No one could figure out exactly why Susan Lucci hasn’t made it onto the revived online version of “All My Children.” But Lucci and her clever manager husband Helmut Huber may have dodged a bullet in the end. Today Prospect Park Productions, owned by Jeff Kwatinetz and Rich Frank, have gone on hiatus on “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” two weeks early.
The early hiatus comes just a couple of weeks after Prospect Park announced a surprise: instead of showing four new episodes each week of both soaps, they cut way back. The company said it would show only two new episodes a week of each show, with a catch up show on Fridays. Their reasoning was that fans couldn’t keep up with the amount of new shows.
Anyone who believed this also bought land in Pakistan.
Prospect Park says it shut down early in a dispute with IATSE, the union that built their sets and keep their shows going in a new studio in Stamford, Connecticut. Under their agreement with IATSE if costs for the shows rise above $120,000 per episode, the union fees go up. Clearly, the costs of both soaps are more than that. Prospect Park says it can’t pay higher fees.
It seems in retrospect that when Prospect Park announced the cut back to two episodes per week rather than four of each, the company knew it was running out of money. Now they’ve doubled how long their backlog of episodes will last. So it had nothing to do with their “viewer survey.” It was simply about stockpiling episodes.
None of this should come as a surprise. Prospect Park has run this operation in disarray from the start. They sued ABC, which licensed the soaps to them, over the move of three characters from “One Life to Live” to ABC’s “General Hospital” while the online version of the former show was being planned. Instead of making an arrangement to cross-promote the “OLTL,” Prospect Park instead took an adversarial approach.
Again no surprise to anyone who covered or knew about Kwatinetz in his prior incarnations. A Hollywood manager with a checkered past, Kwatinetz burned a lot of bridges in the music business during tenures with Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson. He merged his company, The Firm, with Mike Ovitz and Rick Yorn’s AMG ten years ago. The whole thing collapsed quickly, with Ovitz leaving the business and Yorn taking top clients like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. Kwatinetz’s personal life also attracted attention with major drug issues– chronicled in a 2002 Vanity Fair profile– and a brief engagement to the late actress Brittany Murphy.
Lucci and Huber obviously felt they weren’t on stable ground. When Kwatinetz first tried to relaunch the soaps, he couldn’t secure the “All My Children” star. In the press Prospect Park made it appear that Lucci was wildly demanding and unreasonable in her salary negotiations. But Lucci and Huber told me last winter that in the middle of talks, Prospect Park simply cut them off.
In the end, they may have lucked out after all. But that doesn’t help the crews and casts of both shows who bought into Prospect Park’s promises.