On Soaps, We Believe What We Choose to Believe

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

General Hospital: Soaps or biology — which do you choose to believe?

On General Hospital this week, surrogate mother Maxie had a miscarriage (of the week-old embryo that is Dante and Lulu’s child) and barely noticed it. The same evening, New Year’s Eve, a drunk and apparently rejected Spinelli was waiting on the hospital rooftop for a midnight reunion with his intended Ellie. In an homage to Love Affair, both versions, and An Affair to Remember, Ellie was in a car accident en route and never made it. But Maxie showed up instead, straight from the hospital, and she and Spinelli had sex.  It’s a soap, so it’s obvious Maxie will again be pregnant, and will try, through many months of whining and dithering, to pass off her and Spinelli’s child as Dante and Lulu’s.

Kristen Storms as Maxie
Headed for the roof and a big case of ick

This is the first time in 23 years Marlena wishes she had an ob/gyn in the old rolodex.  Is it really possible for a woman to have a miscarriage without blood or cramps and barely even know it? Is getting pregnant again so soon after a miscarriage barely even possible?  What woman would want to have sex the same night she had a miscarriage?

Well, as a person with female parts, I biologically don’t believe the whole scenario.  But as an experienced soap watcher I know a big important plot twist when I see it coming.  That’s the problem with being a soap watcher — you’ve got to believe what headwriters want you to believe, whether you know it’s illogical or not. It’s basically your choice.

After much thinking, however, I must ultimately chose to go along with the Maxi/Spinelli “reconception”  because otherwise, GH has been a pretty spectacular soap to watch and I want to continue watching, lest I miss the latest turns in the fascinating Duke/Anna  plot. But I don’t like being asked to accept this unlikely medical hi-jinx. It makes me feel like a fool.   Headwriters shouldn’t make viewers feel that way to continue watching.  I’m sure no matter what you feel about this plot twist, you’d agree that Maxie and Spinelli having sex the same night as her miscarriage was certainly a big case of ick.

All My Children and One Life to Live: Agnes Nixon has just given her confirmation and  blessing to the new cable/on-line versions of the shows she founded. The producers are said to be Prospect Park (remember them?), back from the dead to take another run at bringing soaps to the internet. But will PP really make a go of it this time?

Back from the dead?

Well, actors are being contacted to rejoin the show, so goes the buzz. So let’s play a game. Which key actors from each soap do you think Prospect Park must absolutely choose to make the transition to these new shows believable?  Send me your lists.  For me, a bare minimum at All My Children would be Susan Lucci and Michael Knight. On One Life to Live, you can’t go without Erika Slezak and Robin Strasser and Bob Woods. Kassie DePaiva and Jerry ver Dorn would be nice, too. Then there’s the problem of the key OLTL actors who have already transferred to GH: Roger Howarth and Michael Easton.  Do you think they should they leave GH and return to their old show?

So think carefully, Thinking Fans, and start compiling your essential casting lists for the new AMC and OLTL.  We are, after all, soap opera fans. We want to believe!

Comments

  1. Great stuff, Marlena. The older I get the more the implausible plot points bother me. I hear “it’s just a soap” often and that drives me nuts. That attitude from TPTB helped drive viewers away and won’t bring them back. We’re in the middle of planning the 4th Annual Indie Soap Awards and the nominated writers never do stuff like this. I don’t know if anyone would watch if they did. I guess our love for the genre and loyalty to it keeps us watching even at the worst of times, but I wish the writers wouldn’t take that for granted as much as they do.

    As daytime soap fans we’ve been conditioned to accept people coming back from the dead and many other soap cliches. But in the past decade much of the writing has been one soap cliche after another.

