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 [Read more...]

General Hospital: How to Keep the Magic Going

By Ed Martin 

I understand the 50th anniversary excitement on General Hospital will continue for most of the rest of this year, even if certain aspects of it are beginning to die down. The fun and excitement that has permeated Port Charles of late still seems like some kind of miracle after at least 15 years of turgid mob drama and virulent disrespect for the show’s loyal audience. As a veteran viewer of 35 years I couldn’t

Like millions of other viewers the returns of so many legacy characters, the countless references to so many plot points dating back over 30 years and the utter absence of mob action has me over the moon. But …

be happier with much of what I have seen in recent weeks, when the vibe of the show has actually come close to the power it had circa 1978-1985, the years when GH enjoyed its highest ratings and widest profit margins. 

Like millions of other viewers the returns of so many legacy characters, the countless references to so many plot points dating back over 30 years and the utter absence of mob action has me over the moon. That can’t last forever, but I would like to at least remain afloat even after this nostalgic trip runs its course, as it inevitably must. So here are a few unsolicited suggestions for how that might happen.

I would like to never again see Helena or Stavros Cassadine. Thirty years of the fabled Cassadine Curse has been enough. This story is played. It’s time to move on to something new. This was never intended to be an arc that would span so many decades. 

I would like to see Emily Quartermaine return from the dead, and I would like Natalia Livingston to continue portraying her, even on a limited basis. Was I the only one who noticed how Spirit Emily lit up the Quartermaine living room during Monica and Tracy’s relish-induced fever dream (or whatever the heck that was)? 

I would love to see the Rick Webber mess of 2002 cleaned up. There must be a way to rewrite bad soap stories from years past – after all, dozens of soap scribes over the years have had no difficulty rewriting good soap history, even when viewers haven’t wanted them to do so! I don’t mind at all if this means bringing Rick back from the dead, as well. Remember, when Spirit Rick appeared to Monica and Tracy he said something about the past not being what it seemed. And it was a joy to see Chris Robinson again. That stupid story about Rick’s secret affair with a nurse forever stained Rick and Scotty, and it played fast and loose with the classic Lesley-Rick-Monica romantic triangle that did as much for the show during its best years as any Luke and Laura adventure. The clean up could involve Rick and Lesley’s adopted son Mike Webber, whom I don’t remember being mentioned during the 50th anniversary hoopla, and maybe a guest appearance by Rick’s other ex, Ginny Blake Webber (if the awesome Judith Chapman can get a few days off from The Young and the Restless). The possibilities for this storyline are endless. The urgent need for a Rick fix is profound. 

And speaking of Lesley, where the heck was Denise Alexander during the show’s 50th anniversary celebration? We know Lesley is off at Nikolas’ home in Lake Como, taking care of little Spencer, but what the heck is that all about? Is Alexander ailing? Why wouldn’t (or couldn’t) she come home for a day or two? We need to see Lesley and Laura together again. Theirs is the most memorable mother-daughter relationship in the history of daytime drama. 

I would like to see Brenda Barrett leave Port Charles once and for all. Like all things Cassadine, her perpetually pointless storylines are played out. I’ll always have fond memories of Sonny and Brenda and their fabulous mess of a relationship, but that story is long over. 

And speaking of Sonny, what to do with him now that it is abundantly clear that nobody wants GH to return to stories of mob-related madness and murder? Can he go legit? Can he simply leave town? Would that be so bad? (Seriously, does anyone miss hit-man Jason?) After what we’ve seen on GH during the last few months, a mob story would be as welcome as more vampire nonsense. 

There. I said it! That bizarre turn into faux-vampire melodrama two months ago was an epic fail in every way: story, acting, direction, production values, etc. Happily, GH is so strong these days that it sustained what could have been a fatal blow. Remember, such ill-advised supernatural stuff was the very thing that killed the long-forgotten GH spin-off Port Charles ten years ago! Why damage GH and so grievously compromise the Lucy Coe character just to satisfy the six people who were watching PC during its death throes? I don’t ever want to hear the name Caleb Morley again, though that isn’t going to be easy with young Rafe around. 

