General Hospital’s Amazing 50th Anniversary Celebration Ends With a Few Troubling Story Choices

By Ed Martin

As a long-time viewer of General Hospital I have been thrilled with much of what I have seen on the show during the last two years. I can’t say that it’s been all good – the return of Caleb the Vampire and Lucy Coe’s obsession with destroying him was one of the most tedious storylines I have ever seen on any soap opera, and it seriously undercut the excitement that the spectacular Lynn Herring’s otherwise energizing return to the canvas had been generating. (If the show really had to go there – and I really wish it hadn’t – I think Lucy should have killed Caleb by crushing his skull with one of the crystals from Lumina. Why not? Weren’t the crystals found on Spoon Island, where Wyndemere and its catacombs are located?)

That not-so-hot mess aside, almost everything I saw on GH during 2013 – its 50th anniversary year – was a joy to behold. The return to the canvas of so many beloved veteran characters in ongoing stories (Anna Devane, Duke Lavery, Felicia Jones, Frisco Jones, A.J. Quartermaine, Robert Scorpio, Holly Sutton, Sean Donely, Lesley Webber, Kevin Collins, Scotty Baldwin, Laura Spencer, Bobbie Spencer, Nikolas Cassadine, Brenda Barrett, Noah Drake – even Richard Simmons) or for brief but

If the GH writers can bring back dead villains over and over again, surely they can bring back from the beyond a few more good characters, as well. Whenever I write about this show I can’t resist making a renewed plea to have Dr. Alan Quartermaine, his adopted daughter Emily Quartermaine and Maxie Jones’ sister Georgie Jones return to the living. The current GH regime has done an outstanding job of correcting many of the worst mistakes made by previous writers and producers (mistakes that, I believe, contributed over time to the erosion of the show’s fed-up audience), but it needs to go a little further and bring these three back.

welcome cameos (Audrey Hardy, Juan Santiago, Ethan Lovett); the return of so many exciting villains (Heather Webber, Caesar Faison, Stavros Cassadine, Julian Jerome); the inclusion of references to classic ABC soap operas Loving and Ryan’s Hope (the latter featuring Ilene Kristen’s return as Delia Ryan); and the resurrection of the Nurse’s Ball, a cherished annual GH tradition throughout the Nineties, made for the most memorable year since Luke, Laura and Robert took on the Cassadines on that tropical island and destroyed their menacing weather-control machine.

GH even made time to acknowledge veteran characters Steve Hardy, Jessie Brewer and Amy Vining in ways that were lovely tributes to the late actors who portrayed them. There were also visits from the spirits of long-missed characters who were killed off in half-assed stories, including Alan Quartermaine, Emily Quartermaine, Georgie Jones and Rick Webber. I generally detest visits from ghosts on soap operas, but these were so well done and the returns of the characters so welcome that I allowed myself to enjoy them.

After suffering through a fifteen-year period during which everything that was wonderful and history making about GH had been torn to shreds by network executives, executive producers and head writers who were obsessed with turning the show into something resembling The Sopranos-lite, and instead delivering a show that proved to be nothing much at all, the current creative team did more than just recharge the show. They repaired it — ending the neglect and correcting much of the damage that had been done to what had been arguably the most important scripted series in the history of daytime television. It was a ride I never thought I would get the chance to take. I couldn’t be more impressed.

Along with so many blasts from the pasts came multiple new characters that have brought much to the show, especially the villainous Dr. Liesl Obrecht, her devious daughter Dr. Britt Westmore, goody two-shoes Nurses Sabrina Santiago and her GBF Felix DuBois, sometime bad boy lab technician Brad Cooper, murderous vixen Ava Jerome (whose sexy scenes with young Morgan Corinthos have been ridiculously hot), the mysterious Dr. Silas Clay (brother of the aforementioned Caleb) and Clay’s nephew Rafe (who’s turning out to be quite the little weasel).