    I’m loving the twists and turns of GH in recent months (especially Anna/Duke/Faison, etc) so this latest twist with Maxie bothered me because 1) Fans were predicting this would happen for months and 2) All the reasons you said. As much as it doesn’t make sense, I’m almost bothered more by the predictability of the whole thing. The two obvious ways this story was going were 1) Maxie would lose the baby and get pregnant by Spinelli or 2) Maxie would somehow be the mother of the baby with Dante as the father creating a love triangle with Lulu and Dante. GH chose #1 but since the writing has been rather creative and surprising lately (with thanks to plugging spoiler leaks) I was hoping the totally unexpected would happen.

    I’m sure I’ll enjoy much of what plays out in this story but I wish it wasn’t so predictable and implausible. My only hope is that cute puppy gets put on contract.

    Marlena says: Thanks Roger, and what a great letter. It was all so predictable and implausible, as you say. I love that puppy, too!

  2. MissD says:

    I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think you can have sex the same day you miscarry. And even if you could, that does seem icky. Maybe part of the problem with the idea of that story is that it was thought up by a man? I know you like Ron C.’s writing of late, but this is the same guy who thought up of the Marty/Todd “rapemance”, the biggest “ick” of all in my book.

    As for who should PP bring back to OLTL if this is really happening, I agree with your list along with Hillary B. Smith, getting Roger Howarth back from GH, and bringing Trevor St. John back long enough to finish off the Victor Jr.’s death story.

    Marlena says: You’re right about a man writing this. I an surprised a woman staff person or the network didn’t raise an objection.

  3. Chris says:

    Marlena, I know that you want Kassie DePaiva on your short wish list for stars to return to OLTL 2.0 for PP, but what about her storyline that she had when we last saw her on GH a month ago? Blair and Tea had just found out from Skye in Llanview that Tomas Delgado (Tea’s brother and Blair’s fiance) looked a lot like Skye’s dead ex-husband Lorenzo Alcazar, and all three of them left Llanview to look for Tomas/Lorenzo across the world! If KDP does sign to PP, what will happen to that storyline that she was getting to be involved in on GH? I know that she wasn’t on contarct with ABC at GH, and that she was one of the original stars that signed with PP the first time during their first attempt, but how could she sign with PP if Ron Carlivati had other plans for her on GH?

    Marlena says: Does he? I had just assumed that Blair’s last storyline was not going anywhere.

    • Chris says:

      I guess maybe the storyline wasn’t dropped, and RC was going to explore it later when he could bring KDP back for another short stint to follow up the storyline and if RC and FV can hire Ted King if he’s available or not (or if either of them doesn’t sign to PP)!

  4. KC says:

    If these soaps via the web are made available to download and burn to watch on TV or if they are available as AVI or MP4 files that you can beam to your TV I think they’ll work out ok…right now (myself included) watch the far superior International soaps this way. Hopefully they won’t just be able to be viewed on a computer, phone, or tablet…

  5. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Happy 2013!

    I don’t think it’s possible for Maxie to get pregnant the same night she miscarried. She already has a fertilized egg implanted in her womb. So why another egg would be released hours later?

    As for PP, it looks like they’re focusing on launching AMC first (although I’m still extremely skeptical this will really happen). If they’re going to launch OLTL later, that would give PP time to coordinate with Ron a bit and thus promote the OLTL launch on GH.

    Perhaps the McBane/Natalie storyline can be resolved on GH before Natalie returns to Llanview. Ditto the Blair plot involving Tomas Delgado/Alcazar.

  6. Patrick Erwin says:

    Happy New Year, Marlena!

    With the Maxie/Spinelli business, I assume this is a result of the hyper-quick speed of storytelling these days. I understand they want to nudge the beats along, though it would have made more sense if perhaps a few more days or weeks had elapsed (even if just in the narrative itself, and not in the time elapsed on air).

    As for the Prospect Park news, I think it will be interesting to see how it’s handled. I hope Darnell Williams returns and Jesse and Angie really get to be the stable couple of the show. It would be nice for them to be the new Joe and Ruth. Susan Lucci is another key player. I’d like to see Bianca and Marissa back.

