With Katie Couric's syndicated talk show poised to take over General Hospital's time slot on a substantial number of ABC affiliaties come September 2012, ABC's last remaining daytime soap is fighting for its life. Whether in an effort to give the soap one last chance of survival or as a fitting send-off, ABC has hired the well-regarded executive producer and head writer for the recently ended One Life to Live to take over at GH. This clip is from the February 2, 2012 episode, the first with Frank Valenti as executive producer (head writer Ron Carlivati's work has yet to air). In it, attorney Alexis Davis and her friend and fellow attorney Diane talk about the onset of Alexis' menopause--a subject almost never dealt with in mainstream media. The humorous scene puts a light-hearted spin on Alexis' situation, emphasizing the lifestage as one of sexual empowerment rather than decline.
The scene is even more meaningful as a signifier of the state of General Hospital--and perhaps of soaps in general--in these trying times for the genre. Over the past 10-15 years daytime soaps have repeatedly turned away from storylines focused on "veteran" performers in favor of screen time devoted to younger (and cheaper) talent. Too often, soap fans complain, this focus has kept the soaps from maximizing one of their most valuable elements, the extensive backstories of long time characters and impressive experience that veteran performers bring to those roles. In addition, GH in particular has privileged male characters and masculinized concerns over female leads and the feminized interests long central to soapdom. When Diane and Alexis discuss the ways Alexis' menopausal state can protect her from the "warrior" sperm of Sonny Corinthos, they are referencing fans' disgust with the recent prominence of the character of Sonny-a misogynistic mob boss-in GH storylines, a prominence made evident in the number of pregnancies, and resultant storylines, he has initiated. In foregrounding these strong, older female characters, highlighting their sexual power, and poking fun at Sonny's overblown sexual and storyline potency, this clip might just be a sign that the "new" General Hospital is embracing some of the strongest and most cherished features of the genre. Can such a move save the soap? Tune in tomorrow . . .