There have been a slew of stories celebrating soap operas’ recent turnaround in the ratings game as of late, but it’s an unexpected trend worth repeating: Soaps are back, baby! And “General Hospital,” which was marching toward an ABC death similar to “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” is doing particularly well. Soap Opera Network sat down with the sudser’s very own William deVry (Julian Jerome), who discussed some particulars of why “GH” is on such an upswing. And while he was at it, he revealed some details on what’s to come in Julian’s life, as well!
All four remaining soap operas — “GH,” “Days of our Lives,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and “The Young and the Restless” — have shown ratings increases this past year, and deVry has a theory as to why the genre has been flourishing. “[The industry] is definitely very, very healthy,” he says. “Right now, it’s survival of the fittest: You’ve got the best actors, the best writers, and the best executives in place.”
But he says perhaps the most important element, at least when it comes to “GH,” is the network relinquishing control. “I think the network in the past, traditionally, has said, ‘Hey, I’m going to hire you as my executive producer for this show, and you go do it.’ Then, for the longest time, they decided to want approval and final say on everything, and they were having final say on everything, and everything just starts looking the same; there’s no variety, because it’s their personal tastes. And honestly, when you give the power to [executive producer] Frank [Valentini] and [headwriter] Ron [Carlivati], they know what’s best for ‘General Hospital’ and the fans. They’re passionate about it. And the network people, even though they want us, and they love us, they don’t always know what is best for the show. And now, they’ve completely gotten out of the way.”
And the result is similar to when former executive producer Gloria Monty brought the show back to life back in the 80s. “Back in the day, they said to her, ‘We’re going to bring you on to basically finish the show for us,’” deVry continues. “And then she said, ‘Oh yeah? Well, I’m going to show you!’ And she brought it back to life, and it hit ridiculous highs and made a ridiculous amount of money for the network, and all of a sudden, it became viable again. So I think that’s what’s happening right now. We’re a viable operation again. We’re making money, we’re setting the table for the primetime shows, and we’re keeping the audience loyal for the primetime shows. It’s great.”
Rumor has it that “GH” storylines this year will continue to stay strong and possibly pull in even more viewers, which the actor says is key to the soap’s success. “I’m really looking forward to 2014,” he says. “You’ve got to have the story to retain the audience, and I think that Ron and Frank are doing a fantastic job of keeping everybody’s interest. Of course, not everybody is going to be happy with every single storyline, but I think for the most part, we’re doing a great job. It’s great that they’re both really interested in the history of the show instead of trying to steer it in a completely new direction.
“I think we have a real possibility to get close to 4 million total viewers,” he continues. “We can keep growing on what we’ve built. Let’s face it: Word of mouth. You’ve got all of these fans who haven’t checked in for awhile, they check back in, they see Robin (Kimberly McCullough), they see Anna Devane (Finola Hughes), they see Duke (Ian Buchanan), they see Ryan Carnes (Lucas Stansbury), they see Tony Geary (Luke Spencer) is still there, Kin Shriner (Scott Baldwin), Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring), all these people, and it’s like, ‘Man, this is great. I recognize all of these people. What’s going on?’ And then those fans are going to start telling their friends, the friends that used to watch the show and say, ‘You should really check it out again,’ and before you know it, I think we have room to grow. That being said, there are a lot more things on TV, so there’s a definitely ceiling, with everything that’s available now, but hopefully we have room to grow. I mean, we went from the high two millions to 3.5 million viewers in six months!”
As for story points regarding Julian, deVry says the immediate future is looking a little vague, but he has hope that it will turn around soon. “He’s got a lot of time lost with his family, his children that he didn’t know he had, and I think this has put a whole new perspective on his life,” he notes. “Julian has a real genuine interest in connecting with his daughter [Samantha (Kelly Monaco)], and his son [Lucas, (Carnes)] , so I look forward to that myself, just as much as the audience does.”
And what about love? “Well, I think the audience wants to see a resolution of some kind with Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn),” he says. “I think it’s important for the audience, and I think it’s important for the characters. Otherwise, it’s sort of unfinished business. There’s a journey to be had with us right now. Whether or not we score a touchdown at the end of that journey, I don’t know. But the journey is going to be there. How it resolves itself is anybody’s guess right now, outside of Ron and Frank, of course!”