    As for OLTL, definitely Erika Slezak and Jerry ver Dorn. I’d like to see Bob Woods, Hillary Smith and Eddie Alderson as Matthew, or the character of Matthew (perhaps aged a year or two.) The two characters who I would prefer NOT to return are Jessica and Natalie (total burnout on both, quite frankly). If Todd returns to Llanview, I hope Heather Webber follows him!

    I have to say, as important as the actors are, I’m also interested in seeing how online changes the story narrative. Will the shows address concepts and ideas that network TV shied away from? Not just gratuitous nudity or swearing, but I’m talking about examinations of topics that, for one reason or another, the networks were usually reluctant to show. Discussions of religion were usually avoided or kept vague. Abortion was examined as a choice but almost always decided against at the last moment. And so on. Will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes.

    Marlena says: Happy New Year, Patrick dear. What a well thought-out letter. Fast story pace seems to be everything these days at GH. As far as Prospect Park goes, we’ll just have to wait and see what they’ll do. I bet they will make lots of changes. But to get the maximum publicity, they really should do plots on topics which are forbidden on network TV. They can also do stories of higher quality I did a whole column with thoughts on this called “How Prospect Park Can Save Soaps,” the last time around in August 2011.

  7. Diana says:

    I agree it would be impossible to get pregnant the same day as she miscarried .but I’m sure they will blame the hormones she was taking as making her “super fertile”. Agreed, a woman would not have written such a lame plot but it’s not the first male misconception from RC. As good as GH has been lately, remember, on OLTL, RC seemed to go off a cliff some times such as how could Victor be alive when Tea held his dead body in her arms until the coronor got there, he was very dead, silly plot. He and Todd at each other would have been so much better. I don’t have much faith in the success of an internet OLTL or AMC.

  8. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    Not sure if you remember me, but I used to comment on your blog a lot. Lost track of it as your posts became less frequent, but just happened to stumble upon it again, and have spent hours now catching up, as well as listening to some of your podcast conversations on Bandon’s Blog that I’d missed. Great stuff.

    I admit, as someone who has barely been able to handle even one full episode of GH since Wendy Riche left, if not before, I am overall enjoying “Carlivati” (as the team has been nicknamed)’s take on the show. To be honest, I didn’t even watch too much as a teenager during the Labine glory days simply because we were allowed only two hours of tv a weekday–and my faves AMC and OLTL won out (I would sneak Loving in there too–and actually I knew Faison solely from his half year cross over to Loving where he chased Jeremy and Ava through Universal Studios Florida–no lie–and King Kong rescued her…). But I knew enough of the history to be able to easily slide into the show.

    I may just be starved for soap what with AMC and OLTL gone (for now?), and desperate to have anything to keep me hooked on the habit (I follow Y&R and B&B but could never watch every day–they’re just not stylistically my prefered kinda soap, and Days makes me fall asleep, though I’ve been watching some of the gay storyline out of personal interest). But, it is something I look forward to watching everyday, so the team deserves credit for that. As do the actors (scandalously I knew Anna only from her years on AMC, where I loved her, so it’s a joy to have her on my TV again). But I do feel the huge praise heaped on the Carlivati by the online soap press to be hyperbolic–but I felt the same way for their era at OLTL. For every brilliant story twist or scene, there are moments that just flatline for me–if not insult me (I know rape’s always been a soap trope, but Carlivati make McTavish’s constant use of rape seem downright sympathetic in comparison–what with Connie justifying everything by her rape but no scenes of her actually dealing with the issues, and bizarre moments like Will telling Starr about his prison rape–which was great–but then a minute later that leads to them being so horned up they have to get naked??). The show also is beginnign to feel way too segregated to me, with characters on individual story islands, the way much of the last year or two of their OLTL felt.

