The year 2015 was a wild ride for the long running sudser General Hospital. When looking back at the last twelve months what’s most memorable is what happened behind the scenes as oppose the structurally challenged story lines that played out on our television screens. The lack of good creative direction lead to an outcry of unhappy fans, at one time resulting in the use of the hashtag #WhyRatingsAreLow when discussing the series on Twitter. Media and the show took note. TVSource Magazine publish our own list of grievances in the editorial entitled Iceberg Ahead: What’s Behind General Hospital’s Ratings Collapse. Needless to say somethings went very off course with the popular soap after it had just come off of a successful year in 2014.
Ahead of TVSource Magazine’s Best and Worst of 2015, I take a look back the happenings in Port Charles highlighting the year in review, as well as some of my own picks for standouts of the year.
In late July, it was announced that head writer Ron Carlivati had been let go. Emmy winners Shelly Altman and Jean Passanante took over as co-head writers on August 10th. This major (and for many surprise) creative change was not without its controversy. Carlivati’s pen helped save the show from cancellation when he began writing for the series back in 2012. He was not without his flaws though and GH was at a low point both creatively and in the ratings when he left. Altman and Passanante’s first episode aired October 7th. While there are noticeable changes in tone and structure of the show, the majority of the story lines have been the continuation Ron’s material. Focus for the last quarter of the year was on moving the Jason story forward.
It was a big year for the cast as well. Veteran leading man and multiple Emmy winner Anthony Geary decided to retire, bidding Port Charles a rather lengthy and not as fond as we had hoped for farewell. Two of the three One Life to Live transplants exited the series. Fan favorite Kristen Alderson vacated the role of Kiki Jerome after deciding not to renew her contract. Michael Easton was let go from the show in the summer when his character Dr. Silas Clay was killed off, launching an entertaining yet predictable month long murder mystery. Wally Kurth, who had been doing double duty working on both GH and Days, ended his time as Ned Ashton to accept a contract with Days. Sean Blakemore left the role as Sonny’s right hand man Shawn Butler when his character was sent to prison. Ian Buchanan left the series when Duke Lavery was killed off much to the dismay of fans of Duke and Anna, the soap couple he helped make popular in the ’80s. Anna’s new lover, Agent Kyle Sloane, was recast with Grayson McCouch, then re-recast with original actor Robb Derringer before being killed off. Popular leading man Jason Thompson exited the role of Dr. Patrick Drake after ten years to join YR as the new Billy Abbott.
Former The Young and the Restless actress Hayley Erin replaced Alderson as the new Kiki. All My Children alum Rebecca Budig joined GH as Nikolas Cassadine’s sexy new love interest Hayden Barnes. The Spencer clan expanded with the addition of cousin Valerie played by newcomer Brytni Sarpy. Tracy’s dastardly ex-husband Paul Hornsby (Richard Burgi) returned as did her youngest son Dillon (Robert Palmer Watkins). Anthony Montgomery was added to the hospital staff as Dr. Andre Maddox. Donnell Turner filled the new role of former cop Curtis. Fan favorite Lexi Ainsworth returned as Kristina Corinthos-Davis. Tristan Rogers returned as heroic spy Robert Scorpio and Brandon Barash made a few stops in Port Charles as bad boy Johnny Zacchara. Last but certainly not least, GH vet Genie Francis was put on contract for her role as Laura Spencer.
Nancy Lee Grahn hosted the GH themed online talk show General Hospital Now! to much success. GH brought back the popular Fan February campaign which included guest stars from ABC Family’s Baby Daddy and the opportunity for fans to vote for one of four characters they would like to see return. Spencer Cassadine’s mother Courtney Matthews (Alicia Leigh Willis) was the winner. On April 1st, GH celebrated its 52nd anniversary by going back to where it began when it revisited the very first episode. May was a big month for GH with the return of the Nurses Ball and the broadcast of live episodes on May 15 and May 18th. Both events did well and will be returning in 2016. In the fall, GH began their romance themed social media campaign with the promotional hashtag #FallinLoveWithGH. Port Charles celebrated the holidays with the Toys for Tots Nutcracker Gala featuring Grammy winner India.Arie.