How to carry on.
Dear readers, I hope you are well and safe. It's hard to even think about soaps right now because so much is happening in our nation. I wish I had the happy distraction of the goofballs in Port Charles to get my mind off of the madness.
What should GH writers be doing right now to ensure viewers come back strong after the break? That's the question posed to us by Soap Central founder Dan J. Kroll. I'll throw out some ideas this week, and my fellow GH columnist Liz will make her suggestions next week!
I have been watching the Nurses Ball shows, and one thing has struck me on every episode. I feel a twinge every time I see a beloved character who is now gone. There are two things a soap can do to bring in ratings: write a brilliant storyline, and cast spectacular actors. It doesn't matter if you have written the best story on earth if the actors portraying them have no spark and don't capture the viewers' hearts.
I've heard many actors say over the years that Daytime has the most loyal fans. I'm an example of that, as are many of you. I started watching GH in 1977 when Genie Francis came on the show, and here we are in 2020, and I'm still watching (and she's still on the show). There have been good years and bad years. There have been gut-wrenching plots that ripped my heart out, like B.J.'s heart saving Maxie's life and Stone dying of AIDS. There have been ridiculous plots that made me roll my eyes and profusely mock them (Casey the alien, Heather's multiple escapes from mental hospitals, Robin leaving her baby in a tree, Sam scaling a wall in stilettos, to name a few). But I'm still here.
I'm here because I fell in love with the characters. I want to see their life stories play out. I began watching because the girls in my high school wouldn't stop talking about Laura (Genie Francis), and she's still one of the reasons I watch. I want to know how her story ends. I'm invested in her.
Along the way, I fell in love with many other characters -- heroes and villains and everyone in between. As wrong as it is to fall for a villain, I find myself drawn to characters like Valentin and Ava, who are villainous yet sympathetic.
I asked myself, why is that? In the old days, I would have hated them both. But I'm not the 16-year-old girl who started watching GH in the '70s. I'm in my 50s now, and I have discovered that humans come in shades of gray. People can contain both sinner and saint, both hero and villain, so these days, I prefer my characters written with a little more nuance. You can see their humanity and their flaws in equal measure, which makes them far more appealing.
But that's not answering the question at hand. What can be done at present to keep GH alive and to help them bounce back strong when the time comes? Listen to viewers about the characters they love.
Last week, when GH was re-airing Nurses Ball episodes, people kept messaging me about how much they missed certain characters. One of the most mentioned was Nathan. People were again angry that Nathan was killed off. He was a beloved character. People expressed that they want him back on canvas.
Is this possible? He died, after all. Right? Well, he wouldn't be the first dead person to come back to life on GH. So, here's an idea. Maybe Nathan isn't dead. Let's pretend Faison has Nathan holed up in his evil lair, and Peter knows it. Peter doesn't want Maxie to find out, as he's convinced she would instantly dump him for his half-brother. Would you go for that plot?
But hold up, you say. Ryan Paevey chose to go. What could ABC do? I don't know, but is it worth trying? Ryan Paevey has made some fantastic Hallmark movies. I genuinely love him in them. But isn't it time to reexamine the way we do things? Are the days when soap stars have to stay in an iron-clad exclusive contract with their soaps over?
Maybe Ryan doesn't want to come back. Or perhaps he does, but he needs more flexibility. Offer him a contract that gives him a three-month out each year to film movies or other projects. Do the same for other big-name soap stars who have left to pursue other projects. In my humble opinion, it would be a win and not a loss for Daytime to allow their actors to branch out. People who have seen Ryan's Hallmark movies who have never watched GH before might tune in to the soap for the first time. Daytime fans are, as already stated, very loyal. I believe they would tune in to see their favorite stars on whatever projects they are in. I started watching This Is Us solely because I loved Justin Hartley in The Young and the Restless, and I was excited to see him in a new role. Now, it's my favorite primetime show, and I never miss it.
Indeed, there will be cases like that -- Justin is probably not returning to Y&R because he got a better gig. But many of the soap stars who have left to pursue other projects haven't had the same good fortune. Negotiate with them and allow them to be on canvas seasonally and pursue projects as they wish.
If some of our legacy characters like Genie Francis, Kin Shriner, Jackie Zeman, Finola Hughes, Tristan Rogers, Kristina Wagner, John J York, and Leslie Charleston say, "We don't want to pursue any other projects; we are content right here"? Great, they all get substantial contracts, and writers can use them foundationally.
If you know who you have on canvas at any given time, you can storyboard and write your plots accordingly. Maybe that means you can't drag a storyline out forever, which would make viewers happy, anyway.
For instance, Steve Burton returned to GH in 2017, and he and Sam have still never gotten the reconciliation fans wanted. Maybe having shorter story arcs would be less frustrating to viewers.