And speaking of Rafe, I’d like to see him come between Molly and TJ in a fun summertime storyline filled with over the top teeny-something drama, the likes of which GH hasn’t winningly served up since the Laura-Scotty-Bobbie story way back in Seventies (when Bobbie was a royal rhymes-with-witch). 

And speaking of Bobbie, wasn’t it great to have her back in town? Can we have Jacklyn Zeman back as various storylines involving Bobbie’s daughter, brother, grand-children and other relatives might dictate? And can we please get periodic updates on her renewed friendship and professional relationship with Dr. Noah Drake out in Seattle? (Wasn’t that the nicest surprise to come out of all that 50th anniversary excitement?) 

I’d like to see new love interests for Tracy and Monica. When I think of Tracy with Luke or with Joe Scully Jr., and of Monica with Alan, it seems that the show is missing out on something special without love stories for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be great if a hot younger man fell for Tracy? I mean really fell for her, without any ulterior motives? Jane Elliot (who really ought to be nominated for an Emmy this year) would hit that one out of the park. 

Meantime, how about a sex life or love life for poor Felix? There must be another gay man somewhere in Port Charles. If not, he should hurry over to Salem, where he can take his pick. 

I’d like for there to be something new for Duke to do. I’m still not sure why GH went to such great lengths to bring him back from the dead … not when there are so many other deceased characters whose returns would really charge up the show and clear away the dark clouds that have hovered over it since they died. And yes, I’m talking about Alan Quartermaine, Emily Quartermaine, Rick Webber and Georgie Jones. 

And speaking of Georgie, surely there is some way to bring her back from the great beyond? She’d be a great source of support for the perpetually perplexed Maxie, and she would be a welcome addition to the story of Mac and Felicia, currently the show’s most delightful romance (and one that must continue). 

I’d like to see Robert return to Port Charles, perhaps with Holly, absent any memories of Robin being alive or Luke lying to him about Ethan’s parentage. Perhaps he could work with Kevin Collins at trying to remember what he saw in that Swiss clinic and finally figure out that his daughter isn’t dead. Then he, Anna and anyone else who cares to could once and for all get down to the business of rescuing Robin. At this point I don’t think it would hurt to recast the character – after all, three actresses have portrayed Carly, the female lead of the show. The story of Robin’s disappearance simply isn’t interesting enough to drag out on an indefinite basis. And I can’t imagine why Jerry Jacks would bother doing it. 

Lastly, I wonder if we really need Michael Easton, Roger Howarth and Kristen Alderson back on the canvas as three new characters. There are already too many doubles in play: Sam and Lizzie, McBain and Morley, Tomas and Lorenzo. Can we really be expected to accept three more? I still can’t believe Prospect Park is being so churlish about ownership rights to the characters of John McBain, Todd Manning and Starr Manning. Why not let them briefly appear on the revived One Life to Live and then head back to GH? If the new OLTL can’t survive without these three characters then chances are it’s doomed. If I’m being honest, GH doesn’t really need any of them, but if they have to return to Port Charles I would rather they be themselves.

_____________________________

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.

General Hospital at 50: They’ve Only Just Begun …

Marlena says:  It’s a special time at General Hospital.  The 50th anniversary is coming up April 1 and it’s been just about a year since headwriter Ron Carlivati and executive producer executive producer Frank Valentini took over a dying show and made it must-watch TV.  Marlena’s dear friend and veteran journalist Ed Martin, who first started watching GH in the glory days of the early 80s, expresses the feelings of many avid fans at the current state of the show in this column, reprinted from his regular gig at TV Worth Watching. Ed’s been a guest columnist here many times, and I’m so happy to share his latest GH thoughts with you.

