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24 July 27th, 2012 Frank Valentini & The Cast Of GH On Time Slot Change, Surviving Cancellation & The Future, and Robin’s Return!

Photo Credit: MF SOAPS Inc

At yesterday’s ABC Summer Press Tour for the Television Critics Association, General Hospital was given a show of faith, and great opportunity at promoting the enduring soap opera by ABC, when executive producer Frank Valentini and a host of top talent from the series were invited to the panel discussions.

Lead by Frank Valentini, the reporters and journalists in the room, including On-Air On-Soaps fired questions to the cast and the EP.   On stage along with Valentni were:  Tony Geary, Jane Elliot, Jason Thompson, Nancy Lee Grahn, Maurice Benard, Steve Burton, Kelly Monaco, Michael Easton and Laura Wright.

From it’s upcoming time slot change and upcoming surprises, to it’s survival to stay on the air, to Kimberly McCullough’s (Robin) “visits” and what that all means, and so much more, read below the quotes to some of the most revealing, concerning, and entertaining questions from the panel!

Frank, if Genie Francis (Ex-Laura, GH) were to become available from Y&R, would you bring her back to General Hospital?

FRANK:  I would just say that there is rich history that General Hospital has and there are many wonderful characters on the show right now, and in addition some people we are interested in bringing back. At this point unfortunately contracts forbid us to talk about things like that, but all I will say is we are big fans of Genie, I wish her the best, but I think we are pretty solid right now.

To Tony Geary on being very emotional on his recent win for Outstanding Leas Actor at the Daytime Emmys. Were you so moved during your speech because GH had survived cancellation to live another day?

TONY:   I would say it was a little of both.  We were pretty shaky about a year ago, before Frank came on board.   We were living on death row.   I think we were all thrilled, and emotional and excited about being honored for the hard work, and the storyline that I got the award for was really important to me.  I love when the character goes to the dark side, and that was one of the darkest I have been able to go.  So it meant a lot to me to be acknowledged.

To the panel:  GH had been living on deaths door, what would you say to people as to why it important that we have soaps on the air as part of daytime programming?

NANCY:  I think everyone seems to enjoy cutting edge things or something that is the newest thing, but there is something to really be valued about tradition and something that is familiar, and something that makes people feel comfortable, and something that is generational, and that is exclusive.  Some of these people have watched GH for nearly 50 years.  I think it’s important to remember this audience paid for television for a long time. I think they are very valuable and extremely loyal.

Courtesy/ABC

FRANK:  It’s also an original American art form,   I think it’s not only about tradition, but about storytelling and the family, and the fantasy of romance, love, and friendship and those are the bedrocks of what this country is all about.  I don’t want to sound too patriotic about it, but I think people look to these shows as touchstones, in which to explore life and experience life, as well as being entertained by it.

JASON:  To me, I have been on the show for seven years.  I look down this line and I see people who have been in this business for a really long time and there is something to be said about that, let alone, GH being on for 50 years soon.   I think storytelling has changed.  Everyone is sort of into this faster pace, and also what Frank said, we believe in the stories that we tell.  We are an extended family.  And even talking about my storyline with the character of Robin, we did a storyline talking about HIV in daytime before anyone else was touching it.  And there have been many stories like that during GH’s time, and as we go forward we are constantly thinking and doing new things to bring TV to a new level. People see us in their living rooms every single day, and they get attached to you, and it is something we should celebrate!

JANE:  I have a different viewpoint on this.  For 50 years we have been telling stories 5 days a week 52 weeks a year.  We are in people’s home during the day.  We are part of people’s touchstones when they are in the hospital with a sick parent, or when they are pregnant and they bring their new babies home. It’s people who work at night like athletes and musicians, who watch. What I like about it is that it has stayed the same, that it is this same kind of cultural anomaly. We are there family and they are family because of it

STEVE: This show is the same, but we do a lot more work in a lot less time.  When I started on the show in 1991, we did 21 scenes a day we would shoot. Yesterday we did 78 scenes. So you guys are welcome to come down and check out what we do, because it is truly amazing.  I think a lot of credit goes to our crew who works so hard. The one thing that the wrecking ball or being on death row has done for all of us is that we are united, which is great as cast.   I think it makes the work better.  Everyone is working towards the same goal.  So is the crew.  As bad as it has been, it’s been a great experience because everybody has a new energy to work and to keep the show on the air.  GH is such an iconic brand. We are not ready to let it go.

Photo Credit: MF SOAPS Inc.

