What will the Frank Valentini/Ron Carlivati “General Hospital” be like? That’s been the question on every soap fan’s mind since news broke that the executive producer and headwriter of “One Life To Live” are moving to GH. Will the dynamic duo do as well in Port Charles as they did in Llanview? Will they convince Jonathan Jackson and Kimberly McCullough to give the show a second chance? Will they be able to raise the show’s ratings so that ABC will decide to keep GH and cancel either “The Revolution” or “The Chew” next fall to make room for Katie Couric?
OLTL was always ABC’s lowest priority. It was never given the budget or the promotion of its other two soaps, but that neglect may have been the secret to the show’s success. If ABC Daytime were “The Hunger Games” — and I would watch the hell out of Panem: The Dystopian Future Soap — OLTL would be District 12, ignored and impoverished but adept at quietly rebelling against the Powers That Be, but GH is District 1, the Capitol’s favorite, carefully scrutinized and happily adhering to the government’s whims. If ABC is actually going to give Team Names That End In I the chance to be Gloria Monty 2.0, there is no way that they are going to be trusted to repair the show without oversight. If they have been brought in, as many cynically suspect, to give the show a great finale, than they might be given free reign.
I am choosing to have a little bit of optimism about GH’s future because it is obviously ABC Daytime president Brian Frons favorite soap. That does not mean GH has a shot if his bosses are determined to cancel the show or if “The Revolution” turns out to be a hit. But New York Magazine’s report on Valentini’s hiring made it clear that Frons decided to offer him the job right after the on-line OLTL was scrapped. If he wanted to let GH die, he would have stuck with the status quo. On the off chance that Frank and Ron are reading, here are some elements of OLTL that I would like them to bring over to GH.
A Sense of Morality
I have no issues with the mob continuing to exist in Port Charles. I used to love Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Jason (Steve Burton). Given Carlivati’s track record at crafting storylines that redeem previously unlikable characters, I have no doubt that he could do it again. It’s counterintuitively as simple as writing them as the black hats that they used to be instead of the heroes. OLTL’s Todd (Roger Howarth) has done things that are every bit as horrible as Sonny and Jason but because the other characters constantly give him hell about it, and he rarely gets what he wants, he remains sympathetic. OLTL also has strong heroes, including Bo (Robert Woods) and John (Michael Easton). The cops are good people who often end up solving crimes. There is no reason that Mac (John York) and Dante (Dominic Zamprogna) could not be written to be as strong, interesting, and frequently victorious.
OLTL is more diverse than most primetime shows. The Delgados are Puerto Rican. The Evans are African-American. It is the only soap to feature South Asian characters. The characters’ ethnicity informs their personalities, but they are in no way stereotypical. GH used to have a diverse cast, but the Ward family was written off. The hospital’s minority doctors, Laney and Kelly, are MIA. Shawn (Sean Blakemore) and the new cop, Delores (Rebeka Montoya) are the only significant minority characters currently on the canvas. Based on Montoya’s robotic performance, she is not long for Port Charles. Diversity is not important just because it’s politically correct. Having characters from different backgrounds can make for interesting perspectives, like Rama (Shenaz Treasury) and Vimal’s (Nick Choksi) positive attitude about arranged marriages.
OLTL excels at what used to be a daytime staple,multi-generational storytelling. There are three generations of Buchanans. Each has their own stories, yet parents, children and grandparents all interact frequently. When teen Matthew (Eddie Alderson) awoke from his coma, not only were his parents and girlfriend by his side, but his uncle Clint (Jerry VerDorn) was so thrilled that he almost kissed his ex, Viki. Some of the most interesting, popular characters on the show are over 50, yet Llanview also has more teens than any other soap. Older characters other than Luke (Tony Geary) are backburnered on GH. Oddly, so are younger characters. The one teen on the show, Michael (Chad Duell), is dating an older woman and not given age-appropriate storylines. I dream of of Port Charles where Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) has two men competing for her affections while her daughter, Kristina (Lexi Ainsworth) becomes an activist at Port Charles University while falling for a hot frat boy who turns out to be a long lost Quartermaine.
Gratuitious Male Nudity
The men of Llanview are frequently shirtless. they are shirtless while they use computers, talk to their friends, and do plenty of things that could easily be done clothed. Cutter (Josh Kelly) walks around in nothing but boxer briefs so often that he may be a bona fide exhibitionist.The men of Port Charles are always covered. The show’s most popular actor, Steve Burton, prefers not to do love scenes, not that there is much romance for anyone on GH. He seems to set the tone for all the other men on the show.Soaps are supposed to be all about escapism. The majority of the audience is female. There are also a lot of gay men who watch. Eye candy is not reason enough to tune in, but, coupled with good writing, it makes soaps fun to watch. As shallow as it may be, I hope Valentini tells the men of GH they need to go to the gym, because they are going to be showing off their bodies.
Love Instead of Hate
While watching the Thanksgiving episodes of the two soaps, it hit me that OLTL is a show about love while GH is a show about hate. In Llanview, Clint apologized to Shane (Austin Williams) for not welcoming him to the family when he learned that Shane was his grandson. In Port Charles, Jason wrecked his grandfather’s Thanksgiving by going “Real Housewives of New Jersey” on the dining room table, because he was angry that his wife was raped. Every storyline on GH right now is negative, violent, and mean. That’s why, even when OLTL’s storylines veer towards the ridiculous, Llanview is a pleasant place to spend an hour each day while watching an episode of GH has become an ordeal. Bring the love to upstate New York and GH will be watchable again.