On August 18th, Soaps in Depth confirmed that Robert Palmer Watkins (A.K.A. Dillon Quartermaine) was deposed from ABC's General Hospital. This comes on the heels of Rebecca Budig's (Hayden Barnes) shocking firing, William Devry's (Julian Jerome) shaky contract talks, and the announced return of Steve Burton (ex-Jason Morgan). Devry is one-half of a hugely popular pairing with Nancy Lee Grahn's Alexis Davis. Budig is an adored, Emmy-nominated soap goddess. Watkins' character is a part of the meager younger set and a fundamental family that's been reprehensibly shrinking since the 2000's (despite fan outcry). These things considered, it makes one ask "What the heck is going on at GH?!"
On social media, many viewers have postulated that cuts were made to financially accommodate bringing on Burton. As a result, for every message of support he's received, there's one full of venom. While the budget theory is logical, it can't be said for sure if it's accurate. In any event, Burton has no control over the management and/or production of the series. The actor has also been the target of preemptive anger from fans of Jason-recast Billy Miller, who fear Miller will somehow be ousted from the role. Others are concerned that the character's life away from the mob will be reversed. This goes without saying, but apparently it must be reiterated: Burton isn't responsible for casting or storyline choices, either (whether the fears become a reality or not). Moreover, actor switches usually don't mean characterization alterations...unless of course, a "fake/real Jason" plot is the plan.
It can be assumed that Burton's homecoming is an attempt by ABC/GH to boost ratings, but the reality is that if the writing isn't on point, it's a wasted effort. History has shown that it doesn't matter who's on camera if there isn't a valuable script to bring to life. For example, both Budig's appearance and the resurgence of "Carly"-originator Sarah Brown were heavily touted and promoted, but the audience became disengaged and disappointed with the stale narratives. When news came of Budig's axing, there was more discussion about squandered opportunities than what actually existed, which was very telling. One person argued online: "To be fair, both Hayden and Dillon haven't been very significant, but we want them around because we love Rebecca and Robert, and Dillon is a Quartermaine." Feeling there was some truth in the statement, I replied "If Hayden, Dillon or any other figure fails to be impactful, it's because of the writing, 7/10. The actors shouldn't end up without a job because the writers didn't do theirs." In her exit interview with TV Insider, Jane Elliot (A.K.A. Tracy Quartermaine) expressed sympathy for daytime scribes because of the various constraints they have to work around, such as budgets and demands from advertisers. After reading it, I felt guilty about sharp critiques I made in the past, but I eventually let it go. Though I'm sure some contingencies have changed over time, budgets, advertisers and actor guarantees have always been a part of the equation. Those elements aren't new, and GH has seen better story days. A large roster isn't new either, but fans and soap journalists alike have insisted that cast size is the reason balance, flow and muscle can't be maintained on paper.
As for who Burton will portray, I haven't bothered to speculate or get excited because I don't have faith the angle will be well-executed, whatever it is. I prefer he play Jason, but not if that means a "fake/real " scenario. That would be a mistake. It would be too broad of a revision to be sensible, among other things. Recent dialogue has teased that his role may involve Franco's childhood, with a link to Jason Morgan. I can't say I'm thrilled about the Franco portion. There's too much of a jarring, negative record for that to be the connection. GH's executive producer, Frank Valentini, swears "No one has guessed right" about what's in store. With how bleak everyone's theories are, let's hope he's right and some great TV is ahead.
For more of my thoughts on GH's writing, landscape and future, check out: "Pier 52: GH's Latest Exits & Not Planning the Future"