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'General Hospital': Can This Show Be Saved?
March 1, 2012  | By Ed Martin  | 4 comments
gh-robin-patrick-emma.jpgWatching General Hospital these last two weeks -- as the energetic efforts of One Life to Liveveterans Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati to save the show from almost certain doom begin to play out -- it occurs to me that my time as a fan of this once-formidable serial has come full circle.

I began watching GH in 1978, shortly after fearless executive producer Gloria Monty had been brought on board to save the show from seemingly certain cancelation. In fact, as legend has it, GH at the time had sunk so low in the ratings, it was given a few months to reverse its failing fortunes or be canceled.

Thirty-five years later, GH is once again on life support or damn close to it -- and, once again, it may well be terminated in a few months! ABC seems to have made clear that it wants out of the soap opera business (having already axed four-decade survivors All My Children and One Life to Live) and has arranged for a new talk show starring Katie Couric to take over the GH time slot come September. It doesn't get worse than that for a show that has gone from being the strongest network-owned program on daytime television to a ratings-challenged wreck, gutted by more than a decade of inexplicably destructive writing and reckless corporate mismanagement.


Monty had nothing to lose, and she ran with it, wisely and unapologetically changing everything about a show that simply wasn’t working -- and then succeeding, with the likes of Luke and Laura, beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. GH is in largely the same situation right now, so one might think that Valentini, as executive producer, and Carlivati, as head writer, would take a Monty-like approach to the task at hand and change everything about a show that simply isn't working and is on its death march anyway. (The only chance it has of veering off that trail is if ABC puts its perfectly awful new infotainment effort The Revolution out of its misery.)

I realize we're into only the second week of the Valentini/Carlivati period, but it's beginning to look like nothing much on GH is going to change. And without changes and corresponding ratings increases, the show's future will remain dire. On the plus side, the dynamic duo (whose work on the much-missed One Life to Live I admired most of the time) has accelerated the show's storytelling, pumped it full of tantalizing cliffhangers, and given everyone in the cast scenes in which to shine (in particular Jane Elliot, Jason Thompson and, in the photo above, John J. York and Nancy Lee Grahn). They have also brought three much-missed veteran characters back for brief story turns: Finola Hughes as Anna Devane, Tristan Rogers as Robert Scorpio, and a seemingly ageless Emma Samms as Holly Sutton. (Rick Springfield, as Noah Drake, and Robin Mattson, as Heather Webber, are reportedly on their way.)


It's the minus side that has me concerned. The GH narrative has been hyper-active since Valentini and Carlivati took over, but their big story upheavals still have tiresome mobsters Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) and Jason Morgan (Steve Burton) at their center. For example, beloved Dr. Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough, photo at top) died in a highly improbable lab explosion (a laughably bad series of silly sequences), because she simply had to put her life in danger (and potentially ruin the lives of her husband, daughter and parents) to retrieve a concoction she created to cure Jason's terminal brain swelling before the room blew up. Meanwhile, several characters were plunged into their own dramas and traumas because Sonny once again lost his shit at a party. Then Sonny got shot for the umpteenth time, initiating a mystery about which nobody could possibly care. (Who shot him? Who cares? Been there, seen that, over it.)

And then Sonny sent rival crime boss Anthony Zacchara (Bruce Weitz) scurrying for his life, which resulted in Zacchara crashing his car into one occupied by three characters that had breezed in from One Life to Live: Starr Manning (Kristen Alderson), her beleaguered boyfriend Cole Thornhart (Van Hughes) and their little girl, Hope. Starr survived, but Cole and Hope went over a cliff, seemingly meeting their fiery deaths on the rocks below. Of course, characters are rarely truly dead on soap operas, so it is possible that Cole and Hope survived. (For that matter, that may not have been Robin Scorpio's body in the burned-out lab.) But for now we’re meant to believe these people are dead, and who wants to believe that? GH just killed a child (little Jake) a few months ago (in a storyline that really soiled the bed). Who told ABC that child killing is a thing the soap opera audience craves?


So that's one doctor, one reformed bad boy and one little girl killed off in the first two weeks of the new regime. I'm particularly dismayed by the way Robin was disposed of -- in a meaningless accident that came about partly because she wanted to save the life of a killer. I remember watching the day in 1985 that Robin first appeared on the canvas as the surprise daughter of super-agent Robert Scorpio. She was 7 years old at the time [photo at right]. I was still watching 10 years later when Robin contracted HIV from her first sexual encounter with her first boyfriend, Stone Cates. She wasn't the first television character to become HIV-positive in the mid-'90s, but she was the first to illustrate that HIV isn't a death sentence and that with proper care and medical treatment a person with HIV can lead a long, happy and productive life. There is no understating how impactful this storyline was when it began 17 years ago. The character and her story were too important to too many people for too long to be brought to so pointless and poorly produced an end, even if her death is a grand way to galvanize so many characters.

