Wednesday, April 24, 2024

ABC’s Real Soap Opera: “General Hospital” is Booming in the Ratings


ABC must be having a fit: “General Hospital” is a hit. The last remaining soap opera on ABC was almost cancelled last year. But for a terrible show, now gone, called “The Revolution,” turning out to be a terrible dud, “General Hospital” would have followed “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” to a VHS tape bin.

But “The Revolution” is no longer televised. The executive producer and head writer from “One Life to Live” transferred over to “GH” in its 49th year. They brought over some of the “OLTL” characters, mixed them into the show, and brought back favorite actors like Finola Hughes and Robin Mattson to enliven the story. And it worked.

Last week, “General Hospital” added 378,000 viewers vs. the same week one year ago. They’re up to a 2.7 rating, third among the remaining four soaps (including “Days of our Lives” on NBC and “Young the Restless” and “Bold and the Beautiful” on CBS.) But very importantly “GH” is now second among the four soaps, in viewers ages 18-49 and growing in all the ratings categories. Last year around this time “GH” had a 2.2 rating. The increase is significant.

(The ratings may have increased because the show brought back a character who died on screen seven years ago. It reminded me of the scene in “SoapDish” when Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the writer of the soap in the movie, exclaims, “The man was decapitated. I can’t write for a man without a head.” Apparently these people can.)

Soap plots are always crazy, so you have you have to accept these things. It’s better than watching one more person discuss how to slice a rutabaga, that’s for sure.

One other thing is for sure: ABC has never explained in any realistic way whatever happened in their whole debacle with Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park Productions. ABC and Prospect Park announced they were moving the other two soaps over to the internet and maybe cable. Then the whole thing collapsed mysteriously. Prospect Park made it seem like “All My Children” couldn’t be done because star Susan Lucci was asking for too much money. Lucci told me recently that simply was not the case. “One day we were negotiating,” she said, “and the next day we were not. We didn’t know what happened.”

Indeed, Prospect Park–aside from a limited involvement in USA Networks’ “Royal Pains”–doesn’t do very much and didn’t do very much when the soap ‘deal’ was going on. Like many Hollywood production companies, they have a few things ‘in development.’

And now ABC is having a hit on its hands that it didn’t want. The network thought it was out of the soap opera business. CBS is doing everything it can to kill its remaining soaps. They hired General Hospital’s fired and failed executive producer to take over “Y&R,” long the number 1 show. The ratings and viewers are in decline. At “B&B” two of the main actors are gone in the last few weeks, sending that show’s numbers down. It’s clear what CBS wants. But ABC may be stuck giving afternoon viewers what they want a little while longer no matter how much they want to cancel “General Hospital.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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