Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Will the last ditch effort to save ‘General Hospital’ pay off?


It’s getting down to crunch time for fans of ABC’s last remaining soap ‘General Hospital.’

Within the next few weeks, ABC executives will make a decision about the long-running soap opera’s fate. Essentially, will it stay or will it go?

In January, ‘One Life to Live’ went off the air. This was on the heels of last fall’s ‘All My Children’ finale. Other ABC staples like ‘Loving,’ ‘Ryan’s Hope,’ ‘The City’ and ‘Port Charles’ went off the air years ago.

‘General Hospital’ is the last soldier standing – and it looks to be gut shot.

Once the gem in the crown of ABC Daytime’s tiara, ‘General Hospital’ has been limping along for years – essentially a victim of the mob violence that plagues the fictional city of Port Charles.

In the late 1990s, GH pulled away from romance in the afternoon and embraced thugs in the afternoon. Fans started slipping away from the soap in droves.

To blame the fan exodus purely on the storytelling would be misleading, though. The storytelling didn’t help – especially propping three characters above all others and forgetting the soap’s intricate roots – but it wasn’t the only reason fans started disappearing.

To be fair, there are a lot of reasons soaps are dying. First off, there are fewer women home in the afternoon. Second, those that are home have more options. Third, soaps are fairly expensive to produce and replacing them with cheap reality shows is the new “it thing to do” – just ask fans of ‘All My Children,’ ‘One Life to Live,’ and ‘As The World Turns.’ These new reality shows may not endear fanatical fans like soaps do, but they’re so much cheaper to produce it really doesn’t matter to the number crunchers.

In September, ‘General Hospital’ is losing its time slot to Katie Couric. We all know this. It’s not news. It’s already been announced. It’s a done deal.

What is not a done deal is GH’s fate. Essentially, as I see it, there are three options.

ABC makes an announcement and ‘General Hospital’ goes off the air in summer or early fall. To me, this is the likeliest scenario.

‘General Hospital’ gets moved to the 2 p.m. hour that ‘One Life to Live’ used to be at and replaces the underperforming ‘The Revolution.’ I think if this does happen it will only be for a limited time until they find another reality show to replace it with. I really don’t think it’s practical to sandwich the soap between two reality shows.

‘General Hospital’ moves to being a summer serial, essentially a limited run, prime time endeavor. If this does happen, the show will try to appeal to a teenage audience so the odds of recognizing the soap are pretty slim. It will be a mash-up of recast nubile teens and their trite problems instead of a multi-layered, multi-generation serial.

So, which of those options do you like best? Yeah, I agree, they all suck.

I think there are a lot of fans living in denial out there. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to see the show go, either.

It looks like the show runners are pushing one last ditch effort to raise ratings and stave off execution – mainly by bringing beloved vets back. When it was announced that ‘One Life to Live’ was going off the air and fan favorites John Loprieno, Andrea Evans and Roger Howarth returned – ratings did, in fact, rise.

So ‘General Hospital’ brought in former OLTL Executive Producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati. This is good news for GH fans for two reasons: Carlivati is much better than Garin Wolf, the writer he’s replacing, and it may signify that ABC executives aren’t quite ready to put GH out to pasture.

Of course, fans pinning all their hopes on this move are delusional. This isn’t the first time a soap has brought in a new creative team only to have an official cancellation announcement follow.

For the time being, though, let’s look at the positive.

First of all, fan favorites like Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio), Finola Hughes (Anna Devane), Robin Mattson (Heather Webber) and Rick Springfield (Noah Drake) are officially checking back in. All four actors have been confirmed, and Hughes, at least, should be sticking around for awhile. How long the other characters will be around hasn’t been made public yet. For all I know, it hasn’t been determined yet.

This is on top of guest visits by popular OLTL actors Kassie DePaiva, Howarth and Michael Easton. Kristen Alderson, OLTL’s Starr, is also reportedly joining the cast. I would assume she’ll be a love interest for Michael. While I would rather see more of Howarth and DePaiva (who are apparently only doing guest shots), Alderson is talented and might be able to liven up the ‘General Hospital’ canvas.

