General Hospital: Cuddly but Problematic

By Marlena De Lacroix  a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

With all the cancellations these past few years, this old soap enthusiast  is thankful to have at least one soap to look forward to, and yes, cuddle up to in my afternoons. That soap is General Hospital, a doomed show I really want to see live on.  I watch

The biggest soap opera of all is the on-going cliffhanger of what will become of GH itself. I still want to have one involving  soap to look forward to every day, no matter how much I bitch about it.

every day, basically liking the day to day writing and production of the  episodes and the  performances . But of course as a critic, I still have objections to some of the overall stories.

For example:  Maxie is impulsive (such as when she slept with Franco) but she is not stupid.  She’s way too shrewd to have gone to trial and to jail for any man, let alone Matt the amnesiac killer of the long dead Lisa Niles. Except for the wonderful Spinelli-ness (fighting to clear Maxie’s name) of our adored Bradford Anderson, this story was a big, drawn out waste.  I’m so glad it’s over. Then we have Jason staying emotionally away so long and being separated  from the pregnant wife Sam, in effect blaming her for rape by his twin-brother Franco.

Do I detect misogyny in that part of the Sam pregnancy story?  Sure, I knew the separation was a plot device to give Sam more time to bond with John McBain.sam and john  And even though Jason eventually came around and told Sam he could accept the baby (after the baby was delivered and “died”) Jason distancing himself emotionally from his wife for so long  because she conceived the child (supposedly!) of his nemesis Franco, via rape, was essentially a whiff of something I never wanted to smell on an ABC soap again.

For a change, Jason is at least paying for something (as of this writing) by losing Sam after she found out that his thugs beat up McBain just after the delivery, causing, as Sam believes, the death of “her” baby. But will Jason ever be punished for his insensitivity to his pregnant wife? How long will Sam and Jason be apart?  Also, do you really think Jason will ever pay for the death of Franco?

Oh well, I can’t help asking this question even in the middle of a friendly review: Think about it — has GH really changed at its core since Guza left? Oui, mes amies, it’s better written, more entertaining and less blatantly offensive.  But Guza still casts a long shadow: witness more misogyny and the same old  antics of the “good” bad guys, Jason and  Sonny, who to this day have hardly ever paid for their misdeeds. As long as murderers Sonny, Jason (and now Johnny and Heather) walk free, this show still doesn’t know right from wrong. I’ve always maintained this is the real reason GH‘s overall ratings have sunk so low.

And I can’t believe I’m so desperate for engaging soap during the daytime that even moi, moraliste Marlena, is choosing to overlook this by watching faithfully.

On the other hand I can’t even get mad, as many fans are, that headwriter Ron Carlivati is repeating  his One Life to Live storylines so soon.  So what if the current baby switch of Tea’s dead baby and Sam’s baby is similar to the not so past switch of Jessica’s and  Starr’s babies on OLTL?   I remember the original baby switch story on daytime, when Jenny Vernon’s dead baby was swapped for Katrina Karr’s live one on OLTL in the early 80s.  My objection to baby switch stories isn’t just that they have become cliché —  it’s  that  they are too time-consuming.  The Jess and Starr baby switch took seven months to play out. Does GH even have seven months to live?  At least from what I’m seeing right now, Carlivati seems to want to express this story, and I’m hoping  he might even give it a never-before-seen  a new twist.

But,  let’s get to some good stuff …

Veteran Marlena fans know I am a lifelong Todd hater, but I’ve been loving Roger Howarth’s renowned  acting here, as Todd committed his umpteenth illegal act by participating in the baby switch. Howarth is a gem — like I really have to tell you!.  I’m also a new Michael Easton (John) fan since he and Kelly Monaco (Sam) have shown more super-couple sexual chemistry than any soap couple has in decades.  (Yes, I know they played love interests Caleb and Livvie on Port Charles.)

The returned Heather shows exactly why Robin Mattson (GH originally from 1980-82, Santa Barbara, All My Children) is a charter member of the Soap Villainess Hall of Fame. robin mattson(“Why do I get away with everything?” Heather asked herself just last week? LOL!)   But she’s an iota too loony for me (a la OLTL‘s Allison Perkins). Heather needs a real talk-to like her mother Alice (is she still alive?) to underscore that her motivations are more complex than just sheer evil and that she’s psychotic.  And she really needs that talk-to to stop her from talking to herself all the time!

I do think the entire GH cast has been reenergized by the new writing and production regime.  Everyone has noticed the great acting growth in Brandon Barash  as Johnny (as he became a triple murderer), and Jane Elliot seems like she is  having fun again  as Tracy. That Finola Hughes’ Anna  is as divine as ever as Port Charles’ new police chief  is a given.

I don’t know what to expect as the solidly Carlivati-conceived stories take over for the summer, but I worry — the reality show ripoff instigated by the return of Kristina (Lindsey Morgan is a real find) looks already to be a bust, and doesn’t bode well.  And all I can do right now is wait for the rest of the Connie/Kate D.I.D story. I’m still laughing at those semi-camp Connie in the Kate’s mirror scenes.

But allow me to speak out in defense of Kelly Sullivan as Kate.  No one in years has so graphically spilledkelly sullivan their guts all over the TV screen on daytime drama. After all, unrestrained gut-spilling has always been pure soap opera.  I really admire the actress’ willingness to let it all hang out.

I’m still waiting for a bone fide love interest for Alexis. Although Mac and Alexis never  had a real romance and Mac has been fired as police chief, I’m glad John J. York reportedly isn’t being written off the show as sweet Mac.Kristina Wagner has been weak, as always, in her return  as Mac’s ex-wife Felicia   Despite this one misfire, I can’t wait to see what other veteran characters/performers the show brings back next.

