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Daytime Soap Opera that premiered on ABC in 1968.

The series originally focused on the wealthy Lord family and the blue-collar Riley family of Llanview, Pennsylvania. Heiress Victoria Lord (played by Erika Slezak since 1971) became the centerpiece of the show, later marrying into the Buchanan family, which has served as the series' core ever since. Over the years, Viki has suffered breast cancer, heart disease, a stroke, being shot, and most famously, Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The late 1980s brought a series of outlandish storylines. Viki's near-death experience took her to heaven, depicted as a spaceship inhabited by her departed relations. In 1988, Clint Buchanan fell off a horse and was transported to 1888, where he met his own ancestors, all lookalikes of his 1988 family. Most infamously, in 1989, several characters became trapped in Eterna, a secret city inside a mountain. In 2008, to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary, they 'revisited' two of these storylines. Viki again suffered a near-death experience, but this time Heaven was more like an office building, where she was taken by elevator to be briefly reunited with friends and loved ones. Show creator Agnes Nixon also made an appearance during this segment. In addition, Bo Buchanan (Clint's younger brother) and his nephew Rex Balsom were struck by lightning and transported back in time to 1968's Texas, where everyone believed that Bo was actually his father Asa and that Rex was actually Bo.

In the early 90s, OLTL returned to more socially-conscious storytelling. One story told of a gay teen who confronted homophobia in Llanview. Another featured Marty's brutal gang rape at a fraternity party. This story introduced OLTL's most controversial character, Todd Manning, who led the gang rape. Much like Luke Spencer on General Hospital, the character was kept on the show due to female fans' attraction to him. Todd was discovered to be a long-lost Lord heir, and became a central character, driving away many viewers.

Created by Agnes Nixon, OLTL shared its universe with Nixon's other soap, All My Children, and has had many crossovers with same, most recently a baby-switch story in 2004. One Life to Live aired its last episode on January 13th, 2012, and the characters of John Mc Bain & the Mannings migrated to General Hospital.

Tropes used in One Life to Live include:
  • AB Negative - Tina and CJ, among others
  • Actor Allusion - "David, isn't there a housewife that's desperate for you somewhere?"
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother - Greg has to be at least in his early 40s to have been a practicing neurosurgeon for as long as he's explicitly stated to have been. The actress playing his mother is in her mid/late 40s. And he has a 15 year old sister, who's actually Greg's daughter.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Daniel Colson.
  • The Baby Trap - Stacy to Rex.
  • Big Fancy House: the Buchanan mansion, Llanfair and La Boulaie.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Several. But notably the Lords, the Cramers and the Buchanans.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The main character Viki's dad, Victor Lord. Originally seen as simply a domineering and Overprotective Dad during his original run on the show, it was revealed in the 1990s, presumably after his death, that he was a pedophile who molested Viki as a child. He briefly was revealed to have had his death faked in the early 2000s with Mitch Laurence's assistance, before dying again, during which we got to see the real Victor Lord in all of his ugly True Colors.
  • Bound and Gagged - Hardly uncommon on any soap, but a notable example came in 2003 with Mitch's kidnapping of Blair, who is next seen tied up in her underwear while Mitch calls her husband. She spends a good part of the following episode tied up and blindfolded.
  • Cast Incest - Inverted. Real-life siblings Kristen and Eddie Alderson play unrelated characters. A few years back, a storyline involved Eddie's Matthew having a crush on Kristen's Starr. The boy had to pretend to have a crush on his sister. Gross.
  • The Cast Showoff - Several actors on One Life to Live. For instance, the original actor who played Jessica, Erin Torpey, has a nice singing voice, so they had Jessica in a band at one point, and also had her sing on a few other occasions. Evangeline Williamson got to sing a lot in the show, because her actress Renee Goldsbury is a real life singer/song writer, and was on a Broadway musical. And Blair Cramer, is also shown singing on a number of occasions, because Kassie De Paiva is a singer and has albums out.
  • Cliff Hanger - Victor Lord, Jr. is still alive and is somehow being held by Allison Perkins.
  • Convenient Coma - Evangeline Wiliamson. Went into a coma for three years after being exposed to a gas leak. She soon went off life support.
  • Crossover - mostly with All My Children, but with other ABC soaps as well
  • Damsel in Distress- Natalie used to often suffer from this back in the day, to be saved by John. This has not happened so much recently, however.
  • Downer Ending: Bobby Ford and Cole Thornhart are fighting to get out of Heaven to be with their loved ones, Bobby does the chivalrous thing and lets go on to other side. But as soon as Cole and Starr arrive in Port Charles, they get in a car accident and Cole and Hope are killed.
  • Dynamic Entry - Shaun comes to save Starr, Hope, and Todd from drug dealers. This is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

