General Hospital was represented yesterday at Disney/ABC Television Group’s Summer Press Tour during the Television Critics Association Panel. Considered a show of support by ABC, the stars and execs discussed the recent changes at the show and previewed what’s to come for the fall.
It’s been a difficult year for soap operas. Last year, ABC cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live, causing viewers to wonder if General Hospitalwould be next. Despite the grim outlook, GH was renewed, Frank Valentini came on as the new executive producer, and the show practically swept the Daytime Emmys, giving viewers and cast a renewed sense of hope for the future of the soap. Next spring, the show will celebrate fifty years on air, quite the feat for a daytime drama given the changes in the genre over the last few years.
Yesterday, General Hospital was represented by Laura Wright, Jason Thompson, Jane Elliott, Tony Geary, Frank Valentini (executive producer), Maurice Benard, Nancy Lee Grahn, Steven Burton, Kelly Monaco and Michael Easton at Disney/ABC Televisio Group’s Summer Press Tour during the Television Critics Association Panel. At the TCAs, Anthony Geary noted, “We were living on death row. I think we were all pretty emotional to get 24 nominations when we were so shaky about a year ago before Frank came on.”
“GH is just an iconic brand,” Steve Burton added. “We’re not ready to let it go.”
One change Valentini has implemented is the pacing of the show. “I think the show was in terrific shape, but there needed to be some tweaks. It’s much more my taste and my sensibility for the show to go just a little faster.”
The cast equally praised Valentini for the changes and renewed hope he’s brought to the show. Nancy Lee Grahn said, “Everyone seems to enjoy cutting edge things, the newest thing, but there’s something to be really valued in tradition, making people comfortable and inclusive. That really matters. People have watched General Hospitalfor 50 years.”
Also in attendance at the TCAs was Michael Easton, whose character has been transitioned from One Life to Live to General Hospital. “It was bittersweet,” he said. “At the same time it’s been exciting to come over and work with these guys. We were pretty aware for a year there that the wrecking ball was right outside the door. It’s interesting to come over here and have the same feeling.” Still, he’s found the change exciting. “It’s been new energy for me… I was in a stupor for a little bit… I’m really happy to be here.”
While some viewers have been on the fence about the integration of OLTL to Port Charles, the cast has enjoyed it. “I love that there’s new blood. They’re great,” said Maurice Benard. “They’re bringing a different element to Sonny that wasn’t there before.”
Along with praises of the show and hope for the future, Valentini shared some tidbits about upcoming storylines. “Robin is back for a little bit,” he confirmed, expressing his desire to keep her character and story a part of the show. “She’s [Kimberly McCullough] open to it, and we’re going to try to work together,” he said, referencing her decision to leave the show to pursue a career in directing. Given that the show just revealed who is holding Robin captive, it’s safe to say the viewers can look forward to a long story playing out.
Valentini also commented on more One Life To Live cast members joining GH, mainly Kassie DePaiva and Melissa Archer. “Kassie will definite be coming back,” he confirmed, adding that the truth about Todd not killing Victor will come out on GH as well. As for Archer, Valentini explained that legal issues from the failed deal with ProspectPark to take OLTL online have kept Archer from joining.
Fans hoping for Genie Francis to return in the iconic role of Laura Spencer shouldn’t hold their breath. “Unfortunately contracts forbid us from even discussing that,” Valentini said about Francis. She’s currently on The Young and the Restless. He added that they are fans of Genie’s and wish her the best, but thinks the show is pretty solid right now.
In September the show will move timeslots from 3 p.m. to 2 p.m. When the change was announced, it spawned another round of fear from viewers, but Valentini is hopefully. “All I can say is they invited us here, and that’s a great sign,” he said at the TCAs. “They’re very excited about the 50th anniversary. I’m pretty confident… I like the way we’re being positioned with the other shows around us. The network is doing a big push to inform viewers.”
Leading up to the time slot change, the show will have “an umbrella” story with “a lot of fun surprises and terrific stuff coming,” making GH the soap to watch this fall!