That brings us to the rumored returns. Let’s face it, a lot of fans are a little upset with ‘General Hospital’ right now – especially on the heels of some high profile departures by Jonathan Jackson (Lucky), Tyler Christopher (Nikolas), Ingo Radamacher (Jax) and Kimberly McCullough (Robin). There’s also the upcoming departure of Nathan Parsons (Ethan) tearing at the hearts of a lot of fans, too. On a side note, he needs to take the insipid Cassandra with him. What a waste of screen time.

I think that’s why everyone is jumping on the fan favorite return bandwagon. There are several spoiler mavens out there – some better than others, there are those that write fan fiction and call it spoilers, too, but I digress – who are pulling every character ‘General Hospital’ has had in the past 20 years out of the woodwork and saying they have a “chance” to return.

Names being bandied about include Genie Francis (Laura), Stuart Damon (Alan), Lynn Herring (Lucy), Jon Lidstrom (Kevin), Jack Wagner (Frisco), Kristina Wagner (Felicia) and Vanessa Marcil (Brenda), among others.

Here’s the thing, though, ‘General Hospital’ would have to do some massive cast trimming to afford all those vets. Not to mention that in at least one case, Damon’s, a massive rewrite to bring his character back from the dead would be in order. I’d totally believe whatever crap they threw my way, though, I miss Alan that much.

Now, I want to see the majority of these vets back on my screen, especially Marcil, Damon, Francis and Jack Wagner – but I do think that all these returns being bandied about is actually a bad sign. I think that if these characters do end up coming back, it’s to wrap up story lines, not save GH.

A lot of fans say I’m a downer for not believing that GH has a future ahead of it. I think I’m practical, though. When GH does go (and it will go), I’ll be sad and bitter and depressed. Then, a few weeks later I’ll move on.

Do I think bringing back all these vets is a smart move? Actually, yes. I don’t think it will save GH, though. Perhaps we’ll just get some closure for characters and couples we love.

In the end, that might have to be enough.

What do you think? What does General Hospital’s future hold?


3 Comments:

Blogger Renee said...

I think you are wrong, on many levels here. First, ABC has more than the 3 options you describe, and I don't think your 3 are even accurate. If all that ABC cares about is the bottom line, they would not be going to all this trouble bringing back old favorites, just to wrap up story lines for the soap. Suddenly, they want to appear as though they "care" about their soap fans? You said yourself in your article that ABC doesn't care if they lose viewers to cheaply produced shows like "The Revolution" and "The Chew", just as long as they save a buck. How about this scenario; ABC moves General Hospital to a very soap friendly time slot at noon, followed by "The Chew" (which has decent ratings)and then "The Chew" can be the lead in for "Katie Couric"? Yes, you are correct, that means I am saying they should cancel "The Revolution." It is doing terribly in the ratings, and I don't care how cheap it is to produce, you still need people to watch your cheap show. I think ABC execs may have learned something from cancelling AMC and One Life. They underestimated their biggest and most loyal audience, their soap fans. So, even though ABC doesn't seem to have a heart, they do seem to have a brain, and if they use it, they will keep "General Hospital."

February 16, 2012 at 2:34 PM 
Blogger Amanda Lee said...

The noon time slot belongs to local affiliates.

February 16, 2012 at 3:38 PM 
Blogger Mystic Dreamer said...

You have a right to believe as you do and in my head I know that you are most likely correct, however that does not mean that I am giving up Hope, Faith or Dreams of GH continuing. I truly wish that they would open there hearts at ABC and sell or release the rights back to Mrs. Nixon so that she can find those out there that would like to take these shows and move forward with them whether on the net or cable. Sure it may flop but at least we could say that they were given a fair chance. I do not believe that continuing storytelling is over or past it's time...far from it...it just needs a fresh start with writers, directors and producer's that genuinely care about this type of genre and the history of these shows and characters.

February 19, 2012 at 5:53 PM 

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