 Sergei: (sees Shaun on phone's caller ID) Who is Shaun?


Shaun: I'm Shaun.

    • Except the actor who plays Shaun sucks and his delivery of the line was more like "I'm Shaun" which didn't sound right and wasn't as cool.
    • Another example occurred when Sam burst into a hotel room where Echo had been holding Dorian hostage, in a Spiderman costume, and taking Echo down with toy web shooters. Did we mention the kid is seven?
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In 2001, Jessica Buchanan's life got flipped turned upside down. First Allison claims she returned the wrong baby after baby Jessica (Natalie) was kidnapped. Then it's revealed Jessica and Natalie are half twins when it was discovered her father was Mitch Laurence and not Clint Buchanan. Then after developing DID to repress childhood sexual abuse, her alter falls in love with a man and gets pregnant by him, just as she comes around to loving the guy...he dies in a freak accident. That freak accident was caused by her aforementioned twin sister's deception. She lapses into her DID again and imprisons her sister, and she's pregnant again. Unfortunately this baby doesn't survive, so ANOTHER alter steals her teen cousin's baby. Eventually, the ruse is lifted and she loses another child. She gets institutionalized (a recurring theme) and finds love with another crazy. Mitch escapes and fucks that up by erasing her mind to when she was a teenager. Her new beau can't cope and thus sleeps with said twin sister. She comes back though...mid coitus with the town pervert who impregnates her. Despite this she attempts marry him, until the ugly truth comes out. You guessed it, DID time. She hooks up with the town pervert and begins to like him, but Jessica takes over again and it's square 1. Just as Jessica and the town pervert begin to fall in love, Mitch returns and kills HIM, somehow a DNA test is found and it's revealed that Clint's her biological father all along. Did I mention she lost a kid before all this too?
  • Evil Old Folks - Victor Lord was one very vicious old man. Also, Echo Disavoy.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin- lampshaded when during ex-husband Asa's "funeral" Blair (played by a Caucasian actress) flashbacked to her own wedding to Asa...which occurred when Blair was being played by an Asian American actress. Cue the confused look into the make-up compact.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Mitch is the master of this. Everything he does is passive-agressive, which makes him all the scarier.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Justin greeted Matthew's return to school with a hurricane of Incredibly Lame Puns (including one on the figurative and literal meanings of the word "lame"); think Ignore the Disability done deliberately.

 Matthew:(disagreeing with the point of Lord of the Flies). I think most people are good.

Teacher: Great, Matthew. Why don't you tell me why-

Justin: -But you don't have a leg to stand on, Buchanan!

