General Hospital has been publicly panned by critics in recent months for what have been called "dark" storylines that have focused on gloom and doom rather than traditional soap opera elements. In fact, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and head writer Megan McTavish have been taken to task on more than one occasion on their vision of the show.
During the show's usually festive Nurses Ball, the show featured a storyline involving a train and bus collision. Earlier this summer, Sonny Corinthos entered an apartment with a bomb strapped to his body - and a resulting explosion leveled the penthouse of the building and left several characters severely injured.
Now, in the wake of the terrorist attacks against America, General Hospital is prepared to jettison the dark storylines in favor of more traditional soap opera storytelling.
According to a set-side source, ABC executives ordered the show to ditch its mobsters, bombs, excessive gunfire and biological warfare storylines as soon as possible.
The show is complying, according to sources, but it's been quite an ordeal behind-the-scenes. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a General Hospital performer tells soapcentral.com that scripts have been re-written overnight and entire storylines have been scrapped. The most noticeable storyline to have been shelved involves Stavros Cassadine.
In June, Robert Kelker-Kelly (Stavros Cassadine) took on the role of Stavros, who was thawed out from a cryogenic chamber after nearly two decades in deep freeze. The show had planned a biotoxin storyline, in which Stavros and mother, Helena, continued their family rivalry with the Spencers. But those plans have now been nixed due to heightened fears among the American public after last month's terrorist attacks. "Simply put," the insider says, "it was just not appropriate to show this plot now."
Though unconfirmed by ABC, it appears that the end of this storyline will also mean an end to actor Robert Kelker-Kelly's stay on General Hospital. Without the Cassadines' biotoxin storyline, there appears little for Kelker-Kelly's Stavros to do. After all, Stavros is not exactly a prime candidate for reformation. Thus far in his short time in Port Charles, Stavros has stalked Laura Spencer, drugged Luke Spencer and killed Chloe Morgan. While Kelker-Kelly's release from the show has not been confirmed, fans of the former Another World star have already mobilized to petition ABC to find a way to keep the actor in Port Charles.
But how does the show change its course midstream?
According to one report, GH is exploring any and all possibilities to wrap up the storyline as soon as possible - including having Stavros' return turn out to be a bad dream. An Internet report has Stavros being killed for a Sweeps whodunit storyline, but an insider insists that a murder is unlikely because the show wants to distance itself from murder and mayhem.
When contacted by soapcentral.com, a GH spokesperson confirmed only that some storylines were being altered. The spokesperson declined to comment on the rumors that Kelker-Kelly was being released. Kelker-Kelly's agent says that ABC has given no notice that Kelker-Kelly has been released from the show.