General Hospital at 51: A Nifty Anniversary Episode

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

Maurice Benard’s Sonny, facing all the Carlys with a straight face

Soaps rarely celebrate anniversaries on camera.  But General Hospital had such a boffo 50th year, the 51st anniversary show just begged to be done. The resulting episode, which aired on April 1st, was a winner from start to finish.

As it should, it was introduced by pictures of Steve Hardy and Jessie Brewer  at the Nurse’s Desk at the dawn of creation of GH.  The episode centered on the Quartermaines, inasmuch as one of its chief members, A.J., had just passed away due to being shot by Sonny.  Monica was seen talking to his dead body, bemoaning the fact that everyone she had had a hand in raising in the family had died.  First A.J.  (the first time he was believed dead), who had been a troublemaker his whole life due partially to his alcoholism. And now Jason is believed dead. All  her children died way before their time, way too young, including daughter  Emily, who came  back from the dead to console her mother at A.J.’s sudden death.

Indeed, the episode made us realize that almost all the Quartermaines, the show’s central family for 40 years, are dead.  Only Tracy remains from the original family. At the end of the episode, Lila, Edward and Alan (who also is dead) were seen leading A.J. up a hospital staircase, presumably to heaven.   It’s hard for longtime GH viewers to believe that the Quartermaines are virtually gone.  Tracy’s sons Ned and Dillon live on, and A.J.’s son Michael survives. Jason, who is generally believed to be dead,  is actually comatose somewhere, waiting to be revived by some miracle work from Dr. Robin.

The anniversary’s show also featured flashbacks of Sonny and Carly in which Sonny pleaded with Carly not to turn him in for murdering A..J.  The flashbacks were accompanied by performances from Carlys past and present: Sarah Brown, Tamara Braun and today’s Carly, Laura Wright. All three looked great and performed in tour de force fashion, reliving the embattled couple’s many romances, miscarriages, marriages and reunions.  Through it all Maurice Bernard, played it straight as if the faces of Carly weren’t physically changing right before him. Quel plaisir!

Elsewhere,  life in Port Charles went on.  Brad missed his lover Lucas, who had dismissed him, because he had a longtime role in keeping secret that baby Ben really belonged biologically to Lulu and Dante, not to Britt, who stole their fertilized embryos and gave birth to him. Over at Elizabeth’s, the despised Dr. Obrecht kept Elizabeth and baby Ben hostage, waiting for Britt to come over to pick up her son and take him away.  Instead, at the end of the week, Britt showed up to help Dante and Lulu. Will Dr. O, who has kidnapped Ben for a second time this time, get away with her crimes? Will Dante and Lulu ever get baby Ben back?

After 51 years and counting, GH keeps us asking such questions.

Barely on the Fringe of Believability

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

On soaps, romance comes in many permutations, some exhilarating and some, shall we say, less so.  Far out on the latter end of the spectrum is the romance that seems to be on the horizon on The Bold and Beautiful. I’d place it solidly in the category of “Ew!”

We got our first clue this week when jewelry company head Quinn kissed Forrester CEO Eric for not cancelling her contract with the company.  The kiss of gratitude was clearly meant to be romantic. But he’s decades older than she is, and the big smooch came off as gross and most unbelievable. The second clue came the next day when Eric kissed her back, and it was like Grandpa lip-locking his granddaughter.  Are we ready for this May-December pairing? Pas moi!

Keeping It Real

It’s a soap’s obligation to present situations that feel absolutely real to the viewer.  This week two  soaps came up with storyline turns that, to put it mildly, felt very contrived.   Do these diseases really have such immediate and radical consequences?   

 – On General Hospital, Sonny, a manic-depressive, went off his meds. In real life, such meds take a while to wear off it not taken. But Sonny, still grieving for his lately deceased love Connie, immediately lost it and danced up a storm at Kiki and Morgan’s wedding reception. Further, he blurted out that he had  kept from “cousin”  Michael his knowledge that Morgan knew that Kiki wasn’t a Quartermaine before he married her. A little quick to blame the outburst on the meds. Even so, I loved the crazed  manic gleam in Maurice Benard’s eyes during this party sequence.

– On The Young and the Restless, Dylan, a victim of PTSD, kidnaped baby Connor when he found out that Adam is the biological  father of “his” son with Chelsea.  It was terribly out of character for Dylan to do this, and who knew that the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome could be so overwhelming and drastic? Again, solid acting came to the rescue. Kudos to Steve Burton.

Utility Player

In baseball they call a player who can play several positions well a utility player.  Well, this year’s newest and  most valuable soap utility  player may be William deVry, who now plays Derek Wells/Julian Jerome on GH.  He’s equally adept as a criminal (who this week committed murder), a businessman, a concerned father and grandfather and a romantic love interest for Nancy Grahn‘s Alexis, even though he is a decade younger than she is.  Canadian actor deVry is no stranger, of course. He proved his great value and talent on soaps in the past, playing Bianca’s rapist Michael Cambias on  All My Children and suicide victim Storm Logan on B&B.

