Reality producer J.D. Roth had a hunch that ABC was close to picking up his new daytime series The Revolution. But Roth says he had no idea until Thursday morning that his greenlight would come at the expense of two soap opera staples.
Thursday's ABC soapocalypse left daytime fans reeling, as the network pulled the plug on 43-year-old One Life to Live and 41-year-old All My Children. Roth, whose new show will take the place of OLTL in January, says he first brought The Revolution to ABC more than a year ago.
"We pitched an idea for daytime that had a fresh perspective, and they liked it," says Roth, who shot the pilot to The Revolution six months ago. "I didn't know if it was going to be for syndication or network. No one talked about replacing anything. It's bittersweet for me. On the one hand, we're bringing a new genre to daytime. But on the other hand, I grew up watching my mom watching these soap operas. I want to be respectful of it."
The producer admits he's going to have to work hard to win over viewers angered by the move. "You always have to earn the audience's respect," says Roth, whose 3Ball Entertainment also produces NBC's The Biggest Loser. "It was not an easy task to put on a show with extremely overweight people. That was not a popular choice when the show first came out. It took seasons for the audience to catch on."
Roth and 3Ball have made transformational stories, particularly in the weight loss space, a hallmark of their company. Next up, their new ABC primetime series Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition will chronicle people as they attempt to remake their lives and drop pounds over the course of a year.
The Revolution will utilize a similar production strategy, as camera follow participants over the course of months. Hosted by Tim Gunn, celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak and American Idol alum Kimberley Locke, the show will focus on one woman each week as she spends five months (boiled down to five days) attempting to lose weight. ABC has given 3Ball a lengthy production commitment — more than the standard 13 weeks for new shows such as this.
"A lot of advance work has already been done on the show," says Roth. As for soap opera fans, Roth notes that he has plenty of friends in that world — including Days of Our Lives' Alison Sweeney, who doubles as host on The Biggest Loser.
"I feel for those people who love the art of soap operas, the writing and the craft," he says. "I have nothing but respect to that world and its 50 years on TV."
Meanwhile, there may be a glimmer of hope for All My Children and One Life to Live fans: Insiders at the network say ABC would be willing to entertain offers from other outlets — either cable or online — that might be interested in picking up the shows or even taking over ownership.
But before you get your hopes up, ABC (which didn't shop the shows before making the announcement) doesn't think they'll get any interest. And indeed, when TV Guide Magazine asked several cable networks whether they'd be interested, reps for those channels — including Oprah Winfrey Network and Hallmark Channel — said no.