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News for the week of 14-Jan-2013

by Carol Banks Weber

Just as predicted by soap opera columnist Raven Beauty many months ago, Genie Francis will return as Laura, just in time for a lavish 50th GH anniversary in April. The actress was recently released from her Y&R role as Genevieve after former GH executive producer Jill Farren Phelps joined that show. Francis starts filming in the GH studios sometime later this month and will air starting February 11. Before signing a deal to reprise her legendary, legacy role, Francis sought assurances from TPTB that her character’s long absence from her children would be explained. Executive producer Frank Valentini promised Francis that absence would most definitely be addressed, and hinted in a recent TV Guide interview with William Keck that Laura will return with a secret.

The executive producer/head writer team of Frank Valentini and Ron CarlivatiCartini to fans — is a storied one. Fans either love the results of their collaborative process or hate them, with a venom. But one thing’s clear: they sent OLTL off with a bang and revived GH from the dumps. The secret to their success is simple… Valentini is the wind beneath Carlivati’s wings. The budget-savvy EP lets Carlivati fly creatively and tries to figure out a way to make the fanciful words and ideas come to life without breaking the bank. Most of the time, it’s one smooth transition from brainchild to the TV screen. Valentini explained the hair-raising process: “I get nervous when I first read stuff that I think is either too expensive to do, or too overwhelming. Then, I sit with it for a while and then we try to figure out the best way to do it, because that’s our job. Our job is to carry out the vision of the writers… There are already so many constraints put on the writers in terms of: actors’ availability, guarantees, airdates—Monday through Friday, also sort of set constrictions. So why would you want to add another constraint to your creative team in terms of imagination? That does not seem like the right thing to do.” Carlivati echoed this by crediting his boss’ flexibility and open-mindedness in sharing a willingness to join in the vision quest. “Frank has also given me and the other writers the ability to ‘go for it.’ He will say, ‘You write it full out, and we will tell you if it’s something we are unable to do.’ He really doesn’t ever hold us back, or restrict us.” It’s Valentini’s reasoned, stable influence, though, that Carlivati really admires — the yin to his yang. “[H]e gives me creative freedom to go anywhere I want to with story. He does pull me back from the brink. I think he is the voice of reason in this relationship. I am the one who pushes the envelope and wants the show to be more and more outrageous, and while I think Frank appreciates that, he is the voice of sanity that keeps the show on an even keel. I think he saves me from my worst impulses, and indulges me in my best impulses.” Michael Fairman interview, December 26, 2012

When GH spin-off Port Charles aired from 1997 to 2003, vampires roamed the town. In many ways, PC was ahead of its time. Now, vampire stories are all the rage with HBO’s True Blood and the movie franchise of Twilight, along with many rip-offs. Head writer Ron Carlivati’s going to bring some of that vampire thrill back just a bit starting next Monday when Lucy freaks out, thinking she’s run into the king of the vampires — Caleb (formerly played by Michael Easton, now a mortal policeman named John McBain). Both Easton and Kelly Monaco (Sam) were on PC as the king and queen of the vampires. They will show up at Kelly’s Diner for the January 14th episode as John and Sam when Lucy (also on PC as a vampire slayer) walks in. She takes one look at John, screams out his PC vampire name and reverts to her vampire slayer role, taking a near-fatal stab at him and sending him directly to GH for stitching up. Lucy then goes to jail, where she meets up with Duke Lavery, thinking he’s really another vampire named Joshua Temple (from PC). What the hell’s going on? Carlivati said he wanted to give a respectful nod to PC with the returns of so many of those characters/actors. “Our universes are colliding but this is no quick gimmick. This will kick off a nice little mystery story: Is Lucy crazy or is there something very real going on here? And, if she's crazy, why do John and Sam feel like they've met before?” Lynn Herring (Lucy Coe, vampire slayer) digs it. She said it makes more sense to acknowledge the vampire crossing than ignore the obvious. She also said it was a shame (her feelings were hurt) that she was never invited back to GH once PC was cancelled. But this will recompense nicely. –TV Guide, Michael Logan interview, January 9, 2013

But calm down, GH purists. Executive producer Frank Valentini said last week that this vampire story arc doesn’t mean GH will turn into PC, at all.

