In a surprising move, SOAPnet has greenlit a 13-episode sudser dubbed GENERAL HOSPITAL: NIGHT SHIFT, set to air later this summer. “We are committed to growing the soap genre and the GENERAL HOSPITAL franchise by extending its storyline only on SOAPnet,” said Brian Frons, President, Daytime, ABC Television Group. At a time when soap ratings are down across the board — and one, PASSIONS, was recently cancelled — this is seen as a bold move from the cable network which has built its reputation upon giving soap fans an opportunity to watch their favorite shows at night and during weekend marathons. “NIGHT SHIFT will launch with an audience that is already dedicated and compelled to know more about what happens on the night shift at the hospital,” continued Frons.
Interestingly, critics of GH have long complained that the show tends to focus more on mob-related violence than the hospital which will, it appears, be the heart and soul of the spin-off series. Currently, the show’s February sweeps plotline highlights a 24-like storyline focusing on a 16-hour hostage crisis at the fictional Metro Court Hotel.
This is not the first attempt to spin-off GH, which served as the launching pad for PORT CHARLES in 1997. Originally conceived as an ER-like soap focused on a group of young interns, PC eventually morphed into a telenovela-like drama dealing with such supernatural elements as vampires, witches and angels in 13-week arcs given such catchy names as “Desire” and “Tainted Love.” The most successful of these bizarre storylines featured vampire Caleb’s pursuit of his true-love, Livvie (played by Kelly Monaco, currently GH’s Sam but perhaps best known as the original winner of DANCING WITH THE STARS). Low ratings finally put the bite on PC in 2003.
In other SOAPnet news, the network recently announced that they have picked up all four seasons of the soon-to-conclude THE OC as well as the first four seasons of ONE TREE HILL. Each series will launch on Monday, April 9, with HILL hitting the airwaves at 5 p.m. and THE OC following at 6 p.m. No official launch date has been given for NIGHT SHIFT.