    But maybe I’m complaining too much? It’s true that maybe at this point in the sad world of soaps, I’ll take whatever I can get, and as I said, I do genuinely look forward to coming home from work and unwinding to GH, a thought that 2 years ago I would have never ever had. (And yes, the bloodless miscarriage leading to sex–sex with someone who, frankly, seemed way too drunk to be able to, umm, “perform” anyway, was just beyond bad. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it was only written that way because men wrote it–as mentioned there are many women on the writing team, and surely many of the great male HWs would have known better–would Marland have written it that way?)

    As for online AMC and OLTL. I told myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up, but here I am again and after Agnes Nixon’s press release on Friday, and then PP’s own today, I have to say I’m optimistically excited. The fact that PP themselves said that they inked a deal to have Agnes Nixon as executive consultant for both shows has me excited. I know some are upset that Ron Carlivati won’t continue with OLTL as he had planned to last year, due to his GH contract but, as much as I loved some of his OLTL work, I’m ready to see a fresh take on OLTL that’s less campy and maybe more of a return to the original conception of the show, the way the brilliant Malone/Griffith/Gottlieb era, which first made me a fan of the show, did.

    I am more interested in whose writing than in characters at this point, but I like that the names officially signed to AMC (which it sounds like may be filming first, with the shows revolving in 5 week cycles–but who knows) so far are actually older actors–like my beloved Angie and Jesse, who became the heart of the show near the end, as well as Tad. There was a fear that they would be emphasizing youth even more than the networks do, since it’s online, but maybe someone there (Agnes?) has wised up to the fact that you need this backbone. Speaking of, I know from her facebook that Jill Larson would love to return to the show, and I’d be thrilled if they used Opal as sorta a tentpole character–something soaps now are missing. She could re-open Myrtle’s Boarding House and be a sort of mentor to any young and new characters to the show, which seems like a natural way to integrate new characters and stories.

    With a role in a new tv show (Devious Maids), and other projects, sadly I’m not sure Susan Lucci would do an online version, but I would hope she’d be willing to make some appearances. AMC without Erica seems hard to take, but I think with a strong enough cast of faves otherwise, and if she made some short storyline appearances, I could be appeased.

    The idea that they’d do it in 5-6 week arcs, 4 30 minute episodes a week with a recap on Friday is actually appealing to me, and I think makes sense for an online format (this is the gossip we’ve been given from Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter but could prove wrong, of course). I know many fans hate the idea–but it would allow them to focus on a group of favorite and new characters each arch, while cycling in and out other actors (which also may hold more appeal to actors who don’t want to be tied down to an untested format)–and really last year when the same company promised they would make no changes to format and do 5 hours of both soaps a week, it seemed beyond ludicrous.

    As for OLTL as of today, only Jerry VD (Clint) has signed on, but he’s a great addition. Like everyone else, I’d love to see Robin and especially Erika return as well–and hope they do, but a part of me understands (like with Lucci) if they feel they’ve given their time to the show. (However Robin’s hilarious tweets seem to suggest she’d jump at the chance to do the show again in a heartbeat).

    Anyway, my best for 2013 and it’s great to have you back regularly–I just wish I had known about it earlier!

    Marlena says: Welcome back Eric and what a great letter!! I too have very mixed feelings about Carlivati and I probably wouldn’t quibble with so many of his GH decisions, but it’s my job to criticize. Yes, I am a huge soap fan, and like you my joy oF at least having a good soap to watch everyday — GH — seems to overcome most of my complaints. The one complaint you touched on — that the storylines are too islanded, though, is very much worth speaking out about. The fact is you really don’t know what you’ll be getting when you turn on each episode of GH. I guess he’s islanding each storyline to make them more intense. It works.

    As far as Prospect Park, I’m still in the doubters column and I’ll believe it when I see it. But this I know — they can’t do it without Erika Slezak and Susan Lucci. And of course, Ms. Strasser, whom I have loved going back decades!

    Spread the word I’m still here, and write in again, Eric!

