Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Frank Valentini General HospitalThe cast and executive producer of the ABC soap General Hospital appeared before critics this morning at TCA, looking and sounding like people thrilled simply to still have jobs. The fate of most of their cohorts on One Life To Live and All My Children weren’t so lucky, with only a few of the cast members — and producer Frank Valentini — absorbed into GH. It was touch-and-go whether even General Hospital would survive the ax. But it’s back, and as Valentini said, the fact a panel for the show was arranged shows a certain support for the show going forward. “They invited us here, and to me that’s a great sign,” he noted. “They’re behind this 100% and very excited about the 50th anniversary coming up. I’m pretty confident. You just need to watch the show to sort of catch the energy and the momentum that we have, and the network’s a big part of that.” One of the challenges for the show going forward is that it’s being displaced from its longtime 3 PM perch by Katie Couric’s new syndie talk show Katie. But Valentini did his best to put a positive spin on things, calling the time slot change “great” in that it will “shake up the lineup a little bit. And the network is doing a big push to inform the audience about the change.”

General Hospital TCA 2012

No matter the general lack of esteem in which the business holds soap operas, longtime regular Nancy Lee Grahn (who won a Daytime Emmy Award this year) pointed out, “We’re actresses. We get to work every day. It’s essentially the industry in the primetime area that tends to pooh-pooh soap operas a little bit. There’s a little bit of judgment passed there. But you know, we still have jobs. This is a good time in my life to have a job.” That said, its a far different job than it was a few decades ago. Steve Burton, who has been with the show since 1991, noted that the cast and crew is forced do a lot more work now in less time. “When I first started the show in ’91, there were 21 scenes a day we would do. Yesterday we did 78. It truly is amazing what we do and a lot of credit has to go to our crew, which is amazing. But having the wrecking ball poised over us and being on death row has really united us…This is just such an iconic brand and we aren’t ready to let it go.”

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But who even watches General Hospital now? Anthony Geary, who has played Luke Spencer on the show since 1978, quipped: “Anyone who works at night like hookers. We’re in fact very big with hookers.”

(Photos: Getty Images)