Thinking Fans Comment Update October 26: Dianne says NS2 was a gift to long-time GH fans … Suzette applauds the celebration of GH history, though she missed Genie Francis … Mike agrees, mostly, but wonders, where was Holly? … and more. See Comments below.
By Ed Martin
Sri Rao and Lisa De Cazotte are my new heroes.
The head writer and executive producer, respectively, of SOAPnet’s General Hospital Night Shift have in recent months given me as much to smile about as any creative team presently working in television. They reminded me why I became a passionate fan of General Hospital 30 years ago, and they did it in a manner nobody could have predicted, transforming what had been in its freshman season a perfectly putrid spin-off of a soap opera that is now a mere shadow of its fantastic former self into a sophomore series that embodied almost everything that was sublime about its mother-ship back in its heyday.
And after giving those of us who cherish our memories of GH in the Seventies and Eighties a three-month treat filled with characters from and references to that glorious period, delivered in a storytelling style that was as sophisticated and
I don’t know what Rao and De Cazotte have in mind for season three. I don’t even know if there will be a season three. There should be, and we shouldn’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy it!
respectful as it was heartfelt and thoughtful, Rao and De Cazotte concluded Night Shift’s swell second season with a two-part love note to those fans who made GH a pop-culture phenomenon and the formidable foundation of ABC Daytime.
Like hundreds of thousands (or could it be millions) of GH fans, I have felt increasingly beaten down by the show’s dark, dreary and sometimes depraved storytelling during the last ten years, which has glamorized criminal activity and pathological behavior while dishonoring doctors, nurses, police officers, military personnel and other everyday heroes. But Night Shift lifted me out of that abyss and allowed me during the last three months, if only on a weekly basis, to experience some of the perfect pleasure that GH served up on a daily basis until it went so terribly wrong. For the first time in years, I couldn’t wait to visit the town of Port Charles and hang with the staff at General Hospital. Rao and De Cazotte brought back the heart, the humor and the community of it all. I have never been so happy to be so dismantled. It was as if Rao and De Cazotte heard my personal complaints, heeded my professional advice and did what they did just for me! The DVD of Season Two is gonna be a keeper.
Night Shift only got better as the season moved along, especially in its mature, thoughtful telling of super spy Robert Scorpio’s battle with cancer and the efforts of his ex-wife Anna Devane and pregnant daughter Robin to care for him during his time of need. The Scorpio family was rudely ripped apart over 17 years ago, but this summer we got to watch as it pulled itself back together. Tristan Rogers has been playing Robert off and on since 1981, and Finola Hughes has played Anna on GH (and on All My Children) since 1985. But they were never better individually and their chemistry together was never more powerful than during the last few weeks of Night Shift.
(Kimberly McCullough as Robin was her usual amazing self.) Rao and his writing team even managed to make good use of Antonio Sabato Jr., a likeable actor who is not exactly known for his dramatic skills, as Jagger Cates, the largely forgettable character he played on GH in the early Nineties who hadn’t been seen since 1993. Just as the storyline about Robert’s cancer brought closure to the long-running separation of the Scorpios, so did the tale of Jagger and his autistic son give voice to unspoken feelings about the deaths of the two people Jagger loved most: his ex-wife Karen and his brother Stone.
But the wonderful retro respect of it all didn’t stop there. In the first half of the two-part Night Shift season finale, Rao and De Cazotte gave longtime fans multiple closures of their own. During a fever dream brought on by the torment of his cancer and its treatment, Robert was surrounded by the characters he (and we) loved best in the Eighties: Robin, Anna, best friend Luke Spencer, former fling Tiffany Hill and World Security Bureau colleague Sean Donnelly (along with younger bro Mac Scorpio). The only significant characters missing were Frisco and Felicia Jones and Robert’s other wife, Holly Sutton – though Holly’s name was gingerly dropped by Tiffany.
As wonderful as it was to see these characters together again (and to see Sharon Wyatt as Tiffany and John Reilly as Sean back in the GH game for the first time since 1993), Rao and De Cazotte floored me with two unexpected touches of genius: They started the episode with the old GH theme song and opening credit sequence and they reconstructed the old Scorpio living room as the setting of the dream sequence. I couldn’t stop smiling.
The writing and direction of this episode, which moved back and forth between Robin and Anna’s tag-team vigil at Robert’s bedside and Robert’s extended dream, were beautiful in their own right, even without all of the special nostalgic treats.
I was really sorry to see Robert and Jagger leave town during the second hour of the season finale, because I was so glad to have them both back in Port Charles. But I’m glad they are far away from the hit men, harpies and hoors that have taken over the town over on GH. God knows what would happen to them if they stuck around and remained on the main show, where beloved characters from years gone by routinely return only to be ruined.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the Scorpio and Jagger stories and the actors in them weren’t the only wonderful elements of the new and vastly improved Night Shift. Adam Grimes and Ethan Rains as battling brothers Kyle (an intern) and Leo Julian (a doctor), Carrie Southworth as intern Claire Simpson and Azita Ghanizada as Dr. Saira Batra all excelled in highly emotional storylines. Grimes was especially good in the story of Kyle’s tentative relationship with gravely ill patient Eric Whitlow (played by Chad Allen). I would love to see all of these characters (including Eric) make appearances on General Hospital, but only if Rao writes them!
I don’t know what Rao and De Cazotte have in mind for season three. I don’t even know if there will be a season three. (There should be, and we shouldn’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy it!) But I would be just as happy to see these “new” characters again as I would be thrilled to see Robert, Jagger, Tiffany and Sean return. If they really want to rock us, Rao and De Cazotte should consider additional appearances by Leslie Charleson as Dr. Monica Quartermaine (she showed up twice this season) and guest turns by Denise Alexander as Dr. Lesley Webber and Jaclyn Zeman as Nurse Bobbie Spencer. As for other blasts from the past, isn’t it about time for Dr. Jeff Webber and his son Steven Lars to return to Port Charles? And what is Audrey Hardy up to these days?