Last week, I interviewed General Hospital‘s Executive Producer Frank Valentini about his reasons for trying to keep some of the big returns for GH’s 50th a secret. “We want it to be like watching a live event,” explained Frank. “Everyone finds out together what’s going to happen.”
Most websites and publications (including Soap Opera Digest) abided by Frank’s wishes and kept mum about big names returning – unlike some of his own actors who tweeted the “secret” returns as soon as they spotted the actors on set.
That annoyed me.
First of all, it’s been my job for 21 years to give fans scoops about their soaps. If GH is asking me to pull back on my job for a couple of weeks, I would hope that the actors would do the same.
After the shows aired (and indeed, they were fantastic), I got a press release from ABC touting the ratings for GH’s anniversary week. It said GH “delivered its most-watched week in one-and-a-half years in Women 25-54 ranking a solid #2 for the week in the demo… registered solid double-digit percent increases year to year across target demos, including 25% in Total Viewers … and Friday’s kick-off of the ‘Nurses’ Ball’ ranked as the most-watched telecast in 6 weeks in Women 18-49.”
So, which is it, ABC? Surprise fans with returns? Or publicize the returns to give lapsed fans a reason to tune back in?
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t “shock” viewers with a Jack Wagner-caliber return AND get a ratings bump, because viewers won’t know ahead of time to tune in.
For my money, the leaks created more buzz and brought a lot of eyeballs back to GH (as evidenced by the numbers touted in ABC’s own press release). And in the end, the network promos showcased Luke, Laura, Scotty, Frisco, Felicia, Noah, etc. so they knew which side their soap was buttered on.
Personally, I would have released the names of the returning actors, and promoted the Nurses’ Ball like this: “Who will wind up in their undies? (Hint: It’s not Lucy.) Who will propose marriage? Turn up pregnant? Come back from the dead? Come out of the closet?!” That would have piqued your interest and made you watch, but still allowed for a few surprises.
In my opinion, GH is better now than it is been in about 15 years, and they need to PUBLICIZE that as much as possible.
Because you can’t be surprised if you’re not watching.