My dream list for relaunching GH includes two fan favorites: Tony Geary and Vanessa Marcil.
Hear me out. Before we left off, Robert had just contacted Luke and enlisted his help in tracking down Holly. Sure, Tony Geary is retired, but for the right sum of money, would he be willing to do a stint in Port Charles? Can Luke, Robert, and Holly have one more adventure? And more importantly, can viewers get the goodbye scenes with Laura that we got cheated out of when Tony retired? In the video Nancy Lee Grahn posted, he didn't sound like the door was bolted shut.
Next up, some still think that Sonny's soul mate is Brenda. I'd love to see a storyline where Brenda was Dev's mom. Doesn't he look like the kind of kid that Sonny and Brenda would create? So handsome! This would cause an uproar. Carly would suddenly question Sonny's commitment to Dev and inviting him into their home. Brenda and Sonny could have some blow-up scenes about why she kept Dev from him.
We could have a flashback where Sonny and Brenda had a one-night stand the last time she was in town with the Balkan. (And who cares if the timing lines up? SORAS is always a soap option.) I think that reunion would draw viewers in. The Sonny/Brenda/Carly/Jax quadrangle is inherently watchable. Even Maurice Benard agrees! https://www.soapcentral.com/gh/news/2020/0605-maurice_benard_on_brenda_return.php
This week on social media, I have witnessed a lot of discussion on characters people miss: Dillon, Kiki, the original Jordan, Shawn, Ric, Spencer, Sabrina, Patrick, and Robin were all named. Also, there was some discussion on characters that people feel are being (and this is a quote) "shoved down our throats." Sometimes the writers really like the idea of a couple or a character, but they don't really connect with viewers.
There has been a lot of discussion on the character of Peter. And it has nothing to do with Wes Ramsey -- he seems to be widely loved! It is frustrating that the writers can't seem to decide who Peter is. Are we rooting for him or against him? We don't know. The writing for Peter has been all over the place. First, he's solidly a bad guy. Then, we were led to believe he was really a good guy at heart but forced to do evil things by his psychopath dad, Faison. But now, he's being written as a bad guy again, the man responsible for the attempted murder of Franco and possibly the person behind Holly's death. (If she is, in fact, dead.) Viewers are understandably frustrated and want the storyline to resolve. Maybe when GH comes back, Dr. Obrecht can take both Peter and Nelle down and become a tragic heroine to the community.
The next topic I want to broach (and please, no hate mail!) is the question of whether or not GH should work topical things into the storyline.
For instance, should Mike become infected with coronavirus in the nursing home and die from COVID-19, rather than Alzheimer's?
I think that would be an extraordinarily moving storyline. Sonny would wrestle with whether or not he did the right thing by putting Mike in Turning Woods. The character is dying at this point, anyway, so why not write something timely and poignant?
A New York Times article posted May 11 stated that one-third of all US COVID-19 deaths were nursing home residents or workers. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/09/us/coronavirus-cases-nursing-homes-us.html
As of this writing, there have been around 110,000 reported COVID deaths in the US. If that number is accurate, and one-third of those are in nursing homes, approximately 36,000 people have died in nursing homes.
The news is so sad, so, do we really want to see this on GH? I think so, and I will explain why. During quarantine, many families were unable to hold funerals or memorial services for their loved ones. Mike's funeral and the attached storyline could let people who have suffered this sort of loss have an outlet for all that grief. Cry over Mike with a million people and honor your lost loved one in your heart.
Have you ever had a life experience mirrored by a soap? Did it help you? I have. When my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, Monica on GH was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching Monica navigate cancer and treatment and her emotions was healing to us. It helped us get through it. It helped me see what my mom might need and helped my mom feel hopeful. Soaps can inform, educate, comfort, and sympathize.
Also, our country is in the midst of a dark time. The ugliness of racism has reared its head again. Should GH reflect that in a storyline? How about having a young black man like T.J. or Felix get roughed up by a cop for no reason? We can see the citizens of Port Charles marching for justice. Perhaps Mac can do racial sensitivity training for the PCPD? Maybe we can see characters have hard conversations with their friends and family. Can GH discuss and explore it? Daytime has often been at the forefront of taking on controversial topics. Should they do it again? What do you think, readers? Would you welcome that sort of a storyline or not?
Next week, Liz will discuss some of her ideas on what GH can do during this time off. We would love to hear your thoughts, too!
What will happen tomorrow? When will GH be back? Only tomorrow knows, dear readers, and I will tune in tomorrow as long as there are tomorrows. Even if tomorrow is reruns!
What are your thoughts on General Hospital? What did you think of this week's Two Scoops? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.