BEVERLY HILLS — For the first time in decades, "General Hospital" is moving.
ABC's only daytime drama can be seen at 2 p.m. weekdays on WATE, Channel 6, beginning Monday. It's the first time the soap has moves from its 3 p.m. berth in decades.
The move was made to make room for the much-hyped "Katie," which features Katie Couric in her first daytime talk show. Around the country, "Katie" will air at 3 p.m. — except in Knoxville, where it will broadcast at 4 p.m. In Knoxville, "Anderson Live," the talk show with Anderson Cooper, will settle into the 3 p.m. time slot as of Monday.
With all these changes and being the last ABC soap standing, nervous executives at "General Hospital" are pulling out the stops in September to draw attention to the soap's move, hoping new invigorating storylines will attract fans to the new time period.
New executive producer Frank Valentini, who came on board a little more than six months ago, has been putting the actors and crew through the paces, with a fine eye for detail and figuring out who and what viewers want to see.
"General Hospital" was almost cancelled in the late 1970s but was brought back from the brink by reinventing itself. Valentini wants to do it again.
"He has sort of an obsessive, dynamic energy," actor Tony Geary, who has played anti-hero Luke Spencer for more than 30 years, says of Valentini. "He's there at 7 in the morning, and he's the one who turns out the lights at night."
Among the on-screen changes Valentini, the former executive producer of "One Life To Live," has made: bringing back past favorite characters such as crazy Heather (Robin Mattson) and superspy Anna Devane (Finola Hughes), much to the delight of the audience. Both women also have been involved in Luke and his antics.
Recently Valentini resurrected presumed-dead Duke Lavery, Anna's husband, who undoubtedly will throw a wrench in Anna and Luke's budding romance.
With "One Life To Live" gone, Valentini brought over a few characters — such as troublemaker Todd Manning and his virtuous daughter, Starr — from that show and worked them prominently into "General Hospital."
Valentini has issued a "no spoiler" rule — and pointedly told cast and crew to keep major developments in house.
"It's made a significant difference," Valentini says of the edict. "(Fans) say 'thank you for keeping (spoilers to a minimum). If people know in advance ... there is no surprise in watching for them."
He did tease a few things during the interview. Bombastic Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot) will embark on an affair with mobster Joe Scully, resulting in a major storyline.
Elliot doesn't even want to spoil the story to herself.
"I am one of those actresses who doesn't want to know too much in advance," she says. "I want to work through the story like the character would."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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