera. Character actors like Ilene Kristen, Peter Bartlett, Lea DeLaria, Tuc Watkins, January La Voy, Patricia Elliott, Wortham Krimmer, Catherine Hickland, Kathy Brier, Brian Kerwin, Chris Stack, John Rue, Scott Clifton, and Jackie Hoffman make waking up every morning worth it.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

9. THE CRAMERS
Arthur Miller would have a field day with the best family in daytime, the Cramer women. These dysfunctional beauties are worthy of their own TV show. We can call it Being Cramer! I can’t believe I was given up for adoption …

 

One Life to Live, ABC

10. YOUTH IN REVOLT
If you have watched Carmen LoPorto, Eddie Alderson, Shenell Edmonds, Kristen Alderson, Jason Tam, Kelley Missal, Brittany Underwood, and Brandon Buddy, you know that One Life boasts the best younger cast not only in daytime but also in all of TV!

 

One Life to Live, ABC

11. HEY MR. VALENTINI — MUSIC MAKES THE BOURGEOIS AND THE REBEL …
Who needs James Franco? From Mary J. Blige, Nelly Furtado, to Snoop Dogg, One Life expertly crafts authentic reasons for the A-list musical acts featured on their show. In turn, One Life helps raise their record sales ten-fold. The best act so far? The All-American Rejects, who will never be erased from my DVR player.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

12. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
Despite the Directors’ Guild Awards snubbing the best directed serial on television this year, Larry Carpenter and his team passionately direct one hell of a TV experience for its fans — inside and outside of the studio. We are blessed, Frank and Larry! Compromise doesn’t exist in these guys’ vocabulary, Ellen Wheeler.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

13. SEXIEST MEN ALIVE
Let’s keep this boxer brief — Mark Lawson, David Fumero, Brett Claywell, Scott Evans, John Brotherton, Forbes March’s dead corpse, Trevor St. John, Michael Easton, Terrell Tilford, J-P Lavoisier, The Porcupine, Michael Lowry, Roscoe Born, Jerry Ver Dorn, David Gregory, Tuc Watkins, Scott Clifton, Dan Gauthier, Ron Carlivati, Frank Valentini, and Matt Walton will leave you hot under the collar.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

14. THE WRITE STUFF!
No other daytime serial is better written than this sudsy opus. Carolyn Culliton and Elizabeth Page soar under the leadership of Mr. RC. They care so much that they even title their episodes! As you all know, I’m an Emmy whore, and I have a pretty awesome track record with picking Emmy reels (when it aired, I knew that Asa’s funeral would win Ron his first Emmy; too bad he didn’t listen to me last year), but for the 2010 Emmy race, I have no clue what Carlivati should submit because he has a plethora of kick-ass material. Good luck, Ron! That’s the price you pay for perfection.

 

One Life to Live, ABC

15. TUC OFF!
Saturday Night Live? Pfft. Tuc Watkins, Tuc Watkins, Tuc Watkins! Enough said.

 

 

 

 

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Nelson Branco is a Toronto freelance entertainment journalist, who regularly contributes to Hello! Canada, The National Post, The Los Angeles Times' theenvelope.com, TV Guide USA, tvguide.com, Inside Entertainment, OUT, and fab magazine, along with spearheading the soap coverage for TVGuide.ca's popular daytime TV hub. After graduating from Ryerson University in 1997, he moved from Toronto to New York in 1998 to take on the roles as senior news editor at Soap Opera Update. Branco first freelanced for Soap Opera Weekly as an intern in 1994, and after leaving Soap Update to help create and launch Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly in 2003, Branco continued to freelance occasionally for its sister publication, Soaps In Depth. Most recently, he helped create and launch Canada's first celebrity magazine, Weekly Scoop in 2005 as its news and entertainment director. Branco is also a contributor to a new TV show titled Planet Soap to air in Canada and America.