In the final network episode of All My Children a year and a half ago, a drunken JR Chandler arrived at an engagement party holding a gun and bent on revenge. He fired, then the screen went dark without revealing a victim.
That wasn't just the end of the episode; it was the end of the series. In 2011, ABC canceled All My Children and another daytime soap juggernaut, One Life to Live. The shows had been on TV a combined total of 84 years. Millions of fans were left hanging.
But now they're celebrating, because the two favorite soaps are returning this week — just not to TV. New seasons of both shows will begin streaming on Hulu starting Monday.
Actor Vincent Irizarry, who played Dr. David Hayward on the show, says when the shows were canceled, it took the cast by surprise, too. Just a little more than a year before, ABC had moved All My Children from New York City to Los Angeles.
"This has been one of the most rewarding, most challenging, exciting characters I've had the opportunity to play in my 30-year career," Irizarry says. "So I had to really put him to rest."
But if we know one thing about soap opera characters, it's that when they die, it's not always permanent. It turns out the same is true of these soaps. After they were canceled, a production company run by Rich Frank licensed them with a plan to stream them online, but he hit some roadblocks. Then, six months later, he got a call from the streaming video website Hulu.
"They called us up and said the soap fans are dying for this to come back, and we think there's a lot of them that will watch these shows on Hulu," Frank says.
Those fans had created an online and in-person campaign to bring back their shows, including protest rallies at ABC. Shawn Brady, one of the soap show activists, says the protests ranged from boycotting to writing the sponsors to the point where Hoover vacuum company decided to pull its advertising from ABC daytime.
For Brady, protesting to bring back a canceled soap opera doesn't seem at all over the top. The shows really mean something to him.
"I love the fact that whether you're having a good day or a bad day, you know they're there for you," Brady says. "They're like family."
And now he's getting his family back.
In March, Brady celebrated with about 25 hard-core soap fans outside the new home of One Life to Live and All My Children in Stamford, Conn., by bringing the cast coffee and doughnuts.
The show's executive producer, Ginger Smith, says the new online format frees up the show to be a bit more progressive in its storylines, and even a little bit racier.
"But I always qualify by saying, I went through 12 years of Catholic school, so you know it will be a little bit steamier, but we will always try to do good taste," Smith says.
The question is: Will loyal fans of the TV shows be willing to find them online? If they have enough fans like Tina Gray, they'll be all right.
"I'm going to cry tears of joy. Actually I'm crying now just thinking about it," Gray says.