General Hospital Has Identity and Condiment Problems

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

The core of watching soap operas is to believe.  Unfortunately, General Hospital viewers had to put that value behind them this week when the show introduced new characters played by oh-so-familiar faces, all with new hair-dos to signify their new personae.  Michael Easton, who played John, is now playing Steven Clay’s brother Silas, who wears a pony tail.  With her hair naturally brunette, Kristin Alderson, who played Starr, is now playing Kiki. Superstar Roger Howarth, formerly known as the infamous Todd, now looks like a chic European supermodel in his dyed blond do, thus equipping him to play an oily character whose nefarious intentions are yet to be shared with the audience.

The GH producers had little choice but to recast the actors, when Prospect Park (the producers of the on-line All My Children and One Life to Live) prohibited them from using the actors as their former OLTL characters. I’m sure it was a hard choice.  They’re betting the loyalty of their audience on it. Will they lose viewers? Probably. Because belief is so fundamental to enjoying soap operas, I think GH will be on the losing end here.

The tricky situation won’t be as bad if the actors can manage to create new characters to go along with their new looks. This is a tall order – all three are strongly identified with their former screen selves. But they’re going to give it a go:  Easton – stuck as he is with his long face, dark gaze and trademark deep voice – is nonetheless trying to be someone new as Silas, the doctor brother of the dead serial killer Clay.  Howarth has used his new look to create someone who is very threatening and, at the same time, very intriguing. His name has yet to be revealed to the audience. Only Kristin Alderson appears not to be working very hard to make her Kiki substantially different from her Starr. Making the situation more confusing is the fact that Kiki is the poker playing girlfriend of Morgan. She used to be the girlfriend of his brother Michael, who at this point, must be very, very confused.

On The Chew: Mario Batali, Jane Ellliot and Michael Symon

However, GH did have a choice in doing a long sequence which promoted its ABC time slot on The Chew.  A. J. Quartermaine (the superbly charming Sean Kanan) pitted his Pickle-Lila formula vs. his aunt’s Tracy’s Pickle-Eddie in a condiment taste-off on air.  What followed was embarrassing mugging by The Chew cast (especially by chef Mario Batali) and even more hopeless overacting by the usually marvelous Jane Elliot, who plays Tracy. As you know the samples were poisoned (most probably by Roger Howarth’s new character) and Liz and Batali wound up in the hospital.

The whole sequence was too broad and over the top and reeked of the desperation of its own network-sponsored cross-promotion.   The story might have worked if so many episodes hadn’t been devoted to it.  In the end, we still don’t know which Pickle-Lila formula is actually better, and the ownership of ELQ is still in question.   Does Tracy own it or does A.J?  We can be reasonably sure we won’t find out any time soon. How much longer can we be expected to relish this interminable relish business?

Comments

  1. tess says:

    In my opinion, GENERAL HOSPITAL stinks these days. To me, it started to get out of hand when all those gone-but-not-forgotten cast members popped up for the show’s half a century anniversary. And Brit’s unexpected pregnancy didn’t help matters. When the show learned they couldn’t continue to use those former ONE LIFE TO LIVE characters, they should have simply let the actors go, not cast them in new roles. I find it difficult to accept one performer playing their character’s lookalike or doppelganger, but GH is asking me to buy three performers as new characters when their old characters have been off screen a week and a half. Geez!

    When I see Josh Taylor as Roman on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, after all these years, I still think of Chris Kostichek. I’ve never accepted him as Roman.

    What GH is trying to pull off is not believable and how peculiar is it that Michael or Sonny didn’t remark about the striking resemblance that Kiki bears to Michael’s former ladylove Starr.

    Off topic for a minute, I wish ABC would cancel THE CHEW and replace it with those new online versions of ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE. ALL MY CHILDREN is fantastic. I’m really digging it. Wow, I’m sounding like Sammy Davis Jr. But I love AJ and Miranda. How will Miranda react when she discovers that she is a product of rape. To protect her from the ugly truth, Bianca told her that her father was a sperm donor. The confrontation is going to be emotional and cataclysmic and Emmy worthy.

    I also like the sex trafficking story. It is difficult to see poor Cassandra and those other girls being abused and drugged and disrespected, but my goodness, if this ugly abuse is going on, ALL MY CHILDREN should be commended for exposing it and let’s hope the authorities can put a stop to it. Imagine, slavery going on in a free and open society.

    And the show is highly watchable without Erica, Kendall, Jack and others. And of course, it would be even better if they were a part of it. I’m sure if this new and improved ALL MY CHILDREN aired on ABC, the ratings would be favorable.

    Forgive me for going off topic and thank you for continuing to thrill us Thinking Fans with your marvelous column.

