General Hospital Night Shift 2: If They Could Bottle This Show, They’d Save Soaps

Thinking Fans Comment Update October 26:  Brandon says his patience was rewarded as NS2 got better and better … Marybell says the end of NS2 left her near tears … and more. See Comments below.GHNS2

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By Marlena De Lacroix

“I love you …” I lost count after about half a dozen the number of  times one character said that to another in the last half hour of the last episode of General Hospital Night Shift 2. Anna to Robert.  Robin to Robert. Leo to Saira. Claire to Kyle. Robin to Patrick.  Patrick to Robin …

You’d think all this would be kind of treacly, but love is what the 13-week run of NS2 was all about, and proudly so.  Relationships, family, friendship — these are fueled by love, and that is simply what this show is made of. Darlings, if they could only bottle NS2, they’d save soap operas.

Because … challenging a ten- to fifteen-year slide, when daytime soap operas have come very close to self-annihilation by trying to hook viewers with “faster, more sensationalistic” elements, gimmicks and “improvements” like the mob, tornados, a

The show even closed on a scene of Patrick and Robin kissing.  Isn’t true love much better than endless shouting?

whole show taped on location in exotic New Jersey, hostage crises, characters who screw their fathers, earthquakes, an endless parade of cleavage and over developed pecs … here was a little summer cable show that dared to remember and deliver what  soap opera is really all about: love. And of course, a deeply realistic and honest depiction of authentic human emotions. Which is what good, pure soap operas were when Irna Phillips dreamed up the form in Chicago in 1937.

(Okay, NS2 did have an explosion in front of the hospital in its last episode. Only Saira, a loving, very wise heroine after Irna’s own heart, was injured, but she quickly recovered.)

What I liked the most about Night Shift is that it expertly delivered traditional soap opera in a modern form while reinforcing love as the center  of the medium, instead of devaluing it as so many soaps do today.

I loved the pairing of Kyle and Eric. In a short hospital stay in which Dr.Kyle saved Eric’s life, a   genuine adult love took root. Chad Allen is such a great and experienced actor (Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Our House and other series) and he really had a great mature rapport and chemistry with the very fine Adam Grimes. If the Kyle and Eric love story is continued, they could easily become a soap supercouple.

Dr Saira and Jagger fell in love, not because of her cleavage or his muscles, but through their mutual admiration for each other’s care of Jagger’s autistic son, Stone.  It was beautiful!   All the characters on NS2 were intelligent adults, the way they used to be on soap operas before about a decade ago when most characters were rendered brainless and stupid.

Night Shift even took a by now overused soap gimmick — bringing back old characters as guests — and turned their appearances into a showcase of pure emotion.  Of course it was terrific to see Sean and Tiffany (and Anna and Luke and Robin and Mac) visiting Robert in his dream last week in the reconstructed Scorpio living room!   But the visit showcased how close each of his friends felt, even after many years, toward Robert, who was dying of colon cancer. What good times, what indelible friendships!  The show underscored the depth of their relationships by running as a conclusion a  montage of all the characters from the dream individually hugging Robert. I sobbed!  A “terminal” Robert came out of his “dream” and for the first time began to recover!   What a deep comment this was on the strength of their friendships. And with Robert’s unending bond with Robin and Anna.  In other words, love.

So whose idea was it to dare to write a real soap opera, going against the tide in our misguided, self-destructing soap world.  Sri Rao, who before NS2 had minimal soap experience, has practically been crowned king already by soap posters. Though I’m always a bit leery of the syndrome I call Internet Headwriter Worship, I admire what Rao has done. He can be quite proud of himself for writing this show.

But when I watched NS2, its maturity and pure soap opera sensibility felt to me as if it was also guided by someone who had been in the industry for decades.  I knew the show’s executive producer Lisa Hesser (now de Cazotte) in the 80s when she worked as a production assistant at One Life to Live (she subsequently was the executive producer of Passions) and her talent was quite impressive even then.   I think she deserves a lot of credit for the success of the show.

I’d like to send both Lisa and Sri undying thanks for doing something I’d never thought could be done in my lifetime:  By the middle of the last episode, I realized that Patrick and Robin had finally stopped arguing with one another, as they have done pointlessly and endlessly since the moment they met. Glory hallelujah!  The show even closed on a scene of Patrick and Robin kissing.  Isn’t true love much better than endless shouting?   As NS2 proved definitively, when it comes to soap opera, all you really  need is … is love.

