Deep Soap: Will ‘General Hospital’s’ New Time Period Hurt the Show?

by | September 7, 2012 at 11:16 AM | Deep Soap, Fall TV Preview 2012

General Hospital (ABC)

“General Hospital” Prepares to Time Travel

Daytime is an oasis of stability in the desert of television. Every year, returning primetime shows change time periods. Networks trust that fans of, say, “Revenge” will follow the show to a different night and time and will then stay tuned for the program that follows. Next Monday, September 10, “General Hospital” will air one hour earlier. It’s a huge change for a show that has aired  in the same time period since the 1960s. GH is doing everything it can to motivate people to make the switch, including crafting a high-stakes umbrella storyline in which the entire population of Port Charles may die from a toxin. To find out how (almost) everyone is (inevitably) saved, you’ll have to tune in Monday. In fact, based on this promo (below), ABC even gave GH the money for a location shoot featuring boats and explosions, as well as Sonny once again vowing revenge on an enemy. Fortunately, although ABC’s promo department seemingly has not gotten the memo, GH is no longer the Sonny Show, so numerous other characters are getting their due.

DVR “General Hospital”

If you watch the show, you are probably aware of the time period change because of the half dozen promos about it that run each episode. If you DVR, or watch online (thanks, btw), then you won’t notice. If you watch live, then it might be a big deal. In numerous markets, including Los Angeles, GH will now compete head-to-head with “Days of Our Lives“, which has risen in the ratings since its Olympics hiatus. On he other hand, it will be on during lunch for a lot of people, which could theoretically help it gain viewers. Plus, it is inheriting “One Life To Live’s” old timeslot, and now features several former OLTL characters. Given that both “The Revolution” and “Good Afternoon America” have flopped, GH will actually have a stronger lead-in now that it’s following “The Chew.” Not long ago, every single soap was competing with at least one other soap. Now, until this move, in many cities viewers could watch all four soaps back-to-back with no overlap. It remains to be seen whether the move will  help GH — whose longterm survival is still very much in doubt — or hurt it, or have minimal impact. If I had to guess, I’d go with the latter, though the next couple weeks may see a bit of a dip as fans who somehow missed the half million promos wonder what happened to their show.

No matter what happens, at least the Toxin that Gave Port Charles Flu-like Symptoms is proving quite entertaining. This week, I have been tickled by Todd’s (Roger Howarth) hastily assembled One Percenters Club of rich, shady people who he is convinced can come up with 88 million dollars to give to Jerry (Sebastian Roche) and acquire the antidote that will save the town he has come to love in just a few months. The one-liners alone (to Sonny: “You do  know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, don’t you?” “Oh, look, Johnny, there’s a kid’s table.”  are reason to tune in.) Watching a guy who has committed to many sins do the right thing for the right reason, even if his methods are a little questionable, is surprisingly heartwarming. It’s like the end of “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” multiplied by five.

Watch the Latest Episode of “General Hospital”:

Mean Girls and Boys

On the other hand, I feel like my heart shrinks three sizes every time I watch an episode of “The Young & the Restless.” Every single character on the show has become a mean spirited, selfish, bitter jerk. Not surprisingly, this does not make for a pleasant viewing experience. Instead of rooting for my favorite characters to get what they want, I’m hoping that everyone falls down the same Hawaiian volcano that killed Skye. What’s so frustrating about it is that the unpleasantness ignores decades of character history in service of illogical plots. Sharon’s (Sharon Case) quest to take over Newman is the most destructive. I don’t for a minute by that a woman who deep down has always wanted a simple life with her handsome billionaire heir high school sweetheart Nick (Josh Morrow), and whose numerous mistakes were driven by insecurity not malice, would A) marry Nick’s father, Victor (Eric Braeden) , out of spite and greed. B) Plot to takeover Newman Enterprises upon Victor’s disappearance even though she has never had any interest in running a huge corporation C) Fall under the influence, and start sleeping with, another billionaire she barely knows. D) Agree to spend several days in a mental hospital so she could retain control of the company.

It’s as if Sharon has not been a part of the Newman family for decades. She , and her adversaries, have been to hell and back together. and care about each other even if their relationships are currently strained. Nick’s willingness to have the mother of his children involuntarily committed just to keep her from becoming CEO is sickening. These are people who have been to hell and back with each other. Nick should be concerned about Sharon’s total personality change, but the Nick I knew would try to figure out what was wrong and, if she needed professional help, suggest it out of a sincere desire to help her, rather than sending her to a snake pit over a business deal. Sharon’s trip to the mental hospital is in service of yet another plot twist — Daisy (Yvonne Zima), the equally mean spirited walking plot device that the vast majority of the audience seems to hate is not dead after all. She’s just locked up in the same asylum.

The new headwriter Josh Griffith has vowed to return to more character driven storytelling. (His work will first air in Cotober.)  Let’s hope there are still some traces of the characters that viewers know and love left to salvage.