General Hospital: Night Shift Pulls a Stunner!

GHNS

Thinking Fans Comment Update Sept. 26: pjs reports that his tear ducts got a work-out … Nancy wishes Night Shift could become home to neglected soap veterans … Marilyn Henry reflects on other great soap scenes … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

Last night I unexpectedly saw the best soap opera scenes of the year.  They were in, of all places, General Hospital: Night Shift! They came from the heart and the head. They were thoroughly human. I could relate to them perfectly.  And I was so stunned to see authentic drama on my screen, I almost couldn’t fall asleep afterward.

As you know, those doctor brothers Kyle and Leo Julian have been on each other, arguing and disagreeing about everything since the beginning of the show.  They couldn’t be more opposite. Kyle looks like a Nordic god and has innate elegance (he’s also gay).  Leo looks like Epstein, the Puerto Rican street kid (Sweat Hog) from Welcome Back, Kotter and is dark, nervous and brash.  Kyle is the biological  

It’s amazing what actors can do given good quality material.  Think of the hundreds of other actors in daytime who would kill to play real drama instead of the usual gimmicks and lies.

son of the Julians, while Leo, who is adopted by them, came from Iran as a child. Leo acted out big time recently by secretly sleeping with Kyle’s best friend and roommate Dr. Claire, even though he has been lucky enough to date Dr. Saira, a perfect angel who is way too good for him.

The Julian brothers are a fairly sophisticated character pairing for a soap opera!  Especially for a spin-off of a mob-ridden violent soap like the afternoon version of  General Hospital.

Last night the whole relationship exploded like the second act of an off-Broadway play.  The catalyst was a visit from who else but  Momma Julian dearest, played by Emmy winner and daytime veteran Kathleen Noone (ex-Ellen, All My Children, ex- Edna, Passions).  KyleBefore anyone could quote that famous line from the Smothers Brothers (“Mom likes you best”) Patricia was praising favorite son Kyle with compliments, and disparaging Leo in equal measure.  Dysfunctional family alert!  In two seconds, we could see why the Julian brothers are the way they are, without even a cameo from Dr. Freud (this story’s evident  inspiration).  The rest of the show played out like an entire lifetime of therapy compressed into a couple of scenes.  Over a dinner shared by Mom, the boys and Saira and Claire, the whole family fought furiously, especially after it was revealed that punky Leo slept with Claire.  The Leoquarrel became so heated, Kyle punched Leo.

Now I know this sounds satiric, like a copy, perhaps, of a similar scene in Tracy Letts’ Broadway hit, August: Osage County. But it wasn’t played for laughs. This psychological expose of the Julian family’s roots was beautifully written.  So were the inevitable explosions by both brothers begging their mother to see who each really was today, no longer as two little boys.

 ”But I treated you both equally!” protested Mother as the brothers unleashed their respective  cri de coeurs.  “Mother, face the fact that I sleep with men,” cried Kyle.  “Mother, face the fact that I’m from Iran, I look different, I am different,” cried Leo.  Both men were begging their mother to see their individual humanity, and to give them respect for their own identities.

This is the stuff of classic human drama, the interior, psychological kind Arthur Miller wrote, and Doug Marland penned for the Snyder brothers (stand-ins for his real life strife-filled farm family) on As the World Turns. We don’t find writing like this on daytime soap operas anymore.  Instead we get mob wars, blood-soaked weddings, an amnesiac former rape victim falling for the rapist she can’t remember,  and various supervillians back from the dead for the 35th time to make trouble for everyone.  Someone at Night Shift  (perhaps headwriter Sri Rao) had an epiphany:  let’s try to write basic human psychological drama the viewers can relate to, and that really, really moves them.  Last night, they nailed it!Kathleen Noone

Of course, the performances were wonderful.  As ever, Kathleen Noone can brilliantly play several emotional levels at once (give her an Emmy!) and Adam Grimes (Kyle) and Ethan Raines (Leo) were very good, too, and I hadn’t liked Raines at all until this.  It’s amazing what actors can do given good quality material.  Think of the hundreds of other actors in daytime who would kill to play real drama instead of the usual gimmicks and lies.

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Marlena Dear, I couldn’t agree with you more regarding the scenes between Patricia, Kyle and Leo. Equally impressive were scenes between Leo and his new gay love interest. Head Writer Sri Rao has been taking time with character development, and it’s paying off as classic soap. Brava!

