General Hospital executive producer, Frank Valentini, spoke with TVSource Magazine last weekend during the ABC Television Critics Association Cocktail Party. We had the opportunity to catch up with the show runner and get his thoughts on GH’s ratings increase, the importance of social media and whether or not the Nurses’ Ball is returning this year.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since the acclaimed executive producer took over General Hospital. GH’s diagnosis wasn’t looking good –ratings were in a tailspin, a major fan favorite was leaving and there was no guarantee the show would even have a timeslot come September. It was a daunting task t’s a daunting task that would have overwhelmed a lessor man, but Frank Valentini is not a lessor man. His approach to GH was simple – inject new life into the series by reaching into the past, building the future and engaging viewers in the present.
Two years later, General Hospital is experiencing a ratings boom not seen in years. Valentini believes a return to the familiar – using faces and characters fans know – is contributing to the resurgence in ratings. “I think that one thing that is bringing them back is there are a lot of familiar faces that are coming back from the past, the not too distant past, from the way back past. I think it feels more like ‘GH’ now and people are responding to it, at least that’s what people tell us.”
It’s not just faces from the past that have helped, Valentini feels the change in pace – moving storylines a little faster – also plays a factor. “There’s always something going on. There’s always some reward, some surprise, some humor, some romance every day, so every day counts, and I think that’s making a big difference. People are talking about it more often, and we’ve been trending, like last Tuesday…we trended for like 15 minutes on Twitter, number two in the country. So that’s kind of fun. So there’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of heat, there’s a lot of excitement.”
Contrary to what some might believe, Valentini tells us he loves reading the feedback from fans, even though he doesn’t respond to all of it. “I definitely appreciate that the audience has a voice, and that they’re a part of the process that way.” A part of the process, not the process in which they gauge reactions.
“We love to hear what they have to say – good and bad,” says Valentini, shooting down misconceptions that the show only pays attention to positive comments. He acknowledges that while some fans want all of their concerns to be addressed, it’s just not possible to do so. “There are a lot of things that we know as insiders that the audience isn’t privy to, and there are reasons why we do what we do, either financial or contractual or whatever.”
In celebration of General Hospital’s 50th anniversary, Valentini engineered the resurrection of the beloved Nurses’ Ball – a fundraiser for HIV and AIDS awareness that affects reel and real life. Valentini’s been careful to avoid giving a definitive “yes” or “no” regarding the event returning in 2014, we managed to an answer that we’re going to take as a yes! “There’s a very, very, very strong feeling there will be a Nurses’ Ball 2014,” he said smiling, noting it will be a lot of fun.
And then he called me beautiful. Be still, my beating heart!