Did ‘One Life To Live’ Get Too Gay For Daytime TV?

ABC admits the ‘OLTL’ gay storyline did not "appeal" to their audience

The folks at ABC are finally going on the record as to why the ground-breaking same-sex storyline featured on the daytime drama One Life to Live was axed 3 months before it was meant to run its course. OLTL featured a very open, very honest love story between two male characters named Kyle Lewis and Oliver Fish (played by Brett Claywell and Scott Evans respectively). A few weeks ago, an announcement was made that the couple’s storyline would be hastily wrapped up and that the couple would be leaving the soap for good. ABC tried to downplay the move in light of the fact that it has already been decided that One Life to Live will end at the finish of this season and all of the storylines will have to be wrapped). But, in a statement released to TV Guide, ABC has admitted that the real reason the Kyle & Oliver storyline was axed was because the too gay storyline did not “appeal” to the US daytime audience:

One Life to Live’s landmark same-sex duo, Kyle Lewis (Brett Claywell) and Oliver Fish (Scott Evans), will abruptly exit the soap next week, amidst speculation that ABC dumped them due to complaints from homophobic viewers. The guys’ final scenes together air April 12, when Fish, who’s a cop, goes to court and wins custody of baby Sierra Rose. Kyle, a doctor, is seen just once more after that, on April 16, confirming some huge DNA news to Rex (John-Paul Lavoisier). None of the OLTL brass has been talking on the record about this controversial termination, which came three months before Claywell’s contract was due to expire. Claywell at least got official word from the show the day before the news broke. Evans, who is considered a recurring player and therefore not entitled to official notice, had to hear about his axing via Twitter. At first, ABC tried to play down the double firing in a press statement that trumpeted the Kish story for its boldness and its GLAAD awards, claiming that the couple did indeed resonate with the audience, and making it seem as if their story had simply played itself out and come to a natural conclusion. But, finally, we have some honesty and a little bit more clarity! In an exclusive statement to TV Guide Magazine, ABC Daytime PR chief Jori Petersen now says “The Kish story did not have the appeal we hoped it would. We are going to spend our time on stories that have a more favorable reaction from our audience.” Naturally, the situation has the Kishinistas apoplectic. “It’s the most angry and vocal fan reaction to a firing I’ve ever seen and a lot of it is coming from straight women,” says Jamey Giddens, editorial director of the popular Daytime Confidential Web site. “This goes far beyond the response we got when Days of Our Lives fired Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn.” Gay media, which applauded OLTL for its realistic and passionate depiction of men in love, is handling things way better than the fans. “Kish brought a lot of attention and energy to OLTL, so this is not a smart move from either a business or a karmic point of view,” observes AfterElton.com editor Michael Jensen. “Still, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. ABC made history here. The network deserves credit for making a lot of progress.” Claywell seconds that emotion: “Pulling the story off the air is like taking two steps back but I don’t fault ABC,” the actor says. “The fact they let us tell this story at all is what’s important, and if I had to lose my job to get this on TV, then I’m proud of that. I’m just kinda sad and really sorry that there’s still so much fear and ignorance in our society. Maybe five years from now, this won’t happen to two other actors portraying this kind of story.” Claywell suspects the writing was on the wall back on December 30, 2009 when OLTL showed Kyle and Fish in the throes of lusty sex, a first for gay males on a daytime soap (if you don’t count that down-low guy and the psychotic hermaphrodite on Passions). ABC chose not to promote the event in advance, as if hoping not to alarm or infuriate viewers. “I was definitely hurt by that,” Claywell says. “We should have gotten a lot more attention for those groundbreaking scenes. For them to not tell anybody that we were about to make history makes me think the wheels were already in emotion to get rid of us” … The firing will leave CBS’ As the World Turns as the only soap with vital gay characters right now, and that has AfterElton’s Jensen noting a disconnect. “Isn’t the goal of the soaps—and really all programming—to lure younger viewers?” he asks. “Well, it’s the younger viewers who are just fine about seeing gay people on TV. They are much more tolerant than older viewers. They live in a world where diversity is increasing and is an accepted part of life.” Jensen adds that gay fans feel a sense of ownership when it comes to gay characters. “We have so few good representations out there that you become attached to the ones that do exist,” he says. “Obviously, we can’t demand that OLTL keep gay characters on its canvas. It’s their show, not ours. But we sure have a right to say ‘If you have no gay characters then you’re not doing your job when it comes to reflecting reality.’”

