This week, the news broke that Rebecca Herbst has been fired from General Hospital. For thirteen years, she has played the character Elizabeth Webber, who arrived in Port Charles as a rebellious teen, and is now a nurse and a single mother of three small boys. Not only is she one of the most popular actresses on daytime television, but to viewers who have watched her all these years, she is an old friend. Passionate fans engage in fierce battles on soap forums over which character is her best romantic partner, and they are willing to travel far to attend her fan events.
I’ve only been watching GH for seven months, but I can see from the online reaction that this is a truly shocking event. Viewers, critics, and cast members are stunned, and nobody can make sense of this decision. The official word from ABC: “Storyline dictates the exit of Elizabeth Webber this spring. The next few months promise to be a ‘not to miss’ story for the character. We at ABC and GENERAL HOSPITAL wish Rebecca Herbst nothing but the best in all of her future endeavors.” This is news to everybody, because Elizabeth Webber hasn’t had much of a story to miss lately. Viewers have been waiting impatiently since March for her to find out that the father of her baby is really Lucky Spencer, since Helena Cassadine switched the results of the paternity tests. Things are either going to start happening really fast, or viewers are going to be left frustrated and unhappy. Oh, yeah, that’s going to happen anyway, isn’t it?
Most GH viewers agree, even though Rebecca Herbst is a lovely, talented actress, her character has been poorly written this last year. Rather than try to fix the writing, they are just writing her out. It can’t be easy to go back on set, filming your last scenes over the course of several weeks, after you’ve been fired. I’m sure Rebecca Herbst will remain professional and give her very best to these scenes, but they will be heartbreaking to watch, no matter how her character departs. Soaps are famous for bringing back popular actors, even after their characters have died, but who knows if General Hospital will be on the air long enough for Elizabeth Webber to return to Port Charles.
Many viewers are saying they will quit watching General Hospital now. I have to say, it’s been a real slog ever since the whole evil Balkan storyline began, and I can’t wait for that to be over. Will I stop watching? Well, I will definitely stop watching when Jonathan Jackson (Lucky Spencer) leaves the show. Until then, I will probably keep at it, yelling at the TV when the storyline gets unbearably stupid, knowing that nobody at ABC is really listening.
Update: It didn’t take long for producers to reverse their decision. Now it’s just a question of whether Rebecca Herbst will get a storyline and writing that’s worth watching.