General Hospital Update: Is it Still on Life Support?

By Ed Martin 

I’m not sure what to make of the big surprise on “General Hospital” this week – but then again, I haven’t known what to make of GH in a very long time (years, actually). Robin Scorpio is alive – and looking very tanned and rested, I might add, even if she is being held hostage in something resembling a hospital room.

Seeing Robin in that bed at the end of Monday’s episode was the first time GH has really “wowed” me since that unforgettable moment in May 1980 when Edward Quartermaine sprang back to life after faking a heart attack and shocked his

Even though I haven’t cared for many of executive producer Frank Valentini and headwriter Ron Carlivati’s storytelling choices, it has been a sweet treat to see so many fondly remembered characters from General Hospital’s past return to its canvas.

daughter Tracy (and millions of viewers, as well) after she had refused to give him his medication because he wouldn’t change his will. Ah, sweet memories …

The Robin reveal was all the more impressive because it hadn’t been leaked. I didn’t think it was possible to keep anything from anyone in this era of zero privacy and even less respect. Congratulations to all involved. robinA genuine surprise at the end of a soap opera episode reminded me of the joy that was had watching daytime drama in the late Seventies and early Eighties, before magazine editors and scoop-hungry reporters decided that taking the fun out of the television viewing experience was a smart thing to do.

That said, I needed a positive narrative development from GH, because after years of cascading misery and negativity from Jill Farran Phelps and Bob Guza and their team, and weeks of same from new executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati, I had made up my mind to bail after seeing what the latter planned to do with the return of Robin Mattson as whack-job Heather Webber later this week. I agree with all those critics and bloggers and tweeters and comment-posters that GH in the hands of Valentini and Carlivati is the best that it has been since the Wendy Riche and Claire Labine period, in that it once again feels as if it has been put together by people who understand the genre and its audience. But it has still been largely the same old thing – a payoff-challenged drama about a temper tantrum-tossing mobster, his emotionally vacant hit man and his bat-shit crazy ex-wife. Even worse, it has been spinning far too much around the deaths of children, something that Valentini and Carlivati seemed to embrace from day one, even bringing in characters from their previous soap — the late and lamented One Life to Live — to tell yet another story about dead kids.

To clarify, the primary reason that GH has declined in popular appeal over the last ten plus years has been the ridiculous repetitiveness of stories centered on mob boss Sonny Corinthos, brain-damaged killing machine Jason Morgan and the mentally unstable woman who is obsessed with them both, Carly Corinthos Jacks. The new team at GH continues to favor all three with no relief in sight for fatigued fans past and present. It had looked for quite a while like a brain injury and subsequent drastic medical procedures might restore Jason to the nice guy he used to be in the mid-Nineties, potentially setting the stage for years of fascinating stories about a man coming to terms with years of criminal behavior over which he had no control. But it appears that Valentini and Carlivati want Jason to remain Guza-fied.

Meanwhile, in just a few short weeks they have made Sonny even more deplorable, having him put in motion a sequence of events that resulted in the apparent deaths of a young man named Cole Thornhart (whom viewers watched navigate a harrowing adolescence on OLTL) and his little girl Hope and then repeatedly assert that he had nothing to do with same. It was Sonny who sent rival mobster Anthony Zacchara fleeing for his life and into Cole and Hope’s path. It matters little whether Sonny or somebody else shot out Zacchara’s tires and caused the fatal accident that followed. Sonny is still involved.                                                                                                                                                             

Further, they have made the already detestable Carly even more off-putting to watch. Remember, this is a woman who chose to meddle in ex-husband’s Sonny’s wedding rather than help her young son cope with the affect-effects of having been raped in prison, a horror he suffered specifically because Carly insisted that he would be better off being raised by a crime boss (that would be Sonny) rather than his birth father (the late A.J. Quartermaine). Now this woman, who recently gained sole custody of little Jocelyn, the baby she had with her ex-husband Jasper Jacks, is showing what a swell mom she is by having sex with yet another dangerous mobster, Johnny Zacchara. She also has it in her head that she should dictate how Jason’s life is run, even though he is happily married to the woman who is carrying his child.

