Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why is it that women of a certain age on ‘General Hospital’ are virtually forgotten?

The “big” casting news for ABC’s ‘General Hospital’ was announced this week – and it wasn’t what anyone was expecting.

Finola Hughes (Anna) has signed a long term contract.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is welcome news – but it’s not the earth shattering announcement we were anticipating.

For one, Hughes had been booked for an open-ended stay. No one expected her to be ousted any time soon.

Second, given the fact that the ‘One Life to Live’ refugees are actually managing to boost ratings (with a little help from GH faves) – I expected the casting news to be about a former OLTL character. I was obviously wrong. 

The Hughes casting is welcome – mostly because women over the age of 40 have become something of a rarity on GH. They’re essentially like unicorns – you hear about them but never really see them.

Men over the age of 40 are a different story. Maurice Benard, Steve Burton and Anthony Geary all not only anchor regular storylines, but essentially have storylines crafted specifically for them. When you add in recent arrival Michael Easton and the soon-to-be regular Roger Howarth – it’s clear that ageism doesn’t apply to the men on GH.

The women are a different story.

Fan fave Jackie Zeman used to be one of the central heroines on the show – but she hasn’t had a story to call her own in years (essentially since daughter Carly came to town). Kristina Wagner – who is supposed to be coming back for a guest stint – saw her airtime dwindling and jumped ship about seven years ago.

To be fair, though, and as much as I like Zeman, she’s had so much bad plastic surgery she doesn’t even resemble the woman GH fans remember. Of course, she probably had that plastic surgery because she was hoping to look younger and get more airtime. Looks like that backfired. We didn’t even see Bobbie when her granddaughter was getting a kidney transplant or her grandson’s girlfriend died.

The show’s all-time greatest heroine was Genie Francis (Laura) – and she essentially walked when she was asked to lose weight and saw her airtime started peaking at once a week. That’s a move GH has never really recovered from, if you ask me.

Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) is still prominent on the show – but she doesn’t really get her own storyline. Her screen time is based on what her television daughters are doing or who she’s defending in court at any given moment. Up until now, the writers have refused to do a more mature love story for Alexis and John J. York’s Mac -- even though fans have been clamoring for it.

Jane Elliot (Tracy) still manages to get stories directed her way – but they usually tie into Luke (and more recently Anthony). She’s more of a plot device than anything else. The same with Leslie Charleson (Monica) – who gets trotted out whenever Jason needs brain surgery.

When the show runners were recasting Kate – a character that we were supposed to believe went to high school with Sonny – they cast an actress that could almost be his daughter.

That leaves Laura Wright, who is in her early 40s, as the sole “female of a certain age” getting stories crafted specifically for her. Of course, Carly is part of the trio of doom (Carly, Sonny, Jason) who ate Port Charles and helped plummet the ratings, too. It’s a double-edged sword in her case.

The one thing that the OLTL writers have going for them is that they wrote for a bevy of “older” female characters, including Viki, Dorian, Blair and Nora on a regular basis. We can only hope this trend will continue to hold true for ‘General Hospital.’

If it doesn’t, Kelly Monaco (Sam) and Lisa Lo Cicero better watch their backs. Lo Cicero is 42 (but looks 30) and Monaco turns 36 in May. They could be the next on the chopping block.

GH’s writers need to realize that we like a multi-generational cast. We don’t need all of the women on the show too look like they belong on MTV reality shows.

The real way to bring viewers to GH (and keep them) is to write strong females that viewers can relate to. Hughes is a good start to that.

What do you think? Are you hopeful that Hughes’ signing means a resurgence of “older” women on GH?


Blogger Brandy said...

"Second, given the fact that the ‘One Life to Live’ refugees are actually managing to boost ratings (with a little help from GH faves) – I expected the casting news to be about a former OLTL character. I was obviously wrong."

You have that ALL wrong. The OLTLers have not boosted ratings, Finola Hughes did as well as the return of Tristan and Emma but then those ratings plummeted with the crappy writing for all 3. The ratings are almost worse than they were before the gods Ron and Frank took over with their invasion.

April 8, 2012 at 7:49 AM 
Blogger Amanda Lee said...

Actually, the ratings went down with the basketball tournament but went back up last week. They're certainly not where any of us would like them to be, but OLTL had better ratings than GH at the end and Howarth and Easton can most certainly lay claim to at least a portion of the new fans, while Hughes and Rogers can lay claim to returning old fans.

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