Laura Wright (Carly) said she and co-star Roger Howarth (Todd) went to the GH writers at the soap’s annual Christmas bash to pitch their pairing rave about their pairing as something special and different from the previous ones, including Todd and Blair, and Carly and Sonny. “For these two characters what’s happened between them is extremely emotional, realizing that they have fallen in love with someone and they thought it could be forever and now that’s messed up and it’s very difficult,” Wright said. Fans have recognized the specialness in this pairing as well. Watching Todd prove his love to Carly would really make those fans happy beyond measure, “In her heart, [Carly] wants him to try and win her back and tell her that she’s the most important thing in his world and he will do whatever it takes to fix it. I have a feeling that writers are going to be forced into it. (Laughs) I am telling you once all these scenes air the fans are going to go nuts!” –Soap Opera Digest

GH directors Larry Carpenter, William Ludel, and Scott McKinsey received nominations for Directors Guild of America awards in the daytime serials category. They will compete with OLTL’s Jill Mitwell and DOOL’s Albert Alarr. Winners claim their prize in formal ceremonies on February 2 in L.A.’s Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.

For a savvy executive producer such as Frank Valentini — well, at least according to many in the casts he’s overseen — the man sure isn’t very bright about Rebecca Herbst’s (Elizabeth) place on GH. In a January 11th interview with Deep Soap’s Sara Bibel, Valentini expressed surprise at being told the new nursing student Sabrina was “somewhat polarizing” with fans. He actually believed “everybody liked her,” and reacted unfavorably to the suggestion (by many fans) that Patrick be paired up with Elizabeth following Robin’s death, not Sabrina — a child in comparison. (Translation: fans prefer watching their veterans to extras. Shouldn’t Elizabeth have been the one to resurrect the Nurses’ Ball as well?) Seemingly dismissing Patrick and Elizabeth’s firm friendship — it’s almost organically cut from fate, beauty, and a quiet nobility — outright, Valentini viewed such romantic notions as “creepy,” seeing Elizabeth and Patrick as more sibling material. But he did promise Elizabeth would find love with someone else soon, someone not A.J. — another boneheaded move, considering she exudes loads of chemistry with Sean Kanan — someone who makes more sense considering she isn’t one to take things fast. As a refresher course, Valentini insulted elucidated for fans who Elizabeth is as a character. “I love Becky [Herbst]. She’s fantastic. But something needs to be built. I think that character’s been bounced around. She’s got three different children from three different men. If she’s going to say, ‘I love you’ to somebody, it’s got to be real and it’s got to mean something. She’s not going to jump right into it. That’s not who she is. I think everyone’s forgotten a little bit what makes Liz the character you most identify with and most want to be. Becky’s got the acting chops to pull it off if you go through every step of the relationship.”