    Marlena says: The introductory scenes between Kyle and his new love interest Eric were great — I can’t wait to see the story unfold. Chrissie dear, did I ever tell you I interviewed Chad Allen out in Hollywood on the set when he played Deidre Hall’s son in her primetime series Our House? This must have been 1988. He must have been about 14 then. He’s a fantastic actor with tons of TV credits!

  2. esther says:

    Wow! You make me almost want to watch that show. Almost.

    Marlena says: Esther, Patrick and I are planning a book called “Esther’s Most Cranky (Yet Divine) Response Hits.” It was his idea.

  3. Mike G says:

    Hi Marlena, I followed you for years at SPW, and am thrilled to find you here!!! I always read you first before anything else :) Anyway, I totally agree about that scene. If daytime is failing, it’s because they don’t write scenes anymore where you can relate. Even soaps, back in the 80s, when it was all about the “super couple,” had that. Steve and Kayla, and Duke and Anna may have been in crazy situations, but you could relate to the love that they felt. Night Shift is the only real soap these days

    Marlena says: Mike, you just found me again after all this time? Welcome, welcome, welcome and smooch! We have a fine array of almost a year’s worth of back columns for your reading pleasure on the right. I’m so glad you like Night Shift. Don’t miss Ed Martin’s columns on it, and mine, filed under “General Hospital.”

  4. BL says:

    I watched this NS episode today and was glad to finally see them really explain the relationship between the two brothers. Having them snark and not show us the reasons behind their problems was getting dull. Nice to see some depth.

  5. Cathy says:

    I thought NS 2 last night hit all the bases.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes with Robert Scorpio talking with Patrick and Robert’s scenes with Robin at the end had me in tears. Someone know how to write for Robert, Robin and Patrick.

    NS2 shows a strong love between Patrick and Robin and they deal with their stress in a mature manor.Love the addition of Robert Scorpio. This is a real soap opera writing.

    Thanks Sri

  6. pjs says:

    Hi, Marlena…

    “Last night I unexpectedly saw the best soap opera scenes of the year,” you wrote.

    “Oh, Marlena,” I thought, “you fell for it!” But I sure didn’t.

    Of course, that was my first thought. Then, I read the rest of your thoughts on the matter…and damn, if I didn’t wind up agreeing with you.

    My initial sense of the climactic scene with the Julian family was just an easy … though wholly successful… manipulation of my tear ducts. But you made me think about what I’ve endured this year with GH, AMC, and OLTL and even what my fave, the veteran-respecting, family-loving ATWT delivered, and I couldn’t in good faith come up with anything better. (I really, really wanted to prove my initial reaction through ATWT! But I’d have had to go back a couple of years to “Luke’s coming out to Holden” and “Carly and Jack pre-divorce break-up” scenes.

    For this year, I’d probably have to go with “The Magic Flower revealing one’s true love” (Sage giving Carly the flower on ATWT) which worked its magic for me, but doesn’t come close to last night’s GH-NS Julian family angst for satisfying soap drama.

    Your impressive take on it really trounced my quick reaction, and how you developed your opening argument throughout proves once again why you set the standard that we wannabe thinking fans would love to reach.

    By the way, isn’t it great that Kathleen Noone has returned (albeit briefly) to the ABC soap stable! Maybe the-powers-that-be can lure her back to AMC.

    Marlena says: Wannabe? PJ, you were the gold standard of TF’s years before I ever thought up that term. Moose and I treasure your friendship always!

  7. Monica T. says:

    Marlena, I totally agree with you! Those were the best soap scenes I have seen in a Loooooooong while. The dialogue was wonderful and you could see and feel the emotions of the characters! The way it is suppose to be in good soap! Not the crappola that I have really eased down on watching of GH. The whole show was really good and I also liked Robert and Robin’s talk as well. That was my first complete episode of watching and I am going to catch up with it on YouTube,but if all soaps currently on did a third of what I saw last night, the industry would indeed be worth saving.

    Marlena says: Thank you so much Monica. Now I can sleep tonight knowing a reader understood I was not trying to endorse one set of characters over the other, but what I was trying to do was underscore a rare, rare example of real quality drama. Whew!