By Ed Martin

April will mark the 50th anniversary of ABC’s General Hospital. I’ll be marking my 35th anniversary as a steady GH viewer just a couple of months after that. One year ago, I was almost certain that neither anniversary would come to pass, what with the show in a death spiral after more than ten years of dreadful mob-based stories that had gutted virtually everything [Read more...]

General Hospital Update: Understanding Itself, Misunderstanding Viewers

By Ed Martin

It’s been two months since executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati took control of ABC’s General Hospital – long enough by any measure for a creative team to make its mark on a soap opera and make clear what they intend to do with it.

Now, I don’t want to start right in with the complaints, because entirely too many people who have read my previous columns about GH think that I’ve been too hard on the show, or that I want to see it die. So let me make clear that nobody wants GH to survive and thrive more than I do. I’ve been a loyal viewer since 1978, and I have supported this show in the television and advertising businesses for more than half

General Hospital today doesn’t play like a show that is fighting for its life. Just because ABC has cancelled The Revolution and extended GH’s stay of execution doesn’t mean that anyone should assume the show is out of danger.

of that time. We can all agree that GH in particular and the soap genre overall has been crippled by the involvement over the last ten-plus years of executives, producers and writers who either didn’t care or simply didn’t care to care. One thing is certain: They rarely listened to fans. If they did, a number of recently cancelled soap operas might still be with us and as vital as they once were, and GH wouldn’t have been allowed to deteriorate in the way it did since before the turn of the millennium. (This begs the question: Why are sports fans and sci-fi fans marketed to and catered to in ways that swell their ranks and make billions for relevant franchises, while soap fans, an equally enthusiastic and devoted group, are all-too-often spit upon? I resent it. Do you? Discuss.)

Anyway, let’s begin with some compliments. Valentini and Carlivati have demonstrated a knowledge of and laudable respect for the history of GH (something that many previous producing and writing regimes largely ignored). Port Charles feels like a community again, just as Llanview did on their previous gig, One Life to Live. The return of Finola Hughesfinola hughes as Anna Devane has been a godsend. (I would like to see Hughes have more scenes with Jane Elliott and Nancy Lee Grahn, two of the best actresses in the history of daytime drama, yet both grievously underutilized on this show.) Similarly, the return of Robin Mattson as moon-bat Heather Webber, a character who was at center stage when I first started watching GH, has been big fun. (Heather at that time was portrayed by Cher’s sister, Georgianne LaPierre!)

Meantime, two veteran cast members who never made much of an impression are turning in outstanding performances under the new regime: Jason Thompson as grief-stricken Dr. Patrick Drake, who hasn’t had much to do since saying goodbye to the wife he thinks is dead, and Brandon Barash as mobster Johnny Zacchara, also in an emotional tailspin after learning that his late sister was actually his mother. Suddenly, Johnny is multi-dimensional, oddly sympathetic, dangerously sexy and infinitely more interesting than any of the other criminals on the GH canvas.

Michael Easton as Lt. John McBain, one of the many characters from One Life to Live that have been brought onto the GH canvas, has left all of the other male actors on GH in the dust (with the exceptions of Thompson and Barash.) His chemistry with Finola Hughes, Jane Elliott and especially Kelly Monaco has been [Read more...]

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 [Read more...]

General Hospital: Can This Show Be Saved?

By Ed Martin

Watching General Hospital these last two weeks, as the energetic efforts of One Life to Live veterans Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati to save the show from almost certain doom begin to play out, it occurs to me that my time as a fan of this once-formidable serial has come full circle. I began watching GH in 1978, shortly after 

I’d like to see the new regime make moves as bold as those the late Gloria Monty made way back in the Seventies since, again, there is nothing to lose. The best suggestion here would be to eliminate the characters whose storylines have brought the show to its knees.

fearless executive producer Gloria Monty had been brought on board to save the show from seemingly certain cancellation. In fact, as legend has it, [Read more...]

