It’s shades of “Tootsie” on “One Life to Live” today, when a week’s worth of live broadcasts commence — just in time for sweeps, and dovetailing nicely with the Daytime Emmy awards on Friday. Last live soap broadcast was in 1983, when a tape of “Search for Tomorrow” went missing.
Sudser’s exec producer Gary Tomlin lobbed the idea of a live broadcast week to his cast and crew three months ago and found them willing to rise to the challenge. (In 1997, NBC’s primetime powerhouse “ER” aired a live episode as its season opener.)
“We’re always looking to do something new and exciting, even if it means going back to something old,” Tomlin said. By the mid-1970s, every soap had made the switch to videotape.
During the week all 30 of the contract cast members will make an appearance, only some of whom have had experience with live performance. The logistics of getting actors and cameras in place has been carefully choreographed, but to raise the stakes, a love scene and a remote shot from nearby Central Park were written into the script. As a precaution against technical malfunctions, each morning’s dress rehearsal will be taped.
Erika Slezak, a 30-year vet of the soap, will be in all five of the episodes, one of which calls for her to run from one end of the studio to the other and not appear breathless. “I’m feeling like Dotty in ‘Noises Off,’ ” she said, referring to the classic English slamming-door farce. “What do I do with the sardines?”
Another challenge the actors must face is the warp in time. Episodes bookending this week have already been shot, so their performances will require some thoughtful interpretation.
“My character, Vicky, has been getting more desperate as the days go on,” said Slezak. “Now I have to backtrack and not be so desperate.”
Tomlin isn’t afraid of what the week may bring. “Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “We’ll roll with it.”
The Daytime Emmys will air in primetime on CBS; “One Life” is up for best drama prize.