    Marlena says: Thanks as always, Tess. I still think of Roman as Chris Kositchek too.

  2. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Oh, you and I are on the same page on this one. Exact same page. With the exception of the Lesley’s return and the Laura/Soctty stuff, this was a very poor week for GH. I’m a big Ron fan, but these were his weakest scripts since taking the GH reigns.

    Introducing three new characters on the same day was an exceptionally poor idea. We were initially told the Llanview Three would be reintroduced over a week’s time, so not sure what happened. Between these three new characters, nuMorgan and all the new NYC sets, I felt like I was watching a completely new soap opera.

    As for the Llanview Three, I am unimpressed. This was the best introduction Ron could come up with?!? I’m slightly intrigued by who Roger Howarth is actually playing. Slightly. Only time I’ve ever liked Micheal Easton was when he was playing McBane on GH (hated hiim as McBane on OLTL). His Silas Clay character did nothing for me (and a ponytail doesn’t make a new character). As for Kristen Alderson, her attempt at playing Kiki only served to prove she was playing herself as Starr.

    The Chew scenes were so bad. Food poisoning?!? That’s the best Ron could do? That’s just lazy writing; sort of like a comedian resorting to a fart jokes when he can’t think of anything else to do. Maybe the Food Poisoning was a deliberate way of saying FU to the show that replaced AMC, but it crass and juvenile.

    And what was with Tracy praying to Edward to help her escape and suddenly both of Nikolas’ goons pass out? Again, lazy writing. Give us something more clever than that. Half the fun of situations like that is watching the protagonist get out of the jam. Perhaps the goons could have been big Eddie Maine fans and Tracy could have played up the fact she is Ned’s mother. Numerous possibilities but they resort to a prayer to Edward?!

    Those three days of Llanview Three and Chew related shows rank up there with some of Guza’s worst episodes. And the list of god awful Guza episodes is quite extensive, so that is a major accomplishment for Ron.

    That said, imagine my delight at seeing Denise Alexander back on my screen the next day. Lesley’s presence instantly erased all the badness of the previous three days. Wonderful to see Laura and Lesley sharing scenes together. The Lesley-Scotty scenes were good too. And I cried when Lesley introduced herself to nuLulu.

    In those handful of scenes, Lesley had more depth that she’s had in the past 15 years under Guza’s reign of terror. I sure hope Denise is back for a long time and that Ron gives her something worthy of her immense talents. She deserves it and so do we.

    Marlena says: It was indeed good to see Denise Alexander. She hadn’t aged at all. She still had great chemistry with Laura. Hopefully, as you said, she will be given good material should the show decide to use her more.

  3. horselover says:

    A year ago, I resented the OLTL characters coming on board eating up valuable airtime and now I resent them even more coming back as new characters. I haven’t seen Duke or Anna in weeks. I barely see Laura, Scotty or Lucy these days. And I won’t even mention how long it’s been since I’ve seen Robert or Holly. These are the GH characters I want to see. Yes, I know GH needs to bring on new characters to entice younger viewers but I really don’t see the need to bring the former OLTL characters and have them hog up huge amounts of airtime. Honestly, I’d rather see Sonny in that role and that’s saying a lot coming from someone who doesn’t even like Sonny.

    Marlena says: I also miss Duke and Anna!

  4. Dale says:

    Hi Marlena – happy Sunday to you!

    I started watching GH again after decades (I stopped watching in 1984 and switched over to Guiding Light), but was lured back by all the 50th anniversary hoopla. But I think I am done now.

    In all my years of soap watching, I have never seen a more bloated cast than General Hospital in 2013. And more characters/actors are on the way! There are way too many characters on GH in my opinion, and such an expansive canvas gives us precious little time to really get to know all the characters. From what I can tell, John, Todd, and (to a lesser extent) Starr were woven into the show’s canvas rather seamlessly, though I know some long time GH fans would disagree with that statement. And now, after a year, those characters are gone, leaving the GH viewers who invested in them holding the bag.

    You wrote, “The GH producers had little choice but to recast the actors”. I disagree. There was a choice, and GH made the wrong one. GH could have simply cut its losses and moved on. Howarth, Easton and Alderson, while popular, are not going to make or break GH. The show has an embarrassment of riches in terms of cast and characters who are not getting their due. What we are seeing on screen with those three actors amounts to little more than the result of a pissing contest (if you’ll pardon the expression) between ABC and Prospect Park. I can almost see moving mountains to make room for Howarth, but Easton is easily expendable if he is not playing John. As for Kristen Alderson? OY! What an embarrassment it was to hear her say, “My friends call me Kiki”. I enjoyed Alderson as Starr on OLTL for many years, but it’s time to cut the cord and let Alderson go. This is NOT going to work, but I fear that GH will stubbornly hold on to her regardless of viewer response.