The early months of 2014, which are still acknowledged as part of the show’s 50th anniversary, have offered similar treats: An update on Brenda’s sister Julia and her company Barrett Enterprises, the return of rascally Ric Lansing, the revelation that Brad has ties to the denizens of Port Charles’ Asian Quarter (an area of rife with turmoil during the mid-Eighties), the return of Bobbie’s adopted son Lucas (the biological son of Julian Jerome), and the start of the first gay romantic triangle in daytime drama history (between Lucas, Brad and Felix). Why, just the other day Monica mentioned playing cards with Lesley, Audrey and Gail – the latter a beloved character that hasn’t even been mentioned on the show in longer than I can remember. (Are Lee and Gail still around? Why doesn’t their son Scott Baldwin ever mention them?) In a few days primetime soap legend Donna Mills will join the show as Silas’ mother in law, which should be fun.

Also of note: For the first time since Laura Wright took over the role, Carly Jax has been written as a three-dimensional character, actually softening up and showing occasional sympathy toward and support for other women. Wright has run with the chance to do something besides play Carly as a one-note mean girl who couldn’t say anything nice about anyone who wasn’t a mobster or murderer. These added dimensions have allowed Wright to move to the top tier of actresses on GH occupied by invaluable veterans Jane Elliott and Nancy Lee Grahn, the formidable Finola Hughes and blazing newcomer Maura West.

But as glorious and nostalgic and generally wonderful as GH has been for more than a year, it has lately been undercut by a number of storylines that threaten to bring it all crashing down. Murderous Heather Webber, a woman well into middle age, was stabbed in the stomach and buried alive by her son Franco (the worst GH character ever), only to dig herself out of her grave, kidnap Carly (a much younger and stronger woman) and drag her all around Port Charles for weeks, constantly threatening to stab her but never getting around to it. It was as difficult to sit through as the prolonged struggle between Lucy and Caleb in those Wyndemere catacombs (where Heather and Carly also ended up). Heather is a great character in limited doses, but at this point she has been egregiously overused, I’m sorry to say. How many innocent people can we watch her kill before she is made to suffer for her terrible crimes? And how can a woman of her years be so physically resilient? Months before she was stabbed she fell off the roof of the title institution – a fall that would likely cripple if not kill a triathlete — and survived with barely a bruise!

Meanwhile, just as the character of Carly has been adjusted to resemble something like a fully developed human being, the GH writers have plunged her into a highly improbable love affair with Franco, a genius artist and one-time serial killer who tormented a number of residents in Port Charles, especially Samantha (the “widow” of Carly’s best friend, Jason), Lulu (Carly’s niece) and Michael (Carly’s son). None of this seems to matter now to Carly, who believes much of Franco’s prior madness was due to a brain tumor (removed months ago and displayed in a jar in a shocking courtroom revelation). But the audience knows Franco is still a dangerous psycho (he’s the one who stabbed Heather). Even without that, it seems that Carly has breezed right by the fact that Franco was largely responsible for her teenage son Michael being savagely raped in prison three years ago. (That’s an event no writers on GH then or now seem to know how to handle. Michael never seemed more upset about it than a young man might be after being dumped by a girlfriend or flat-lining his SATs.) Carly has long been detestable in many ways, but never where her treatment of her children is concerned. Nothing about this storyline makes sense.

And then there is one of the most alarming storyline turn-offs to come along in years: Brain-damaged killer Jason Morgan, who supposedly died a year ago, has once again come between Dr. Robin Scorpio Drake and her long-suffering husband Patrick, with whom she was only recently reunited after being held captive by Jerry Jax and Liesl Olbrecht in various locations for two years. Upon learning that Jason is still alive but frozen in suspended animation, Robin heartlessly agreed to leave not only her husband but her adoring little girl for as long as it takes to revive him. If we were expected to believe that she would abandon her family to save a loved one, the loved one should have been the supposedly deceased Emily Quartermaine or Georgie Jones. Robin would move mountains to save either or both of them and the audience would have been on her side. Instead the character, one that literally grew up on GH, has been all but destroyed by this latest turn of events.

Here we have a primary storyline that is once again all about a woman in Port Charles losing her rhymes-with-wit at the mere mention of the name Jason. It was more than 15 years of stories about women fawning over this deadly underworld hit man and his murderous, temper-tantrum tossing boss Sonny Corinthos that helped bring GH to the brink of cancellation just two years ago. The show has improved in every way since Jason was supposedly killed off early last year. (Even Sonny became more interesting!) The only way for this to play out without further alienating the GH fan base is to have Jason awaken from his most recent comatose state as the “old” Jason, a happy and helpful medical student dedicated to saving lives rather than ending them. How would Jason Quartermaine deal with his own abhorrent behavior during his time as Jason Morgan? That story could play out for years.