I'd like to see the new regime make moves as bold as those Monty made way back in the '70s, especially since, again, there is nothing to lose. They could begin by finding a way to bring Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon) back onto the canvas. It wouldn't hurt if his son A.J. came along, too. GH has sucked gas (and continuously lost viewers) ever since it gutted the Q clan.

The best suggestion here would be to eliminate the characters whose storylines have brought the show to its knees. Specifically, I'm talking about Sonny, Jason and mobster-hopping bitch-on-wheels Carly Jacks (Laura Wright). Carly might be interesting if Nurse Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman) came back to town and held her daughter accountable for her atrocious behavior over the years. And I could deal with Jason if his brain problems of late resulted in the return of the mild-mannered Jason from the good old days. (How would that Jason deal with the memories of all the lives he took during the last 15 years?) But Sonny has got to go, preferably in a violent manner that would stir up every character on the canvas and send them reeling. Imagine the stories that could be told!


I'd also like to see the miserable wretch that was once Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) go away and stay away. The utter destruction of this once uniquely captivating character has been terrible to watch. He's beyond repair, and it's best to simply send him on his way. Let him go visit long-absent Laura and explain his thoughts about drinking, drunk driving and having sex with Holly during their marriage.

On a final note -- for now, anyway -- I think it's time to bring the Cassadine story to a close. Mad granny Helena isn't nearly as interesting as she used to be. Sadly, she's devolved into a ridiculous cartoon character. I blame everyone who has written the character in recent years, rather than Constance Towers, the wonderful actress who portrays her [with Geary in photo above]. Helena's recent scenes with Luke, Ethan (Nathan Parsons), Holly and the Woman in White (who was improbably revealed to be Helena's own daughter) were so poorly written and directed, they were difficult to watch. She has done so many terrible things to so many people, there is simply no reason for Luke not to kill the nasty old bat. Her storyline began 30 years ago. Time to move on.

Then again, if soap opera writers weren't so afraid to move on, the genre wouldn't be breathing its last, would it?




Eileen said:

I haven't watched the soaps in years, but that's not to say they don't have a devoted audience.

The shows that replaced the beloved soaps are just dreadful:
The Talk would never have made it to a second season if Julie Chen wasn't married to Les Moonves. It's The View Lite, with far too many "hostesses", and nothing interesting going on.

The Revolution is revolting; if they let Tim Gunn loose for an hour it would at least be entertaining and informative. The rest I can surely do without.

And The Chew is just more of the same. How many times can a menu be rehashed, reviewed and reworked? Awful.

I, for one, would avoid Katie Couric like the plague. I used to love the CBS Evening News -- until they brought Miss Cheery Pants on deck. I immediately switched to ABC and Diane Sawyer and have never looked back.

It's unfortunate that the networks hold their audiences in such low regard. Students and retirees alike are huge fans of the soaps, but it just seems like all is lost. I truly feel their pain...

Comment posted on March 2, 2012 12:27 PM

H.F.Washington said:

This article is so right on. I've been watching GH since day ONE and will watch til the end.(hope it not soon). GH has had me pulling my hair out. Please,let this soap be saved.

Comment posted on March 3, 2012 8:03 PM

Debbie Joyce said:

GH can be saved and deserves to be, but will ABC allow it to be is the burning question. With Carlivati and Valentini's arrival they are beginning to clean house. The show has been moving at a rapid pace compared to Bob and Garin's writing. For the first time in years I am actually excited to see what will happen on the next show.

The ratings are showing improvement and now that the One Life to Live characters are beginning to appear the ratings will climb even more. Now, will Anne Sweeney be a woman of her word and cancel the show with the least viewers? Or was that just one more of ABC's frequent attempts to manipulate the fans into watching? Only time will tell.

Comment posted on March 4, 2012 7:18 PM

Sue said:

This is 100% accurate. Gave up on GH when they started the whole mob storyline. Would check in whenever Laura would return, but the storyline was sooo bad, couldn't watch it. GH should have been cancelled instead of AMC!!!

Comment posted on March 4, 2012 7:20 PM

Mary Hamilton said:

I think Ron and Frank will do a terrific job once they can clean up all of the former writers storylines. GH is not unfixable it can be and will be fixed. I think as fans we have to be patience and let it unfold. In the mean time we can continue to fix for AMC and OLTL to get the rights released and hopefully a new soap channel!

