General Hospital Shake-Up: Jill Farren Phelps Is Out as Show Boss, New Headwriter Named!

Christmas came early for some General Hospital fans late Wednesday night, when Soaps In Depth broke the news via Twitter that Jill Farren Phelps is on her way out as executive producer.

What’s more, what soon will be ABC’s lone daytime sudser is getting a new headwriter.

Taking over the reins at GH will be Frank Valentini, who had been with One Life to Live since 1985 and served as EP there since 2003. The well-regarded show boss became a free agent last Friday when Prospect Park formally abandoned its plan to keep Llanview on the map via an online video hub. (OLTL airs its series finale on Friday, Jan. 13; the lifestyle show The Revolution seizes the soap’s time slot the following Monday.)

ABC confirmed the changing of the guard on Thursday, also announcing that Valentini’s No. 1 for the past four years, Ron Carlivati, would be taking over as GH‘s headwriter. (He replaces Garin Wolf, who joined the soap this past summer.) Both gents take office Jan. 9.

“Frank and Ron’s creativity, passion and outstanding leadership will be a welcome addition to the cast and crew, as well as viewers and longtime fans,” ABC Daytime president Brian Frons said of the transition.

Added Valentini, “I look forward to this next exciting chapter working with the wonderful cast and crew of General Hospital. This is an incredible opportunity for me to extend my passion and expertise for daytime television.”

Katie Couric Signs Deal With ABC for Daytime Talker – Is GH Headed for the Morgue?

JFP, who had helmed GH for a decade, had come under fire as of late in the wake of 1) wilting ratings that threaten to make GH extra-dispensable to ABC affiliates when Katie Couric’s daytime talker debuts next September, and 2) the announced exit of Emmy-winning fan fave Jonathan Jackson, who in leaving cited several requests of TPTB that fell on deaf ears. Similarly, another Emmy-winning GH vet, Kimberly MCullough, recently announced her plan to vacate the role of Robin, so that she may pursue a career in directing.

What do think of the GH shake-up? Is ABCD looking to bolster the show’s future or put in place the best team to prepare its swan song?

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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62 Comments
  1. Kristal says:

    What great news! Maybe a deal can be made so that JJ can stay.

    • Jess says:

      God I hope so — Anything to increase the chance that GH can make it through the next year. I may not necessarily love the character, but he is a GH staple!

  2. Denise says:

    Less mob and more Q’s!

    • Cass says:

      The problem is that there are barely any Qs actually left alive!

      • Adam says:

        Barely any Qs are actually is alive is very true. But re-hire Lexi Ainsworth mold her character into a more adult role. But instead of trying to put focus on the Qs try putting it on the Davis’. Alexis, Molly, and Kristina have amazing chemistry as a family and are very believable especially when Sam has scenes with them. If Mac and Alexis start dating that could be an added dynamic.

        • Julia says:

          While I like Lexi Ainsworth until she looks more like she is 19 instead of 12 it will be hard to mold her character into a more adult role. She looks like a 12 year old trying to play a 20 year old and it just didn’t work.

          • Max says:

            I respectfully disagree. I think LA looks her age, but she isn’t very tall, which seems to be a factor for some people. I don’t see Jonathan Jackson getting this much flak for looking young, and Kimberly MCullough admitted that she was nearly fired as Robin for the same reasons that LA was.

  3. Michelle says:

    Its a little too late. Garin Wolf has been a trainwreck. Phelps ruined the show beyond measure. Ive been done with the show since Phelps fired Lexi Ainsworth because she wasn’t ‘sexy enough’. Bring Lexi back and id maybe come back.

    • Desiree says:

      Agreed Michelle. I quit watching after 30 years because of Lexi’s termination. It was the straw that broke the camels back. If GH can’t write a decent storyline for a 19 yr old emmy nominated, critically acclaimed actress, then something is wrong. If they need to hire a 26 yr old playboy bunny to improve ratings, then this ISN’T the show I grew up watching. Tired of the message women have to look a certain way to be sexy. OLTL has a well balanced cast of different ages, sizes and walks of life and storylines written from a female perspective. I hope the new EP shakes up GH and balances it out. I hope the new EP listens to viewers unlike the current regime at GH.
      Bring Lexi back!! Bring Lexi back!!!

