Holy Luke Spencer! "General Hospital" survives!

It was a life-or-death situation, worthy of a Friday cliffhanger: Would ABC kill off its last remaining soap, “General Hospital”? Or would it give the much-beloved-by-fans drama a stay of execution (okay, I’m mixing metaphors, but you get the idea)?

See, ABC needed to cancel one of its afternoon programs to make way for Katie Couric’s new talk show.

But what would it do?

It’s good news, soap fans. The network has saved “GH.” Instead, it axed the new and low-rated lifestyle show “The Revolution.”
And that’s some rare good news for fans of daytime dramas. ABC had shuttered two of its other soaps, “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” over the past year. CBS is down to two daytime dramas, and NBC has just one.

The problem for soaps is two-fold. Viewership is down. But, even more important, soaps are expensive. The casts are big, and new shows are aired pretty much every weekday all year long.
ABC bagged “AMC” and “OLTL” in favor of other shows that, while drawing fewer viewers, were much cheaper to produce.

But you have to give the network some credit: it actually did something very smart where “GH” is concerned. A few months back, it brought in “OLTL” producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati to help “GH,” which had become mired in depressing, repetitive storylines. That miracle-worker team has, well, worked miracles. They brought back some stars from “GH’s” glory days for short runs, building buzz. They imported a few “OLTL” characters to lure fans from that dearly departed series. They have created more interesting, better written storylines. Not that “GH” is perfect, but it’s so much better than it had been in the last few years. (The less said about how a previous regime botched the return of Vanessa Marcil with that dimwitted and dull Balkan plot, the better.)

Couric might have actually helped “GH’s” cause. Rumor had it that she and her team were pushing ABC to keep the soap. They didn’t want to rile the drama’s loyal fans, of course, but they also wanted a strong lead-in — and “GH” would bring more viewers than “The Revolution.”

So “GH” will be on the air to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013 — break out the party hats!

What do you think of ABC’s decision to save “General Hospital” and bag “The Revolution”?

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