NANCY:  We were kind of like the walking dead for awhile heading toward the iceberg, saying, “I just need somebody to do something!”  And they did. ABC did.  They changed everything.  I will say Frank had made an enormous difference and at ABC there is new marketing and publicity.  I have done so much already and Vicki Dummer (SR VP ABC Daytime) seems to be a pretty great broad from what I can tell.  We are now a “Yes sir. No sir,” crew.  For some jaded group here, some of us, we are invigorated, and we are willing and ready to win and stay on the air.

Frank, you came in from OLTL and began rebuilding GH. Can you explain how you took it from where it was to the amazing place it is today?

FRANK:  Maybe not rebuilding, but maybe remodeling. Being an outsider it is easier to come in and see things as opposed to someone who is already there.  I think the show was in terrific shape, but there needed to be some tweaks.  I think it’s also my taste and sensibilities for the show to go a little bit faster.  I felt there were some key characters missing.  Not in terms of who they were, but certainly archetypes that I think were important to bring on the show.  Bringing in some of the cast members from One Life to Live was a way to honor that audience, and also to create story that was good for the current cast.

Michael Easton, how was it coming over from One Life to Live to General Hospital, and how did you former cast mates feel about it?

MICHAEL: I t was bittersweet, but at the same time it’s been exciting to come over to GH and work with these guys and it has been a new energy for me. We were pretty aware for a year there that the wrecking ball was right outside the door at OLTL. We all worked at a very high pace to try to make that work.  And its’ been interesting to come over here and have the same feeling.   I think the only way we are going to be able to advance is to have great storytelling, and to try to recapture the audience we may have lost and bring some things that are exciting and different.  It woke me up for sure coming here.  I think I was in a stupor for the last year and I feel very fortunate.  I think the GH audience has been very kind to let the OLTL characters in.   I think they realize there is a bit of synchronicity with all the other fans of soap opera and they understand. If it went the other way, we would love having them.  I think it’s nice of them to be accepting. I think some of the One Life people are slowly coming over and they are excited to see Roger Howarth and Kassie DePaiva and some of the other people.

Frank, Kimberly McCullough just returned or visited GH, and there was a bombshell that she is alive and receiving electro-shock therapy.  What are the plans for her and status with the show?

FRANK:   She is back for a little bit.  It’s always challenging when actors want to pursue different avenues in their personal and professional life.  I think Kimberly McCullough had made a decision to leave the show.  Having worked with her for six or eight weeks before she left, she is a really bright woman. She has been exposed to so many aspects of the business in a very short amount of time.  She is interest in being a director and so we kind of connected and bonded, because I am interested in being a director as well. I said to her “This is such a wonderful thing you have created.  Let’s try to keep it alive.”  She is open to it and we are going to try to work together. It’s also good because she lives in Los Angeles.

Photo CreditL MF Soaps Inc.

Frank, has ABC given you indication what matrix you have for survival? Since they have been clearly looking to put on cheaper programming with the cancellation of One Life to Live and All My Children?  Do you see the audience numbers significantly change?

FRANK:  I don’t think it will change in the near future that the television market that exists in the United States will ever be anything other than challenging.  All I can say is that ABC invited us here to me, that is a great sign, and the network is behind us 100%. They are very excited about the show’s 50th anniversary. We will be laying some things out between now and April.  I feel you just need to watch the show to catch the energy and the momentum we have.

Frank, GH is moving to its new time slot on September 10th.  How do you feel about the change? And, what is the show going to do to enhance tune-in and to gain more notice for the switch?  Is their a big umbrella story coming up?

FRANK:  I think the time slot change will be great.  I think it will shake-up the lineup a bit.   I like the way we are being positioned and the shows that will be surrounding us.  I know the network is doing a big push to inform the audience of the time change, and yes, we are doing a big umbrella story with lots of fun surprises. We have a lot of terrific stuff coming up!

Tony, you walked off the shot and out of frame, in the end of the very famous GH opening title sequence which featured all the men o f GH. Was that planned?  

TONY:  That was not planned. I just sort of “had it”.   I walked off and they loved it.  What I say is you sort of live two lives and I flip in to Luke Spencer at a moments notice as I know how he feels etc.  And when I’m threatened or uncomfortable he takes over, and he took over and said, “I have had enough” I was delighted that it was kept in the opening for as long as it did. I was surprised.  I said to them, “Why did you keep it? And they said, “It’s because it’s the perfect end.”