      • Adam says:

        I wrote a few paragraphs on the “Save Lexi Ainsworth” facebook page in regards to what the new EP and HW should do:

        1)Wow this is AMAZING news. Re-hire Lexi, lure JJ back, get Tyler back, bring happy times back, entertain the thought of Laura coming back. This has to be seen as a last ditch effort. pull out ALL the stops to bring all the fans back that left. After I heard Kimberly and JJ were leaving I was thinking of not watching anymore starting Jan 1,2012 but 15 years for me watching will continue! Where’s the “Like” button!!??
        2)Also less gangster, more hospital pls, I’m sure Ingo would return also. Love triangle for Carly/Jax/Shawn anyone?! Have Kate and Sonny actually get and stay married. Show what they go thru during their marriage-funny moments, dramatic moments, not just get to the alter and something happens.
        Let Jason have his final showdown with Franco. We’ve waited long enough for that payoff! Let’s let Sam and Jason be happy. And for goodness sakes bring JJ back so Liz and Lucky can get and stay together. Liz is only NOT a tramp when she’s with Lucky.
        3)And for goodness sake bring Lexi back. I hope this new EP and HW realize Lexi was/is perfect for the part and they don’t hire some 30 year old bimbo actress to play some NuKristina which no one would take seriously.

    • Denise says:

      I have to jump on the Bring Lexi Back bandwagon. The chemistry between Kristina and Ethan was huge, you can’t buy that. I was looking forward to the lovestory blooming and poof, gone! ugh!

  4. Lisa says:

    yeah! now I wish he could get Natalie and John to move to Port Chuck, that police dept needs some serious help!

    • Trista says:

      Great idea!!!! it wouldn’t be the first OLTL character that came to GH. Remember when they introduced Skye’s mother on AMC and then moved her to OLTL and then finally had her on GH. Great crossover. Plus Michael Easton has great history with Kelly Monaco.

      Note to Powers that Be – rehire JJ, bring back Lucy and Laura, make Luke fun again and make the PCPD relevant again.

  5. Lyndi says:

    Finally! shes a horrible person.
    Bring Lexi back!

  6. Lena120 says:

    GH is so frakkin’ boring. At this point ANY change would be good. I can’t believe November sweeps just passed by without me watching a full episode. My FF button stays busy when I watch this soap, which is sad because it used to be my favorite! Like Denise said, “Less mob and more Q’s!” Garin Wolf made it seem as if a Q revival was going to happen and all we got were dropped storylines. Michael’s back at the warehouse, Skye is gone, and we still don’t know what was up with Tracy and her mob ties. It was good seeing the ELQ offices again.:(

  7. GoodNews says:

    This is good news. Hope he can save the last of the ABC soaps and undo the damage of many years of the JFP regime.

  8. Sarah says:

    I’ll probably get crap for saying this but….

    Wtf! jfp is getting fired cause jj is being a brat who doesn’t want story lines, (or ‘ hard’ story lines) and wanted lucky to get back together with liz (who most fans HATE.) So who is running this show? Obviously Jj.

    And who knows why Robin’s character is leaving.

    Ummm. Olt ratings died, and you decide putting the person responsible for it on another show… To save it’s ratings?

    Kay, im going to go junk my *might* be breaking down car for one that doesn’t work.

    • Renee says:

      Wow. Way to twist what has been written. How do you equate an exhausted actor who requested a lighter schedule so he could recover to a “brat…who is running this show”?

      Under JFP tenure General Hospital has crashed and burned. You might want to consider that before you jump to conclusions.

    • Cathy says:

      JJ’s a brat for requesting a lighter storyline … wouldn’t he be a brat if he whined and stomped his feet for more screentime? And Liz being a character most fans hate? Wow – guess you missed the massive fan backlash and heat GH took when they fired Becky Herbst. She has a massive fan base as does the character of Elizabeth.

      JJ made his requests, wanted to stay and was willing to work with TPTB at GH ..but they wouldn’t accomodate him because they said Lucky was too important a character to be onscreen less. He certainly is not a brat.

