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Why James Franco's New Flick, 'Francophrenia,' Should Be Subtitled: "How ABC Allowed Me To Wreck What Could Be The Last Years of General Hospital"

Quirky actor/artist/beanstalk climber James Franco's General Hospital-themed documentary, Francophrenia, has made the selection for the Tribeca Film Festival. Uh, yeah, congrats.  For those of you who were unware (and judging by GH's steady ratings slide while TPTB indulged Franco's lunancy, there could be quite a lot of you!), Franco appeared on GH sporadically from 2009 through early 2012, as "Franco," an artist/serial killer, obsessed with the soap's resident mob hitman Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). Francophrenia documents part of that experience for posterity.


What started off as a gnarly bit of stunt casting, the likes of which no soap had seen since film icon Elizabeth Taylor put a hex on Luke and Laura at their wedding on the same sudser three decades earlier, quickly devolved into a convoluted exercise in time-wasting. For what the brass at GH obviously didn't realize at the time (Or maybe they did?), was that their soap—long believed to be the safest on the ABC Daytime lineup—was in just as much mortal danger as its sister sudsers, All My Children and One Life to Live. Instead of spending 2009-11 doing everything in their power to get GH back into fighting form, the serial's top executives and head writer wasted GH's last few, cancellation rumor-free years on this nonsense.  

While I don't blame then-executive producer Jill Farren Phelps, former head writer Bob Guza or even soap mercenary Brian Frons (former president of ABC Daytime)for indulging the A-lister's whims initially (Who wouldn't have been thrilled about a movie star wanting to join their soap?), I do fault them for letting every other storyline on the soap smash right into a brick wall, as they worked like crazy to accomodate Franco's nutty returns.

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Once this little experiment failed to spike significant ratings, it should have been put on ice faster than a city the Cassadines targeted in the early 80's, sans benefit of protection from one Lucas Lorenzo Spencer (Tony Geary). However, GH continued to bring Franco back, complete with performance art, hammy acting and gruesome, violent imagery attempting to pass for "art." Already a dark show under Farren Phelps and Guza, the ugliness of the Franco story seemed to spread across the GH canvas like a lurid, toxic mass, sliming everything in its path.

And for all of the tons of free publicity Franco's stint on GH afforded the soap, it never did anything for the soap's bottom line. In fact, ABC Daytime's least promoted soap by far—and the one boasting the smallest amount of mainstream star power—One Life to Live, managed to creep past GH in the ratings during this same time frame. So forgive me if I'll pass on seeing Francophrenia at a theater near me or you. Living through it once, was quite enough.