‘General Hospital’: Fans Say This is How the Show Has Been Going ‘Downhill’ for Years

Let’s all be honest in saying TV soap operas have never been Shakespeare. Although they did have some good storytelling for many decades, mostly due to a small bank of reliable writers. ABC’s General Hospital used to have some appealing characters and dialogue that everyone could believe really existed. In more recent years, though, things seem to have changed.

Anyone who still watches GH might have noticed it’s gone downhill somewhat in its approach to dialogue. Many hackneyed cliches keep being used, not including other clunky forms of conversation.

Many fans are wondering what’s going on and whether the writing teams are near interns rather than the professionals they’ve had for decades. What’s really occurring there, and is it a sign soap operas are on their last legs after almost 90 years of existence?

Michelle Stafford (Nina) and Donnell Turner (Curtis)
Michelle Stafford (Nina) and Donnell Turner (Curtis) | Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

The great soap opera writers of yore

Soap operas in general started in the earliest days of radio, soon attracting stay-at-home wives and mothers in those days. Not that men also didn’t become attached to these shows, perhaps more so in recent years as more stay-at-home dads become increasingly common.

In the radio days, dialogue was far more important to help the listener create compelling visuals in their heads. Not that dialogue still didn’t adhere to the same level of quality when soaps transitioned to TV in the early 1950s.

Even though General Hospital didn’t air until 1963, the world of soap operas were blessed with mostly women writers who managed to tell a good yarn. Names like Irna Phillips, William J. Bell, and Agnes Nixon were some of the best-known names of the earlier eras. Nixon, alone, wrote soap operas for decades until her death in 2016.

More recently, soap operas have started to take a bit of a dive in the ratings. Networks have had to cut back on budgets as a result, something not going unnoticed by General Hospital fans on Reddit.

Fans think budget cuts eliminated an old writer training program

ABC apparently had a writer training program for their soap opera writers that used to turn out some decent talent. They’ve reportedly done away with this in more recent years due to budget cutting.

Is this the real reason Reddit users lament some of the clunky dialogue heard this season on General Hospital? Some of the examples cited are a bit hilarious and sound close to a grade school level of writing.

Maybe some of those examples are exaggerations, though using too many cliches in scripts is already one of the biggest mistakes writers can make. Viewers are saying the writers are repeating common catchphrases to a point where the scripts almost seem artificially generated.

If there’s any truth to the writer program being eliminated, perhaps it left ABC no choice but to use upstart writers who are more under pressure to churn out scripts five days a week.

Writing for soaps was no picnic anyway

Only a select few were able to make soap operas a true cottage industry in the world of TV. The talent that made millions of fans have mostly passed away in recent years, leaving younger writers who didn’t receive the mentoring they could have had.

Under considerable pressure to complete scripts, some of them may be writing too fast, hence using too many contrived sentences and even using the same phrasing. Is it even possible these writers are using algorithmic programs to generate scripts using the most common types of dialogue?

Whatever might be going on, soap operas are not in the most perfect place nowadays. General Hospital has already been facing a ratings downturn, leading some to speculate about its cancellation.

With more people starting to work from home, however, maybe things will start to change…assuming those at-home workers don’t want distractions. Also, in the age of online viewing, ratings for GH might be larger than what’s shown through standard TV rating figures.