      • Sue says:

        Totally agree with you Cathy, I actually love Liz, she is my favorite character. Not a fan of Liz and Lucky, I am a huge Liz and Jason fan, been watching this show since I was a kid,for over thirty years. I like Sam, just not with Jason. I think that they should bring some OLTL characters on the show and bring a new dynamic to it, AMC actors are in California now, too, what about bringing them on too…. and Make it a THREE HOUR SOAP, so we can have our soaps back (ok, I’m dreaming out loud) but I have been devastated.

        SADLY, I BELIEVE THIS IS ALL A BUNCH OF BULL PUT OUT BY BRIAN FRONS TO TAKE OUR FOCUS OFF THE FACT THAT OUR OTHER TWO SOAPS ARE NOT GOING ONLINE, GH WILL BE CANCELLED NEXT YEAR.

    • DJ Rogue says:

      With the way this show’s currently being written, i’d MUCH RATHER have JJ running it. In other interviews, JJ’s commented on there being a rhythm to shows regarding character arcs and asked to have his lightened up a lil bit. What’s so bad about that? But, you’re right. It was SO necessary for Lucky to go on his Irish scavenger hunt.

      As for “Olt” ratings (and i’m assuming you meant OLTL), they didn’t, as you so eloquently put, “died”, in fact OLTL’s ratings have been better than GH’s for the entire time that ABC’s stupidity came to light.

      Perhaps you should spend less time worrying about your “*might* be breaking down car”, and more time getting your facts straight..

  9. Shari says:

    This chick let Vanessa walk. Let JJ walk. Let Kimberly walk. Forced Lexi to walk. Its about damn time someone forced HER to walk!

  10. Jude10 says:

    This show has become completely unwatchable, which is a real shame being that’s it’s the last ABC soap standing. GH needs to go back to its roots with some adventure and romance instead of the awful mob stuff. Or at least have some real intrigue and suspense. That’s why I watch “Revenge”.

    • Crittle says:

      You’ve said it all. I guess they’re trying to salvage something, but it might be a little too late.

    • sirfirchick says:

      I just wrote about the same thing below. The WSB and heroes, love, suspense, friendships that were lifelong. I can’t stand Sonny and his yearly breakdowns anymore… it’s a joke already. There isn’t a woman or child safe in Port Charles anymore.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        If they brought back the WSB and summers with “young lovers on the run,” hell, I’D start watching again.

  11. sherknd says:

    I myself love Lucky and Liz together.

  12. Kim says:

    I don’t see how this is good news. Valentini wrecked OLTL. I used to love OLTL but had to quit watching. Valentini does not care about the fans. I think this is part of ABC’s plan to get rid of their soap line up for cheaper programming.

    • TML says:

      That’s funny! OLTL has been awesome for years. He is one of the few showrunners that DOES care about the fans. Clearly, we are watching two different shows.

  13. sirfirchick says:

    I don’t know, Wolf was supposed to change the direction of the writing and obviously raping (or not,) depression and alcoholism is the direction he’s headed in. The 2 vets that are leaving were practically born on this show, know what good story lines are and have abandoned the idea of anything getting better. They know more than we do… I wish to the heavens that someone would wake up and realize that we don’t get off on the violence that has become a staple story line adding shock value to the mix instead of quality writing. Mystery, intrigue, friendship, the Q’s bickering, heroes… this is what make GH awesome.

  14. Connor says:

    With JFP out, I just might tune into GH. Hopefully Frank Valentini will be able to refocus the show on core “vets”. The Q’s and Alexis especially. Less mob violence. More romance. Though I will have to wait and see how it plays out. He might end up bringing Ron Carlivati in as headwriter. Which might be a good thing consider Garin Wolf’s vision of GH pretty much mirror’s Guza’s vision of GH.

  15. Bobby says:

    Come on, it’s just a matter of time before GH is executed like the other ABC soaps.

  16. Shari says:

    I have to say that I think Wendy Riche was the best showrunner GH ever had and the show hasn’t been the same since she left in the late 90s. I wish they had brought HER back!