Of course, the biggest soap opera of all is the on-going cliffhanger of what will become of GH itself. I fear the coming debut of Good Afternoon, America, which if it succeeds will squeeze GH off the ABC afternoon schedule for good. As I said, I still want to have one involving  soap to look forward to every day, no matter how much I bitch about it.

Comments

  1. Esther says:

    Great article as always. The Maxie thing was stupid from the get-go though — no one would have even looked into the Lisa murder if Maxie herself hadn’t brought attention to it. And then all of a sudden she decides she’s going to cover for Matt? Hey idiot — maybe you should have let sleeping killers lie?

    Marlena says: Thanks as always, Esther. Certainly you know very well how being a lifelong soap fan these last days of daytime drama isn’t easy!

  2. David says:

    Another great column! I tried to watch GH when OLTL went off the air. Even with a few characters crossing over from Llanview I just don’t feel anything for the residents of Port Charles… and I tried! Some are okay. Love that they have brought back Anna….. but there just isn’t enough for me to tune in for and this disappoints me greatly. I had great hopes for Ron and Frank. I know that Frank is working his cute behind off.

    I’ve been watching Days of our Lives since losing OLTL. Although it’s not the greatest soap I’ve ever watched I at least feel a sense of family with the Hortons and the Bradys. I can’t say that I was a fan of Deidre Hall before but I am loving this go around. I am looking forward to what the new writers will do. I sure hope they will raise the ratings. If this show goes off the air I don’t know what I’ll do! Not much left to choose from for this soap fan. :-(

    Marlena says: Thanks David! I watch Days and I agree with you about Deidre. She was one of the big reasons the Will coming out story played so well. Nobody plays loving support better than Ms. Hall. She is eternally a soap superstar.

  3. JONNYSBRO says:

    Marlena great column. I think GH is more watchable, soapy and the show filmed better. Anything would be better then Guza’s disgusting sadistic soap. Wolf was a plain bore of a head writer. Robin Mattson is a great villianess. The problem is I think GH is going no matter what. Its no secret ABC wants out of the soap biz since cancelling AMC/OLTL. The Revolution bought GH more time but GAA sounds like a winner in the ratings. GMA is a very hot show right now and its smart to captilize on it with Lara Spencer who is very engaging and Josh Elliott. Its also good the show airs five hours later and is not another add on to the morning network. The Chew/GAA/Katie I see ABC loving this schedule. I just hope ABC gives GH a big grand finale that it deserves. Honestly I really believe GH is on borrowed time and the clock is ticking.

  4. Ty says:

    Alice Grant collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrage in Quartermaine foyer circa 1983. But I would welcome a visit from the grave. Mrs. Grant was ONLY character who could put Heather in her place. (BTW: Great, spot-on article, as always, Marlena!)

    Marlena says: Thanks for both the compliment and your info, Ty. It always amazes me that my longtime GH fan friends have such an encylopedic knowledge of the show!

  5. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Merci beaucoup!! So good to have you back in front of your computer and talking soaps. I do so miss reading you regularly. I understand your frustration with soaps these days — we certainly all have them. So, your insights, however sporadic, are much welcomed.

    While I DVR all four soaps daily, GH is the only one I make the point of watching on the day it airs. The others I catch up on when I can — and when I have to delete some episodes to free up DVR space, it’s usually the yawn inducing Y&R that gets deleted first. .

    Overall, I’m very happy with GH. As I’ve said before, the John McBane character who did nothing but eat up precious air time on OLTL is completely working for me on GH. I think in large part, it’s because he does have such wonderful chemistry with Sam. But also loving that he has a reason to be there — to catch Sonny — something he never really
    seemed to have in Llanview.

    Have never been a Sonny fan, but between the Kate storyline and the McBane vengence storyline, I find myself actually warming up to him more. Plus I think Maurice Bernard is actually putting some effort into it these days, rather than phoning it in like he’s been doing for the past many years.

    Loving Luke and Tracy’s antics. Loving having Anna back. Love, love, love Heather back and into all sorts of mischief. You’re right that she needs a talk-to character. Where is Scotty when we need him?

    Hope they get Maxie back to a Maxie-esque storyline and really hope they get Spinelli back into his Jackell-groove soon. Have always enjoyed Spinelli and his unconventional approach to life. This attempt to normalize him by taking away his computer skills has been a bust.

    Still bored with Starr, but her presence in Port Charles gives Todd a reason for being there. Todd is another OLTL character that seems to be working even better in Port Charles than Llanview.

    I miss Diane!! No idea why they’re not using her these days, but she needs to be back on screen pronto.

    Marlena says: Good to see you too, James and merci beaucoups to you too. I agree with you on just about everything you’ve written. I also don’t think Kristen Alderson has been a luminary on this show, but all she’s had to play is one depressed gal, as Starr is still mourning for lost boyfriend and daughter. Maybe Blair’s forthcoming visit will perk her up a bit. I too was wondering what has ever happened to Diane. We could use a bit of her refreshing personality right now. See today’s column (above) for comments on Tracy, Luke and Anna

  6. Chris says:

    James and Marlena, the reason why we haven’t seen Diane on GH lately is because her potrayer Carolyn Henesey is busy filming her recurring role on the hit HBO supernatural drama series “True Blood” in Louisiana, playing one of the members of the Vampire Authority.

  7. Gina says:

    I have heard that the writing for GH is much better. But I still won’t watch. I want my favorites back on at least for a short time to really wrap up story lines. So until Tyler and Ingo and a few others return. This soap fan will not watch.

    I know that Marlena loves GH and I do too but it is time to either keep the show true to what it once was or just cancel it.

Speak Your Mind