So after reading the comments from Frank Valentini and several members of the cast of GH from the panel, what do you think of GH and where it is today? Are you excited about its future and what feels like a significant nod by ABC to promote it and carry it through to its 50th anniversary?  Let us know1

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  1. Dawn D says:

    I was blown away with Ewen being in charge of doing electro shock on Robin. It was so classic soap. The changes and pace are better than ever. It’s been like mud for 3 yrs so it so great for a looong time soap watcher. This show has grown alot with Frank and Ron and I’m very grateful for bringing back the “great GH” back. Love the Q’s, Jason, Sonny and Liz for yrs as well as the newer folks Johnny, Starr the latest Micheal. There is more balance of love, family and drama. Heather is a great short term addition as well as Anthony. Do miss Cam/Jake, Alan, Emily and Georgie. Would love Georgie and Spinelli together.

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  2. Christine says:

    Michael, a MILLION thanks for posting this. I read bits and pieces from Twitter feeds, but this is great to see it all laid out for us.

    I will say, ABC better not be pulling a fast one on us again. It shows a lot of support by having GH have their own panel at the TCAs, but I hope this means they are here to support it for the long haul.

    Someone also mentioned something about Katie Couric and her Twitter timeline from soap fans (hinting that she is getting a lot of complaints) so I checked it out. It is ridiculous all the topics she wants to talk about. We do not need nor want yet another talk show. GAA is not doing as well as they would have hoped, the Revolution died a horrible death. We soap fans are speaking out and making ourselves heard and, I just hope that ABC is finally listening. Just keep GH on the air for another 50 years … please!

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  3. Tali Smith says:

    I hope GH continues on TV, I’ve watched off and on for 35 yrs. The last 3 yrs I’ve only watched OLTL and was so sad when it was cancelled. I watched GH again because of OLTL characters coming over, six months into the show I’m pretty disappointed. Killing of Cole & Hope, Tea’s baby and JOLIE breaking up, I feel like OLTL ending is being raped for GH. The s/l are old OLTL storylines I’ve already seen just with different actors-not liking it! When Jolie is officially broke up so am I with GH. OLTL was cancelled and the ending destroyed for GH. Should have brought over the actors as different characters. My only idea – 2 hrs of GH and more OLTL characters to be added and please NEW storylines!.

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  4. Joe says:

    I gave up on GH years ago when it when so far off the rails. It became the Mob/Sonny show and it was terrible and boring! The producers lost site of what made GH great and ignored its rich history and INCREDIBLE cast. Now, since Frank and Ron took over, GH is better than ever! It hasn’t been this good in about 20 years….probably since the days of the introduction of Nicholas and Helena Cassadine…another great example of using the shows history! Frank and Ron KNOW better than anyone about show history and how to use it. They made OLTL the best in the lineup and they’ve done it again AND brought OLTL to PC! How great…now if they just brought a couple more characters on from Llanview, I’d be the happiest fan ever:)

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  5. Matt says:

    GH sucks

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    Christine replied

    Terribly inappropriate and immature.

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  6. Sara says:

    Love, love, love GH. Miss OLTL terribly……

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  7. David says:

    GH’s storylines have improved. Love the vets, particularly Anna and Heather. The budding romances are what makes soap operas GREAT! I like how the OLTL cast are being folded into the storylines. Initially I thought the babyswitch was going to be another boring repeat but surprised thus far. The DDSwhatever is so reminiscent of OLTL — I did not care for it then. So far it’s tolerable, but what gives it traction is the actress who portrays Kate/Connie, and the storyline of long lost/abandoned son. In sum, if I had to grade GH, it would get a B+.

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  8. Patrick says:

    OMG! OMG. OMG? I haven’t been cliff-hang’ed… in such a long time.

    GH. Tues. 7/24.

    Heather, in the Port Charles, police station… sequestered… under scrutiny… “telling” Anna…. Robin’s ALIVE.

    Patricks – induced “brain freeze”… visions of Robin… THANK GOD.. that kiss with Lulu, was just that.

    1. Heather, shooting of Luke… i was so hoping she wasn’t being written out or in a corner… it looks like she’s still top shelf. HOOT! CAMP. BEACON OF OLE SERIAL.

    2. Patrick. this love story… twosome. is stellar stuff. Jason Thompson… is Manning up. He naturally, emotes… sensitive… masculine… fatherhood…. familial… friend… co-worker… you name it. he’s delivering the goods. Jason and Sonny could take lessons from him. I put, Johnny, Todd, EJ from DAYS… heck, even Jack from Y&R. These guys tear up… well.

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    Patrick replied

    GH – Patrick “talking” w/Robin.

    “Everywhere is EMPTY.”

    “The Bedroom…” et. et…

    mind boggling – the writing – Kudos! Standing O’vation.

