Now, I should begin by saying that it’s been a good long while since I watched General Hospital on a regular basis. So, I don’t really have a horse in this race. But, after watching Christopher Goutman and Jean Passanante render As the World Turns virtually unwatchable in its final years, I see in Garin Wolf’s promotion to General Hospital’s headwriter (replacing the much-criticized Bob Guza), a tiny glimmer of hope for unhappy GH fans.
Not that Wolf will actually be able to save General Hospital – looking at the situation realistically, it’s hard to argue with Patrick Mulcahey’s observation that “ABC Daytime’s behavior all but sky-writes in capital letters that he's been selected to drive the show off the air” – but that Wolf, who described himself as a “child of Dickens and Doug Marland” will do his best to end the show well. I had forgotten that for the first three years of Marland’s tenure headwriting As the World Turns – the beginning of ATWT’s glory years – Wolf was associate head writer. After Marland’s death in 1993, Wolf helped wrapped up Doug’s stories, then became co-headwriter with Juliet Law Packer and Richard Culliton.
Wolf certainly faces some serious obstacles; Amber Cunigan at Soap Opera Source details both the damage inflicted by Guza’s dark, misogynistic, and often violent storytelling, and the deeply-embedded apathy it’s created among many fans. And, frankly, some of what Wolf shared with TV Guide’s Michael Logan gave me pause, “I love Dexter and Desperate Housewives. I'm very eclectic. I love to combine a lot of different things, which is what's great about soap operas.” Problem is, over the years, “combin(ing) a lot of different things” has made soaps a pastiche of storytelling, and fragmented viewers' expectations, which too often means to please one segment of the audience another will be excluded, or alienated. But, for GH fans angered by the departure of so many core characters, it looks as though they can take heart in Wolf’s oft-repeated mantra, "sometimes they come back." Leslie Charleson, will return as Dr. Monica Quartermaine in late July.
And, disenchanted as I’ve become with One Life to Live over the past year (here and here), I’m also encouraged by the news that current headwriter, Ron Carlivati, will be joining the GH writing team when OLTL leaves the air in January. Before the show shifted gears in early 2010, Carlivati had written some of the best soap opera I had seen since Doug Marland’s death – and that’s saying something. Why that changed I can’t say – of course, the people who can aren’t talking – but the conventional wisdom holds that too many cooks were (are) stirring the pot.
And still will be if the goal is to “save” General Hospital, which is, in some ways, why, sad to say, that it might be better if Patrick Mulcahey is right, and Wolf’s task is indeed “to drive the show off the air.” Of course, there is the possibility, remote though it may be, that left to their own storytelling proclivities, Wolf and Carlivati might just save the show.
I actually think that the ass-backward timing here may have worked to General Hospital’s advantage. Had ABC Daytime known that Katie Couric wasn’t planning to renew her contract with CBS News before they cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live, they might well have flipped a coin between The Chew and The Revolution to make room for Couric’s new talk show without jeopardizing GH. Had that been the case, Bob Guza might still be GH’s headwriter. Was is the very real possibility that come September 2012, there would be no room at the inn for GH that forced what many fans believed was a long-overdue regime change? Of course, as is the case with soaps, the people who know aren’t likely to say so, at least not on the record.
© 2011 Lynn Liccardo
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