Is Katie Couric Going to Kill General Hospital—and Finish Off the Daytime Soap?

New talk-show deal puts former CBS news anchor on our ever-growing list of enemy-of-soaps suspects

By Joal Ryan Jun 08, 2011 12:00 PMTags
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When Katie Couric inked an afternoon talk-show deal with ABC, General Hospital's iffy future got iffier.

And the ailing daytime-drama industry got closer to death.

In April, after the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Life, we sought to assign blame for the soap's demise. As we revisit the piece, please do go ahead and mentally add Couric's name to the list:

RELATED: Biggest All My Children, One Life to Live shockers!

And then there were four.

By early next year, The Young and the Restless, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful will be the only daytime dramas left on broadcast TV.

Who killed the soap? Let's assemble the suspects and host a tense cross-examination, Pine Valley-style.

Suspect No. 1: James Franco Did It! The multitasker bombed with Your Highness. He flatlined at the Oscars. So, can there be any doubt  that it was he—himself!—who did in soaps by doing them?

Well, for one thing, the genre was dying off long before Franco came along in 2009. For another thing, his sometime-show, General Hospital, is alive and kicking. (Well, for now.)

We hereby acquit Mr. Franco on all charges—except for the ones relating to his awards-show "performance."

Suspect No. 2: O.J. Simpson Did It! In 1995, as the former football hero's murder trial wound down, soap execs debated whether their audience, which had dwindled by 10 percent amid nonstop courtroom coverage, would return.

And now we know the answer: It didn't.

So, yeah, O.J. did it.

[Dramatic pause.]

But did he act alone?  

Suspect No. 3: Oprah Winfrey Did It! Here's a theory for you: With the talk queen's show retiring in the spring, ABC had a chance to remake its daytime self. (Oprah, while not an ABC show, largely airs on the network's stations and affiliates.) And, so, goodbye, AMC; hello, The Chew!

Here's another theory for you: Winfrey herself talked ABC into pulling the plug on AMC and OLTL, so she could bring the shows over to her network, OWN.

The former theory's an educated guess; the latter's a crazy idea inspired by fans who really, truly are lobbying Winfrey to save their shows

Suspect No. 4: The Real Housewives Did It! And if Camille Grammer, Countess LuAnn and the rest didn't, then The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and just about any other reality show you can name certainly did.

Wesley Hyatt, who wrote the Encyclopedia of Daytime Television, suggested The Real World as a culprit.

The groundbreaking series debuted on MTV in 1992…just about the same time young viewers were tuning out soaps en masse.

The fact is, The Real World had the opportunity, the motive—and a bunch of good-looking twentysomethings who weren't obligated to go into the boring family cosmetic and/or oil business!

"That was a lot more compelling to people than the standard whodunit and other goings on," Hyatt told us.

Suspect No. 5: Kourtney Kardashian Did It! May we call to the stand, her sister, Kim Kardashian?

"Kourtney was recently on [OLTL]," Kim told PopEater. "So, I think she killed the entire 30-year brand."

(It's worse than that, actually: OLTL has been on the air nearly 43 years.)

But still, did one appearance, on March 28, doom the show? The judge rules no. OLTL was rumored to be an endangered species in 2009, if not before.

Closing Argument: "If I was on any of the other [surviving] soap operas right now," Hyatt said, "I'd be really worried."

See, even if the likes of O.J. were jailed for crimes against the genre, the genre would still be fighting a losing battle against competition from the Internet, not to mention production costs. (And, yes, we know, O.J. already is in jail.)

In other words, just about everything and everyone is killing the soaps.

Hyatt foresees an endgame in which the remaining shows get picked off, one by one, as if offed by the Salem Serial Killer.

"Only this time there's no cliffhanger on Friday," Hyatt said. "It really is going to end this time—they can't come back from the dead on this one."

P.S.: When we spoke with Hyatt in April, he said his guess was General Hospital wouldn't live much past its 50th birthday. The latest Couric news could mean G.H. is without a time slot as soon as September 2012. Or, about seven months shy of its golden anniversary.

(Originally published April 16, 2011, at 10 a.m. PT)