I have to admit that when I saw that Robin was alive it occurred to me that it might not have been Valentini and Carlivati’s plan all along to save her. It may be that they added the brief scene after realizing that killing Robin was further alienating their already fragile audience. (Having Robin burn to death in a hospital lab was no way to bring the story of daytime drama’s first long-term HIV survivor to a close, that’s for sure. Then again, putting the audience through the violent death of a long-beloved character, only to reveal just two weeks later that said character is actually alive, is kind of lame, too.) So I like to think that if everyone who is busily writing and talking about GH continues to complain about Sonny, Carly and Jason, then Valentini and Carlivati might see fit to surprise us again and again, perhaps by killing Sonny (which is really the only way to let GH move into a much-needed new direction), giving Jason another brain seizure and making him normal again, and doing something with Carly that will make her step up and take responsibility for years of reprehensible behavior. (It would be grand if Jax put a few of his many millions to work hiring the best legal team money can buy to prove Carly an unfit mother and take his little girl away to a safe environment. Or if Michael — after being kept away from his family, kidnapped, shot in the head, rendered comatose for a year, imprisoned and raped — finally began acting up and taking all of that out on the people responsible, namely his parents. Or if Carly’s ex husband AJ returned from the dead and sought revenge. Or if Carly’s mother Bobbie returned from wherever she has been and gave her daughter hell. Or all of the above.)

As for this show’s predilection toward killing children, I hope Valentini and Carlivati put an end to it, and perhaps reveal that Cole and Hope are, like Robin, mysteriously alive. There are simply too many women on the GH canvas who have suffered the deaths of their young sons and daughters. They include Dr. Monica Quartermaine (who lost daughters Dawn and Emily and son AJ), Nurse Elizabeth Webber (son Jake), Nurse Epiphany Johnson (son Stan), secret agent Anna Devane (who doesn’t know her daughter Robin is alive), and now woebegone Starr Manning (daughter Hope). Two characters that aren’t on the show anymore have also lost children: Nurse Bobbie Spencer (daughter BJ) and former private investigator Felicia Jones (daughter Georgie).

At least two of these deaths can be easily undone (Emily and AJ). I suggest the GH team consider that. Dr. David Hayward, a character from All My Children with ties to Anna Devane, brought several deceased fan favorites back to life on that show before it ended, so perhaps he can be recruited to help out. Failing that, there’s always Helena and her maniacal medical team in that secret lab located 30 floors below General Hospital. (It even comes equipped with a bottomless pit for the disposal of tired characters.)

I have more complaints and concerns about GH in recent weeks. I can’t understand why Ethan Lovett’s paternity was tossed into question again, only to remain the same, even though viewers have always been unhappy about the fact that his father is Luke Spencer rather than Robert Scorpio. The new GH team had a golden opportunity to make this right, but they didn’t. And having Luke lie about Ethan’s paternity so that Robert would find the strength to carry on after Robin’s death was absurd.

Robert contemplating suicide after Robin’s death, rather than stepping up to care for his granddaughter Emma, was also a poor storyline choice.

There have been countless funerals on soap operas since soap operas began, but Robin’s had to be one of the worst. Her father didn’t attend, and there was nobody there representing General Hospital, where Robin worked for many years, recently as chief of staff. The only hospital staffer at the service was Robin’s best friend, Nurse Elizabeth.

Further, Maxie Jones’s breakdown at Robin’s funeral was poorly written and directed. And it was rather redundant: Maxie also lost her shit at the funeral for her sister Georgie a few years ago. (For that matter, the Robin not really burning to death thing is very reminiscent of the Lucky not really burning to death thing back in 1999. )

The new team is taking entirely too much time reactivating and (one hopes) wrapping up the story of Lisa Niles, a scheming seductress who tormented Robin for much of the last year. Everything about this story was as toxic for viewers as it was unpleasant for Robin. Fans heaved a sigh of relief when Lisa was murdered a few months back. An already forgotten character was even identified as her killer. But Valentini and Carlivati have revived the story and are fiddling with it for reasons only they can explain. I’ll say this: If Lisa is alive and holding Robin captive there will be a fan revolt the scope of which will likely kill off GH once and for all.

