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.
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). Before 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 quarrel 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!
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.