Deep Soap: Ratings Rise During Premiere Week; Robin Returns to ‘GH’

Kimberly McCullough (Photo: Getty Images)

All Soaps Rise In Ratings

The ratings are in for the first week of the new television season.

All four soaps gained more than a quarter-million viewers vs. the first week of last season.

That is a rare feat for any TV show in any time period these days. Ratings for many prime-time shows, including hits such as “Modern Family,” have fallen this season.

Shattering the stereotype that the only people still watching soaps have one foot in the grave, all four network soaps are also up from a year ago among women 18-34, a demographic that the networks value. Though the soaps are still far from their glory days in the 1980s and 1990s, a network would be crazy to pull the plug  on a soap right now.

In fact, there isn’t much of a difference between the women 18-49 ratings for soaps and the prime-time adults 18-49 ratings for lower-rated shows. All four soaps outperformed this week’s biggest prime-time bomb, “Lucky 7.” Maybe next week ABC should air an episode of “General Hospital” in its place to let people know how great the show is right now.

Welcome Back, Robin Scorpio

Can you welcome a character home if she’s imprisoned on a private island?

Robin Scorpio’s (Kimberly McCullough) return to “General Hospital” this week has been thrilling.

After spending the better part of the past two years locked up and drugged in a European asylum, Robin now is a prisoner with a purpose.

Watch the latest episode of “General Hospital” (plus many more on our “GH” page here):
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Her captor Jerry (Sebastian Roche) wants her to create a drug that will cure his polonium poisoning. If she succeeds, he promises he will set her free.

While it begs the question of why he didn’t just put her on the job in the first place instead of poisoning the Port Charles water supply to extort millions of dollars to purchase a cure that turned out not to work, it’s a great set-up.

Robin’s medical specialty has always been drug therapy so it’s believable that she would have the skill set to get the job done. If she ever gets free, hopefully she’ll file a patent and make millions saving the lives of oligarchs who get poisoned by the KGB.

The audience knows that the medication that she creates could also save Luke. Robin has hated Jerry since he shot her when he held half of Port Charles hostage at the Metro Court. She spit in his face during their first scene together this week.

Jerry’s decision to both inspire and taunt her by showing her video of the Nurses Ball was efficient, effective storytelling. It also paid off a story point I had forgotten about. Jerry was the anonymous donor who financed the Nurses’ Ball. He hilariously claimed he did it because of his concern about the global impact of HIV, but we now know that he just wanted to get video that would devastate Robin.

In a matter of minutes, Robin went from being moved by the sight of Patrick (Jason Thompson) and Emma to jealousy upon learning Patrick is dating Sabrina, to fury and hurt at Britt’s dramatic announcement that she was pregnant with Patrick’s child.

Does Robin know that everyone in Port Charles believes she is dead, or that years have passed? She has lived in Port Charles for long enough to know what happens when someone is presumed dead.

Patrick held out for an unusually long time. But it was in character. Robin is a good person, but she’s also self-righteous and judgmental. That’s what makes her interesting and three-dimensional.

The decision to juxtapose a deliberately over-the-top , campy storyline with the realistic scenes of Patrick deciding to stop wearing his wedding ring, and admitting that he doesn’t want to let go of the fantasy that someday he might see her again, gave the storyline gravitas.

Those scenes could have easily aired on a prestige family drama like “Parenthood.” It made the inherent silliness of, “How do I let my husband know I’m not dead, I’m just doing medical research for a psychopath?” poignant.

In Praise of Stupid Stoners

As strange as it sounds, I would like to praise “Days of Our Lives” for creating a group of teens who just want to sit around getting high. J.J.(Casey Moss) and Rory (Kevin Riggin) smoke marijuana on a regular basis.

Watch the latest episode of “Days of Our Lives” (plus many more on our “DOOL” page):
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They’re a little bit troubled. They really ought to be spending their time more productively. But they are not drug addicts. They remind me of half the people I knew in high school. They may be the most authentic teens in soap history.

I am so tired of the way soaps, and indeed most of broadcast television, conflate drug use with drug addiction. On “The Young & the Restless” Fen (Max Ehrich) was shipped off to rehab after popping pills about three times.

It seemed clear that he was using because he wanted to escape from his problems, not because he couldn’t stop. Talking to a counselor about his feelings about his parents marital difficulties, or heck, just going away to college, could probably have done the trick.

Obviously, teens should not be doing drugs or drinking, but in reality, lots of teens smoke marijuana, never progress to harder drugs, then go off to college, grow up and live productive lives.

Kudos to “DOOL,” once the stodgiest of the soaps, for finding its inner “Harold & Kumar.”

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

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