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"General Hospital" x "24" = ?

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Kin_lHmmmm. Last year EWasked General Hospital‘s head writer Bob Guza Jr. to tell us how hewould write the hit show 24, and we had 24‘s producer give us hisversion of GH. Now, tomorrow’s GH marks the first of 16 real-timeepisodes, just in time for February sweeps, and Jack Bauer is dealing with someserious family issues (maybe even a little baby mama drama?). Coincidence? Notover at GH.

“I blame Entertainment Weekly for thiswhole nightmare we’re in now,” jokes Guza. Our little exercise gothim thinking about a new way to build audience suspense on the soap opera wellversed in high adventure but corralling the show’s disparate storylines withinreal-time constraints just wasn’t daunting enough for him. “It’s thatformat but with a whole other wrinkle on top of it because we are, in fact,telling part of it backwards. We’re going to start a day absolutely cold. Theaudience won’t have a clue what they’re looking at.”

The GH event will start with an out-of-the-blue explosion at theMetro Court Hotel in the Mob-riddled, fictional city of Port Charles, N.Y. (Someof you might remember that just a few years ago a fire burned down the hotelthat stood there before, also during sweeps. Hotels and hospitals are great forendangering lives of prominent cast members, says Guza.)

The show then resets to 16 hours before the explosion, and each one-hourepisode will explain the events that led up to it, including a hostage crisis.And since this is sweeps period (and explosions and hostage-takings aren’tenough) there’s also the Jan. 30 return of GH veteran Kin Shriner (pictured) as theex-husband of Laura Spencer, of the fabled Luke and Laura. Shriner will tieinto an existing storyline related to Laura.

addCredit(“Kin Shriner: Adam Larkey”)

Guza’s betting that, rather than confusing and frustrating fans, thedisconcerting switcheroo will intrigue them and make them invest in getting tothe bottom of the mystery. I’m betting that, at the very least, I’ll be lessconfused about how you can get from one side of Port Charles to the other in 20minutes than I am about the 24 logistics.

And for all of you out there looking down on us soap heads, take a cue fromESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who will be on the Feb. 2 episode of GH as areporter covering the hostage situation. He’s been a fan since he was fiveyears old. “Let this be a lesson to all the ladies out there,” hesaid. “There are men who love the soaps.”

Smith and my husband are man enough to admit their serial love. How about youguys? Who’ll admit they’re stoked to see if GH can pull this off andkeep the proper pacing?