They’re being entirely too diligent with another wildly unpopular plot, too: The story of Jason and psycho artist Franco (played by James Franco). This story marked an absolute low for the show. It looks like the return of Heather Webber will somehow play into clearing up the many mysteries about Franco’s character. I certainly hope the new team isn’t afraid to put a stake through its heart and leave this very poorly told tale stone cold dead.

They’re also treating the already forgotten story about the stripper attacks with entirely too much care. Moving on …

While they’re tying up loose ends, I hope Valentini and Carlivati identify the driver of the mysterious black town car that drove past Elizabeth Webber’s house the night little Jake was run down, and that we learn he or she was responsible for the poor boy’s death. That would mean Luke didn’t kill his grandson. This storyline has completely destroyed the character, but perhaps he could be rebuilt to some degree if Luke weren’t really responsible for killing a child while driving under the influence. It isn’t good for this show or any other to have a drunk-driving child-killer at its center.

Even though I haven’t cared for many of Valentini and Carlivati’s storytelling choices, it has been a sweet treat to see so many fondly remembered characters from GH‘s past return to its canvas. Finola Hughes as Anna has been outstanding, bringing a substance and richness to every scene she has been in. Tristan Rogers, as Robert, and Emma Samms, as Holly, did what they could with the substandard material they were given. (Why couldn’t Guza or the new team write Holly as the classy, compassionate, vibrantly sexy woman that she once was? And why can’t Robert and Holly be together again? I think they were the sexiest couple in soap opera history. Remember that scene in the sauna in which Robert poured champagne across Holly’s shoulders and then … oh, never mind.)

I was even impressed with Rick Springfield as Dr. Noah Drake, who briefly came to town to comfort his son Patrick after Robin’s death. And speaking of Patrick, Jason Thompson had better get a Daytime Emmy (or some kind of industry recognition) for his heart-breaking work as a grieving widower these last few weeks. I think he has out-cried former co-star Jonathan Jackson! Who knew he had it in him?

Finally, I wasn’t thrilled by the influx of characters from One Life to Live onto the GH canvas. It was too much, too soon. (That said I would like to see Starr’s former boyfriend James Ford follow her back to Port Charles, setting up a triangle with Starr and Michael.) But I have to hand it to Michael Easton as Lt. John McBain. I was never all that impressed by him on OLTL, but he’s been sensational on GH, especially in his scenes with the incomparable Jane Elliot. Easton even lit a fire in Kelly Monaco, with whom he co-starred in the God-awful GH spin-off Port Charles a long time ago. (They played different characters.) Monaco, as private detective and mob wife Sam McCall, has always been an annoying snooze in her scenes with Steve Burton, the actor who plays her husband, Jason. But she was crazy hot playing off Easton. If Easton sticks around, Valentini and Carlivati may have a home-grown super couple on their hands. That would be something else this long-suffering show hasn’t had in years. 

___________________________________________________       

Ed Martin is a veteran television journalist who writes for many national publications and websites, including the Huffington Post. He blogs regularly at TV Worth Watching,  http://www.tvworthwatching.com/contributors/martin.shtml

Comments

  1. Gawarner says:

    Hallelujah! Under the reprehensible regimes of Shapiro and Frons at ABC Daytime, we would have seen “Robin is ALIVE!” on the cover of SOD the week before the event aired — thus sucking the very life out of the story!

    It was this overzealous quest for publicity-at-any-cost that helped to kill daytime soaps at ABC.

    Oh, how I loved experiencing a genuine pulse-racing surprise in the afternoon! Shades of ’82!!!

    Marlena says: Here, here, gaw! Here, here!

  2. Dee says:

    As for Robin being alive, I was pretty surprised, but let’s face it, that was pretty much a given. They wouldn’t risk more fan alienation if they had really decided to kill of Robin for good, now, would they?

    As for Franco, we already know what’s gonna happen: He’s gonna be Jason’s twin and he will be the REAL father of Sam’s kid. Boy, after all that work they did to put Jason and Sam together (including killing off Jake), it’s gonna end up being Franco’s kid, and Sam will end up with McPain, starting another painful love triangle/quadrangle/quintangle/sextangle with Jason/Sam/McPain, maybe throw in Liz, Ewen, Carly, whoever, and more years of waffling and back and forth. Truly, it’s not worth my time as a viewer.