    I had to laugh at the three actors being trotted out with new hairstyles/hair colors, as if to announce, “THIS IS NOT JOHN, TODD AND STARR!!!” Clearly, The Thinking Fan was not considered in this debacle.

    How could this show go from so good to so bad so quickly????

    Marlena says: Dale darling, how fabulous (xxoo) to hear from you!! I agree, the show’s quality has gone down suddenly, and bringing on the OLTL three as new characters has certainly helped stop the show’s momentum. Actually, I don’t think they considered the brains of Thinking Fans when they were introduced. The show’s producers know we are smarter than that!

  5. Chris says:

    Marlena, I agree with you that “The Chew” GH episodes were terrible! On another soapy subject, what do you think of Prospect Park’s decision to cut back to streaming just two episodes of both AMC and OLTL online starting tomorrow (AMC on Mondays and Wednesdays and OLTL on Tuesdays and Thursdays) ? I’m pretty bummed about this decision, because I’m worried that it will slow down the momentum and the fast pacing of the storylines on both shows, and unlike the test studies that TPTB from PP did that said that most viewers “binged watched” both shows on the weekends (even though PP encouraged its viewers to binge watch the shows on the weekends themselves!), and that viewers couldn’t keep up with the shows, or prefer to watch one show over the other, I made time myself to watch both AMC and OLTL in both of its four episodes format every week. I’ll still watch both AMC and OLTL anyway despite myself not liking this new scheduling format!

    Marlena says: I think watching OLTL and AMC four times a week each is a little like having homework; for some less will do. I just hope this isn’t the beginning of the end for the revived shows, which deserve to live.

  6. Marilyn says:

    My concern grows for GH’s future ratings. Dale is absolutely right. There are too many characters now and Anna who came back with such great success should be having a running story that goes from week to week. She, Alexis, Liz, and Laura are the top leading ladies (not sure where that puts Carly, but she is sorta too nasty to be a main leading lady…). Fine to bring back vets, but the canvas is overfull at the moment. I was hoping Kevin would become GH staff, that Felicia could marry Mac and appear re-occuring. And I’m not really invested in Duke so he could leave. And Scotty needs to GO. But the main stories need to be about Anna, Alexis, Laura, Luke, Patrick and maybe Lucy and Maxie. The writers need to wrap up the Robin problem for Patrick’s sake, and clear up the Swiss clinic business. And end the relish wars!

    The news that PP has cut back to showing only 2 shows a week per soap, leaves me wondering. Will they fail? Maybe GH should have held off a little while before bringing back the OLTL 3. Maybe they could renegoiate now. What was the point of PP holding out on the characters–they weren’t going to use them. They have half-hour shows only twice a week, and big casts already, so they don’t need these 3, or if they do, they no longer have the actors who made the characters, so why couldn’t they just let them go? I was looking forward to John working with Anna at the PCPD. I honestly liked all 3 characters better on GH, especially McBain, my favorite. Why didn’t they just bring him back as an FBI agent and let him stay around as a cop named Dane McJohn? And I will miss the relationship between Starr and Todd where she was always the grown-up one. DRAT, I say. Just double drat!!!

    I almost decided to stop watching GH when Ron had Luke breaking up with Laura, like we could believe THAT! My brother (who I hooked on this show in the 1980s!) said he wouldn’t watch anymore. It was too painful. I held out a sliver of hope that Laura would have the good sense NOT to marry that perpetually petulant complainer Scotty. That wedding would REALLY strain credibility. Nope, I’ll stay long enough to see how the L&L thing turns out and if we get back to Anna and the interesting stuff. But like many others, I am sorely disappointed in this post Ball month.

    Marlena says: I agree with all you say, dear Marilyn, especially about the unbelievable “ending”of Luke and Laura. But we’ve hung in there and watched this show for more than 30 years; we’ve lived through much worse fare (Guza!) to get here. So I’ll give Carlivati and Valentini the benefit of the doubt for now.

  7. MissD says:

    I have to say that the food poisoning story totally grossed me out. What were they thinking writing that? I’m sure it was to lead into whatever Roger Howarth’s character is up to, but still. Totally tasteless.

    About the new characters for Howarth, Alderson, and Easton, I’m not really sure right now. I have been so happy to have OLTL back and Roger’s Todd back where he belongs. With his family and his enemies. A Llanview that’s new, yet familiar at the same time. I know a lot of soap actors will move to different shows as new characters and I am able to see them as their new characters and not who they used to be. But I think it will be hard to see Roger on both shows and not be able to easily separate the two characters. And different hair styles is not going to cut it for me. Its just weird to me right now, so we’ll have to see how it goes.

