General Hospital: Making Michael a Monster

By Ed Martin

Everything about General Hospital that I have come to loathe during the last ten years was on proud, pungent display last week, to such a degree of extreme outrageousness I could not look away.

I must admit that there was an infectious lunatic energy to it all, which could account for my deep fascination with what I was watching. Wasn’t the tumultuous birth of baby Jocelyn a kick, with poor kidnapped Carly helpless on that cabin couch

How grand would it be if Michael’s real father, A.J. Quartermaine, returned from the dead and found a way to destroy Sonny, now that he has turned Michael into an axe murderer?

and crazy Claudia helping her with her difficult delivery? How about the part when Michael stormed the cabin, saw Claudia holding the baby and killed her with one mighty swing of his axe? Good times — though not as satisfyingly violent as the time Sonny accidentally shot Carly in the head just as she [Read more...]

Daytime Emmys 2009: The Beginning of the End?

By Ed Martin 

Watching the 36th annual Daytime Emmy Awards on The CW during the dog days of August confirmed what I already knew: These are dark days indeed for the daypart overall and for soap operas in particular.

It’s not that the telecast was all bad: I actually prefer smaller venues for the Daytime Emmy celebration (the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles for last night’s show, ballrooms at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan during the ceremony’s glory years) and I always enjoy an entertaining opening number at any awards event. (Vanessa Williams‘ reworked-for-daytime rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You was almost as much fun as Neil Patrick Harris‘ surprise closing song at this year’s Tony Awards.) Best of all, in the soap categories the awards were spread over a number of different shows. Only As the World Turns went totally unrewarded during the telecast. (On Saturday it picked up a couple of Creative Arts Emmys, so no soap went home empty handed.)

In fact, I was pleased with most of the winners in the daytime drama categories, from the tie for Outstanding Supporting Actor between the long overdue Vincent Irizarry of All My Children and the very deserving Jeff Branson of Guiding Light to

The biggest disgrace was the rushed tribute to the soon-to-be-terminated Guiding Light, which has already completed production and will have its last telecast in two weeks … The other big bad of the night was the brush-off to The Bold and the Beautiful at night’s end.

the surprise Outstanding Lead Actress win for Susan Haskell of One Life to Live. (Her portrayal of repeat rape victim Marty Saybrooke in the year’s most controversial soap story was consistently riveting.) Even though it would have been [Read more...]

How Helena Cassadine Can Save General Hospital

Thinking Fans Comment Update: James speculates, “My own preference for bringing back the vets would be a storyline where it is revealed that they all joined a witness protection program and are brought back to testify against Sonny” … while Melanie declares, “The good think about the outrageousness of soaps (and characters like Helena) is that anything is possible” … and more. See Comments below.  

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Constance TowersBy Ed Martin  

Constance Towers this week will reprise her recurring role as the murderous madwoman Helena Cassadine on General Hospital In happier times I would consider this to be unfortunate news, because I have never been a fan of this wildly inconsistent character, an all-powerful, unstoppable, bloodthirsty ghoul that would seem more at home in a comic book than a daytime drama (even though Constance Towers is sublime in the role, but more on her later).   

But this time I think I will welcome Helena back with open arms, because these are increasingly desperate days on mob-centric, violence-filled GH.  Helena’s return will be brief, and I suspect it won’t amount to very much. But allow me to suggest a scenario I’ve fantasized that might salvage this show, one that

I can’t wholly condemn Helena because, even though the show’s writers and producers don’t know what to do with her and haven’t a clue how to showcase her to maximum effect, her return appearances bring Ms. Towers back to daytime, and that is always a reason to celebrate.

would place Helena at the center of all the franchise-restoring action. I now believe she could be utilized in a story that would undo much of the seemingly irreversible damage that has been done to GH during [Read more...]

Guiding Light Cancelled! After 72 Years Does It Have to Stay Dead?

Thinking Fans share their grief: Skylar laments, ”I want to call my great grandmother and tell her the news, as I’m sure she doesn’t know. But I really don’t want to be the one to deliver the news: a friend of 72 years is set to disappear forever”  … while BL says, “I’m glad for all the people I’ve met and become pals with over the years due to our shared interest in Guiding Light. The show coming to a close won’t change that or erase all the memories” … and more. See Comments below.

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It’s official: CBS has cancelled Guiding Light, the New York Post reports, though TV Week says Procter & Gamble will seek a new home for the show. How profound is the loss of Guiding Light to American television? Here’s a powerful guest column by our friend, longtime TV trade reporter Ed Martin of JackMyers.com, aimed at top network television programmers, who might not have a full knowledge of what Guiding Light really means to the American audience. Look for Marlena’s commentary here soon. 

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Guiding Light logoBy Ed Martin

CBS made history today in a bad way. It cancelled Procter & Gamble Productions’ classic soap opera Guiding Light, the longest running scripted franchise in the history of modern media!