Llanview Memories

I’d like to strongly endorse hard-working author Jeff Giles’ “Llanview in the Afternoon:  An Oral History of One Life to Live,” available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book form.   It’s nostalgia heaven for  longtime viewers of the show, like moi, as stars and backstagers tell in their own words the story of the many decades the soap was on ABC.  What I really liked was the story is told not only by its big stars like Erika Slezak (Viki) and Bob Woods (Bo), but also like long-ago favorites like MarilynChris (Wanda) and Julie Montgomery (Samantha.)  Cheers! 

Sunday Reflections 6: Cheese-tastic Days of Our Lives; Great Production on General Hospital; Marlena Recommends

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

Days of Our Lives: “What’s that you’re watching, Marlena? That old movie Earthquake (1974)?” My husband Moose was looking at the TV screen where battered and bloodied people were climbing out of the wreckage of a ballroom that had experienced a terrific explosion.

Kate (Lauren Koslow) hears baddie Ian (Ian Buchanan) declare his love for the dead Madison (Sarah Joy Brown)

“No, it’s not quite as cheese-tastic,” I answered. “It’s Days of Our Lives.”  Actually, I thought Days this week did an entertainingly good job of digging itself out of the wreckage of the stunt explosion that had occurred just prior to its two-week Olympic hiatus. The characters reacted so pseudo-realistically! Madison was found dead, a cut on her head (!) and a pregnant Nicole moaned and groaned, being pinned under some wreckage.  Abby broke down and cried like the real little girl she is when father Jack died after saving her from a  27-floor elevator plunge, and I almost shed a tear for him, as no one over the years could ever be immune to Matthew Ashford’s great charm as the character.But nothing could touch the cheese-tastic (and you know Marlena, I say that very lovingly) baddie Ian declaring his love to the corpse of Madison.  How I will always love Ian Buchanan, even in this thankless, one-note role!  The accent! That face!  That very strong and powerful, larger than life quality he shows when sputtering sheer evil!  Later he and Lauren Koslow chewed up the scenery until it fell down soap style in a long fight scene where Kate accused the newly aggrieved Ian of breaking up her marriage through their affair. In the scene’s/episode’s cliffhanger, Ian melodramatically blurted out: “I killed Stefano!” Speaking of divine cheese, next week Stefano is back from the dead for the umpteenth time.  Oh how truly great Joe Mascolo has been in the role for decades! [Read more...]

Introducing “Sunday Reflections”: General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives

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

Sunday is a great time to reflect on what’s happened during the week on soaps. So Marlena happily presents the first of a feature called “Sunday Reflections.

General Hospital: Leave it to this regime at GH to bring in a GQ mobster, Joe Scully Jr., as played by the mighty fine looking Richard Steinmetz (ex-Santa Barbara, Sunset Beach) He’s no Paulie Walnuts or Bobby “Bacalla” from The Sopranos.  I dig Joe’s artfully clipped hair. But what I really like about Joe is that he’s definitely a Brooklyn “des,” “dems” and “does” guy withoutrichart steinmetxhaving to say the actual words “des,” “dems” and “does.” Joe’s is a master liar who usually got away with everything in the past (sound familiar?)  I can hardly wait to see the super melodramatic prison reunion this week between Joe and Kate, the woman he raped long ago. This rape produced a son, obviously Trey, played by slick looker Erik Valdez, an actor I don’t especially like. So that makes a show with how many rapists? Todd, Joe, Luke. And how many murderers walking around? Sonny, Jason, Heather, Johnny. That’s exactly double the number of such criminals GH had under Guza. Sopranos creator David Chase could hardly dreamed up this line-up, no?  Ladies and gents, please no letters on the good looks of Maurice Benard and Steve Burton. I already know.

The Young and the Restless: When a friend tweeted two weeks ago “I can’t believe that I’d be so glad to see Christine again,” I just laughed. Now I agree. Lauralee Bell is demonstrating a wonderful maturity and great passion as she now plays a lawyer who is out to prosecute Phyllis for her long ago hit and run involving herself and Paul on their almost wedding day. Speaking [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: 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...]

When All Soaps Are In Lockstep, Is Improvement Possible?

By Marlena De Lacroix

What’s a soap critic to do?  There are only six soaps.  I have a long memory and remember the very early 90s, when Bill Bell originated the homeless storyline with Stephanie, which way proceeded the current one.  Ken Corday is an enemy of free speech; he sought to destroy the critical arm of Soap Opera Weekly years ago. But alas.  The great and ultra creative Jim Reilly is dead and cursed now by Ken and followers.   All that is long ago and distant — to some and those who were not in the daytime world long ago in the first place.

The root of criticism in daytime is executive change.  You call for an executive change when you see a bad soap, a soap that is marked by cronyism, a soap that doesn’t  move, or centers too long on one character or is marked by favoritism or sexism or inside politics.  Yet, all the current headwriters and producers at daytime, as if in a time warp, seem locked into place.  We have Ken, enemy of the First Amendment at Days of Our Lives.  Fronsie eternal at ABC.  All the Bells and the bravura Rauch at Y&RJill and Bob at General Hospital.  They all seem to be [Read more...]

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...]