  • Jerkass: Todd Manning, full stop. Seems to have spread to his twin brother and son.
  • Karma Houdini: Todd is at the top of the list, Cole's racing up it...
    • Inverted with Cole, because killing the serial killer who made everyone's lives hell landed him in prison. It's only 10 years, but enough time for James to get in with Starr...
    • Jack had this going for him for quite some time, but it seems like karma is finally catching up to him.
    • Don't forget Robert Ford. He kept an insane woman from getting treatment, broke her out of the mental institution, then kidnapped her again when she was healed. And she is the one to apologize?
    • When both Ford and Cole are on death's door, Ford is sent to Hell for having raped Jessica, while Cole is allowed to go to Heaven in spite of the murder. Ford finds his way into Heaven, but dies while Cole lives and is allowed to reunite with his parents.
      • Averted, Cole and his daughter die in a flaming wreck in Port Chuck.
  • Killed Off for Real: Several major characters throughout the show's run. Viki's sister Meredith was the first, and Viki's first husband Joe Riley was killed off for real before the 70s were over.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Most of what David says throughout his storyline with his proposed reality show, and its subsequent turn into an internet telenovela. Memorably: "Thanks to the slow demise of serialized television, there are more and more time slots available for important programming. Like my reality show!" and "Do you have any idea how much money must be in reruns that play on the internet?"
    • In the late 80's Bo was the producer of the soap opera Fraternity Row, which was just an excuse for the writers to mock themselves and their actors. It was brilliant.
      • Robert S. Woods, the actor who plays Bo, also appeared in a commercial with a tagline around that time, and the writers took that as an excuse to have other characters wink and say it to him.
  • Likes Older Women - David Vickers.
  • Little Miss Badass - Mr, actually. Mr. Samuel. Lord. Manning. Stared down the barrel of a .38. Didn't flinch.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Shane, literally. Diagnosed the very same week that Matthew was paralyzed in a car crash - at least one reviewer said that they risked alienating viewers by having so many horrible things happen to kids they've come to care about happen at once.
  • Live Episode
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Locked in a Freezer
  • Love Makes You Crazy - Schuyler
  • Long Runner - 7/15/68-1/13/12, 11,105 episodes
  • Magic Plastic Surgery - Max, Todd (actually Todd's twin brother, Victor Lord, Jr.)
  • The Malaproper - Roxy
  • May-December Romance - First Dorian with Joey, then Dorian with David, which would count as Squick to many when David gets a love scene with her.
    • Even squickier was elderly Victor Lord's off-screen but often-mentioned romance with college student Irene, which became creepier (but also more 'logical') when after a Retcon it was revealed that Victor was a pedophile who had sexually abused his daughter Viki all throughout childhood.
  • Musical Episode: Starr X'd Lovers.
  • Mushroom Samba: Cole's withdrawal hallucinations of his family and friends berating him and telling him how he ruined their lives.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Bo Buchanan, multimillionaire oil heir and cop's cop.
  • One Steve Limit
  • Pass Fail: When Carla Benari couldn't get roles as a black actress, she pretended to be a white one. This caused tension between her and her mother Sadie.
  • Perky Female Minion: Allison Perkins
  • The Other Darrin: Lampshaded hilariously during the Vicker Man premiere - Blair is asked how she feels about being played by an Asian-American actress in the movie; cue to the cast credits, where the actress credited as Blair is Mia Korf (the Asian-American actress who originated the role of Blair Cramer).
    • 2011's Two Todds storyline thrives off of this.
  • The Rival: Dorian Cramer towards Viki.
  • Pretty in Mink - Until the early 1990s.
  • Rape as Redemption - Played straight after Marty's gang rape.
  • Rape Is Love - Subverted once Marty got her memory back.
  • Retcon - Since this is a soap opera, waaaaaay too many to list. But it's worth mentioning one of the show's most famous and most recurring: the cause of Viki's DID. First it was because her wealthy and powerful father had raised her so strictly and placed so many expectations on her she developed a split personality just to have all the fun and lack of responsibility she never could; then it was from a childhood trauma caused by seeing her parents argue and thinking (falsely) her father had deliberately pushed her mother down the stairs, causing her death; then it was because Viki had repressed memories of walking in on her college roommate and best friend Irene having sex with her father (leading to the birth of her sister Tina); and finally it was 'revealed' in 1995 that all along (inspired by Sybil and When Rabbit Howls) that Viki's DID was the result of her father routinely raping her from the age of seven until she was in college. To be fair, the 1995 story did tie all of these explanations together.