    • Mick says:

      Wendy Riche was the EP who ushered in the best creative and diverse period of GH. She created the Ward family, she incorporated Latino characters. She turned Jason Q into Jason Morgan. And she is the reason JJ and Kimberly MC can be considered vets. She gave them heart wrenching storylines and helped them grow into first rate actors. I read an interview she did years ago with Fairman and she never intended for Sonny to occupy the role he does now. The core family was always suppose to stay the center of the show.

  17. Denna says:

    This is GREAT news!!! I hate for people to lose their jobs, but GH was really getting bad. I think Frank and Ron will be great! I don’t entirely trust ABC NOT to cancel the show in the end. I do feel that they’re giving it a shot to stay on the air by hiring good people. I don’t get the sense that they’re deliberately tanking the show like I did when they hired Garin Wolf. Guess we’ll see!

  18. Mandy says:

    I love Liz and Lucky! I love Robin! I would be really happy if new showrunners would keep JJ and KM on the show and bring more viewers back to the show. I’m living in total denial that Katic Couric is going to rip GH away from me!

  19. Wendoleeen says:

    Ding.Dong. Here’s my Christmas list:

    Bring Back:
    1) Robert F!ing Scorpio
    2) Lexi as Kristina
    3) AJ
    4) Robin
    5) Laura and the Luke they swapped out for a clone

    Bring on:
    1) Johnny and AJ taking down all the other Mobsters
    2) Love in the afternoon

    I watched this show since pre L&L. I quit when they let RHerbst go. It has been destroyed by JFP. If I hadn’t already stopped watching, Lexi’s dismissal would have been it for me.

    Now, where there’s light..

  20. Amy08 says:

    Oh, please. Lexi wasn’t fired because the writers didn’t think she was sexy enough. The show got rid of her because they had no use for her. After her abuse and addiction and whatever other crap they wrote for her character, there was no storyline for her other than her leaving to go to college. Part of that is because she looked so young. She wasn’t believable as a love interest for either of the actors playing Johnny or Ethan, and she wasn’t believable as a friend to some of the older young women on the show, like Maxie or Lulu. She just didn’t fit in and it had been obvious for awhile that her character was pretty much pointless, other than being a prop for Sonny. Lexi is a good actress, but Kristina shouldn’t have been SORASed to a bratty prepubescent teenage girl in the first place, if you ask me. Now if they want SORAS her into a young 20-something, go for it, but they don’t need Lexi for that.

    Anyway this show is on it’s deathbed. Kill it and be done with it.

  21. muse says:

    I wish JFP would take Maurice Benard, Steve Burton and their many chippies, sycophants and apologists with them. Except Alexis. They can keep NLG because she is awesome no matter how braindead they make Alexis whenever she is in Sunny’s orbit.

    No other character or actor will ever get attention or a decent storyline as long the mob run Port Charles and the show.

  22. Walter says:

    Just delaying the inevitable. By 2015 all network daytime soaps will be gone.

  23. Moe says:

    Maybe with the horrible JFP and GW gone, these new guys can convince the popular vets like Kimberly and Jonathon to stay! All JJ wanted was a little time off. I know the driving factor for Kimberly leaving wasn’t so much her directing as it was the shoddy treatment of Lexi and the horrible HIV disrespect the show was trying to do with Robin. She almost walked off over that. This show was being run by another set of egos who believed that they were golden and their trash didn’t stink just as bad as the JFP/RG pairing did. I don’t want GH to be cancelled but it sure seemed like JFP and the writers did! Hopefully this new team will be interested in saving the show, bringing back/saving the popular actors who have felt disenfranchiseed, and returning this show to the glory that it once was.

    • Susannah says:

      WAH WAH WAH! Lets all get on the “JFP sucks…she’s evil…its ALL HER FAULT” bandwagon…again! Come on people. She’s just as good as any other EP. Valentini will come on in…and for a while, he will be the GOD. Then some fan base will get pissed off at something he does..and then HE will be the evil, awful EP. Soaps are going by the wayside. Do I think its awful and it sucks? YEP! But once you live thru your fave soap getting the axe….you realize, its just inevitable. JFP may have her ups and her downs….but she’s done a fab job. So all the whiners out there….build a bridge, and get over it. EVERYONE’S heard enough JFP bashing to last us all a lifetime. And the actors that have left; Vanessa, JJ…Robin…..thats on THEM. They didn’t get canned. They chose to opt out and LEAVE.