Even more problematic than Carly falling for the man who brought about the rape of her son or Robin ditching her little girl to go save a murderer is something Sonny has done. In what may be the most unwelcome recent story turn of all, Sonny shot an unarmed A.J. point blank in the chest, having walked in on A.J. choking Ava Jerome (the person who murdered Sonny’s beloved girlfriend Connie Falconeri and framed A.J. for the crime) and, without having all of the facts, decided to kill once again. A.J., a long-time fan favorite who was “killed off” years ago by a previous writing regime in a ridiculous sweeps stunt storyline, recently returned to the canvas, only to once again become a punching bag for the borderline insane Sonny, who had previously tormented A.J. for years. (Sonny, swell fellow that he is, also once shot his son Dante point blank in the chest, just as he did A.J. Sonny didn’t know at the time that Dante was his kid – he only knew him to be an unarmed police officer at the time that he shot him. Fortunately Sonny is a lousy shot – Dante and A.J. have both survived his murderous impulses.)

There have been other recent story developments that are either unwelcome or so illogical that I find myself fearing for the show’s future just as I was a few years ago. Among them: The revelation that Victor Cassadine, a character not seen since 1981, has been installed as the new chief of the World Security Bureau and, in that capacity, appointed as the new Chief of Staff at General Hospital the nefarious Dr. Obrecht (who has tried at least twice to commit cold-blooded murder). These moves keep two interesting characters front and center, but they have been jarring to viewers, and they have further reinforced a growing concern about the show: It seems that the many evil characters on General Hospital, from Sonny to Heather to Franco to Jerry to Liesl, never really pay for the crimes they commit, no matter how heinous. And now it appears that Helena Cassadine and her son Stavros, two more long-time murderous maniacs, may survive their most recent “deaths” and return to wreak fresh havoc on the hard-working residents of Port Charles, all of whom should know by now that the only way to stop the evil people who torment and murder their loved ones is to cut off their heads.

If the GH writers can bring back dead villains over and over again, surely they can bring back from the beyond a few more good characters, as well. Whenever I write about this show I can’t resist making a renewed plea to have Dr. Alan Quartermaine, his adopted daughter Emily Quartermaine and Maxie Jones’ sister Georgie Jones return to the living. The current GH regime has done an outstanding job of correcting many of the worst mistakes made by previous writers and producers (mistakes that, I believe, contributed over time to the erosion of the show’s fed-up audience), but it needs to go a little further and bring these three back. I say this primarily because they were three important legacy characters in whom viewers had invested years of their time that were unceremoniously killed off in badly written and long-forgotten sweeps stories.

For all intents and purposes Emily has already returned as Rebecca, a twin sister she never knew she had. (Rebecca is easily explained away as Emily under Cassadine-induced mind control; Helena, a master at such stuff, hated Emily with every fiber of her being.) So that’s an easy fix. Alan and Georgie would be a little more difficult, but I know the GH team is up to the challenge. Alan could become a background character, and Emily and Georgie could both decide not to stay in town after they return. But at least the audience would know that its wishes had been granted.

If the actors we associate with Alan, Emily and Georgie are unable to commit to this idea, or are simply not interested, any one of the three could be recast. I also think it’s time to recast Robin Scorpio Drake if Kimberly McCullough, the actress who has portrayed her for 30 years, is no longer interested in doing so. Better a change than perpetually adjusting the narrative around McCullough’s schedule in such a way as to piss-off the audience.

I’ll close with a request to the GH creative team that is more a challenge: Please fix the Rick Webber mess. I won’t go into the details of the destruction and death twelve years ago of that character, one who was absolutely vital to the show during its historic heyday. Suffice it to say that it was one of the most offensive and most poorly written storylines in the history of GH – one that rewrote much of the show’s history with reckless abandon. When Alan, Emily and Rick appeared to Monica Quartermaine and Tracy Quartermaine as ghosts (or a shared hallucination brought on by secret ingredients in a jar of relish) Rick mentioned that the circumstances surrounding his return to Port Charles weren’t what they appeared to be. (I’m paraphrasing.) So let’s get Rick back (recast or otherwise) and give legions of longtime GH fans a story that corrects one of the greatest f-ups in the show’s history.

