I think old characters coming back have little to no relevance for newer viewers who never saw them before. It's purely a nostalgia trip for longer-time viewers or a possible lure to lapsed viewers.
It depends on the character and story for me. Sometimes the return of a character will bring me back to a show I had stopped watching or revitalize a show for me, like when L & L returned to GH in the early 90s or Harley returned to GL after her marriage to Mallet fizzled. As mentioned, GH did a lot of returns over the years although the return of my favorite character, Anna, was actually done on AMC instead. Anna as the tough cop/agent I remembered was nice...as the rock star groupie acting more juvenile than her daughter...not so much.
Other times, if I really disliked the character, it may be the turning factor in making me stop watching a show I was already on the fence about. This happened several times with Mitch Laurence being back on OLTL, because it was a character I always hated who got written as an uber-villain in ridiculous stories. I've never liked what I call uber-characters, villains or heroes--the kind that get intertwined in too many other characters stories (like AMC's Zach started out, Helena Cassadine, etc.), esp. the uber bad guys who are written like supernatural, horror movie villains with special powers ( I love scifi and horror, but generally not in a mainstream soap setting). The returns of Mitch, coupled with the hatred of the stories and my general disappointment with the show at the time, had me dropping OLTL at least 3 times.
When I heard about some characters coming back for GH's 50th, I decided to temporarily tune back into GH, after many, many years of not watching, for a couple of weeks just to see how those characters came across. It was pretty much what I expected...some of them were re-hashing stories from 30 years ago (Scotty, Laura and Luke) and others were just window dressing, like Kevin Collins, who didn't even stick around for the ball. I didn't stick around after it. (Truth be told, for those 2 weeks, I probably skipped about 90% of each show anyway.) That ship had sailed long ago for me and not even having Anna & Duke there was enough for me anymore.
Edited by applcin, 21 October 2013 - 01:16 PM.