For GH’s 50th anniversary, executive producer Frank Valentini is making sure he covers all the bases. Meaning, load up on those special guest appearances by beloved, longtime blasts from the pasts. He can’t get everyone — in fact, TV Guide’s William Keck reminded Valentini of many more vets (how about a brief homage to the late Shell Kepler/ex-Amy?) — but he’s trying for the happy medium, considering the limitations of space, budget and time. At this point, it’s about what TPTB would love to do and what they can do with their given cast plus some extras, notably surrounding the much-anticipated, resurrected Nurses’ Ball for spring. Kelly Monaco (Sam) will, of course, be featured prominently as one of the Nurses’ Ball acts (she won the first Dancing With The Stars and made the finals in DWTS All Stars this past fall season), and maybe with her real-life DWTS All Stars partner, Val Chermkovskiy. Lynn Herring’s Lucy will definitely find herself battling a wardrobe malfunction, as in Nurses’ Balls past. And Sabrina will undergo that makeover, possibly to be revealed at the Nurses’ Ball. Other maybes: Jackie Zeman (ex-Bobbie), Denise Alexander (ex-Lesley), Rachel Ames (ex-Audrey) – possibly in the audience, Stuart Damon (ex-Alan), Jack Wagner (ex-Frisco), Lindze Letherman (ex-Georgie), Tyler Christopher (ex-Nikolas), Jonathan Jackson (ex-Lucky), and Nathan Parsons (ex-Ethan). Valentini confirmed they’ve been in touch with Christopher, Zeman, Alexander, and Ames, with a very nearly sure thing in Frisco’s return. For those who’ve already come and gone — Kimberly McCullough’s Robin and Steve Burton’s Jason — Valentini wished them well and said the following: no Jason recast right now, since Sam faces other options, and whenever McCullough wants to slip in a return and take a break from the directing, they’d welcome her. With the news of Prospect Park resuming more definitive plans to resurrect AMC and OLTL to its online network soon (production begins next month), Valentini had to field questions about whether he’d lose his current OLTL cast members on GH. Prospect Park retains the rights to those OLTL people so… “Right now we're trying to work it out. I can't really say because the lawyers are doing their thing. Our hope is that we'll be able to continue what we're be doing.” –TV Guide, William “Keck’s Exclusives: General Hospital Golden Anniversary Plans Revealed,” January 10, 2013

John J. York (Mac) took on an entirely different sort of acting job recently, in an upcoming Christian indie, By God’s Grace. York, Roark Critchlow (ex-Mike, DOOL), and Jillian Clare (ex-Abigail, DOOL) recently started work on the indie, on location in Oregon. The story follows an angry, young man having trouble with his success and this young girl who enlightens him. The indie will come out in the fall on Parables TV.

The smart, handsome actor everyone loves to death, Jon Lindstrom, reprises his role as Lucy Coe’s estranged husband Kevin Collins, starting January 30. Both moved over to GH spin-off PC in the late ‘90s. By that soap’s end in 2003, Kevin may have sorted things out with Lucy and gotten back together with her. GH viewers will learn more when he shows up soon to possibly help Lucy out of a jam. Lindstrom credited fans with the return.

Executive producer Frank Valentini told TV Guide’s William Keck it’s almost for sure Jack Wagner’s back as Frisco soon. Wagner himself indicated he was contacted by TPTB for a 50th anniversary return of some sort. But nothing more concrete, other than he’s open to returning for a short stint and he’d love to work with his ex-wife Kristina (Felicia) again, “…I might do it just to honor that show and what it’s meant to my career and the fans and to Kristina’s career.” Huffington Post, Jaimie Etkin, January 7, 2013

Gossip for the week of 14-Jan-2013

by Carol Banks Weber

Laura Wright (Carly) is as insensitive- and conceited-sounding as ever with her recent Soap Opera Digest *remarks about the Carly-and-Todd pairing. Rumor has it, they didn’t go over well with Kassie DePaiva (Blair, GH/OLTL), who used to play Roger Howarth’s (Todd) on-screen soapy love interest. *“The relationship with Todd, in my opinion, and I’m pretty sure Roger as well, is a big deal! Roger and I talked to the writers at the GH Christmas Party about how, yes, Blair and Todd are wonderful and Sonny and Carly have their history, but there is something about Carly/Todd that is whole new world. For these two characters what’s happened between them is extremely emotional, realizing that they have fallen in love with someone and they thought it could be forever and now that’s messed up and it’s very difficult…. In her heart, she wants him to try and win her back and tell her that she’s the most important thing in his world and he will do whatever it takes to fix it. I have a feeling that writers are going to be forced into it. (Laughs) I am telling you once all these scenes air the fans are going to go nuts!” A little respect goes a long way, Toots.

Jimmy Deshler may or may not have joined as a recast Morgan. GHH Rumorville reported last week that “he may have already taped with Chad Duell (Michael) and Haley Pullos (Molly).”

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