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Ratings, Rants and Raves: How Maria Arena Bell is Letting a Getting-Out-of-Soaps ABC Come Close to Kicking Y&R's Butt in Demos


Looks like all the talk of “rebooting” is starting to pay off for ABC Daytime’s General Hospital and NBC’s Days of Our Lives. (Source: Soap Opera Network). DAYS shot up 147,000 total viewers, and went up a tenth of a point in households, among women 18-49 and among women 18-34.

The aftermath of Maggie’s (Suzanne Rogers) shooting lead story in Salem the week of Aug. 15-19. I guess having your show’s current, most beloved heroine fighting for her life is one way to get viewers to tune back in. Aunt Maggie survived and told Victor (John Aniston) to end all this madness between the Crips and the Bloods, er Kiriakises and DiMeras. Meanwhile Carly (Crystal Chappell) finally reunited with her son— although she was strung out and foaming at the mouth while doing so. Sami (Alison Sweeney) was excited at the thought of possibly having one more child to move into her shoe, thus fulfilling the nursery rhyme. Still ready for the end of September with this show.

GH went up 125,000 total viewers and was up year-to-date 75,000. Those gains weren’t enough to make GH the most watched ABC Daytime soap for the week. That distinction remained One Life to Live’s, as the Agnes Nixon-created sudser was No. 3 in total viewers to GH’s No. 4. Looks like Cindersoaperella is finally getting to go to the ball — even if it will be streaming online.

GH also trailed OLTL in households, coming in at No 4 to OLTL’s No. 3. Among women 18-49 however, the two sudsers were tied at No. 2, and only separated from CBS Daytime’s The Young and the Restless by one-tenth of a point. Among women 18-34, GH and OLTL managed a three-way tie with Y&R. Way to keep your show’s lead, Maria.

Storywise, I was wowed by GH again. I know, I know. I expected Garin Wolf to fail, being a card-carrying Guza lover and all, but man has Wolf proven me wrong! Core GH characters are acting like they did back in the 90’s, long held relationships are being tested, the hospital is central. In short, Wolf seems to be at least trying to give the fans what they’ve been screaming for online for years. So far, it’s working.

Sonny (Maurice Benard) is now being written as a very flawed, very scary, but yes, very loved individual and not simply a “good man who happens to sell illegal coffee and sometimes has to kill to do so.” It was gut wrenching watching scenes where Sonny pulled a gun in his surrogate kid sister Robin’s (Kimberly McCullough) home, while mentally trapped in a manic, jealous rage over Jax (Ingo Radmacher); gut-wrenching, but in character and powerful. It would take something this crazy for Robin to turn her back on Sonny and turn her back she has, along with Carly (Laura Wright). Who woulda thought those two would ever agree on anything?

It was smart to have Jason (Steve Burton) and Siobhan’s (Erin Chambers) respective story climaxes land them smack dab in General Hospital beds all week. What better way to refocus the soap on the titular hospital than to have popular non-hospital characters facing medical woes?

Who knew Dr. Matt Hunter (Jason Cook) was actually an interesting, funny, sexy character? Maybe Cook should consider staying put now that his character is being written by someone who actually has a vision for him? Sorry, Guza. You know you did that boy wrong.

As if all the action at the hospital wasn’t enough to lure back disgruntled fans, a red-hot ELQ storyline continued to gain momentum as Skye (Robin Christopher) continued to press her not-quite-aunt Tracy (Jane Elliot) about how she managed to save Edward’s (John Ingle) company with dirty money. If GH stays this good, it just might give OLTL a run for that soap opera’s place in my heart.

All My Children came in last in total viewers and households and was next to last among women 18-49 and among women 18-34. In story, Dixie (Cady McClain) moved in with her "sunshine" aka JR (Jacob Young) to try to sober him up, as any good, frequently-returning-from-the-dead mama would. Jack and Erica (Walt Willey and Susan Lucci) enjoyed some post-doppelganger time in France and Zach (Thorsten Kaye) was back in town and blustering all over the place. Having McClain back provides Pine Valley the dose of heart and soul AMC's been lacking since it lost Eden Riegel, however I wish Kendall (Alicia Minshew) was still flrting with Griffin (Jordi Vilasuso), as opposed to having to endure that insufferable Zach.  

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ABC Daytime’s best soap for easily the past four years, OLTL continued its Mouse House domination. Despite shedding 84,000 total viewers, OLTL was still by far the most watched ABC Daytime soap, and was up year-to-date a whopping 588,000. Brian Frons being allowed to cancel this soap opera amid such a creative and ratings upswing is criminal. If I wasn’t so excited about Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Good Christian BellesPan Am and a few others, I would almost consider joining the full-on ABC boycott that some fans have going on. I said almost. Sorry guys, I can’t punish good primetime shows because of what a rash daytime exec was allowed to get away with, but I do understand the motivation!

As previously mentioned, OLTL was No. 3 in households, tied with GH at No. 2 among women 18-49 and tied with GH and Y&R among women 18-34. In story, viewers finally learned who the real Todd Manning (Roger Howarth) is, but not before Tea Delgado (Florencia Lozano) went absolutely ape poop on Blair (Kassie DePaiva) for kissing the fake one! Prospect Park, y’all need to LOCK Howarth, Lozano and DePaiva in a deal NOW! Oh, and while you’re at it, go ahead and convince Trevor St. John (Victor, Jr.) to come on board. Warring twin brothers, fighting over the Lord dynasty, the children, wives and sister they both love — this IS YOUR SHOW!!! Y’all don’t want me to start talking in tongues.