  • Retired Monster - Victor Lord after he came Back From the Dead briefly before dying for good. He never actually retired from being a Complete Monster, though, and right up until his death he was trying to take the heart of his daughter that he molested as his own.
  • Rivals Team Up - Viki and Dorian usually don't get along. But even they could find common ground to team up against the evil Echo Di Savoy.
  • Sassy Black Woman - Destiny, a Hollywood Homely Sassy Black Teenage Girl.
  • Serial Killer - the Music Box Killer
    • Also, the K.A.D Killer.
  • Sexy Spectacles - A certain assistant DA always wore glasses but eventually admitted that he had 20/20 vision. He had started wearing them in law school because he wanted to be taken seriously but kept wearing them because he found that women loved them.
  • Shower of Angst
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome - Tea's daughter Danielle (b.2003) who is now (late 2009) fifteen.
    • Joey Buchanan. (Nathan Fillion plays the best Joey ever. Just sayin')
    • Most recently, Jack Manning, Todd's first son, who was born in 2001, is now (early 2011) sixteen.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Todd Manning. Rape Marty Saybrooke? Check. Save Marty Saybrooke? Check. Assault a blind Nora? Check. Save two children (actually his long lost niece and nephew) while on the run from the law? Check. Kill a man by exploding his yacht? You betcha. He's made a career on these.
  • Split Personality - both Viki and her daughter Jessica
    • Viki's personalities were Niki (sexually promiscuous and fun-loving - although she was Flanderized throughout the show's run - as well as the one personality established the longest on the show and who makes the most appearances), Jean Randolph (the authoritative, emotionless personality who "cleaned up messes"), Tori (personable but sarcastic and ruthless, even violent), Tommy (a teenage boy with a raging temper but fiercely protective of Viki), Princess (modeled after Viki's seven year old self who first experienced her father's abuse), and Victor (how Viki saw her father). Jessica's were Tess (angry and hypersexual, like a combo of Niki and Tori), Bess (a lot like Viki's Jean personality), and Wes (modeled after a brash male Navy SEAL), with even more personalities hinted at before the show was cancelled.
  • Taking the Bullet - Bo for Rex. He lived.
  • Teens Are Monsters - the whole class laughed at Justin's above-described Hurricane of Puns as though it was genuinely funny.
  • Teen Pregnancy - Starr recently had one of these. Markko and Langston were sure to use a condom when they did the deed, though Lola poking holes in Langston's nearly caused this. Gigi also had one with Shane. Destiny is currently expecting with Matthew's baby.
    • Jessica Buchanan was also pregnant as a teen, although the baby, who was named after her dead half-sister Megan, was stillborn after Jessica was hit by a car. Speaking of Megan, Viki was pregnant with her as a teenager, and the fact that Viki's complete monster of a father had her brainwashed into forgetting the pregnancy and birth ever happened was one of the explanations for Viki's DID before it was retconed into being childhood sexual abuse.
  • Their First Time - Starr and Cole, Langston and Markko.
  • Too Dumb to Live - Everyone has their moments.
    • Destiny's parents somehow make a bizarre cross between this and the Moral Event Horizon by indirectly being responsible for Greg's involvement with Elijah Clarke's schemes just because they're way too stubborn to admit that Destiny is not really their daughter.
  • Two-Teacher School: Llanview High. Physically, it's one re-dressable classroom set, a short stretch of hallway and the gym. It's fully rendered compared to the Warwick School, which consists of one dorm room, an even smaller bit of hallway, and a single Minerva McGonagall Expy.
  • ~Who's Your Daddy?~ - many instances, but the volley between Sam and Bo over Matthew's paternity was especially prolonged.
    • Not to mention Rex, who's been wondering for a long time. It turns out his father is Mitch Laurence.
      • Played with, as it turned out his father was Mitch, but was then some fictional character, and finally revealed to be Charlie, only because Clint - the real father - faked the DNA test.
    • Played with during Stacy's pregnancy. When Stacy miscarried her child with Rex, she lost any sense of obligation he felt towards her, and so she immediately tried to find another man to get her pregnant. After hitting on Kyle, who revealed he was gay, and Schuyler, who didn't sleep with her even after she drugged him, so preyed on cop Oliver, who was drunk and struggling with his own coming out. The next day Stacy was pregnant and Oliver came out of the closet. Flash forward some months and Stacy has both Rex and Schuyler believing they are the father of her child, while assuring Oliver it isn't his baby.
  • Wicked Cultured - Carlo Hesser
  • Yandere: Hannah, complete with Murder the Hypotenuse.