I don’t watch OLTL but I understand that while this honest love story was being told, another storyline was unfolding that involved fake same-sex relationship orchestrated to win an election … or some nonsense like that. I’m sure that confusion didn’t help matters. In the end, soap operas mainly appeal to an older audience that is not as accepting of new things as a younger audience might be. This is why the longest running daytime dramas revolved around age-old storylines that aren’t at all revolutionary … soap operas rarely rock the boat. I’ve been watching The Young and the Restless for years and while some gay characters are featured, they are never in the forefront, never central characters and their love affairs are never highlighted in any real way (The Bold and the Beautiful, which revolves around the world of fashion design, does not currently feature ANY gay characters at all). It does not surprise me that soap operas are dying … one by one. If they will not evolve and grow then they will surely all die out. In the end, I feel it’s for the best. The end of stagnant soap operas that choose to ignore a large segment of the population will only make way for more TV shows that feature the inclusion of all types of TV characters. I do commend One Life to Live for making a go of the Kish storyline. At the very least, daytime TV viewers got to see that same-sex love is really no different than heterosexual love. Love is love.

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  1. I watch it daily, and its ABC’s fault for writing it terribly. Instead of just making it a storyline, they put every stereotype into the story. Stuff that hasnt been seen since public service announcements from 1990.

    They’re great characters, but its like they couldn’t think of something to write for them unless it was /specifically/ about being gay. And sometimes in a bad light.

  2. Kyleigh

    One thing that should be kept in mind is that once a couple finally finds love on a soap, they become boring, and it becomes inevitable that they will break up. There is all this build up and anticipation until they get together, and when it finally happens and they are happy and everything is wonderful, it’s “Now What?”.

    You also can’t ignore the viewership. I assume one of OLTL goals with this storyline was to lure in the gay audience, but it obviously didn’t happen (case in point, Trent: “I don’t watch OLTL”). Now the gay community is all up in arms about the abrupt end of this storyline, but if they had just tuned in, maybe it wouldn’t be ending.

  3. rossy

    Daytime soaps are the dinosaurs of TV… Pretty much on the way out. Lets face it, viewer-ship of the remaining soaps is not what it used to be 10 years ago or even last year.
    -
    My favorite was “Another World” & the awesome character of Jake McKinnon (Tom Eplin) & yes, the story-lines tended to repeat themselves: i.e. once 2 characters got married which 1 would cheat first; who’s baby is, etc. All recycled plot lines that continually rotate among the characters of that soap.
    -
    When Another World was canceled, I “followed” Jake to “ATWT” until they stupidly killed him off 2-3 years later, then went on to insult, not only his large fan-base, but the actor himself, by using GLITTER as his cremated ashes & not wood ash or similar! I stopped watching right there & then – Haven’t watched daytime soaps since, & don’t miss them 1 bit.
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    Although, I will sometimes watch “Corrie” but that’s about it. For those who don’t know – It’s a British soap opera called: “Coronation Street” shown now in prime time but has the same serial format & handful of plots rotated among the characters.
    -
    I give the remaining soaps 10 years before they’re all gone in favor of whatever is replacing them now or something else.

  4. Luv Ya

    When I was in college…admittedly it was a while ago…and also for many years afterward I hear, watching soaps was the THE thing to do for young people. But that’s been a while and I’m not sure it was the fault of the soaps themselves. Surfing the internet, social websites, and blogging have taken their place. If the soaps are going to die, I think they should go out swinging and take those story lines to the limit. Fantasy is what their viewership wants. And as you say, love is love.

  5. Amy

    I have never watched One Life to Live but I have to agree with you Trent that the gay characters on Young and the Restless have never been developed to their full potential. I can only think of two characters on the show who are gay Rafe Torres played by Yani Gellman and Phillip Chancellor the Third played by Thom Beirdz.