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  9. Lucky Larou says:

    Nice piece – good to hear the read on things from various cast members. One thing Jane’s forgetting – it’s not just nite people that watch GH. There are plenty of us that work during the day and watch in the evening on SoapNet or via DVR. I’ve been watching since I was a teenager, 40 years ago. Thru H.S., college and adult life. Did the same for AMC and OLTL – shows I just miss. I’m surprised not one AMC cast member was picked up by GH. Would love to see more from OLTL migrate inbound also. How about Roxy? They could use a hair salon in Port Charles with a little funk!

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    SZima replied

    We have enough OLTL people, but I agree it would be nice to get some AMC actors on the show…just 2 or 3 like with OLTL.

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  10. kay/kay says:

    Ok I give up what was with Tony Geary’s pants??? LOL Maxie would not approve!!!

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    Dan replied

    Lol, I guess when you win 7 Emmys you can get away with wearing yellow pants! :)

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    SZima replied

    Hey, he’s stylin’!
    Don’t you know that colored pants–red, green, yellow, etc.–are all the rage right now?
    LOL

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  11. Jeffery says:

    I’m impressed with the work Frank and Ron and all of those involved have put into remodeling GH in the past several months. There is much more to be done, however. At present, the show has as much going for it as it does working against it.

    Here are some random (mostly minor) gripes:

    The “Mob Princess” reality series story plays like an after-school special. It’s also an insult to loyal daytime drama fans who choose to watch this soap opera over reality shows competing in the same time slot, and it’s especially demeaning to those who still feel burned by ABC’s replacement of GH’s sister shows with lackluster factual entertainment… The introduction of the now recast Kristina to Port Charles has been a complete fumble. GH has shown absolutely nothing endearing or redeemable about this character since her return… The coupling of Starr and Michael comes across as forced, just like most teen-oriented story arcs of soap opera summers past… The D.I.D. story line is underplayed. At first it started off at full boil, then suddenly it fizzled into a subplot to sustain a larger mafia-related story that nobody really cares about full of characters that nobody really cares about: Joe Scully and his secret son, Trey, and the murder of John McBain’s sister, yada yada yawn. I thought daytime’s version of The Sopranos left the building along with the previous executive producer. What gives?… While I like their friendship, I just don’t see any romantic chemistry between Anna and Luke. Ditto regarding John and Sam. .. Jane Elliot as Tracy is so delicious to watch, so why is she practically M.I.A.? She should be on at least four days a week!

    Here’s what does work for me:

    Robin Mattson’s Heather always has my eyes glued to the screen. I can’t take my eyes off her for a second or else I’ll miss something! She is a girl gone wild and then some. I just hope GH is smart enough to keep her around long term. Admittedly, I’ve felt slighted greatly by the tease of veteran actors and their classic characters returning to the show in what later turn out to be mere cameo turns. Sorry, ladies and gents, but don’t bring back Emma Samms as Holly and have her leave just as fast as she arrived! That’s criminal. Thankfully, we have Finola Hughes as Anna back in PC front and center. Finola is an incredible actor in a league of her own and surely pure joy to the writing team. I hope those same writers feel the same of Kelly Sullivan as Connie/Kate (I like street-wise Connie much better than boring Kate). She is nothing short of amazing in expressing this fractured character’s vulnerability and versatility. Lisa LoCicero, Laura Wright, and Nancy Lee Grahn further the notion that GH enjoys an embarrassment of formidable female actors as much as it does their equally impressive male counterparts in the likes of Roger Howarth, Jason Thompson, and Brandon Barash, etcetera (among the usual Emmy-winning suspects, of course).

    Lastly, I’m devastated by the loss of Jen Lilley as Maxie. She’s a cool kitten who will land on her feet somewhere special without a doubt. Maybe her old boss Jill Farren Phelps can create something new and exciting for her over in Genoa City. Fingers crossed. Eyes, too! As they say in showbiz, break a leg, Jen! (Preferably not your own.) : )

    Reply

    Christine replied

    “I just don’t see any romantic chemistry between … Ditto regarding John and Sam.”

    Whoa, Jeffrey, are you watching the same show I am? Ha! Ha! My goodness Michael Easton and Kelly Monaco are ELECTRIC every time they are together and always have been. And the way the smooched on the pier, stood up, turned around all while holding hands, and then he just pulled her into him. Gosh! That is sexy!

    I think MOB PRINCESS is ending very soon, but you have to remember it is summer and that is the “teen” time. Hooray for it ending soon!

    I agree with everything you said about Heather. :-)

    I’m not sure what you are getting at regarding Lisa LoCicero, Laura Wright, and Nancy Lee Grahn, though.