  9. William says:

    I’m so happy someone is writing about the implausibility of plots on GH. Thank you! And to everyone who posted comments, thank you as well because it makes me realize I’m not on an island alone—you know the island where I’m the only one wishing for soaps to be written for the thinking fan. It’s as if the soap press, in their efforts to save the genre, need to praise whatever is put on our screens. And in an effort to praise, it’s as if they have forgotten soap history or wish we would forget it. Yes, I know soaps always stretched the limits of believability BUT the “thinking” fan (and I don’t mean that as an insult to the fans who like their soaps campy) used to have soaps to which to turn: the heyday of Guiding Light and ATWT, AMC under Nixon, Ryans Hope and yes even General Hospital in its creative heyday.

    Now it seems soaps are written for the stereotypical soap fan. They think we’ll believe anything as long as they put a fan favorite actor in the scene. And maybe they are right. GH ratings are up. But this isn’t quality soap for this soap fan. If 2012 GH had aired in 1995 would it have even been in the top five best soaps on air? And I don’t ask that question as a soap fan stuck in the past. I realize soaps need to reinvent. Which is precisely why returns from the dead, miracle pregnancies, long lost serial killer twin brothers and powerful plastic mask disguises need to be discarded the way Gloria Monty discarded some of the production relics that were making shows look dated in the late 70′s.

    It’s time to move on, GH. Or at least it’s time for at least one remaining soap to be written for the thinking fans I know exist. Perhaps PP will hire such a writer. As a soap fan, I’ll always hope tomorrow will resolve the cliffhanger the way I want it to be resolved.

    Marlena says: Thanks for this very thoughtful letter. Unfortunately, we just have to stick with what the soaps and soap stories we have right now, despite the many holes in them. But you also have to keeo your eyes open and not shut off any kind of creative or critical thinking you’re doing right now. Marlena won’t.

  10. Marlena and Roger, you both hit the nail on the head with the Maxie/Spinelli/Ellie storyline. On the one hand, I’m totally on board with the Duke coming back from the dead storyline mainly because I’ve always loved the story of Duke and Anna, and I thought the twist with Faison was hilarious (the mask sitting up on the table in various scenes always made me crack up). I don’t even mind Maxie and Spinelli having drunken sex because Spinelli thought Ellie stood him up. What bothered me just as it did you was the idea of Maxie having sex after having a miscarriage. Granted she was only pregnant for about 5 minutes but I would think that emotionally she would be feeling so fragile that she would just want to curl up in a ball, not having sex on a sofa. If this whole scenario had taken place before Maxie had been implanted with Dante and Lulu’s progency, I would have bought it. And then Maxie might not have known who the father was, Dante or Spinelli.

  11. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    Thank you Marlena–once again, it’s great to have you back. I look forward to reading, agreeing, (even) disagreeing with your blog each week. And trust me, I’ve been letting people know you are back, ever since I discovered it.

    I had a thought today while catching up with this week’s GH episodes, after a long (almost full) week back at grad school and work. I still have an issue with the fact the stories on GH are so seperated (and seem to be increasingly so)–it’s just hard to suspend disbelief, and imagine that things are happening at the same time, when Anna, for example, has a major storyline that hasn’t finished, and then we only check in with her 2+ weeks later via a phone call. I know some of this is due to how much they film things out of sequence, as well as actor’s scheduling (though out of sequence filming ideally should remedy this–I actually laughed when I realized that nobody seemed to have even cared that months back Anna mentioned that Luke was in a Turkish jail, and only now do they hear from him…), but it makes the balance seem off, even when stories are going full throttle all around.

    But one story I do see some of the misogyny that often troubled OLTL in–and it isn’t the Maxie story–is with the Cinderella romance with Sabrina (an actress I find charming–almost as charming as the actress who plays Ellie despite the oh so soap opera cliche direction I see that story going, as well). An online friend of mine said, after, we had both complained about how predictable the story triangle of Patrick/Britt/Sabrina was from the start, that he felt guilty but was actually starting to get into it. This is basically what I replied:

    “It’s hard not to root for Sabrina and hate Britt–I admit they’ve manipulated me, after seeing the scenes between them, exactly to feel the same way, which I suppose counts as a success on their part. Which is part of my main problem with the story–aren’t love triangles, even instant love triangles, much more interesting when, even if you side with one character, you have some sympathy or at the least understanding for the other person? Not that I was expecting an Agnes Nixon or Lemay style Alice/Rachel/Steve triangle (since that kinda story seems to be gone now), but there was zero effort to have any depth here.