    Plus, it’s still about the Unholy Trinity, how they’re superior to everyone else, how they are the righteous, upholding citizens, and everyone else can go screw. Maybe, hopefully, McPain will do something right and put these clowns in jail and they will be revealed for what they are. But, on the good side, it’s nice to see that they are bringing back popular characters from the past and including them into the storyline.

    Hopefully, maybe a corner can be turned and this show can be saved. But I don’t know.

  3. horselover says:

    I absolutely love everything about this article. It’s dead on. From the overexposure of the unholy trinity to the substandard storyline for the vets, Ed Martin gets it right. I was hoping that Valentini and Carvilati would be different than Phelps and Guza – but they don’t seem to be too much different so far. I hope they listen to some constructive criticism instead of digging in their heels. Thank you for a voice that mirrors what a lot of long time fans feel.

  4. Nancy says:

    Agree with everything you’re saying about GH perpetually being centered on the three most tiresome, ridiculous and loathesome characters in soapdom – Sonny, Jason and Carly. However, I’ve seen a glimmer in the new writing that maybe, just maybe, everything is building toward an end to Sonny. Sonny said to Jason not long ago, “The crazy always comes out.” I’m hoping that was prophetic and that’s what all this Sonny-centric mess is all about. Note that Sam has also put the idea in Jason’s vacuous head that they might all be better off if Sonny “went away.” One can only hope.

  5. James says:

    Gee, is there anything you like about GH?

    Other than Robin being alive and Finola being back on the show, I couldn’t find anything you like about the show.

    You’re just complaining about how Ron and Frank haven’t fixed everything overnight. Clearly you care about the show or you wouldn’t be spending the energy to write such a long, detailed rant like this.

    But damn, nothing seems to make you happy, at least nothing detailed in your posting.

    There have been aspects of GH which I have LOVED since Ron’s scripts started airing 5 weeks ago. Other aspects of it that have left me scratching my head.

    But people are talking about the show once again. There’s buzz about the show, which hopefully will translate into more viewers and ABC renewing the show for another season.

    And that’s the bigger goal — keeping the show alive. Complaining about the minutia in fine when the show’s in good standing. But when it’s struggling to live past September, you gotta cut the new guys a little bit of slack.

  6. horselover says:

    James – people talked about Guza’s GH all the time and all it did was make the ratings go down. Ratings went up briefly for Ron and Frank when Tristan and Emma returned, but they went right back down when viewers realized that this was the old bait and switch once again. If a show is on the verge of cancellation, you need to do more than tell the same sad stories over and over. You need to do something different. Backburn Sonny, Carly and Jason for a bit. Write the vets in character. Respect history. If Ron and Frank don’t do these things, GH will be off the air soon.

  7. Dee says:

    Wholeheartedly agree, horse. THIS IS what they really NEED to do. You’re right; this show needs a total retread from the mob, a retread from the Franco nonsense, give the vets more story, use the OLTL characters in a meaningful way without turning it into OLTL 2.0, plus give the show more heart and humor. If I want to see depressing, dark stuff, I’ll watch the 6 o’clock news. If I want to see the mob, I’ll watch the Sopranos or that annoying Mob Wives. I want SOAP OPERA!!!

  8. John says:

    What I have been reading a lot of, is that people had HIGH hopes for Frank and Ron at General Hospital…but!!! And that is a serious but!

    I think maybe F & R are worried about alienating the audience, so they are pretty much staying the course of where Phelps and Guza were for the past 11 years. I say screw that plan! This is an audience that NEEDS to be alienated, and jolted, and shocked! This is an audience that NEEDS to be alienated from the show that they have been forced to accept…the show that has been masquerading itself as General Hospital for the past decade and longer! It’s time for F & R to come up with THEIR vision of the show and GO FOR IT!! This is not the time to play it safe. We need a shake-up of Gloria Monty magnitude, and a 180 degree shift in direction.