    With the character of Rafe it seemed that the only reason they brought the character out of the closet becase it was convienent for the Adam Wilson story line. It has been mention once or twice since but they have never really given him a chance to have a real releationship (and I fear they never will as he as far as I now has not been accounted for since the explosion and they still have a unidentified body)

    With regards to the character of Phillip Chacellop the Third he came out as an explanation as to why he faked his death. The character was back for a short bit and then he went back to Austrailia. Hopefully they will bring him back though and explore his story more. I almost appears as though the showrunners are afraid to rock the boat too much like they think just by having a gay character they are doing a good enough job but they have to realize that just by saying a character is gay is not enough and they are missing a great oppurtunity to make themselves more relavant and eplore issues that everyone else seems to shy away from.

  6. Bobbyintn

    Been watching OLTL since I was about 2 or 3 years old. I’m in my 40′s now and for the first time in all these years, OLTL represented me and other homosexuals with the Kish story. Once Kish is gone, so will I be.

    The way to conquer homophobia is not to run from it but to continue being who you are and what you are in spite of the haters in the world.

  7. Barks

    Keep in mind OLTL fired one of their longtime recurring characters (the name escapes me, but she played Carlotta) because she refused to play her character as supportive of her son whom she mistakenly thought was homosexual (while Fish was in the closet the rumor was Christian was gay, very contrived hopefully no more explanation is necessary). OLTL is revamping and firing tons of ppl and unfortch Kish is biting the dust (even tho Fish will be recurring b/c he’s on the inept police force).

  8. Ugh. I didn’t even start watching OLTL until recently and I LOVED Fish & Kyle. Seriously, best most stable couple on the entire show. Once there’s gone it’s just going to be stupid

  9. wamer

    A triumph of mediocrity. I don’t think it’s about haters, I think the storyline was just embarrassingly simplistic and not worth the airtime.

    Absolutely wan, pale, gutless in comparison to the OLTL storyline of Andrew and the General and Billy Douglas. Just a daytime disaster. Funny, many of the same staff are still there – you would think they’d have known how to pull that off – but some of the key players are missing, and the generation that came after the 1994 staff is not obviously up to it.

  10. Matt

    I don’t believe for one minute that soaps are dying. I do believe that badly written soaps are dying. Look at Desperate Housewives or Brothers and Sisters. Well written stories with well defined, well portrayed characters. Characters who don’t change personality every other episode. Stories that don’t have all the popular characters “killed” and abducted to some remote desert island, stories that don’t have characters so poorly written that there is no on left on the show you can stand to watch anymore.

    Despite a language barrier, and some recent incredibly bad writing, I watch “Verbotene Liebe” online. I used to watch ATWT the same way, as I don’t have a DVR or a VCR with digital tuner. I no longer watch ATWT, because the characters were doing all kinds of things that no one would do in real life, no one, AND I MEAN NO ONE, would take Damian back. Only an idiot would try to fix a student election, certainly anyone with enough brains to get into college would be smarter than that, You can write drama and stress without all the cheating, lying, out of character bullcrap that the soaps seem bent on doing to every character these days. I also used to watch Days of our Lives. I stopped after Stefano’s second resurrection. When soaps stop trying to be bigger than life, and start being well written dramas again, they’ll start rising in the ratings again. At least on the evening dramas, the possibility of a mentally destroyed widower going psycho is real, if unlikely. Stefano DiMera rising from the dead, repeatedly, is not. A gay politician running in the closet is real, a straight politician running as Gay to get more votes is so unreal that it would turn off even the Gays, especially the Gays,

    • @Matt – there is a huge diff between daytime dramas and primetime dramas. Shows like Desperate Housewives will continue to flourish but I still contend that daytime dramas (soaps) will all be dead in 10 years time. They won’t evolve whereas primetime dramas do.

  11. red ranger

    oltl is dead to me,they make a guy come back from the dead tried to rape jess but 2 guys can’t be gay and in love?wtf,well theres still chrolli,dero,lucas,aaron,christian/syed,lenny/carsen.

    RIP
    Kish

  12. Vk

    After 30 years of watching, I will now join the rest of my friends who have given up soaps. I thought OLTL had FINALLY reflected the diversity of life. Shame on me for wasting my time watching any soap. RIP. I will keep the memories.

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