    The story pitch seems like it played out like this:

    “We’ll introduce two women; one is HOT and the other is obviously beautiful too, but she doesn’t know it, and they both love this hot widower doctor. Oh, and let’s make the HOT one sexually aggressive, always trying to initiate the sex, because that will make audiences realize to mistrust a her–a woman who initiates asking a man out and then on dates, is sexually forward is someone everyone knows is up to no good. .

    So–quick recap–from episode one (because neither character is going to have an established background on the show, nobody has time for that) let’s make it clear that the HOT one is completely unlikeable in every single possible way, and the “beautiful-but-doesn’t-know-it” woman is utterly sweet and (even if she kinda seems like she needs to grow up and not revolve her life around a crush on a man) ultimately will get the doctor–it helps that she obviously is a virgin and would blush and run off if someone even discussed masturbation, let alone any mature sexual issues.

    But wait! Let’s not have them connect for 5 or so months–you know by then we will have the Nurses Ball for our show’s 50th Anniversary and we can do ou,r Cinderella thing and have her gay friend Felix [who, for the record, I really like so far as a character] give her a makeover!! Oh did I mention that the loveable daughter of the once man-slut, but now romantically timid widower, doctor also HATES the *slutty* aggressive MEAN woman, and LOVES the sweet “ugly duckling” *virgin* and even wants her to be her new mom? Viewers will be HOOKED!”

    “But what about when they are a couple–how will we stretch it out further, because they’d be SOOOO boring as a couple.”

    “Oh, by then we can just bring back the doctor’s dead wife, no worries!”

    Anyway–sorry for the rant, but that’s how it’s worked out in my brain, and it’s a story I wish I didn’t have to see in a show I’m enjoying–aside from being predictable (at least so far), I find the values it teaches (“ladies, be passive, and as pure as possible, and you WILL end up with that man!”) are so antiquated to be ridiculous in anything but a satire.

    I’ve heard rumours that Britt has an ulterior motive (rumours I hope are true, because otherwise I don’t know why this seemingly attractive, smart, doctor is so man obsessed evgen by soap standards), which just makes her, IMHO, all the more one dimensional and boring. And all of this makes Patrick look like a big idiot because he doesn’t see that as soon as he turns his head for two seconds to the other side, Britt is giving evil eyes to Serena, or that his daughter despises Britt, or anything else. And it’s not even that he’s so in love or in lust with Britt to play the “love is blind” card–he had to practically be attacked in the shower to finally not bother saying no to her advances.

    Sorry for the longest rant of all time from me–I just find the story wrong on so many levels, and I would love nothing more to have a long, complex, love triangle that had some psychological depth to it, and at the least didn’t perpetuate stereotypes about “bad girls” and “nice girls” that would seem antiquated even in a 1950s student health film. I know that Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini can do better–and I actually find all the actors appealing and, if not all equally talented, at least with more potential than some soap opera newbies.

    But maybe I’m alone here–on forums a lot of people have really hooked into the storyline.

    Anyway–sorry for the essay, and thanks for the place to vent, and the thoughtful critiques,

    Marlena says: Marlena is a big feminist and I buy your principles here. But its just a reworking of the Cinderella fairy tale, and it doesn’t really offend me. I think there is more to Britt that meets the eye too. These days writers couldn’t care less about feminism–they just will do anything for ratings. Carlivati and Valentini certiainly never showed any feminist leanings on one Life to Live, but at least they’ve somewhat stopped their sexism on GH. I think their Sabrina story is a big success, despite all the carping on the Internet.

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