  24. Jon says:

    Less mob, more hospital and more levity which OLTL could do so well.

  25. em says:

    I don’t care if there’s less mob-related storylines. I just want better storylines. I haven’t been invested in any storyline in several months now. Hopefully, a change-up in the TPTB will jumpstart the show’s writing and creativity.

  26. JJ says:

    I would hope this means that ABC is trying to save GH. Why make so many changes if they are just going to cancel it next month? Although it could be argued why move AMC to LA just to cancel it…but the rumors of a GH cancellation have seemed to be like it’s just around the corner. Maybe he will make the changes GH needs and some of the lost longtime viewers will return? We’ve got to remain positive and stick by it so it doesn’t go away.

  27. brutony says:

    The rats are fleeing the sinking ship! The Fat Lady is Singing! The Days of Soaps having Lives to Live are O-vah! So say All My Children, lol!

  28. Dave says:

    This is closing the gate after the horse ran off. I work for an ABC affiliate and the director of sales just told me **as we were watching OLTL** that he was unofficially told that ABC will not be renewing GH beyond it’s 2012 date.

    Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini signed long-term contracts with the network long before OLTL was cancelled. This is just ABC giving them busy work until their deals expire. RIP Port Charles.

  29. Melissa says:

    Bring back the Nurses’ Ball. It was a great showcase for the “hidden” talents of the GH actors and a great way to bring up AIDS awareness in a way that didn’t feel forced.

    • sirfirchick says:

      Along with the nurses ball I want Sean, Tiffany, Lucy, Kevin, Robert, Anna, Felicia, Frisco, Nikolas, Emily, Alan, and now Kimberly McCullough and J. Jackson back!

  30. Darcy says:

    Praise da lawd !!! The show Jill the show Killa is gone! 10 years of misery….however, that being said its apparent this is a “good ole’ boys network” they’re milkin the cash cow till the end; I like Valentini but will it help? I read he’s good at budget etc… however, it has been well said that Frons dictates story (GH is his baby) & pimpin’ his pets is the order of the day….

    His favs that he’s shoved down throats as the faces of GH are the stories tankin the show so unless Valentini can circumvent that it will make very little difference in the actual scheme of things … GH needs lots of work will the head of an entire division allow these people to do their jobs?

    The people Frons has chosen to brand the show has tanked the show.. its time for a “different way of storytelling for GH” & until this happens it will remain a bottom of the barrel soap circling the drain. This show has been butchered, neutered, gutted and it will take commitment to “equitable storytelling” not just the few that get the golden pen and the emmy reels.

    This is an extremely misogynistic show & until women “drive” story (with a positive focus) I see very little hope for GH. I hope he doesn’t bring over all these OLTL actors because this is General Hospital!

  31. Chris says:

    When do the FV/RC episodes of GH hit the air? During Feburary sweeps then if they start to work next month?

  32. TimWnTX says:

    First of all, OLTL’s rating improved and are BETTER than GH’s. I’d rather keep OLTL than GH, which is in horrible shape. But that is not going to happen.

    Bringing over the OLTL team can only help this show go out in style rather than limping as it is now. GH will be gone Sept. 2012. Frons can get all excited but he’s still killing off the soaps one by one.

  33. Zee says:

    sooo .. i guess i’ll only be happy once i see if this show is going to try and have any sort of character development. and start having their cast more intertwined. All i ask is they keep carly/shawn together – they’re kind of what got me watching again…. maybe make the GH cast more representative of the diversity we see every day.. it’s ok to have more than one of the many different visible minorities on screen at a time GH ! :-/…. but most of allllll please write some RELEVANT storylines……:-|

  34. jillian says:

    I would like to see Liz & Lucky finally be happy. I’d like to see Jason get some of his pre-accident memories back. Recast Michael, bring back Kristina, Morgan, Jax, Scottie, Lucy, Ned, Robert, Anna, Bobbie & real-Kate. Then let’s see more Diane, The Q’s, Alexis and Mac. I’d like to see less Spinelli and Anthony and for God’s sake no more Franco please!

