Does ‘General Hospital’ Have A Fighting Chance At Survival?

by | June 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Deep Soap

A Real Contest

ABC President Anne Sweeney has made it explicit that “General Hospital” is battling ABC’s two upcoming daytime talk/reality shows, “The Chew” and “The Revolution” for its survival after Katie Couric’s talk show debuts. She told Deadline, “”We are not announcing the cancellation of General Hospital. It is important to look at daytime like we do at primetime — it really is about eyeballs, and we will go with the shows that have the most viewership.”

If she is sincere, and the network is truly going to cancel whichever one of its daytime shows has the lowest ratings in 2012, it bodes well for GH’s future. The odds that two new shows with relatively narrow focuses will both do better than GH seem slim. Daytime programs almost always take a couple years to build an audience. “The View” debuted to terrible ratings. It took Oprah years to become , well, Oprah. Granted, losing the soaps that have been GH’s lead-in for 40 years will probably weaken the show’s ratings. But I have to believe that more people are going to tune in to watch the continuing adventures of Jason Morgan’s black t-shirt see the exact same show as “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” in the daytime. (Can anyone explain to me how the same producer, J.D. Roth, managed to pitch the same premise — follow one person’s attempts to lose weight over the course of one year concluding with a dramatic reveal of their new skinny body — to different divisions of the same network, and get both versions picked up? That would be like “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry persuading ABC to air a daytime soap called “Wisteria Lane” about four housewives that was narrated by a dead woman.)

Get a behind the scenes look at “General Hospital:”

The rub, of course, is that because the new shows will cost much less to produce than GH, they could get lower ratings and still be more profitable. ABC is going to choose to keep whichever program makes it the most money in the short term.  I wish this were a fair fight. I wish that, instead of canceling “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” ABC had persuaded its affiliates to use the 4PM time period that was previously filled by Oprah to test “The Chew,” “The Revolution” and the new Couric show for a period of three months each. They could compete head to head with all three ABC soaps. In fact, the new shows would have a  competitive advantage since more people are watching television at 4PM than earlier in the afternoon. If it turns out that more viewers want to watch a talk show about food or watch someone running on a treadmill than the goings on in Pine Valley, Llanview and Port Charles, then cancellation would be justified. I would like to think that the competition would inspire each soap to greatness. Unfortunately, it might also result in desperate stunts, and would certainly put soap fans against each other.  But at least it would be a fair fight. I realize that the expense of launching three different shows makes it impossible, but it would be nice to find out what the audience actually wants to watch.

It is not lost on me that  Jeff Zucker is executive producing Couric’s talk show. It would be cruel irony if the man who publicly announced he intended to cancel “Days of Our Lives” was responsible for “General Hospital’s” demise.

Ethan and Maya’s Surprisingly Juicy Break Up

I was shocked by how much I loved the Ethan (Nathan Parsons) and Maya (Annie Ilonzeh) scenes on Tuesday’s episode of “General Hospital.”  They were a couple whose storyline never got off the ground because Ilonzeh was cast as one of the new “Charlie’s Angels” .I was shocked that the end of their marriage of convenience was even addressed on camera given that it was always a backburner storyline. When Ethan caught Maya in bed with a cardiologist, he was devastated. They had rich, character driven scenes in which Maya admitted that she loved the excitement that Ethan brought to her life, but over the longterm she needed to be with someone more stable. Both actors did some of their best work to date. Her impending primetime stardom lit a fire under Ilonzeh.

The scenes gave closure to their relationship. They gave Maya a happy ending, and propelled Ethan towards Kristina. Ethan, still reeling from the loss of Luke, lost the one other person who matters to him. I remembered how good GH is when something actually happens. These days, the show consists of people talking about their feelings punctuated by the occasional violent act. The scenes also put me firmly on the Ethan-Kristina ship. She is immature, but she cares about him. He is the only person in town who actually listens to her. I love that her “sexy” new look has her wearing what appear to be fairly modest prom dresses all the time. Their relationship is the only storyline about two people falling for each other on the show. They have plenty of organic obstacles. Bring on the summer forbidden romance.

The ABC Family/ Y&R Connection

I thoroughly enjoyed ABC Family’s new soapy family drama “Switched at Birth.”

It’s exactly what the title implies, the saga of two teen girls who discover they were raised by each other’s biological families. It also continues the network’s love of casting  actors who played annoying characters on “The Young & the Restless.”  “Pretty Little Liars” has given us Australian Colleen (Tammin Sursock) as a scheming blind girl and Karen (Nia Peeples) and Ji-Min (Eric Steinberg) as a married couple struggling with their daughter coming out of the closet.

Now, “Switched at Birth” stars Vanessa Marano (ex-Eden) as a rebellious rich teen named Bay who is every bit as whiny as Eden was. In fact, she’s the same character minus the childhood in the Ashram. Her schtick works a lot better in primetime, primarily because the other characters are constantly calling her out about being a spoiled poseur. Although, I still wanted to slap her repeatedly. Bay’s crush from the wrong side of the tracks is played by Blair Redford (ex-Scotty).  That’s right. Michael’s little sister has a crush on Lauren’s son. That’s the sort of nasty, almost incestuous pairing that should only be seen on “The Bold & the Beautiful.” My question is, why do actors who were at best boring on Y&R do so well on ABC Family? Does this mean a year from now Yvonne Zima is going to be starring on one of their shows?