Deep Soap: ‘General Hospital’ Healthy in New Time Period

'General Hospital's Anthony Geary (Photo: ABC)

“General Hospital” Time Change Has Negligible Impact on the Ratings

The first full week of national ratings for “General Hospital” since it moved to a new time period one hour earlier are finally available. As I predicted last week, the move did not have much of an impact. GH dropped one tenth of a ratings point from the prior week among women 18-49 (from 1.0 to 0.9.), but retained 100 percent of their audience in Women 18-34 (0.6, tying for number 1 soap with “The Young & the Restless“) and Women 25-54 (1.3).   Arguably, the ratings should have risen given that the show featured a big, action filled umbrella storyline as the residents of Port Charles r death from a water-borne toxin, but that’s impossible to predict. “The Bold & the Beautiful” featured Ridge and Brooke’s sixth wedding, and Ron Moss’s final appearances on the show (unless he decides to return in a few months), and its ratings only rose a tenth of a point among adults 18-49. Overall, this is good news. The time shift does not seem to have damaged the show’s performance, nor has it hurt the ratings for its new timeslot competitor in many markets, “Days of Our Lives”, which had the identical ratings in all key demographics to the prior week.  After fighting  to save ABC soaps, it looks like fans aren’t going to let something as insignificant as a time change stop them from watching.  Also, let’s get real. A huge percentage of daytime viewers DVR the show both for convenience and strategic fast forwarding.

Watch the Latest Episode of “General Hospital”:

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A Week of Casting Surprises

Nobody saw this one coming. Sean Kanan, who was the definitive A.J. Quartermaine on “General Hospital” back in the 1990s until he got fired from the show because of what he admits was a serious substance abuse problem, is returning to the show. After leaving GH, Kanan created another memorable character, Deacon Sharpe, who has appeared on both “The Bold & the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless.”  In fact, Kanan popped up on “The Bold & the Beautiful” this week for what will apparently be a very short stint. Kanan told TV Guide that he was happy to return to GH because the show offered him a longterm contract, which he appreciated after working without one for the past few years.

The question is: who is he going to be playing? Executive Producer Frank Valentini is determined to keep Kanan’s role a secret until his first appearance in October, A.J. died several years ago, though, as with many soap deaths, there is enough wiggle room to resurrect him. A.J.’s return would impact numerous characters, most notably his ex-wife Carly and his biological son Michael. It would also keep the Quartermaine family as Kanan has a strong physical resemblance to Steve Burton, who is leaving the role of Jason Morgan – A.J.’s half brother – this fall. There is some speculation that Kanan might be playing Jason. My gut reaction is that this would be the worst idea ever,  because Kanan has such a different acting style from Burton and because as much as I mock the character of Jason, it’s an iconic role that no one else should play. The third possibility is that he’s a brand new character in the vein of Sarah Brown playing Claudia instead of the role that she originated, Carly. I don’t see the logic of hiring Kanan to play someone new, unless the twist is that he’s an A.J. lookalike, but stranger things have happened on soaps.

When Jill Farren Phelps became executive producer of “The Young & the Restless”, fans were scared that, based on the other soaps that she ran, she would fire older, longtime cast members.  So far, they are the only ones who seem safe.  Last week she fired two expensive, A List newcomers, Genie Francis and Debbi Morgan and twentysomething Marcy Rylan. Kevin Schmidt, who played college aged Noah had already been let go. This week, Lindsay Bushman, who just joined the cast as the now  teenaged Summer, was fired. The actress tweeted that her role, like Noah, had been recast with an actor who appeared on the Phelps-produced English language teen telenovela “Hollywood Heights.” She didn’t specify who, but it would be funny if it were James Franco who guest-starred on the show. Meanwhile, septuagenarian Eric Braeden announced that he had signed a new contract with the show.

Other than the talented Rylan, whose character should be an integral part of the show, I have no issue with any of the firings. Francis and Morgan played underdeveloped characters that never gelled with the rest of the cast. None of Y&R’s teens have made any impression, in part because the writers never bothered to write them a story. When the show opted to SORAS multiple young characters, I anticipated a summer of young romance. Instead, they disappeared for weeks at a time, showing up only to whine to their parents. Though it may not be fair to judge performers on such limited work, none of the newcomers seemed particularly charismatic or interesting.  Six months from now, I may be horrified that Jeanne Cooper has been forced off the show, but as of right now, it seems like the veterans may be the only familiar faces on the rebooted Y&R.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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