    So far, aside from the One Life to Live characters showing up, I have not seen one original stamp they have put on the show that really announced that THIS is a new day at GH! The four things that GH fans are clamoring for, the things that are written and talked about more than anything else (and have been for years!) are that they want LESS Sonny, LESS mob, LESS violence, and LESS death!

    What they have crafted for us, what we have gotten is the exact opposite. We have gotten:

    1) More Sonny. Sonny is again, still, and eternally being portrayed as just a misunderstood businessman with a heart of gold. His rampage of terror goes on unabated, and this show will never change until that character is off the show permanently.

    2) More mob. This always directly relates to Sonny, and whatever characters are orbiting his mob universe – Jason, Carly, his kids, his romantic interest dujour (Kate/Connie this time), the Zacchara’s, the mothers of his children, his enemies, etc.

    3) More violence. Shootings, explosions, deaths, car crashes, etc. Go figure, these things invariably relate back to Sonny and the mob somehow. Except when Helena is involved. Then it’s an isolated generally pointless incident.

    4) More death. Though only presumed, Robin’s fiery explosive death was unnecessary. There were so many other humane, plausible ways to write her off. How about a happy send-off for Robin and Patrick (and Emma) to work at a different hospital in another city? People do just move! As for the killing of Cole and Hope from OLTL, what a pointless waste. We had weeks of uninterrupted mourning.

    In those four things right there, F and R gave the viewers EXACTLY the opposite of what they were asking for. Not the best way to start working on a show. I will give them some points for bringing back some veterans, but bringing back a popular actor in a story or situation where they behave NOTHING like themself is a disservice to viewers, and is ultimately unsatisfying.

    They brought Robert back to share NO scenes with Robin, had him ponder suicide in his grief, then sent him off to chase a son he never knew, and miss Robin’s funeral. They had Holly pop back into town similar to the stranger Guza wrote her as, linked her with some Helena sillness, and sent her packing too.
    Rick Springfield came and went in the blink of an eye. Vets are there to bring a sense of familiarity, not to cause viewer frustration and confusion. The average fan does not understand budget constraints or rotating shooting schedules or contractual obligtions. The ones (like me and many others) who do understand do not want to witness those backstage politics so clearly at play that they overshadow any attempt at good storytelling.

    An example of that was Robin’s funeral. I already mentioned that Robert was absent. But the pews in the church were also three quarters empty! GH never seemd to spare any expense on getting every character in on the action for its myriad violent sweeps stunts (Metro Court, hospital lockdowns, carnival of doom, etc etc.). Yet, they couldn’t even schedule all the actors on one day and tape the funeral of a beloved veteran such as Robin? Or the writing CAN account for these things…someone could have said “We are just having a small intimate ceremoney for family and friends, the public funeral will be tomorrow.” Little things go a long way to show care in the writing! Even Robin’s funeral had to be a showcase for Sonny and Jason! It was infuriating!

    Sonny and Jason turned their backs on Robin years ago when she revealed the truth of their lie about Michael’s paternity. Forgive me if their grief rang a little hollow! EVERYTHING they do rings hollow…they are CRIMINALS who have had EVERY chance to get out of the “business”. They have lost countless loved ones and children and friends and family and colleagues…and it’s like none of it matters to them!! These two characters have been presented as heroes for too long. Jason has a chance at redemtion…he’s brain damaged and could snap out of it. Sonny is an amoral power hungry misogynistic control freak, and he has as much as admitted so. The character of Sonny NEEDS to go out in a blaze of glory…a violent, action-packed, guns blazing, explosive sweeps stunt that GH loves so much! That is the only catalyst for change on this beleaguered show!

    I loved a lot of the work of F and R on OLTL, and disliked a lot of it. Even when I didn’t like it, I still admired how the writing was solidly integrated, they had a definite vision, and the payoffs were almost always worth the wait. With that said, their integration of the OLTL characters has been badly mishandled, and I can’t believe they show such little regard or reverence for them.

    Let’s begin with the Cole, Starr, Hope debacle. Cole and Hope were both characters who were previously presumed dead. Starr had grieved for BOTH of these characters in past stories on a different show. To OLTL viewers, the storyline feels cruel, pointless, and gratuituous. To unfamiliar GH viewers, the story had NO impact. It was a bunch of shrieking unknown newcomers taking over the show. Viewers of both shows are torn…happy to see their OLTL faovourites at any cost, and willing to go along for the ride, regardless of the initial direction.