I have during the last ten years written many times about Guiding Light for Myers Reports and other publications, and whenever possible I have used those platforms to remind executives at CBS and P&G that GL isn’t simply another soap opera — it’s an American institution and a national treasure at that. Everyone reading this column has a relative, living or deceased, who either listened to GL during its run on radio (beginning in 1937) or watched it since it transitioned to television in 1952. Some of our parents can actually say that they first enjoyed this show on radio with their parents and still follow it on TV.

It isn’t sufficient to refer to this achievement as rare. This is a success story unparalleled in the history of modern media. Think about this: With few exceptions (most notoriously  the marathon daily news coverage of the O.J. Simpson

With all due respect to the fine folks at Nielsen, daytime audience measurement is, at its very best, irrefutably flawed.  The very idea that viewership for soap operas would decline in direct proportion to the ever-expanding increase in viewing options is utter bullshit.

double-murder trial), Guiding Light has been in continuous daily production through eight decades! The durability of this franchise makes it way too significant to fall victim to the current recession, when desperate [Read more...]

One Life To Live’s “Tarty” Controversy: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Thinking Fans Comment Update:  Melanie isn’t buying the “poor Todd” routine … Jenn misses the days when “soaps relied on love and chemistry” … and more. See Comments below.

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My friend, television journalist Ed Martin called me last week to congratulate me on my Todd and Marty: Way Beyond Merely Disgusting column, noting the amazing number of responses (53 and counting). It inspired Ed to write his own response in his own column on JackMyers.com. I’m encouraging all TFs to read it because, for his television business site, Ed brilliantly and with great clarity analyzes the choice to air the controversial Todd and Marty story as a deliberate network programming move.Todd Marty

Ed recognizes that the story offends women viewers and emphasizes the folly of the network in airing it, considering that the majority of One Life to Live‘s audience is women. That’s an awful lot of viewers to risk losing!  He also scoops Marlena on another piece of OLTL misogny: the frequent close-ups of Jessica’s dead baby in another story aired at the same time. Ed writes:  ”I don’t believe women want to see dead babies in their entertainment. Not ever.”

Ed has his opinions as a longtime viewer of OLTL, and this is where we differ.   Despite the offenses he clearly sees, he still likes — no — loves the melodrama of the story and calls it great soap opera  But Ed insists [Read more...]

Night Shift 2 Served Up that Old General Hospital Magic as its Sublime Second Season Came to an End

cast

Thinking Fans Comment Update October 26:  Dianne says NS2 was a gift to long-time GH fans … Suzette applauds the celebration of GH history, though she missed Genie Francis … Mike agrees, mostly, but wonders, where was Holly? … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Ed Martin 

Sri Rao and Lisa De Cazotte are my new heroes.

The head writer and executive producer, respectively, of SOAPnet’s General Hospital Night Shift have in recent months given me as much to smile about as any creative team presently working in television. They reminded me why I became a passionate fan of General Hospital 30 years ago, and they did it in a manner nobody could have predicted, transforming what had been in its freshman season a perfectly putrid spin-off of a soap opera that is now a mere shadow of its fantastic former self into a sophomore series that embodied almost everything that was sublime about its mother-ship back in its heyday.

And after giving those of us who cherish our memories of GH in the Seventies and Eighties a three-month treat filled with characters from and references to that glorious period, delivered in a storytelling style that was as sophisticated and

I don’t know what Rao and De Cazotte have in mind for season three. I don’t even know if there will be a season three. There should be, and we shouldn’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy it!

respectful as it was heartfelt and thoughtful, Rao and De Cazotte concluded Night Shift’s swell second season with a two-part love note to those fans who made GH a pop-culture phenomenon and the formidable foundation of ABC Daytime.

Like hundreds of thousands (or could it be millions) of GH fans, I have felt increasingly beaten down by the show’s dark, dreary and [Read more...]

A General Hospital (Bang Bang!) Double Header

Thinking Fans Comment Update October 2:  Lois chronicles soaps’  long history of bloody brides (who knew?) … Cat complains that The Shooting was ripped off from The Godfather Part III … while Cyber is just tired of bad, repetitive writing … and more. See Comments below. 

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Sonny and Kate

The occasion of yet another one of Sonny’s love interests being shot by a Mafia enemy, this time right before the wedding ceremony of Kate (a.k.a. Connie Falconeri) and Sonny started, triggered a high decibel  phone call between my friend Ed Martin and me.  As we have both watched General Hospital forever, we were furious with yet another cliche Guza plot,  which is an insult to our joint intelligence.  Ed bitched the circumstances of the shooting, and I bitched about how sick I am of Italians being portrayed as stupid mob stereotypes.  You see I’m really Italian and really a Connie …

                                                                                                                   Marlena

                                                                                                                    XXXOOO

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GENERAL HOSPITAL GUNS DOWN KATE — AGAIN!

By Ed MartinSonny

No soap opera exasperates me quite as much as General Hospital. Latest case in point: The shooting of Kate Howard.