    On a GH side note, my favorite things from last week were seeing Lesley back and Mac refusing to serve Luke alcohol and telling him off.

  8. Patrick Erwin says:

    I know there are mixed reviews of Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini’s work. I’ve liked some of their stuff more than other parts, both at OLTL and GH.

    I have to say, I really think they went about re-weaving these three actors into the narrative the wrong way. It needed to be far slower and far more gradual. I don’t mean to suggest that either of these very talented men are unprofessional, but the way these three were re-introduced and the speed of their reintroductions feels very much like it was done to spite Prospect Park.

    I also think, to be very honest, that retaining Kristen Alderson was not necessary. She’s talented, but I think more so than Easton and Howarth, her appeal was tied to her playing a character we’ve seen grow up before our eyes. Bringing her back as not-Starr makes far less sense to me than the other two ideas.

    The vampire story also proved to be bad timing here, because with all the ups, downs, twists and turns in it, plus the introduction of Silas, even the most dedicated GH fan might be saying “What the hell is going ON??”

    I loved so many moments of the anniversary, but GH seems to have used up all its ammo in those episodes.

    Patrick Drake is perhaps the most appealing character on the show, and all they could do for him and Sabrina was a Lisa Pt II story? Does anyone care at this point who the Q heir really is? Or what relish recipe wins?

    More Heather, Felix, AJ and Liz, please. And more relish-free Tracy. More Tracy is always a good thing!

  9. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    I admit to often being kinda cynical about Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini–part of it is because some of the online soap community treat them like the soap opera messiah who have saved the genre, and seem to give them a blind pass on the stuff they don’t do so well. But this does seem typical with them–I remember at One Life often after they had a really great period, suddenly the show would just completely be lost with no story working and a bunch of new characters nobody cares for (the largely beloved Fish/Kyle romance at One Life is an example–for whatever reason, Frank blamed ratings, the couple was fired and then suddenly One Life was filled with stories that seemed almost nonsensical like Mitch electro-shocking his daughter so he could rape her only to have her suddenly revert into a teenager, etc.) I feel like after all the Nurses Ball stuff, they didn’t have anything really strong to take over. Instead the big overall story seems to be Relish Wars, which while sometimes amusing should be a B-level story, IMHO.

    As it stands, that story feels like it’s going nowhere fast (and it’s gone on for some 6 months!) We also have Lulu wandering around with amnesia, TJ being a jerk to Molly, Britt’s pregnancy (I assume she used the other frozen embryo from Lulu and Dante) and these three new characters. The stories feel, to me, either too soap opera cliché or just too lacking in interest or direction and it feels like they’re just killing time going through the paces. Yes, the canvas is too big (I never thought I’d say that about a soap) but the emphasis and focus is also way off for me.

    You said everything there is to say about the three new characters, but I feel it’s already backfired big time (and I’m certain Roger is playing a new Franco, so once again he and Kirsten can play father son.) As for The Chew stuff, I really have no desire to see those clowns *vomiting* on screen for what seemed like an endless amount of time. And other small details feel cheap–would Lucy really profit from her friend’s death by giving a tour of where she was murdered? It felt like it was all just used just for a chap gag.

  10. I too am disallusioned with General Hospital right now particularly because of the return of the Llanview Three who are now playing different characters. In my opinion, the show should have cut their losses, and let the actors go back to OLTL, leaving GH completely. There was no need to bring on Caleb/Stephen Clay’s brother. Unless you were a Port Charles fan, nobody cares! As for Roger Howarth, why make him Franco? Why not make him another Cassadine? Or better yet have him play yet another bastard son of Edward’s? Franco was a digusting psychopath, there was no need to go down that road again. There is no way that Roger is playing Jason. The Jason that viewers knew would never have tormented his family by lurking around and not revealing his existence. I was really hoping that Ellie was going to end up being the missing Quartermaine heir which would have tied her to the canvas more. As for Maura West playing Ava Jerome, I also had high hopes that she would be related to the Jerome crime family, which would give Duke and Anna a storyline. By the way, why hasn’t Anna been involved with this whole Britt is pregnant with Patrick’s baby? She’s a former FBI/WSB agent, how hard would it be to have her investigate Britt’s background, finding out who her parents are.

  11. Ken says:

    They have put Spinelli and Maxie on the way way way back burner. This new producer (for the past 1 and 1/2 was too focused on GH’s 50th that he had no further vision. Get Jill Farren Phelps back. You would probably get Steve Burton back too.

  12. i love Kristen Alderson and Chad Duell they are a an adorable couple

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