Comments

  1. Brandon says:

    Kudos to you, Marlena, for this terrific column. Ostensibly like you, I was loath to give season two a fair shake, considering what a pointless hot mess last year’s first batch were. (Jason was in prison during the day, and a hospital janitor at night? Huh?) But I’m so glad I stuck around this year, because with each successive episode, the series and all its elements just grew stronger and more profound. I found it breathtaking they way Night Shift’s perfectly modulated mix of new characters and beloved veterans were woven into a compelling, fascinating tapestry. (Has Miss Finola EVER looked more luminous, or been more affecting? Even Antonio Sabato seemed competent for the first time ever! As you yourself might yell, “Quelle miracle!”)

    And as a proud gay male myself, I have nothing but respect and applause for the graceful, sensitive representation of the struggles of Dr. Kyle Julian, who took quite the riveting journey throughout these thirteen episodes as he battled his brother, his best friend, and the demons of his own personality and history as he stumbled headlong into the explosive thrills of first love. (Contrast this with the best daytime television has been able to offer heretofore: “As the World Turns’” Luke Snyder, who — even if you buy that they’re playing Agnes Nixon’s classic game of “make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em WAIT” (and I kinda sorta do, strangely enough) — has been saddled with the DOPIEST material — Ameera, the paralysis, student government! — since he met Noah, and you see such striking differences; you see how humane and educational and, above all, ENTERTAINING, soaps can be at their BEST.)

    Can’t wait to hear your extensive thoughts on Tornado 2.0, Marlena. (Please don’t tell me I was the only one who gagged throughout the entirety of Ryan’s “the heavens are rejoicing” tirade with Greenlee! Or who prayed for an Oz-type sight gag, with Ryan’s loafers and Greenlee’s stilettos sticking out from underneath that shack!)

    Marlena says: Brandon, so great to hear from you! Yes, it’s amazing the path NS2 took from its awful pilot to a winner of a soap. And it all felt so natural, as you hilariously note, with the newfound acting talents of Antonio Sabato Jr. and Miss Finola’s first chance to act real material in decades since she reappeared on GH. I’m almost afraid to call this show a miracle because that’s the kind of thing that would invite Soapnet/ABC to trash it! How must Miss Jilly and Mr. Guza of the mothership feel about our raves for a show they so royally screwed up in its first season?

    I like Luke and Noah on ATWT, but as you say they are teenagers and P&G has absurdly never given their story a fair shake. Kyle and Eric are adults and it thrilled me that they were depicted as such. I also loved the way Claire and Kyle’s close friendship was so realistically portrayed. Been there, done that!

    Yes, I’ll have a column on AMC’s tornado very soon, but let me give you a preview — I kept praying that Margaret Hamilton would put in appearances, first on her flying bicycle and then as the WWW herself. Oh how we could have used her swearing, “I’ll get you Miss Pretty,” as Greenlee’s body limply went sailing into the twister’s winds …

  2. MaryBell says:

    Marlena,

    I am in near tears over the end of such a loving soap — could it really have happened? The explosion was a little bit much, and the show looked much better on film than tape — but overall the season was filled with real emotional situations based on love. Robin and Patrick finally coming together as a couple that is having a child. Dr. Saira and Jagger realizing that their attraction was based on something real and meaningful and Robert and Anna, were just so so touching. I loved the autism storyline and the Eric & Kyle … no need for big bangs or mobsters, just simple story telling.

    Maybe we’ll see more love and truthfulness for the couples above in NS3.

    Marlena says: I agree with all you’ve said, Marybell! I know fans are clamoring for headwriter Sri Rao to take over regular GH. I just don’t think that will ever happen, because Brian Frons seems to love his slate of ABC afternoon soaps trashy and meaningless. I’d much rather see a NS3, but I’m sure most fans are rooting for a Rao GH.

  3. n69n says:

    i’d be so curious to see Sri Rao’s take on an “ANGEL SQUARE” spin-off from OLTL!

  4. Marlena, I fell in love with soaps again watching Night Shift 2.0. The story of Robert Scorpio’s struggle with cancer was so well done, it reminded me of Monica’s breast cancer storyline on the glory days of GH under Claire Labine. How natural was Kyle and Eric’s love story and the two kisses between them, Mama Mia! That’s good soap writing and acting. My only quibbles were that Sean, Tiffany and Luke didn’t visit Robert for real and that Night Shift was over. I’m guessing that Finola Hughes’ appearance on Night Shift was the big summer storyline that she had been promised on GH. Loved when Tiffany asked where Holly was, and Anna said her invitation must have gotten lost!