I haven’t been paying much attention to GH of late, largely because I find the mobsters and their ladies to be increasingly uninteresting, and also because — after too many years of withdrawal — I am finally getting a very satisfying classic GH fix from Night Shift on SOAPnet.

But I did tune in Friday for the wedding of Sonny and Kate, and here’s what I saw: Kate and her cousin Olivia, with whom she was recently reunited after a separation of twenty years, engaged in a loud, embarrassing argument in the back room of the church, with Kate unaware that she was humiliating herself for the enjoyment of her two nemeses, Carly (who had threatened to kill Kate just a few days earlier) and Claudia (who menaced Kate months ago when she lay helpless in a hospital bed). In a telling closeup,

This isn’t simply repetitive storytelling, or storytelling that I don’t find appealing. This is bad soap writing, plain and simple.

Carly was the picture of crude contentment listening to Kate, likely realizing how humiliated she would be when she later learned that everyone in the church heard all the ugly details of her battle with Olivia.

I was waiting for the ferocious spat between Kate and Olivia to degenerate into a clawing catfight. Mercifully, that did not occur. But then [Read more...]

A Descent into Prime Time: 90210 and Gossip Girl

Marlena has always looked down her nose at prime time soaps (at least those post-Dynasty and Knots Landing.)  Years ago at SOW I even wrote a column called “Who Needs Beverly Hills 90210?” and to my surrpise,  thousand of young fans wrote in and said, “We do! We do!” So although the new 90210 and Gossip Girl are not theoretically fodder for my Thinking Fans, I thought you all might enjoy a thoughtful, funny and intelligent read by my TV critic friend Ed Martin, on the season kickoffs of each show.  Aw come on, TFs, slum it!

                                                                                    Marlena

                                                                                    XXXOOO

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90210

By Ed Martin 

I figure the reason why The CW chose not to provide advance review copies of the 90210 two-hour premiere is because, right at the start, one of the main characters was shown getting a hummer in the high school parking lot.

Can’t you imagine the headlines? “90210 Blows!” “90210 Sucks!”

Come to think of it, the comments that would have followed in dozens of reviews might have drawn even more young viewers to the show.

As it happens, the contemporary continuation of the hot 90s phenom that began as Class of Beverly Hills, then became Beverly Hills, 90210 and was eventually known simply as 90210 isn’t half bad. It’s going to take more than a discrete scene of oral sex [Read more...]

General Hospital: Night Shift 2 Is a Monty Man’s Dream Come True

Thinking Fans Comment Update August 22: Bonnie likes GH:NS2 much better than “General Mob” … MontyFan is desperately seeking Holly … Chris says even Gloria would be proud … and more. See Comments below. 

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So many readers responded to my two earlier columns on General Hospital: Night Shift 2 that I’ve decided to run another very interesting viewpoint.  It belongs to my longtime friend Ed Martin, who is a television columnist for www.jackmyers.com.

Ed is a charter member the ”Monty Men,” a group I affectionately invented  for my many male soap pals who started watching GH in the  late 70s and 80s as teenagers when the legendary Gloria Monty was the show’s executive producer  All my Monty Men (I have at least 9 or 10 of them)  have watched the show daily ever since, waiting for the show’s magic of that era to remateralize.  They are usually a frustrated, complaining bunch.  But as he reveals here, Ed and his fellow Monty Men may finally be getting what they’ve longed for thirty years later in this summer’s GH:NS2.

                                                        Marlena

                                                        XXXOOO

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GH:NS1

By Ed Martin

It has been a while since I started a column with a sentence I never thought I would write, but here goes: SOAPnet’s General Hospital: Night Shift is one of the most enjoyable original television series of the summer.

A caveat: The low-budget Night Shift may not be everyone’s idea of a sudsy medical drama, especially in the era of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, but damn, it sure delivers the goods. It’s a sexy, spirited, compassionate and totally satisfying [Read more...]

Daytime Emmy Noms 2008: The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

emmyBy Marlena De Lacroix

I first attended and wrote about the Daytime Emmys in 1980 and I should be over them by now.  But I continue, year after year, to be exasperated by the fact that two things never change.  1) No matter how many times they have been revised or have been updated over the years, the nomination and award processes are still inequitable and unfair.  2) There is always one irritating thing that happens along the way with either the nominations or awards that’s so egregious, Marlena explodes with rage!

This year it happened right away, as the nominations were announced on The View.  The person interviewed on the show as a daytime awards expert/prognosticator wasn’t anyone from the soap press or a soap publication or blog.  Instead, he was a senior writer from People magazine.  I’m sure Marc D’Agostino is a capable  guy, but does he dedicate 100% of his working time and career to the soaps, the way soap journalists do, day after day, year after year, decade after decade?  Marlena, who has moved on to teaching, was born and bred in the soap press and has great respect for young soap magazine writers and editors who have full-time jobs doing interviews and other reporting on soaps. They deserve the spotlight!

This is not the first time ABC has gone for a big time magazine writer over a poor soap press scribe in publicizing its show.  Years ago [Read more...]