Viewers Implore ABC/DISNEY To Save General Hospital
Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business. -Zig Ziglar
For the ratings week of September 20-24, 2010, General Hospital (GH) lost over 260,000 viewers (10% decline), the worst decline in over one year, and lost more viewers than All My Children (AMC) and One Life to Live (OLTL) combined. During the past two months, GH has been more heavily promoted than ABC’s other soap operas on TV, the internet and in print, but obviously many viewers are tuning out instead of tuning in. Despite the heavy promotion, only one week this year had worse results as measured by total viewers.
In the Women 18-49 demographic, GH’s audience declined 11% vs. the previous week and was down 9% vs. the corresponding week in 2009. In the same demographic, The Young & the Restless (Y&R) had more viewers for both the previous week and the corresponding week last year. Looking back to the corresponding week in 2007, GH had more total viewers in the 18-49 demographic than Y&R. Since then, GH’s viewers in this demographic have declined over 30% while Y&R’s number of viewers remained steady. Clearly, GH is ailing.
When the SOS/Save Our Soap! General Hospital campaign was founded in May of 2009, participants identified ten remedies for curing what was already an ailing show based on principles recommended in Douglas Marland’s “How Not to Wreck a Show” along with many viewer recommendations. These ten remedies include delivering character-driven storylines, being true to the characters while allowing for growth and development, respecting the rich history of the characters and the show, respecting and including veteran characters in storylines, creating an emotional balance for the characters, focusing on families, promoting enduring couples that viewers can root for, heightening romance, minimizing sleaze and creating an enjoyable escape.
If ABC management wants to better understand why viewers, many who have watched for over 20 years, have quit watching GH, and put forth an effort to find a cure for the ailing show, it would make sense for it to listen to the very viewers who are currently watching as well as those who have quit watching. It is evident by the ratings decline that ABC/Disney management has neither listened to these fans nor implemented the principles recommended on a consistent basis.
Over and over, many viewers have consistently complained that GH lacks true romance and, instead, focuses on sleaze. Where there used to be truly romantic couples that fought to be together and to overcome outside problems, it is now hard to find one couple with any semblance of happiness on screen, much less any that don’t succumb to ‘easy sex’ at the drop of a hat.
Long-time viewers have also repeatedly voiced their outrage that core characters are constantly changed to accommodate whatever current ‘here-today/gone-tomorrow’ pairing they will be participating in. Many of these couples are unlikely pairings, whose relationships are based on sex and convenience rather than real love and romance. This cycle of making the character fit the ‘right-now’ couple, plot point and/or storyline does nothing to maintain the credibility of the show or the loyalty of the long-time fans that soap operas so completely depend upon.
An example during the current ratings period is the “pairing” of Sonny and Claire. Claire came to town as a Federal Prosecutor whose sole purpose was to put Sonny Corinthos in jail. She told Sonny he was scum on the bottom of one’s shoe, emotionally scarred Morgan Corinthos by having him testify in court against his father, prosecuted Michael Corinthos for what was, in essence, self-defense and wore a wire in an effort to prosecute Sonny again.
Sonny threatened her in court and, as Claire is aware, shot an unarmed Dante in the chest, and has clearly stated he did not want any more children when she kept telling Sonny she wanted to get pregnant by him. It makes little sense for these two characters to want to be in the same room with each other, let alone for them to act like they are friendly or want to have sex together. Viewers, however, have had to endure listening to their conversations about having had lots of sex after a drawn out, three-episode, “day” of sex and “afterglow” with absolutely no mention of birth control. The fact that Sonny even admitted to his son, Dante, that he was using Claire to forget another woman reinforces the lack of romance and promotion of sleaze.
Another unsettling trend on GH is the extreme overexposure of certain characters while totally disregarding others. The lack of balance and integration of characters who are already on the canvas and to whom viewers have an emotional attachment is overwhelming. For example, the character of Dante Falconeri has been in a total of 157 of 169 episodes from January-August of 2010 or 93% of the time. In comparison, Y&R has had much greater balance with Victor Newman, the character that had the highest episode count, appearing only 67% of the time.
Further study shows that Lulu Spencer has been in 133/169 episodes, Lucky Spencer – 112/169, Johnny Zacchara – 108/169, Sam McCall – 105/169, Kristina Cornithos-Davis – 103/169 and Lisa Niles – 98/169. While there are characters with higher episode counts than some of these, including Jason Morgan, Sonny Corinthos and Carly Jacks, it is clear that over-saturation of some characters is occurring.
Meanwhile, other characters whom many viewers have requested to see more of are almost completely disregarded, such as Kate Howard with 8/169 episodes, Monica Quartermaine – 12/169, Edward Quartermaine – 13/169, Mike Corbin – 15/169, Matt Hunter – 26/169, Mac Scorpio – 39/169, Epiphany Jones – 41/169, and Diane Miller – 60/169. Most of these characters are family members to one or more of the above-mentioned characters, yet they are obviously not involved in their storylines except in a cursory manner. Once again, this is a blatant example of GH’s inability or unwillingness to heed the viewer’s comments and requests.
It is understandable that when new characters are introduced, or former characters return, the actors would have a significant number of episode counts at first. However, continued over-saturation of those characters, especially when current favorite characters face a reduction in screen time, does not ingratiate them to the hearts of the fans, but rather has the opposite effect. While many fans were very favorable toward Dante when he first arrived on canvas, many wonder if he will be involved in every storyline. During the current ratings period, Dante was introduced into the Lucky/Interpol storyline in Ireland. Media- provided previews state that Dante will also soon be involved in a storyline with Brenda, another character who, it appears, will be involved in several other storylines on the canvas. Just as many viewers have long wanted GH to balance the mob/hospital/family storylines more, they desire to have character integration and presence balanced more as well.
Fans want GH to be successful. Many are concerned that GH, along with the soap genre, is being allowed to waste away. They have called comment lines, sent comment forms, emailed management, written letters and organized varying types of campaigns at great expense to themselves to implore ABC to save this show. ABC would do well to take advantage of these opportunities to listen to fans. GH, as well as the soap genre, still has great potential for strong viewer support if changes are made at the writing and management levels. The viewers that are complaining are often the same viewers who will be viewers/consumers of other ABC/Disney entertainment media products. The fact that viewers want to work so passionately to save the show should resonate and create excitement within management, causing those in charge to evaluate and create opportunities for more business by potentially broadening the scope of the genre rather than simply allowing it to die.
Fans of Luke and Laura, along with many more fans of GH, are joining together with fans of Sonny and Kate, Jason and Elizabeth, Patrick and Robin, and Jax and Carly as part of the SOS/Save Our Soap! General Hospital Campaign. All share a common goal of asking ABC/Disney to save General Hospital by listening to current, long-time and former viewers in an effort to save the show and the soap genre bringing back real romance and integrating more favorite characters into storylines.
For more information or to comment on the campaign, contact Dana L. Meyer or Kecia K. Picard at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the SOS/Save Our Soap! General Hospital page on Facebook, follow on Twitter @SOS_GH or visit the SOS/Save Our Soap! General Hospital website at www.saveoursoapgh.com.