    I agree about Starr and Michael, but they have potential.

    Trey reminds me of Stifler from AMERICAN PIE, but hopefully this character has some legs.

    I don’t think they can just wipe out the mob in one day. It is like weight gain – it didn’t happen over night, you can’t get rid of it overnight.

    I guess I see it more positively because this show has me hooked every night whereas it would put me to sleep when they brought Brenda back the last time (and wasted her) and when they misused Sarah Joy Brown as Carly 2.0, I mean Claudia.

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    Patrick replied

    @Jeffery.

    Olivia – Lisa LoCicero. floored me… with her “girl from the bronx”… Nutting Up on LSD. Way to go Lisa… You go girl. For Reals.

    It’s something… to see a character/Actor… really step outside themselves… and reel scene stealing show. I was so used to her… as Dante’s mother… and Steven Lawrence’ girl.

    Michael replied

    I am impressed that, with a nod to the traditions of teens in the summer, GH still has the main story lines focus on cross generational stories (and the best threads for the vets in years, years, years). Starr and Michael are really quite sweet–nice (along with Mollie and TJ) to have teens with some happy, infatuated moments rather than all murder mystery, serial killer, angst all the time.

    While Mob princess is a little cringe worthy, some attempt to poke on what’s creepy and exploitative about reality tv is worthwhile–and it allows another frame of reference to comment on the mob without the “bad guys with the hearts of gold” absurdity that has dominated GH for the last decade. That along with both Sonny and Jason suffering some consequences for their actions within their families and personal relationships (alienation of sonny’s kids and the notion that using your thug clout for your kids gain might not be what they want; the possibility that jason’s sending goons after John contributing to Sam’s son’s death–even if the big reveal is that the baby is alive, there was still a several month period that jason, and the audience had to think that roughing up your opposition might bite you in the ass).

    And as for putting the rooting for bad guys crap fully to rest, how better to accomplish that than to have kick ass, take no prisoners Anna Devane in charge. (and if cartini can figure out how to accommodate Jonathan Jackson’s desire to not be all tragedy all the time, they might be able to bring him back to a competent port carles police department and not just as a nod to eliaeth lucky fans as the show is cancelled)

    And while cartini have carried on the tradition of dead babies and rapes far too much, I can see why they wanted to free Starr up to be a young romantic lead in terms of story lines (and ratings). It would be nice to have Hope pop up with David Hayward part of a larger mind control, organ harvesting, body resurrection plot line but Cole (like each of erica kana’s earlier husbands, did eventually have to go). of course AMC’s resurrection plot lines were absurd, as was the two Todds final twist with OLTL. But certainly no more than the ice princess and other nut job plots with GH–and they are all terribly wonderfully and absurdly soapy. Such plot twists (the old west and 1968, going to heaven, what three or four times, and even eterna) were part of OLTL’s charm. And if that chutzpah can be brought to bear to have David Heyward, Helena, and Irene Manning part of a three soap (two posthumously) crossover to bring back Alan, AJ, some worth additional soul from All My Children to wind up that cliffhanger, and maybe Nash so Jessica could have her happy ending (even if totally off screen) from OLTL–so be it. And I like the idea that these “dead” characters have appeared as ghosts really from the intensity of their connection to their loved ones while they were prisoners and/or in a coma as a way of soapily explaining it all away.

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  12. aria says:

    i’m excited but i hate the new opening, lol, that really needs to change, theres other stuff too, but then this email would be too long, overall i’m happier now then i was a year ago when GH was under the dark shadows of Phelps and Guza but i still think that FV and RC could tone it down with the cheesyness. I’m not a fan of cartoon villians, split personality but they won me over the minute they brought back Finola Hughes.

    Reply

    SZima replied

    I don’t mind the short new opening…what’s the point of a longer one? Just takes more time away from the show and who really watches it anymore anyway? I record the show and FF through it every day.

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  13. Teresa says:

    I have not been THIS GLUED to my GH TV set since Luke and Laura. This storytelling is SO fantastic. I’m still in shock about Ewen being behind Robin’s kidnapping. I agree, total classic soap storytelling. This is what got us hooked oh so many years ago and this is what will keep us hooked and entertained for many years to come. Thank you, everyone at GH!

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    donholley77 replied

    I have watched gh since Laura killed David Hamilton.i couldn’t agree more with ur comments.

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  14. Kent says:

    Thank you for asking about Kimberly McCollough’s status on the show. I am a Robin fan, too. I am glad Frank is as well and want to work with her to keep Robin a part of the show.

    Reply

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