  5. Deann Crumpton says:

    Thank you for this column. I loved NS2! I watched GH back in the day and to see Robert fighting another diabolical enemy and winning made my heart glad. There are no tissues left ion my house after the penultimate episode in the Scorpio house. Robert and Luke’s manly farewell hug tore me up! When will Fron, Guza and Co realize that this is what soap opera is about – relationship and fighting the odds and not mob violence, victimizing women and silicone injected bimbos running around in bikinis?

    Marlena says: You go, Deann!!

  6. Renee says:

    When I first read that Night Shift was going to bring back the iconic character of Robert Scorpio, I was excited. I have been watching GH since 1977 and it finally looked like we might get a decent story for our vets. Plus, they had a different writer than Bob Guza. I was excited. But my excitement soon faded as I began to read quotes from Sri Rao. He said in one article that this story was “all about Robert and Anna”. He stated in another article that “Anna is the only one who could be there for Robert”. What about Holly? It was clear from the beginning that Rao was a Robert and Anna fan and that he was going to ignore the Holly history. As a fan who saw the very romantic love story of Robert and Holly, I was disappointed.

    And why wasn’t Holly there? In the beginning, there were statements like it would have been “inappropriate” to bring back Holly. There were also statements that it would cost too much money to bring Emma to NS. Then towards the end of NS, Rao states he “really tried to get Emma for NS”. I guess I don’t believe he tried too hard to get Emma to NS after reading his previous quotes. And to rub salt in the wound, NS resurrected Robert and HOLLY’s townhouse without Holly. That hurt.

    In the end, I understand NS was pretty good. And I can agree that it was EONS better than anything current GH gave us. It’s just too bad that NS ignored a HUGE part of Robert’s history. I mean, Robert is dying, he’s dreaming of R&H’s townhouse and he’s not dreaming of Holly. They couldn’t even use flashbacks of Emma? Oh well. I’m happy for all the fans that enjoyed NS. I just wish it could have been a little bit more faithful to GH history.

    Thanks for the vent!

    Renee

  7. John says:

    Sri has said in an interview that he wanted Holly and Emma Samms to be part of NS 2.0. But Samms couldn’t because she’s currently acting and living in England. So I’d rather have no Holly than a recast Holly!

  8. tess says:

    I didn’t get to see NIGHT SHIFT 2, but from all the terrific things I’ve read about it, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will come out on DVD like the original NIGHT SHIFT.

    Lord, do we soap lovers need soapy programming from writers and producers who truly understand and appreciate good serial fiction.

    Everybody rants about the good old days when GH was about Luke and Laura and their infamous on the run stories.

    Sorry. I enjoyed the show when most of the action transpired on the seventh floor nurses station. I remember, Lucille and student nurse Clampett. Howie and Jane Dawson. I LOVED Audrey and her marriage to the pugnacious Tom Baldwin. Audrey got pregnant and hid the baby from Tom. And the woman she hired to take care of the baby discovered that Tom was the child’s father. And the nasty nanny blackmailed Audrey.

    Oh, man, did Rachel Ames give some WONDERFUL performances. I can’t believe GH let her go. And certainly there was story for her. Elizabeth is her granddaughter, after all. So Audrey had ties to the modern GH.

    Oh, well.

  9. Marilyn Henry says:

    My face is red–I overlooked Ed Martin’s byline on my last post and gave Marlena the credit for that review. But I still meant all I said about the joy of reading this column and here you are, writing a followup, Marlena, so it still applies. My apologies to Ed. And kudos as well.

    Marlena says: No big deal Marilyn! I’m so proud that Ed writes for us, that he has used the GH obsession I have ribbed him about for years and years and just produced some extraordinary columns for marlenadelacroix.com. As you have too, my old friend.

  10. Gigi says:

    I was close to giving up on NS after the Season 2 Premiere and then gave the second episode a chance and was hooked. I think out of 13 episodes I cried on at least 11. The show was a breath of fresh air for me … a die hard GH fan. I wish for more episodes next season. And maybe some of the writing talent could spill over to its big sister … General Hospital.

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