LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Agnes Nixon, the creative force behind the popular and genre-altering TV soap operas “One Life to Live” and “All My Children,” has died.
ABC said that her son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Sarah Nixon, confirmed her death. She died Wednesday in Haverford, Pennsylvania, at age 93, according to the McConaghy Funeral Home.
Her age, reported elsewhere as 88, was confirmed by her survivors and was included in the death certificate, a McConaghy spokesman said.
Her cause of death was listed as complications from Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.
Nixon created, wrote and produced the long-running ABC daytime serials but had her hand all over the daytime TV landscape.
Before creating “One Life to Live” in 1968, Nixon wrote and penned long-term storylines for just about every other soap of the day, most notably “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns” for CBS.
Chicago-born Nixon (born Agnes Eckhardt) worked under the tutelage of the creator of those shows, Irna Phillips.
While writing “Guiding Light,” she had the lead character go for a pap smear –relevance in the media at the time (the mid to late 50s) was non-existent. Characters talked about problems in their marriages but rarely were things like race, illness or politics ever mentioned.
Nixon decided to change all that.
In the mid 60s, she decided to take daytime TV in a dramatic new area and spice things up. ABC was struggling in the daypart and approached her to create a show. “One Life to Live” — was the result. The show kicked off with a bang. An interracial triangle involving a black woman who was passing for white got viewer’s hooked. Soon after, she started writing stories about mental illness and grief.
In 1970, ABC came to her and asked if she had any other ideas. “All My Children” which was an idea she had before she sold “One Life,” would surpass — in viewers, critical acclaim and popularity and pop culture references — her original child. That show started with a story about the Vietnam war, something daytime never acknowledged. Not too long after, she was penning taboo storylines on abortion and other hot topics. And at the height of its pop culture popularity, fans and stars like Carol Burnett would often show up to show their adoration and admiration for the program.
While “AMC” and “OLTL” were both her babies, she spent much more time working on and with “AMC.” She stayed on as a consultant to ABC Daytime long after the age of retirement.
Her other writing credits — and she was most often head writer — included “Another World,” (where she followed “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton), “As the World Turns,” “Search for Tomorrow,” and “Loving” which she co-created in 1983 with Doug Marland. While “Loving” wasn’t a huge success, it did help launch actors like Bryan Cranston.
In 1981, she took a rare foray into prime time writing the miniseries “The Manions of America” — about an Irish family’s early life in the U.S.
On learning of her passing, ABC Chairman and CEO Robert Iger issued the following statement:
“It is with a heavy heart I mourn the passing of television pioneer Agnes Nixon, someone I was proud to call a friend. Agnes’ impact on daytime television and pop culture is undeniable,” wrote Iger, “She was the first to champion socially relevant topics, and the towns and characters Agnes brought to life leave an indelible imprint on television that will be remembered forever. On behalf of Walt Disney and ABC, I want to extend our deepest condolences to her family.”
Nixon was married to Robert Nixon — a car dealer — from 1951 until his death in 1996.
She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1992 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Ats and Sciences in 2010.
She is survived by four children– and it is not coincidental that her children (Bobby, Mary, Cathy, Emily) 10 grandchildren (Mary’s daughter Ceara to name one) and three great-grandchildren were names you often heard on “All My Children.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asked for donations to the National Parkinson Foundation, 200 SE 1st St., Suite 800, Miami FL 33131 or to Wilmer Eye Institute, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287.