    They already had a viable explanation for why Cole could be off the show, and that was through Witness Relocation. The character of Hope never had to die. If the writers are determined to pair Michael and Starr, her being a single mother would have added a nice dimension to the story. As their romance developed, litte Hope could have taught him a lot about love, gentleness, compassion, and patience since he learned none of that in his childhood. It could have been a touching, uplifting romance that developed, much like the previous teen stories of Robin/Stone and Lucky/Liz were.

    Kristen Alderson was a revelation on OLTL…a most naturally gifted performer that we watched grow up. I read a post online recently saying that she was a TERRIBLE acress…then read several more, and couldn’t believe it. The I watched one of MANY episodes where Starr is mainly alone, and uttering such ridiculous, soap cliche lines to herself as “Sonny Corinthos will PAY for killing Cole and Hope!” and unfortunately, it lent some credence to their assessments. I could see why viewers would think she was a bad actress, but that is the total fault of the writing! This is not Passions, folks! Characters don’t need to skulk around talking to themselves, assuming the viewers are morons! We KNOW why Starr is upset and crying. Good writing is subtle, and so is good acting! Leave the psychotic rampaging and scene stealing to her dad Todd…that’s what Roger Hoawrth does best!! Let the character of Starr earn her sympathy and empathy from GH fans, and give her a fighting chance at being a beloved heroine again.

    Another miscalculation that shocked me with its insensitivity and pointlessness was the hotel bar exchange between Carly and Blair. While it was written with style and humour, and brilliantly surreal seeing those actresses/characters playing off of each other, it was just inappropriately done and at the total wrong time.

    Blair JUST discovered that her granddaughter died! and there she was, drinking in a bar, looking like she was out for an evening on the town rather than grieving…exchanging witticisms with a stranger (Carly) in a bar. The “You go, girlfriend!” vibe of their scene was cool if it had somehow happened BEFORE the grisly reveal of Cole and Hope’s death. To play it after that made Blair look like an uncaring, vindictive, self-involved, narcissistic, unforgiving shrew. To play Carly that way was to just play the character as she is. No big stretch there. But there were two constants to the character of Blair…she loved her family, and she loved Todd. The real Blair would have been by Starr’s side, not shooting the breeze dissing her ex with a stranger in a bar.

    F and R just seemed to want to pack too many things in too soon with the OLTL characters. They wanted to offer some good stuff for mourning OLTL viewers. They were eager to get to the cool and funny with Bair and Carly. They wanted to present Starr as a love interest for Michael. They wanted an explosive introduction. They wanted immediate conflict. They wanted the Roger Howarth/Maurice Benard showdown. In very separate and disjointed ways, they did accomplish all of that, but it was TOO MUCH! There was too much for viewers to take in all at once, especially with all else that was going on on the show. Now that the OLTL characters have arrived, they need to spend some time integrating them and not isolating them into their own story pockets. And DEFINITELY do NOT just make them appendages to the Sonny story.

    If there is one thing that ALL soaps need to get back to is ROMANCE! Remember…the thing they were BUILT ON! GH could have a plethora of couples to root for…Matt and Maxie, Elizabeth and __________ (take your pick, she has chemistry with everyone), Alexis and Mac (get ON with it already!), Michael and Starr, Carly and Sean (but he’s not a mobster, so that poses a problem for her), and the list goes on.

    All My Children never felt more like home than towards the end, even with the outlsndish plot of David being a miracle worker that brought back dead people. There are people that NEED to be brought back to this show! For starters, any or all of the dead Quartermaines, including Alan, Emily, and AJ, as all 3 deaths were unnecessary. While they are at it, Georgie could also be brought back. Those alone would do SO much toward getting lapsed furious viewers to return!

    The thing is, General Hospital is the perfect show to do this! They have had characters frozen alive! They have, in Helena, a diabolical madwoman with a superiority complex, and an ax to grind with the whole town….it is NO stretch for her to be holding these pople for some nefarious plot! They also have Dr. David Hayward…who already shares a past with Anna! He could be the doctor that brings them all back. There are some outlandish plots that do not gain favour with viewers…but this has the potential to save a show in a dying medium!!

