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Will the Combination of "General Hospital" and "Katie" Make ABC's Afternoons Hot Again?

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We're one month away from the premiere of Disney-ABC Domestic Television's Katie, the nationally syndicated live daily talk show starring Katie Couric. This program is hugely important to ABC, the daytime identity of which remains in dire need of exciting new blood after the departures of syndication superstars Regis Philbin and Oprah Winfrey; the cancellations of long-running soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live; the lukewarm response to The Chew, the bland cooking show that replaced AMC, and the embarrassing failure of The Revolution, the ill-formed show that replaced the vital and popular OLTL.

Can Katie save the day, or is ABC's daytime lineup -- once the most robust at any network -- doomed to a future of mediocrity? I have no doubt that Couric and her co-executive producer, former NBC Universal chairman and Today executive producer Jeff Zucker, will deliver a lively hour of daily afternoon television, or that the two are up to the task, given their past experiences. The questions are, can Katie draw a large female audience to ABC in mid-afternoon, and will the demographic and economic profile of that audience be satisfying enough to make the show a true success?

Interestingly, some of the strongest support for Katie could be the lead-in provided by General Hospital, the show ABC once hoped to kill off to make room for Couric, but which will now move ahead one hour to become its all-important lead-in. (The afternoon lineup that ABC hoped most of its stations would eventually have in place when it started making a royal mess of things was The Chew, The Revolution and Katie.) GH has some renewed traction right now, thanks largely to the talents of new executive producer Frank Valentini, who was skillfully making One Life to Live more entertaining and higher-rated than it had been in years when ABC decided to end it.

General Hospital has always been very popular with women, perhaps less so during the last decade when it became unrelentingly dark and misogynistic, but not to the extent that the damage cannot be undone, as Valentini is currently proving. So if the creative team at GH can effectively shift focus away from the male mobsters that have long dominated the show and onto the many adult women on its canvas, and tell stories centered on romance and family rather than madness and mob hits, it might just draw in more of the very viewers who are predisposed to stick around for Couric. (If younger GH viewers stick around as well, that's even better.)

This column continues here.