  8. Marilyn Henry says:

    It is so hard today to think of one really memorable-for-all-time scene on any of the soaps I currently watch. In the past there were many and they stayed with you like precious gold. Karen’s day on the stand on OLTL, Tony Jones listening to Maxie’s new heart–his daughter’s transplanted heart, Dominic’s death in Scott’s arms as the snow fell around them, Laura’s meltdown in the morgue when she saw Lucky’s burned body, the scene in the diner when Luke and Laura returned to PC after solving the Left-Handed Boy thing, the night CC Capwell first came down to dinner (as Jed Allen) after that long illness and shook the family foundations, and so so so many more.

    But it has been a long time since a scene seemed that good, good enough to remember a year later.

    Except for last night, watching NS. So real and so well acted. The dialogue nailed it without having to go on and on. You knew the whole story of the boys growing up, the mother finding she was pregnant after adopting a baby. Not a new story, but wonderfully acted and written. Kathleen Noone superb! The pokes and prods at dinner were so typical of families, anyone who has a sibling could relate.

    Good writing coupled with talented acting–what a pleasure it is. Is Sri Reo going to stay on in daytime? Is he a writer entirely new to daytime?

    Marlena says: So glad you are enjoying the same scenes I did. Sri Rao is new to “daytime” soaps, but he has cable teen soap credits. If you read the soap boards, you will know that the Sri Rao soap writing cult has begun to develop and that many posters are demanding he take Bob Guza’s place at General Hospital.

    As for me, after decades, I’m not interested in the worship of headwriters anymore. Look what happened when the cult of Ron Carlivati (OLTL) was launched two weeks into his headwritership on OLTL. Yes, Carlivati won an Emmy, but as I predicted (see “OLTL: Don’t Anoint it Best Yet, Part 1 and 2″) a year later he already hasn’t been able to keep up the quality of his work.

  9. esther says:

    Haha, Marlena (& Patrick). If I ever get that show — Soaps Mystery Theater 3000 — you guys can sit in the front row with me.

    Marlena says: That would be snark heaven, darling. We promise not to pull each other’s hair. Please bring popcorn and Sun Chips!

  10. ElsieBee says:

    Just letting you know that the Leo character comes from Iran, not Iraq. There is quite a difference!

    Marlena says: I stand corrected! Thanks!

  11. Jennifer says:

    Great review Marlena, I totally agree, I love the show so much!!! Leo is actually from Iran though, not Iraq. They are two different countries.

    Marlena says: They certainly are, Jenn! Thanks so much!

  12. Nancy says:

    Marlena, after reading your insights and glowing commentary, I find myself wishing NS could become home to GH’s underused and misused talent, particularly the veterans. That would leave “General Hospital” to the mob and newbie infiltration that seems to make Guza’s heart race. We could have our General Hospital, and Guza could have his General Hospital.

    That’s the problem. It’s our show, our stories, and no one seems to remember that but us. At what point did networks, producers and writers stop being stewards of legacies, our stories? That disregard and arrogance that audience members are expendable because they can make new or more demographically-friendly ones, has more to do with the state of soaps than anything else.

    Marlena says: Exactly, exactly! This has been going on for about 12-15 years, the era in which soap ratings have drastically eroded. If you dis the longtime audience, they will go away. Many of my old friends, who watched soaps for thirty or more years, gave up when most soaps were dumbed down to reach younger demographics. All fans do not enjoy that their loyalty and interests are taken for granted!

  13. I have to admit that I didn’t watch Night Shift last year because the initial premise seemed iffy to be, but when I learned that Robert Scorpio and Jagger were coming back, I changed my mind, and I’m glad that I did. This is the GH that I’ve been missing since Mob Central took over. Watching the two brothers Julian go at it, reminded me of all the great scenes between AJ and Jason (pre-accident) and the scenes where Alan admitted that he had failed AJ, because of the whole Rick might have been his father storyline.

    Marlena says: You’re right Kerri. Father and son, family dysfuction and interaction — that’s what soaps should be about. Instead, we’ve got this blood-soaked wedding coming up on GH, as Kate meets her fate. What intelligent, worldly magazine editor would be stupid enough to marry an organized crime don like Sonny? Not this Connie! (Kate’s real name is Connie Falconeri. Marlena’s real name is….)

  14. Deb Okey says:

    First, I want to say how delighted I am to find this site. As an educated critical thinker who has been a soap fan since childhood, I have been searching for a site that features intelligent discussions of soaps, not silly arguments about which defunct couples are “most in love.”

