Susan Lucci, Erika Slezak Susan Lucci, Erika Slezak

There will come a time when we tell future generations about the good old days when serialized soaps blanketed the daytime TV landscape — the way prime time once was overrun with Westerns, variety shows and big-ticket miniseries, among other fondly remembered, now-faded formats. The latest death knell, not unexpected but still a shock when it sounded, came late this week when ABC confirmed that the venerable, iconic All My Children and the similarly long-running One Life to Live had been taken off life support. Word of their demise had circulated for some time — AMC takes its final bow in September, One Life to Life will soldier on until January — but it's still a jolt to the system when confronted with the unmistakable signs than an era is ending. Changing viewing habits and economics have conspired against scripted daytime dramas in favor of cheaper-to-produce talk/lifestyle shows. Just as the remnants of variety TV can be found in the results shows of reality competitions American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, soap intrigues have been upstaged by celeb-reality high jinks: the plastic casts of Bravo's various Real Housewives shows, the debauched antics of Jersey Shore, which is being spun off while the daily soaps dwindle to a mere few.

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