    I came up with this plot back in 2007, when the Quartermaine killing began. I thought I was so original, but alas, not. I have seen countless variations of this plot since typed by soap viewers on soap websites all over the net. It is telling that the fans can come up with these audience pleasing plots, and yet Phelps/Guza couldn’t. That regime, with its sensationalistic plots, constant sweeps stunts, grisly deaths, slaughtering legacy characters, violence against women, glorification of evil, and twisted morality, all but destroyed the show.

    F and R have a chance to be miracle workers here, but they have to do one thing first…LISTEN! Listen to the viewers! They have the talent as they have proven, and they have the leeway of some breathing room with the show staying on the air!. Their OLTL was critically acclaimed and even gained ratings momentum in a time when three other soaps had limped to the finish line! Now, it doesn’t matter which regime is installed. It is ALL for the viewers, and about the viewers.

    I know that the shows cannot just be sunshine and roses, and lollipops and butterflies. But constant gloom and doom, and sturm and drang has essentialy killed a genre! The plots need drama and excitement, and emotional strain, but those must be interspersed with stories of happiness, and humour, and love, and smiles.

    For me, and many other viewers, the hallmark of what soaps are, could be, and should be, came during the Claire Labine and Wendy Riche era. There were very few gunshots and mobsters and explosions. There were stories of heart and feeling, love and loss, joy and sadness. Port Charles felt like a real community for possibly the first time. Every character and family had their place, and they were interconnected through these stories.

    Granted, Labine and Riche were not dealing with a decimated show and a dying genre. They were blessed with an abundance of riches! They were crafting the return of soaps original superouple, Luke and Laura, and they did it brilliantly! They had a countless number of vets who were at the top of their game (Edward, Lila, Bobbie, Tony, Sean, Tiffany, Alan, Monica, Lucy, Felicia, Mac, Robin, etc.) They had the full support of the network who was onboard with their vision, and didn’t seem to interfere with it! Most of all they had a vision!

    With all of those elements aligning, they crafted near perfect soap opera. I often refer to three stories as the Trifection of Perfection!! Those are Maxie getting BJ’s heart, Monica’s breast cancer, and Stone and Robin. First of all, they were all medically oriented and kept the focus on the hospital. Second, they involved characters we loved. Third, they were all stories that tugged the heartstrings. Fourth, they were told in real time. Also, each one of them still has significance, relevance, and resonance on the canvas today, nearly two decades later! I doubt one soap opera has ever featured three co-existing storylines that have had as much of an impact on not only their show’s history, but on daytime dramas as a whole.

    Those glory days are long past, but I think F and R could turn this show around. I am just thinking out loud here, but there is nothing to stop them from turning this into a “hybrid soap”. That is, incorporating elements and characters of all three hour long ABC soaps. They could gain viewers of AMC, OLTL, and GH. These are beloved and proven characters. With careful planning and writing, this does not have to feel forced or awkward.

    They could tell shorter arcs with popular characters. The shows have always co-existed in the same universe, and crossovers have done before. I believe they are more essential now than ever! They create excitement and buzz! They give new life to existing characters. They reward loyal fans. They show caring by the powers that be. There is nothing to lose and only viewers to gain.

    Thuis letter is way longer than I intended and probably went off on tangents I never expected. It started out being about what I think of the new GH regime. Like many others, I am reserving judgment, hoping the best is yet to come. There have been moments of hope, glimmers of brilliance, and a willingness to change. History is being utilized, if not exactly honoured. Those things indicate promise. There was none of that under the previous regime.

    I do also want to mention, for all the criticism that Jill Farren Phelps has taken, no one can deny that she was good at the job of PRODUCING! I’m not talking story direction, or engendering good will with her actors or viewers, or how much story input she had, or any of those things. But she took what was written and she did produce the heck out of it. No one could produce a sweeps stunt like she could, and she did those things on tight budgets and amid declining viewerships. She has several Emmys on her mantel for a reason. I really would LOVE to see her production values paired with a writer like Lorraine Broderick, or Claire Labine, or Hogan Sheffer circa his ATWT glory days, etc. She did helm Guiding Light in an era that has since been widely praised as “soap opera perfection”. I have no way of knowing, but I think her work was often subject to and hampered by grossly out of touch male chauvanistic, women hating writers and corporate suits. But Jill is a WHOLE other column! LOL.