Comment posted on March 4, 2012 7:44 PM

susanmz said:

I wish people would give the new writers a chance before committing GH to its doom.

Comment posted on March 4, 2012 7:54 PM

Tom said:

Can "General Hospital" be saved? Is it TV worth watching? If anything can survive and thrive for over 2 decades like GH, or over 40+ years like AMC and OLTL, then maybe there's more to these shows than what meets our eyes. We've seen villians escape, heroes fighting through trials and tribulations, dead people coming back to life, the underdogs becoming strong and proud, loved ones falling apart. And it all sums up in just one word: Life.

If you ask me 'Can "General Hospital" be saved' and 'Is it TV worth watching', then my answer is a very loud and proud, 'YES'. My name is Tom and I am a soap fan.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 12:15 AM

MaryAnne said:

Yes, GH can be SAVED !!! Give the new writers time to fix it !! When they got there, it was a mess !! Is it worth saving ? Yes it is !! I've been watching GH for over 30 years, throught the good and bad, I never miss a show. I watch & DVR it everyday.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 7:28 AM

Kari said:

Yes GH can be saved! And needs to be saved! I have been watching ABC soaps since I was at least 10 now in my late 40's ABC is responsible for the the decline in ratings for there day time line up. If they had put people in charge of these shows that genuinely cared for them and there history we would not have lost our beloved AMC & OLTL! Sure viewing has changed over the years but if they had really wanted to save these shows they could have, and that is the bottom line they did NOT want to save them. Let Ron & Frank work there magic with GH and give them enough time and they can save GH!! As I have been doing since AMC&OLTL went off the air, ABC is banned in my house and I only watch GH!!!

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 9:25 AM

cathy trinque said:

I have never been a viewer of GH. My soaps AMC and OLTL were cancelled by greedy crooked ABC/D
executives. I plan to watch as long as I can see a little of OLTL. I don't doubt that GH will be cancelled. But ABC daytime will be no longer pretty soon with the stupid replacement shows and I don't think Katie Couric will be welcomed by the viewers. I don't plan to watch her. Her yearly salary could have kept one of the soaps on the air.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 9:28 AM

Steven Waldie said:

ABC's ratings in daytime and primetime have gone down the toilet since AMC and OLTL were both canceled. They need to fix the mess they made in daytime. Soap fans want to watch soaps, not talk shows.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 10:02 AM

Colleen said:

I am a lifelong GH fan. That being said the show took a turn down mob lane and never came back. Time to end the stupid stories of mobsters and get back to real stories with family and heart. GH was the top show for lots of years and can be again, but there is no time to waste. It needs to be done quickly!!! So writers start writing (I have lots of ideas), actors need to act as if your jobs depend on it and fans need to make sure they are heard and watch!!! We can do this. We want GH to bring back OLTL and possibly other spin offs, but it all depends on the new writers. Get rid of Sonny, Anthony and please take Kate with them. It is over for the mob and gun fighting. Restore the town and hospital to the community instead of 9 out of 10 scenes on the waterfront. Bring Jason out of his recent surgery with no memory of the mob and turn him into the old Jason Quartermaine. I dare say bring Alan back and have it said Sonny has been keeping him somewhere. Bring back the great love stories, the family and dare I say fun and make it interesting. If someone gets shot it should be a big deal not another day. I will always watch, but I would like it to be enjoyable again.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 2:36 PM

Robynne said:

I definitely will give the new producer & writer time to wrap up the crap they were left with. I have never stopped watching, but I did FF through a LOT of storylines the last couple of years or so. Now I am excited to see what happened on the show again.

But I won't put it all on the last group of writers...ABC/D have been slowly killing these shows for many years. It is time we take them back!

And as for Helena - with good writing, we will see how good a villain Constance Towers can be! YES GH and this genre CAN be saved.

Comment posted on March 5, 2012 3:10 PM
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jThis is a good entertainment program and I hope it will air forever. It helps me relax and have fun watching.
Jun 19, 2023   |  Reply
I think that the elderly people that stay at home can enjoy the "soap operas" than the "Political" crap. Trump is the President .Point break . Let him do his things and leave the man alone. Right or wrong Trump is president.
Mar 6, 2017   |  Reply
I would rather watch the soaps then the drivel they put on tv at night. I'm so sick of stupid reality hillbilly shows. Where do thye find this crap.
Dec 11, 2013   |  Reply
I would rather watch the soaps then the drivel they put on tv at night. I'm so sick of stupid reality hillbilly shows. Where do thye find this crap.
Dec 11, 2013   |  Reply
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