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0 October 31st, 2009 EW.com report: Can James Franco save daytime?

james_franco.jpgJames Franco’s first tape day out of three was yesterday October 30th at General Hospital and EW.com’s Lynette Rice’s new feature on if Franco’s appearance can revive the soap genre’s ailing perception and numbers is analyzed.  Here is an excerpt!

“It’s always nice to hear some good news about the ailing genre: James Franco is finally in the house – or in the medical ward, rather. ABC has confirmed that Oct. 30 was Franco’s first day on General Hospital, a gig we’d like to think he agreed to because he wants to see daytime soaps survive just like the rest of us (though it might have simply occurred because he shares the same manager as GH’s Steve Burton). The Golden Globe-winning actor will play a mystery guy who comes to Port Charles and gets up in the grill of Jason Morgan (Burton). His role will play out over a two-month period that starts airing Nov. 20, but Franco’s only contracted to shoot three days on the sudser’s Los Angeles set. No matter: any kind of star-studded appearance from a star like Franco should do wonders for the soap world. Or can it?

Make no mistake, something has to be done to keep daytime dramas relevant. Viewer averages for soaps on the three broadcast networks have dropped 23 percent versus 10 years ago, and it’s even more dire in the all-important women 18-49 demo, which is down 41 percent during that same period. Going entirely on location with hand-held cameras isn’t the answer – just asking Guiding Light nor is cutting expensive though immensely popular stars like Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn  from Days of Our Lives (though an NBC insider insists that by lowering salaries and by cutting the show’s rich license fee to something south of $1 million per week, it managed to save the sudser). So is it the right idea to lure film stars like Franco? “I suspect if you talk to the network people overseeing these shows, they would say they innovate until the cows come home,” says one veteran TV executive with deep roots in daytime. “Come on… One Live to Live did a Grey Gardens musical number! The trouble is, these shows no longer have the reach or cultural influence where a stunt or even the return of a character can be heard above the din of regular life. Frankly, the last frontier may be changing the form of five hours a week. That’s going to have to be addressed.”

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