    The show has life left! F and R will likely be the ones helming the show next year at its 50th Aniversary. How nice it would be to have a glorious celebration revolving around the hospital! To have the hospital set brimming with veterans, and Quartermaines, and Spencers, and Webbers and life and love and laughter as the balloons fall would be a wonderful reward all of the fans.

    I said it before, I will say it again to F and R…LISTEN to the fans! Soaps have tried EVERYTHING except going back to basics. What a seemingly simple, yet staggeringly novel concept! Believe it or not I have much more to say but I have to go to bed. I hope you enjoy my writing, and I hope some powers that be could read it too!

    Marlena says: A wonderfully documented well-thought out letter, John. I think the reason the new regime hasn’t really started any new stories since they arrived is they didn’t know whether they would be renewed or not. Now they know. And just a sidenote on the end of Sonny’s trial yesterday: when he was acquitted, I almost threw my television out the window.

  9. Cyberologist says:

    Well Marlena it seems its been given a reprieve no one seems to know exactly for how long but at the moment it has been taken off life support & given a breath of air. Still no official press release from ABC but the cast have been a twittering.

    Marlena says: Thanks goodness is all I can say! May they use their new alloted time well!

  10. janet says:

    John said it all, much better than I ever could..
    I keep hoping the new guys will improve the show,and ?
    Its still the unholy three.
    If GH wants to bring back those of us who have either shut the show off,or read about it and only watch when something they like is happening,they are in trouble.

    The Robin murder disturbed me ,
    I was not surprised at Robins alive. I have watched soaps long enough to know no one is dead on soaps, her body was burned beyond recognition? That said it all..Anyone remember James Stenbeck falling out of an airplane without a parachute and coming back years later. On As The World Turns??
    I personally would love to see AJ 8played by Billy Warlock only return and take Sonny on. He was demonised for taking his son from Sonny, so if he returned and made Sonny pay Hooray. He could kidnap Morgan,or turn Morgan against the mob the way they wouldn’t allow Jax to do.AJ and Jax could be in it together and destroy the unholy three.
    I don’t care about reality if I like the character. I want to be entertained ,not turned off by violence. I am a women and I don’t like the way Guza destroyed women.

    Marlena says: Here, here. Isn’t it interesting that we can’t forget—even when he’s g-o-n-e–what Guza did to women? Marlena will have more to say on this past subject in the future!

  11. Dee says:

    Maybe Ron and frank are trying, but what little of GH I’m seeing is just really more of the same:
    -It’s still about the Unholy Trinity.
    -Jason and Sam breaking up for the 470th billionth time, and Elizabeth maybe in that mix again (Please, God, not another round of JaSam vs. Liason), plus this whole Franco $#!+, plus the potential pairing of Sam with McPain, which brings me to,
    -the pimping and propping of OLTL characters of the show. I really hoped that once they were brought on, they would interact with the regulars, but they are being brought to the forefront at the expense of the others. Even though I’m excited with Roger being given a contract (expect more great scenes with Maurice Benard’s Sonny. I watched when Todd was in the courtroom with Sonny and I literally went nuts), they’re bringing on more OLTL people, including the tired Tea.
    -the bait and switch with returning audience favorites, with the promise that they would bring added spice to the stories, then they suddenly disappear, i.e. Robert after Robin’s death. What is that? Were they taking up more time from the mob and Ron’s pals from Llanview? I’m really worried about Robin Mattson and Kristina Wagner after their potential airtime is up, but I’m happy that they gave Finola Hughes a contract, even though she’s involved with McPain and Luke. But I still worry about her as well.
    -The lame brain DID tale with Kate/Connie/whoever the hell she is this week.

    Hopefully, with the news that GH has been given at least another year, maybe things will change, but who knows at this point?

Speak Your Mind