General Hospital Won Record 14th Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Daytime Drama, Set Example for COVID-19 Protocols In Industry
General Hospital won the biggest prize of the night, Outstanding Daytime Drama, up against the only three daytime dramas that remain on the air: Young and The Restless and Bold and The Beautiful on CBS and Days of Our Lives on NBC. GH was the recipient of three awards recognizing the series for achievement behind the scenes. This included wins for the Directing Team, Technical Team and for achievement in Casting. This was the 12th win for GH in the Directing category. Casting Director Mark Techsner took home his 10th award.
This year marked the first time in which production was halted for daytime and the entire television industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This shutdown in production left the networks facing an episode shortage. Days Of Our Lives was unaffected due to how far in advance the series produces its episodes and was able to continue airing without interruption. Bold and The Beautiful and Young And The Restless were the first to run out of original episodes on April 24th. This came even as the two soap operas aired reruns on Friday afternoons to make longer use of what episodes were remaining.
General Hospital remained on the air through May 21st before running out of episodes after following CBS’ lead of airing A rerun on Fridays. In a move meant to extend the run of original episodes, the hour long episodes were split in two with extended flashbacks adding context to story to fill out the hour episode. Some viewers enjoyed the extra information while many were not fans of the redundancy.
To return to the air, sweeping changes to both television and film safety protocols had to be implemented to ensure the protection of cast and crew. This was a monumental task, especially for daytime with the cast and crew numbering in the hundreds on a set at any given time. There were fears that networks would take the opportunity to cut back the daytime dramas and even cancel them altogether in the wake of changes to the production model.
This did not come to pass as B&B returned from the shutdown with production restarting and new episodes airing July 20th. The half-hour CBS drama was the first of any scripted programming in the entire film and television industry to return to production and implement the rigid guidelines set forth by the state of California. GH followed on August 3rd and Y&R resumed airing on August 10th. All three dramas returned down in viewers from the last originals but as the season progressed much of the audience returned with any losses pared down or comparable to the losses seen across the television landscape.
The return to production was not without its share of problem. B&B suffered a shutdown in production after a positive test on day 2, and changes needed to be made to testing procedures. The temporary shutdowns plagued fellow CBS production Y&R. Days Of Our Lives, which halted production prior to the pandemic as normally scheduled, resumed in the fall with several testing issues although none of it resulted in reruns airing at any point.
In contrast, GH restarted production without facing any further shutdowns as the series successfully implemented safety protocols. The new safety measures were vocally praised by cast and crew alike. In a rare vote of confidence, ABC’s president singled out the daytime drama for adapting to the new standards and even held it up as a model for the rest of Disney/ABC’s production teams. Among the three soaps impacted by the long term shutdown, it was apparent onscreen which shows had managed to adapt well behind the scenes and which were struggling.
Upon their return, both CBS dramas were reliant on flashbacks akin to the ones that General Hospital had utilized prior to the shutdown. This practice continued for weeks before returning to normal. This was especially upsetting to B&B fans since the soap opera was only a half hour long to begin with, giving viewers “new” episodes with little new about them. The two series were criticized as storylines seemed slow down the pace of plot movement as a result of production changes. This coupled with the flashbacks impacted the CBS series negatively and they lost the most viewers overall in their initial returns.
Another problem became a viral moment on social media. B&B visibly utilized dummies during kissing and other intimate scenes between actors. Actress/comedian and star of HBO’s “Insecure”, Issa Rae tweeted her excitement that she could “f*** a dummy this season” along with a clip of an actor kissing a a lifeless standin. General Hospital on the other hand returned in a much smoother fashion. Upon returning on August 3rd, flashbacks were kept to a minimum, far from the egregious use prior to the shutdown. The storylines moved quicker than they had been before the break which began to drag things out due to the flashback issue. This served viewers with an exciting return with forward moving story momentum.
Just two weeks after its return to the air GH had its annual Nurse’s Ball, that in the past involved numerous musical numbers and costume changes. In a clever move, GH, which like other soaps did not address the pandemic directly, has this year’s event as a telethon to raise money for frontline workers. This clever decision allowed for the event to take place. It managed to strike a proper tone by mentioning front line workers but did not veer out of a viewer’s comfort zone by addressing the pandemic.
By year’s end, the series seemed back to business as usual with the production team executing scenes involving either large amounts of casts members such as the Nurses’ Ball and Mike Corbin’s funeral, or crew intensive scenes like the shootouts at the Haunted Star and bridge collapse with Julian and Sonny. Regardless of how the storylines may have played out, GH’s production weathered the technical aspects of putting on a good soap opera like the professionals they are and deserved the record breaking 14th Emmy.