Sunday, May 26, 2024

“General Hospital” Hits Ratings High, But ABC Gets Sued By Online Soap Network


“General Hospital” hit a ratings high the week of April 7th-15th, finishing second in number of female viewers ages 18-49. The soap had over 2.8 million viewers of all genders total, too, among the four remaining daytime sudsers. The show is on a roll, having brought back nearly everyone who was ever on it for the last three months leading up to its 50th anniversary. Somehow they managed to juggle 50 or more people, weave in old stories and new, and keep the whole thing moving forward at relatively fast (for soaps) pace.

But a villain lurked. His name is Jeff Kwatinetz, and I warned soap viewers about him a long time ago. Kwatinetz owns Prospect Park, the company that licensed “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” from ABC when the network foolishly dumped them. This is the same Kwatinetz who nearly wrecked Kelly Clarkson’s career, who had an unfortunate partnership with Mike Ovitz and Rick Yorn, was briefly engaged to the late Brittany Murphy, and managed Britney Spears for a month. Controversial? That’s an understatement.

When “One Life” left the airwaves and Kwatinetz was unable to put his licensed shows on line as promised, ABC moved three actors from the show with their characters to “General Hospital.” This accomplished a few things. It kept “One Life” alive for its fans, and it added a new flavor to “GH.” Since the exec producer and head writer from “One Life” moved to “GH” also, this meant that there were some crossovers, references to the old, appearances by some of the “OL” actors. It kept the cancelled show alive in fans’ minds.

But now Kwatinetz is actually launching his online shows. And instead of capitalizing on how ABC publicized one of his shows for a year or more, he blocked them. He wants the characters back. and the actors. So “GH” is creating three new characters for the actors, and never mentioning their old personas again. So what’s Kwatinetz doing? He’s suing ABC. Surprised? I doubt anyone in the movie or music businesses is. They know this guy. The soap people do not.

What should Kwatinetz have done? Made a deal for crossovers, allowed the actors and characters to go back and forth. He could have scored a huge p.r. coup for his online shows, and won over all the fans who probably don’t know how to watch shows online. But that would have been too easy! Instead Kwatinetz hired one of Hollywood’s loudest barking dogs, law firm Lavely and Singer, and asked for $25 million.

One of the complaints: that “GH” killed off two of the “OL” characters without asking. If the case makes it to trial, that would be one of the funniest discussions. Everyone knows that unless a character is killed on camera, no one actually dies on a soap opera. Even then, they can be revived. I refer you to Whoopi Goldberg complaining about a decapitated Kevin Kline returning to her show in the movie “SoapDish.” “I can’t write for a man without a head!” And yet, she did.

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.

Read more

In Other News