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Ed  Martin writes regularly for MediaPost.com, MediaBizBloggers.com, TV Worth Watching and the Huffington Post. He’s been the programming and entertainment editor for several JackMyers Report publications since 2000, including The Myers Programming Report, The Jack Myers Entertainment Report and, at present, Ed Martin’s TV Buzz and TiVoWorthy TV on JackMyers.com. Follow Ed Martin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PlanetEd.

Comments

  1. janet says:

    You mentioned a lot of changes. What you forgot is Jason is dead we get Franco and Heather,and incompetent Sean. The slagbeast Carley forget it. She is still disgusting. Even moreso, Sleeping with Franco? I kept screaming for heather to stop threatening to kill her and *just do it* Watch the show now, sure FrankenRon said they changed the show they have. Now we have Two mobs, molls with no brains . Olivia comes to mind. telling Scummy who shot AJ in cold blood, Also the son Dante, AJ deserved to be shot because he killed Connie???Blah blah blah. Only the names have been changed because there are no innocents. Nothing has changed now our beloved Robin who saved the life of Sean Donnelly, and Luke *Gag me* Spencer , Has been demonized to go save Three murderers, bring them back to life. WHY ? She doesn’t even get to save someone we at least want to see return. Kim wanted to do other things, this was not new to these two, but they tried to make us hate Robin, sorry the only ones I hate are them, and I barely watch anymore. There is no difference, The last time I shut the show off for seven years AJ was in a hospital bed then when he couldn’t defend himself they even tried to have a child kill him..My give a damns busted.

  2. Steve Stowell says:

    I hadn’t seen GH in quite a few years when I decided to tune in last spring for the Nurses’ Ball. I found it extremely disappointing even without all the mob trauma. Lucy’s rivalry with Richard Simmons, which I think was supposed to be funny, was just one big screeching match that had me rolling my eyes. Frisco for unknown reasons serenaded Felicia with the song he wrote for Tanya to try to win her from Mac?!?! And don’t get me started on stupid Sabrina’s obsession with Patrick and how the writers had to make Britt truly evil to prop them as a couple. Between that silliness and Tracy/AJ fighting over PickleLila, I felt like I was watching a show written by someone who had read of the past storylines, but had no personal emotional investment in this show. It sounds like nothing’s changed.

  3. Sue says:

    I am all for Allan coming back, that was just a terrible s/l. Georgie also. What were the writers thinking? Oops, my bad, I guess they weren’t thinking…at least beyond a so called hoopla sweeps event. Then what do we do—duh?
    Good guys have as much right to come back as do the bad guys.

  4. horselover says:

    I can tell the show isn’t as good anymore because I no longer watch it. I’m not interested in the newbies it parades around and the scant screen time the vets are given isn’t enough to keep me viewing the show. Plus, everything seems so unrealistic. Yes, I grew up on the Ice Princess and Prometheus Disk stories, but those stories were mainly about the characters and their relationships with others. The current storylines just seem to be outlandlsh plot points that may or may not be picked up six months down the road.

  5. Marilyn Henry says:

    Hmmm. I find myself vacillating between agreeing with Ed, and wanting to defend GH in all ways. The defense impulse comes from the joy of having Ron and Frank take over and re-write, re-do or re-introduce real history. Of no longer having any and all characters Guza-fied (ruined), of no longer having to watch stories that resemble a pathetic poor-man’s version of the sopranos, and of no longer having Sonny on the screen every day for 3/4th of the hour. So many characters with so much potential bit the dust during the past regime’s years. Cameron Sr, played by the delicious and unforgettable Lane Davis (my god, I miss him!), and his son Zander, played by an excellent young actor who got ripped and discarded, Ric, arriving in town so interestingly and then only to turn out to be Sonny maniac brother (yawn), and oh, so many others. I agree it was a mistake to kill off Alan, a ridiculous move, but he has been back in too many guises for them to resurrect a live Alan now. As has Georgie. If they got back Amber for Emily, that would be great, but they can’t.

