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?