Deep Soap: ‘General Hospital’ Appeals to Younger Viewers With Older Actors

Finola Hughes in "General Hospital" (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Young Viewers Like It Old

General Hospital” has brought back a ton of its biggest stars from past eras. Celebrities really are just like the rest of us. They age. Ian Buchanan and Finola Hughes  and the soon to return Tristan Rogers  and Lynn Herring are fifty-ish. Sean Kanan is in his forties.

DVR the Next Episode of “General Hospital”

The prevailing wisdom in daytime for years was get rid of the older actors, and bring in teens and twenty-somethings. That’s the way you lure in those all important younger viewers.

But a funny thing has happened since GH decided it loved the 1980s and 1990s. Its ratings have gone way up among Women 18-34. In fact, it has been not only the No. 1 soap but the No. 1 network daytime program in the demo for the past few weeks. It’s beating “The Young & the Restless.” It’s beating “The View.” And it’s doing it with characters who are way older than 34, characters who, in theory, younger viewers shouldn’t even remember unless they were watching the show in the womb.

In fact, the early twenty-something contingent on GH is by far the weakest part of the show. Nobody cares about Kristina or Trey (Robert Valdez). Sabrina is insipid. Only the smart, socially adept geek Ellie is someone that Michael (Chad Duell) has only become interesting since his father, A.J., has returned.

The young viewers are tuning in to see the older folks. Granted, this news comes as no surprise to many soap fans. Once upon a time I was a tween who loved Erica Kane. We know that young viewers like to fantasize about being strong, powerful, glamorous adults. We also know that it’s the story, stupid. GH is crafting plots that, though they do not rank among the show’s greatest, are exciting and fast paced and steeped in character history. They are also stories that quite simply could not be told about 22 year-olds because so many of them are about the passage of time. The beautifully edited sequence in Monday’s episode that cut between Anna and Duke dancing in the past and the present was all about how feelings can grow even stronger as we grow older and learn how truly rare love is.

Kudos to TPTB at GH and, believe it or not the ABC  execs who signed off on it, for understanding that the way to attract young viewers involves a few grey hairs.

Watch Monday’s Episode of “General Hospital”:

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Post-Partum Fools

Heather Tom  is kicking butt in “The Bold & the Beautiful’s” post-partum depression storyline. It’s a great exploration of a topical issue that is relevant to a lot of viewers lives. Tom is heartbreaking in her portrayal of a woman who truly believes that she needs to abandon her family because she is a bad mother who is destined to die while her child is young.

On soaps everyone wants to be a parent, and even teenagers and men who drunkenly knocked up women they barely knew find parenting fun and easy. It isn’t that way for everyone. Katie, who has a transplanted heart, beat the odds to carry the baby to term and survived a heart attack while she was in labor.

Other characters have offered all sorts of biological explanations for why Katie went from being determined to go through with a pregnancy that could have killed her to rejecting motherhood completely. But I’d like to think that Katie is truly thrown by how different the drudgery of parenting a newborn is from the joyous experience that everything from movies to mommy blogs portrays it as being. I’m sure that’s child-free me projecting and that once Katie gets the treatment she needs she’ll love being a mom.

However this is B&B, and what everyone acknowledges is a medical problem is ultimately an excuse for the world’s most disloyal husband and sister to have an affair. Yes, Bill (Don Diamont) and Brooke (Katherine Kelly Lang) are already treating Katie’s diagnosed medical condition as an inexcusable betrayal. I don’t think we’re supposed to believe they are despicable. Katie has had fantasies of Brooke and Bill happily raising her child. Then again, she has also fantasized that the innocuous mass produced art on the wall of the cheap apartment where she is staying is the Scream.

Bill cheated on Katie with Stephanie for absolutely no reason, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his mentality is, “My depressed wife is no longer hot! I must  look for a substitute!” But his statement on Wednesday’s episode that even if Katie came back to him he probably would not be interested because she is no longer the woman he married was just gross. Brooke is even worse. She loves her sister, but because her husband dumped her over an argument about text messages she feels entitled to latch onto the next available warm body. As everyone on this show treats all members of the opposite sex as interchangeable, and nobody can stand to be alone for more then five minutes, of course a story about post-partum depression turns into a story about infidelity. But it’s going to be difficult to ever root for Brooke again, who is still the show’s main heroine, after she as betrayed her sister in the worst possible way.

Watch Wednesday’s Episode of “The Bold & the Beautiful”:

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

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