Speaking of things you do at church, Maria Arena Bell needs to be on her knees in prayer, asking the good Lord to show her how she managed to let two soaps on a network that is getting out of the daytime drama business match her show in the demos once again. Remember when Y&R not only dominated the other soaps in total viewers, but also among W18-49 and W18-34? Well those days are gone, thanks to this regime’s blatant disregard for the fans, not to mention the basic tenets of good storytelling.

Y&R is down an embarrassing 780,000 year-to-date. The soap is at a 3.3 in households, when not-so-long ago, Y&R hovered around 4.0 week-after-week. I know, because I wrote headlines about it. Among women 18-49, Y&R tied its all-time low for the second week in a row, and only managed to best GH and OLTL by one-tenth of a rating’s point in Madison Avenue’s most coveted demo. Among the increasingly important women 18-34 ranking, Y&R was tied with two soaps that soon won't have a timeslot on their network.

What is it gonna take for Sony and Bill Bell, Jr. to realize Maria and Co. just aren’t cut out for the job? Family or not, this isn’t the way daytime’s top soap should be performing. It’s time to fire Maria Arena Bell, Hogan Sheffer and Scott Hamner and bring back Kay Alden and Jack Smith before TIIC further destroy the late Bill Bell’s legacy. In story, Deacon (Sean Kanan) told Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) he saw her chasing Diane (Maura West) through the dark night— at the park—with a rock. Jesus take the wheel.

Elsewhere in Genoa City, that ridiculous, hot mess Genevieve (Genie Francis) screwed a man she only awhile ago was so murderously vengeful towards, she dropped him off a balcony. I’m sorry, but this crap is atrocious and not at all why people tune in to Y&R. Passions and DAYS could get away with characters like Genevieve and Colin (Tristan Rogers), but not Y&R. This soap is supposed to be the gold standard, basically a primetime worthy drama that just happens to air in daytime, or at least it used to be.

When Dena Higley and Chuck Pratt started penning messes like this on their respective soaps, fans rose up. It’s time Y&R lovers do the same. MAB promised our Jillian Bowe in the pressroom at the Daytime Emmys that Melody Thomas Scott would be returning “soon” as Nikki Newman. Well guess what? It’s almost September and still no Nikki, reportedly due to contract negotiations being at a standstill.

Sony/The Bells can’t pay for MTS, but they have money for Francis, Rogers, Stephen Nichols, Debbi Morgan, Jessica Collins, Sean Patrick Flannery, etc.? Don’t get it twisted, I have loved all of those actors on other soaps and projects, but this type of disrespectful b.s. never works. You don't get rid of your soap's beloved actors, citing budget then bring on a bunch of replacements.

As The World Turns lost the amaze-tastic Martha Byrne during contract negotiations, then Christopher “Gutless” Goutman proceeded to hire everyone who ever starred on GH in the 80’s and 90’s. Santa Barbara’s last season looked like an exercise in rehabilitating castaways from other soaps. How well did it work out for those sudsers? People tune into Y&R for Victor, Nikki, Jack, Kay, Jill, Ashley, Billy, Victoria, Paul, Nick, Sharon, Phyllis, Adam, Michael, Lauren, Neil and (sigh) Cane and Lily. Everyone else should be gravy, and if the gravy is making it so that you can’t afford the damn Grade-A steak, then you have a problem.

I owe Eric Braeden (Victor) an apology. When he was going through his contract drama, my stance was that he should be quiet and take one for the team. I’ve changed my mind, because the team obviously isn’t prepared to take one for the vets who we watch these shows for. Maria Bell is collecting two checks as head writer and executive producer—complete with a clause in her contract allegedly giving her full creative control of the show—when sources tell me she’s rarely on set. Meanwhile, she’s on a stunt-casting binge, as Y&R can’t afford the people fans actually want to see? Enough is enough. Maria’s last name should not be reason enough to ignore what’s happening at this show. It's time for Evita to be overthrown.

Y&R’s sister soap The Bold and the Beautiful was No. 2 among total viewers and households, but was dead last among women 18-49 and women 18-34. B&B did a major 180 the week in question as Liam (Scott Clifton) saving a clumsy Steffy (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) from drowning in her bathtub, made her forget all about the buried treasure she’d been diving for in his daddy’s rash-inducing, tight jeans and set her sights on Liam.

I’m enjoying B&B, but their numbers obviously denote a problem. While I’m glad to see the show work to build its new generation, and love how Taylor (Hunter Tylo) and Brooke’s (Katherine Kelly Lang) feud is being visited on their daughters, I think B&B could do more with the original Forrester kids.

Why not have Thorne (Winsor Harmon) and Felicia (Lesli Kay) go to court to try to overturn their mother giving away their birthright? They could borrow one of Y&R’s 1,800 lawyers to go after Stephanie’s (Susan Flannery) mental stability at the time she signed over her shares. Stephanie was battling lung cancer. Maybe it affected her thinking? That could rip the family apart and give Thorne and Felicia some much needed screen time, not to mention Eric (John McCook). Or they could always have La Forrester guest star on The Talk next season and put Julie Chenin a headlock. That should cause one of the two shows to spike in the Nielsens. See you next Ratings!