“General Hospital” Madness: Why Kill Jake? And What Have They Done to Luke?

By Ed Martin

Anyone who is still wondering why broadcast soap operas are disappearing before our eyes need only review recent episodes of ABC’s General Hospital. Don’t blame shrinking audiences. (Viewers aren’t really going away. They’re just harder to count.) Don’t blame competition from other media. (Overall media consumption is on the

The current Death of Jake Webber disappointment comes at a time when soaps overall are in dire peril — and in desperate need of stories that respect their shows’ histories while reinventing them for the future.

rise, boosted by ever-evolving digital technologies that make following a favorite soap easier than ever.) Don’t blame the recent round of network budget cuts. (Low-budget serialized storytelling is thriving on basic cable television, and there is no reason why broadcast soaps can’t adapt.) Whatever you do, don’t blame the actors. (There are dozens of fine performers of all ages on the six remaining soaps.)

So what’s the problem? Take a good long look at the current Death of Jake Webber baby jackstoryline on GH and you’ll have your answer. It’s the writing, plain and simple.

I’ve never been a fan of soap stories that involve the deaths of children, and that includes the now legendary Death of BJ Jones saga on GH almost 20 years ago, another tale in which one kid died a sudden death and made available a critical organ to save an afflicted child elsewhere on the canvas.  At the time, I thought the loss of Nurse Bobbie Spencer Jones’ little girl would in the long term damage the show, in that I could imagine dozens of stories about BJ in her troubled teen and young adult years and the impact her behavior would have on her mother, who had been a rather combustible teen herself. For the most part I was wrong about that. The show found plenty of stories to tell even without [Read more...]

Daytime Emmys Downplay Soaps, Celebrate Las Vegas

By Ed Martin

One could find worse ways to spend a lazy summer evening than watching a live awards show from Las Vegas featuring many current top acts from shows along the strip.

But when I sat down to watch CBS‘ presentation of the 37th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday I was looking for a celebration of daytime programming — and I didn’t get what I wanted. Nor, I suspect, did millions of soap opera and talk show enthusiasts.

Much of the first half-hour was taken up with a lengthy tribute to Dick Clark, whose iconic music series American Bandstand ran on daytime television for almost 40 years, ending its run in 1989. Frankly, I think [Read more...]

As the World Turns Outrage: Another National Treasure Bites the Dust

ATWT logoBy Ed Martin

The ‘00s may be the new Golden Age of primetime drama, but for fans of daytime serials they have truly been the Dark Ages, right up until the very end. With only 24 days left until the turn of the decade, and just three months after the last episode of Guiding Light, a historic franchise that spanned 15 years on radio 

I wonder if any daytime soap operas will remain when the next decade comes to a close. I wouldn’t count on it. All I can really say at this point is that I’m glad I was around to enjoy them when they were at their best, and even when they weren’t.

and 57 on television, CBS and Procter & Gamble Productions yesterday confirmed what had been a chilling rumor circulating for months on the Internet: The cancellation of As the World Turns, currently the longest-running scripted program on television and, like Light, one of the medium’s few remaining national [Read more...]

One Life to Live: Still Surprising After All These Years

By Ed Martin

One Life to Live showed me something last week that I haven’t seen in 30 years of soap viewing: A mass wedding of two dozen gay couples. This show has pushed the envelope in a number of crazy ways since the ‘70s, sending its characters to heaven, to an underground city and careening through time. What a pleasure it was 

OLTL‘s comedic elements are greatly appreciated and should not be taken for granted. Daytime executives and show-runners seem to have forgotten that funny characters and comic set pieces were de rigueur during the glory years of General Hospital and Days of Our Lives, the two soaps that commanded the largest young audiences (while keeping veteran viewers engaged, as well) during the genre’s heyday.

to see the show execute a storyline that was out of the ordinary without being out of this world. It was a stunt, to be sure, but despite [Read more...]