    My agreement with Ed is more about bringing back mob wars (Please don’t go there–the audience was mobbed-out long ago and few have returned.) Jason’s death was a blessing because he simple had become the hitman saint, saving or killing in equal portions, and we don’t need that anymore. In fact, removing Sonny from his position as top dog slimebag criminal would be a big help–let him go straight!

    It isn’t good for writers to fall too much in love with characters and/or actors such as Heather, Ava, Brad, Obrecht, etc., when it results in overkill. Maury West is superb, but she has already murdered too many times for her to go unpunished. Making Obrecht head of the hospital is absurd and unbelievable in any world. And that the WSB would make anyone named Cassadine the CEO or whatever, is also absurd.
    That’s how we first heard of the WSB, when it was an organization trying to stop Cassadines from taking over the world. One of the worst mistakes was making Todd into Franco. Todd had plenty of crimes in his background, but not like Franco, a totally repellent psycho. I wish they could undo that mistake because I really like Roger. (And sorry, but the tumor doesn’t undo it.)

    I hate that AJ is going–a really bad move for a character with so much potential. We watched while Sonny and Carly (and the writers) abused and vilified AJ for years, and we hoped we could finally see him win a few, turn his life around, have a real romance with Elizabeth, build a relationship with his son. He started out in that direction and then it all went to hell. Why? I suspect something backstage.)

    What am I enjoying at the moment? The Silas/Sam romance and the intriguing Nina mystery, and could rich Madeline be Julian’s real backer? I sure wouldn’t want to tangle with her. I have long liked Michael Easton as John McBain and although his current career role isn’t as enjoyable, Silas has grown on me as John once did. And what is with Luke? I hope it is only mind-bending and not some dumb disguise. I hated the way they brought Genie back with so much potential for good story (Spa, torch-carrying for Luke) only to let her slip away again. What happened there? I love Lucy, but not when she is cheating on Kevin whom I also love. Sometimes losing choice actors really does hurt, such as Julie Berhans and Genie.

    Somedays I’m indifferent as I was today (Tuesday), and some days I am glued to the fantastic acting and story surprises going on. I feel Finola Hughs is long overdue her lead actress Emmys–she is simply the best. I am mesmerized by her scenes. She never brings anything but her best. And oh, I miss Tristan.

    But the show really is terribly up-and-down, good one day, terrible the next, jarringly inconsistent and spotty, and with far too much pre-taping. The continuity is lost too much of the time.

    So I guess I’m back to love-it-hate-it along with Ed.

  6. toasted cheeser says:

    What a well written assessment of the current state of GH. I agree with almost everything you have written but I can’t embrace all of the writing the past two years. It’s all plot driven and comes across as manic instead of character driven. Right now we are supposed to be invested in Nicholas and Elizabeth when they haven’t shared scenes in months. Everything is just: BAM! Here’s what we are feeding you now. Your opinion of Kimberly McCullough is spot on. Writing around her hurts the show more than helps it Thank you for such a spot o review.

  7. Ed, I agree with 3/4 of what you wrote in this post. However, OLTL had the first gay love triangle between Fish, Kyle and the teacher played by Nicholas Rodriguez, who tried and failed to come between them. Even using a beating to try and gain Kyle’s sympathies. As for Robin’s storyline, given that Kimberly McCullough only agreed to come back for 6 months, I’m not sure that any excuse they come up with for her leaving would fly. Personally, I think that the writers could have had Robin have to leave because Robert needed her for some reason, or Sean Donely (did he ever get the antidote?). I agree that Sean Kanan’s return started out so well, and then ended with a whimper. I don’t know why RC felt that he had to continue the tradition of treating AJ as a punching bag for all and sundry. How fascinating would it have been for Carly to have found herself attracted to a newly confident and savvy AJ, just as he and Liz were falling in love. Or if Ava had set her sights on marrying AJ to gain control of ELQ, instead of using Franco and Kiki to do so. I’m also upset at the way that they used Laura on her brief return visit, particularly since poor Lulu has been going through the wringer lately. Marrying her off to Scott and then having them almost immediately get a divorce? Laura had so much potential and it was wasted.

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