Jason Morgan & The Quartermaine Massacre

Steve Burton's Exit couldn't stop GH

Jason Morgan’s Impact on GH’s Ratings Pt. 2

Check out last week’s ratings in total viewers here. You can see all four soaps ratings for every episode including Young & The Restless, Bold & The Beautiful and Days of Our Lives as well.

Steve Burton is exiting General Hospital. Jason Morgan will exit the soap opera soon.
Steve Burton is out as Jason Morgan on General Hospital

Recap:Burton’s exit comes as co-star, Ingo Rademacher, was fired earlier this month

  • Nobody can deny that Steve Burton has had an impact on General Hospital. Now with the actor’s rumored exit all but confirmed will these it an impact on the soap opera’s ratings?
  • The actor first exited in 2000 after a nine year run. The actor returned for a guest appearance for a few months in 2001 but permanently returned the following year. Over the next ten years, nobody appeared in more episodes than Steve Burton.
  • Ratings for GH declined from 2003 through 2006, before slightly increasing in 2007

Before Jason Morgan, There Was Jason Quartermaine

Before diving into where we left off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on something many viewers attribute to the refocusing of General Hospital on Jason Morgan. To be clear, Steve Burton is not a writer or producer- he is simply an actor whom executives at the networks felt tested very well with the audience. He bears no direct responsibility for storylines or the network’s decisions about other actors, nor should he be blamed. However, one major casualty of his rise to prominence can’t be ignored.

The Quartermaines were introduced in the late 70s, and the obscenely wealthy but equally dysfunctional family resonated with fans. The exploits of the Quartermaines were similar to series that would thrive in primetime like Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and Knot’s Landing. GH’s conniving Quartmaine clan offered viewers humor and warmth, a quality that set them apart from the rest of the genre. Even as the popular primetime soaps that featured wealthy broods came and went, the Quartermaine family was still prevalent.

The Qs Get Whacked

As mentioned in part one, Jason was very much a member of the Quartermaine family with little to do but was really lovely and really dull. In 1996, Jason’s traumatic brain injury and resultant amnesia caused a stark personality change. Jason rejected his parents, a matter made worse by deciding to take a job with mobster Sonny Corinthos. The reaction of his family to the changes only served to further push Jason away. These interactions drove storylines initially. While the Quartermaines remained focal for several years after the accident, things shifted after Burton returned in 2002. The Quartermaines began to get less and less screentime.

Quartermaine Massacre: 2004-07

A look at how many viewers tuned in as Jason Morgan remained front and center while his family members were killed off one by one.

  • 2003-2004:

    4.060 million viewers

    -270,000/ -6%

  • 2004-2005:

    3.61 million viewers

    450,000/ -11%

  • 2005-2006:

    3.339 million viewers

    -271,000/ -8%

  • 2006-2007:

    3.45 million Viewers

    +111,000/ +3%

  • 2007-2008:

    2.94 million viewers

    -510,000/ -15%

  • July 2004: More than 4.3 million viewers tune in for the funeral of Lila Quartermaine, among the most watched of the 2003-2004 season.

  • April 2005: 3.65 million watched when AJ Quartermaine was murdered, right about average for the season, but 16% below Lila’s funeral

  • June 2006: 3.39 million watched Justus Ward‘s death, slightly above the average for the season and 7% lower than AJ’s murder a year before

  • February 2007: 4.63 million viewers tune in as Alan Quartermaine‘s heart attack during the MetroCourt Hostage Crisis proves fatal. This still ranks as the highest-rated episode of GH since the 2003-2004 season and was watched by 37% more viewers than Justus’ death 8 months earlier.

  • November 2007: 3.47 million viewers watched the day of Emily Quartermaine‘s murder. The following week 3.31 million viewers tuned in. It would take the soap opera 6 1/2 years to match those numbers again.

    Compared to Alan’s death seven months earlier, GH had lost a quarter of its audience.

Losing Lila

The shift escalated when Anna Lee, who played Lila Quartermaine, was taken off contract by Jill Farren Phelps. In her 90s, Lee, who was crushed by the news, fell ill soon after and passed away days before she was set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmys.

Adding insult to injury, John Ingle, who had played her husband Edward, was fired as well. Although he would eventually return, by the time Lila’s death was addressed onscreen, Ingle had taken a role on Days of Our Lives, robbing fans of an emotional tribute.

In 2005, AJ Quartermaine, Jason’s brother, returned after being off the canvas. His character kidnapped several children, placing them at risk and even staging one of their deaths, and was shot by Jason. Upon the character’s death, actor Billy Warlock was rumored to be angered that he returned just for his character to be made irredeemable then killed off.

In 2006, Mfundo Morrison, who played the beloved member of both the Ward and Quartermaine families, Justus Ward, was let go, and his character killed off. While soap deaths are often rewritten, the onscreen discovery of his corpse in the trunk of a car seemed meant to highlight its permanence. It’s important to note that Morrison was one of two Black cast members at the time.

Alan and Emily Sacrificed For Sweeps Stunts

In 2007, Stuart Damon, who played Jason’s father, Dr. Alan Quartermaine, was fired just a few weeks shy of his 30th anniversary on the show. Once again, the show opted to kill the character off. Alan’s death played out during the MetroCourt Crisis and ranks among the highest-rated episodes of General Hospital since 2003. The fact that 4.63 million viewers tuned in for his death eventually led to producers asking Damon to return on a recurring basis as a ghost.

Later that same year, Emily Quartermaine, Jason’s adopted sister, was killed at the Black & White ball during November sweeps. Once again, the character was violently murdered onscreen. The actress who played Emily, Natalia Livingston, returned to the soap opera in 2009 but did not reprise the role of Emily- another move that angered fans.

Between 2003-2004 and 2007-2008, GH lost almost 1.1 million viewers more than 25 percent of its audience in four years. Most shocking for the soap opera, the audience tuned in for Alan’s death in February of 2007, 4.63 million viewers, collapsed to 3.17 million the day after Emily’s death in November of that year. That’s more than a 33% decline.

All the while. Steve Burton’s Jason Morgan was front and center. Tune in for part three as Sarah Brown returns to the soap, Hollywood star James Franco tries to make a splash, and Vanessa Marcil makes a grand entrance- all revolving around Jason Morgan initially. As ABC aims for a home run three years in a row and ends up striking out.

All raw data is derived from Soap Opera Network’s infinitely useful resources. Check the site out, here.

All raw data is derived from Soap Opera Network’s infinitely useful resources. Check the site out, here.

All raw data is derived from Soap Opera Network’s infinitely useful resources. Check the site out, here.

Check out last week’s ratings in total viewers here. You can see all four soaps ratings for every episode including Young & The Restless, Bold & The Beautiful and Days of Our Lives as well.

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