HOLLYWOOD -- "General Hospital" returns to television on Monday with brand new episodes. The daytime drama is the ABC's first scripted drama to get back on the air. To do so during this pandemic, though, there are now new rules in place for a safe work environment for everyone.
Frank Valentini, the executive producer of the show, said as people started returning after four months away, the thing he heard most was, "I'm so happy to see you! I wish I could hug you."
That is not happening.
"A lot of fans were, like, 'When are you coming back? When are you coming back?' It took that long to establish the protocols and to think through every step of the production process," said Valentini.
Before anyone could even walk into the building, COVID-19 tests came first. Testing negative was mandatory. Testing will continue and Valentini says masks are now worn at all times, except when actors are taping a scene.
The amount of physical intimacy is limited," said Valentini. "We're going to leave a lot more to the imagination."
There are now two COVID advisors on the set making sure all of the safety protocols are being followed, making sure nothing is done to jeopardize anyone's health.
As for as the show getting back on track with the drama it's known for, it happens immediately on the Aug. 3 episode.
"The very first few seconds of the show, I think, will blow a lot of the audience's mind because there's a big surprise that we inserted in," said Valentini.
Fans are well aware of one storyline involving the serious illness of main character Sonny Corinthos' father, Mike. Valentini said that will wrap up in a couple of months. There's also a major custody case.
"And there is a bang and a surprise and a twist and it's going to be a lot of fun," said Valentini.
And, although it will be about four months later than usual, the annual Nurses' Ball will return, this time in August.
"General Hospital" airs weekdays on ABC. The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of ABC Television and this station.