  35. jas says:

    NO OF YALL CAN TELL A PERSON HOW TO DO THEIR JOB IF THEY WASN’T GOOD AT THE SH*T THEY WOULD OF NEVER MADE IT THIS FAR WHO CARES WHO YALL WANNA SEE TOGETHER FANS OR NOT THEY GOT WHO THEY WANT TO BE TOGETHER AND IT’S A REASON AMC AND OLTL WAS CANCELLED SO JUST STFU (SHUT THE FU*CK UP) AND MOVE ON WIDD YALL LIVES IF YOU THINK YOU CAN DO A BETTER JOB THEN THEM OR HAVE BETTER IDEAS THEN LETS HEAR IT!!!! THEY NOT BENEFITING YALL NOW IS THEY???? TAKE THAT SH*T AS A L (LOST) AND CALL IT ONE NO MATTER WHAT YALL SAY OR THINK THEY STILL GETTING THEY MONEY SO L.I.G IT (LET IT GO)!!!!!! GEEEEEEESH!!!!! EVEN IF IT DO GET CANCELLED THEY STILL GETTING MONEY WHILE YALL LOOKING DUMB AF ( AS FU*CK)!!!

  36. Mireya says:

    Even though it’s sad that she is loosing her job it’s SAFE TO SAY it’s KARMA…. JFP got rid of such great talent like Lexi… I just hope these new PEEPS get the ball rolling and brining GH back to what it used to be because  I haven’t even DVR’ED GH since October..
    Still hoping they bring Lexi back the 19 year old who was playing a 19 year old and for those of you out there who don’t agree…. That’s what there suppose to look like not… =)

  37. Leeza says:

    I will never forget that JFP fired the legendary actress Anna Lee (Lila) who was in her nineties, and this after Wendy Riche had promised Ms. Lee the role of Lila Q. for life. This type of callous behavior, which occurred despite protests from many “GH” actors (most publicly and vocally by Leslie Charleson) and crew, gives an excellent indication what JFP is all about. Phelps didn’t even have use the actress that much. Undoubtedly, a few appearances per month as a non-contract player would have satisfied the actress and her many fans. She was in her nineties after all; no one expected her to carry the weight of a major story line.

    Sadly, Ms. Lee died a short time after being so coldly dismissed by Phelps. While the official cause of death was complications from pneumonia, the actress’s son has since publicly stated that the crushing heartbreak of being fired after putting in so many years on the show and developing so many wonderful friendships contributed to her death.

    I realize television is a really tough business, but when you are the show’s grand matriarch and only appear once in a while in a recurring role, what would have been the harm in keeping Ms. Lee on for a few more years? This one act speaks so much to JFP’s character in my opinion, or lack thereof. She famously fired favorite actors on other shows as well, with Alice Barrett’s character Frankie on “AW” being but one glaring example that caused massive fan and cast & crew backlash as well as a subsequent decline in ratings.

    It should come as no surprise that every show besides “GH” JFP has ever executive produced is or will soon be off the air. Granted, the demise of daytime dramas involves factors and viewing trends beyond the control of any EP, but there is little denying JFP has made many decisions over the years that have alienated viewers time and again, and that have influenced viewers’ decisions to stop watching. I’m only amazed she has lasted this long in the industry; she should be grateful for all of the years she has worked in such a coveted position earning what undoubtedly has been an enviable salary.

    Daytime drama is really all about heart, so it’s no wonder all of the shows under her reign have floundered…. she apparently lacks the very thing soaps are meant to convey. Yes, she has plenty of Daytime Emmys on her fireplace mantel to dust off and stare at, but in my opinion, she should and will be most remembered for firing many favorite actors and contributing to the ruination of entire shows, not for her numerous Emmy accomplishments.

  38. Ann says:

    As long as they only get rid of the newbies from the past year, like LIW, Maggie, Ewen, etc. than it might be ok. But the show already revolves around Sonny (and Jason & Carly) and that’s the problem! And if the OLTL characters take over the show, they’ll just lose more GH viewers.

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