    Originally I was looking forward to NS2 because I heard that my favorite soap character of all time, Robert Scorpio, was returning to the scene. However, I have decided not to watch the soap, although I might order it on DVD at some point.

    My reason for avoiding the show at this point is very simple. I see it as a vehicle for killing off Robert Scorpio, which would just increase my growing disgust with the daytime GH soap.

    There is a valid reason for killing off this character in terms of current GH storylines. He simply does not fit in in a PC run by the mob. Anna can occassionally drop in as Robin’s mom and be believable because her commitment to her role as PC police commissioner was never that strong. But Robert was totally committed to his job and to the city of Port Charles. It is inconceivable that he would return and NOT take action to clean up the town, which has become more mob-run than any city on the planet.

    And Robert never loses a battle. The return of Robert Scorpio to daytime PC would mean either an end to mob rule, which many fans are finally clamoring for, or an end of Robert.

    While I would hate to see the loss of Robert Scorpio under any circumstances, his return to daytime PC and an ensuing fight with mob kingpins Sonny and Jason could be an interesting and fairly long storyline. Since soaps tend to be youth-oriented, the stone-faced Jason (horribly played by the worst actor in soap history) would undoubtedly win in the end, but the battle could be fascinating. In addition, it would provide an interesting angle for Robin if her dear friend Jason was pitted against her beloved father.

    While ending Robert’s life through cancer is fitting in that he will be felled by no man, it lacks the drama that the send-off of this mainstay character deserves. Much has always been and continues to be made of Anthony Geary, who is a good soap actor. But Geary’s heyday really only encompassed the years of 1981 through 1984. Tristan Rogers, on the other hand, carried GH through the remainder of the 1980s and the early 1990s.

    GH has never treated Rogers as well as he deserves to be treated. Robert first became THE central male character during Geary’s first “vacation” in 1983. But when Rogers asked for a shorter leave to pursue another project, ABC denied his request.

    Most appalling was the treatment Rogers received during his last stint on the daytime soap. He was brought in for only a handful of scenes with Robin because the writers could not design a storyline that could successfully use him. ABC then sent him out on a round of publicity visits, and he simply disappeared from the canvas.

    Now they have brought him back, most likely to kill him, in the underbudgeted, usually boring night soap. While I will eventually want to see the storyline, I can’t bear to watch it now. I am too disgusted that ABC has elected to give this mainstay character that carried their program for years a send-off on a second-rate spin-off as a sick, weak man as opposed when they could easily have written a battle-to-the-death with those awful mob men. It would even provide GH with the first truly interesting storyline it has had in years.

    Well, thank god for YouTube. It’s great to see the Robert and Holly love story, my personal favorite soap love story in all its glory again. Thank you to all of those who have hung on to VHS tapes of the show for 20 years. Mine were stolen when someone broke into my apartment and stole my VCR and tapes, and I thought I would never see my favorite couple again. It’s a comfort to see them now, after watching ABC treat Tristan Rogers like a doormat for all the years since.

    Marlena says: So glad you found us, Deb, and welcome. I have no inside info on this but I really doubt that GHNS will kill Robert off. If you watched the show a few episodes back, you might recall that Dr. Robin clearly said that her dad had a 10% chance of surviving his colon cancer. This is a soap opera! Consider the possibilities.

    Tristan has been giving the performance of his life on Night Shift. He was grown almost miraculously as an actor since the old days when he relied on his great natural charm and magnetism to sell his character. He’s acting from the inside now, really selling his heart, his emotions and his very brilliant mind. He’s showing astonishing maturation as an actor.

  15. renee says:

    Oh dag I don’t watch Night Shift but now I will. I miss the good GH of Robin, Anna and Robert. Oh and remember Allan and Monica and even when Jeff were on. Ahh the good old days! Tuning in. Thanks, Marlena.

  16. lovingNS says:

    I’m really enjoying this season – better than last. Thanks for always having these great articles to read! NS rocks!

  17. joyce says:

    Why after 25 years, has NightShift been able to do what GH can no longer provide on a daily basis? Because someone remembered how important and beloved the Scorpio family was. This story has broken my heart, but Tristan Rogers deserves an Emmy for every real to life, gutwrenching scene he has provided, along with Kim and of course Finola. What is wrong with the brass of G.H.??This gold should be playing out at GH..Incredulous!!

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