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.

General Hospital: The Wyndemere Curse

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

Kelly Thiebaud’s Dr. Britt, embryo thief

Wyndemere has always been a center of plot action — and frequent plot tragedy — on General Hospital.  Although owned by others, most of that plot action has centered on the Cassadines, the evil family that has manipulated so many of Port Charles residents.  They have thrown events — mostly parties like the Black and White Ball and the Bacchanalia Ball — that have led to sorrow.  Stefan Cassadine and Katherine Bell both met death at these events.

This month, GH spotlighted another event at Wyndemere. Current resident Nicholas Cassadine threw a party to celebrate his engagement to gynecologist Dr. Britt Westbourne.  The two had met at a Fourth of July event and had an idyllic courtship.  At the time, Britt was pregnant and later delivered baby Ben.  Britt and Nicholas had a whole new life to look forward to.

But that was before events overtook them and truth-telling took over.  Elizabeth found a note from Britt in which she confessed to having stolen the fertilized embryos of Dante and Lulu Falconeri, one of which became baby Ben.  It was already known that Dante was the father to the baby, but Britt had hidden the identity of his true motherhood.  Elizabeth presented Nicholas with the note and Britt confessed her guilt.  After throwing Elizabeth out of the house, Nicholas broke up with Britt, leaving her all alone.  She was later arrested.

Of course Dante and Lulu were ecstatic to find out they have a son, almost high fiving each other at the news. Lulu demanded that she be given her son.  But Dr. Obrecht kidnapped the boy and brought him to Elizabeth’s home, where she held the two hostage.

General Hospital being a soap, many other things happened the night of the engagement party.  Luke revealed he is somehow behind a plot to bring down Sonny, and this may be the reason why he is acting so strange lately.  Later. Alexis and Julian made mad passionate love.  Elizabeth rejected Rick’s advances.

Good acting marked this sequence.  Tyler Christopher and Becky Herbst were particularly good in the scenes in which Nicholas threw Emily out of the house for being the bearer of Britt’s letter and thus the truth.  In a side note, GH has earned high marks by bringing on bravura actress Donna Mills to play Madelyn, Silas Clay’s evil mother-in-law.  It’s been almost twenty years since she starred on Knot’s Landing as evil Abby, and it’s hard to believe this dynamic actress is 73. She certainly doesn’t look or act  it!

Are You Buying These Fanciful Plot Twists?

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

Camryn Grimes, welcome back as Cassie look-alike

In their drive to create more and more entertaining soap opera, writers sometimes devise situations that are fanciful and, to put it bluntly, hard to believe.  After all, soap viewers will buy anything, right?  Wrong.  Recently, three soaps have come up with situations which Marlena finds incredibly hard to buy:

The Young and the Restless faux Cassie:  As Y&R viewers know, Cassie, daughter of Nick and Sharon, died when she was quite young.  Recently, Sharon has been shown having extensive conversations with what she thought was Cassie’s ghost.  But she really is a Cassie a look-alike, hired by Victor, who is in quest of finding out Sharon’s secret (that Nick really fathered Summer, not Jack).  How would Victor find an exact Cassie look-alike, especially one of the right age?  This story is cruel, and even took more of a cruel turn when Sharon turned to electroshock therapy (ECT) to extinguish her visions of Cassie.  It is good, however — especially in scenes with Sharon Case — to see an adult Camryn Grimes, who is again playing Cassie, or more correctly, her look-alike.

The Bold and the Beautiful’s suddenly crazy, neurotic Aly Forrester: When Ashlyn Pearce debuted as Forrester granddaughter Aly, she brought a real breath of fresh young air to the show, which is mostly filled with older adults.  So how sad it is to see her character descend into a kind of neurotic madness, as she has taken to a real hatred of Hope’s suitor Wyatt Fuller. She will do anything to destroy Wyatt, because she feels he destroys Hope’s wholesome values, as made famous by the publicity for Hope’s “Hope for the Future” line of fashion.  Recently, Aly has even been seen talking to her dead mother Darla, who was killed in an auto crash long ago.  We hope this character makes a quite recovery from all this craziness and is not ruined for good.

General Hospital’s A.J. is shot and Luke is not what he seems to be:  Recently, GH has had a lot of fanciful storylines,  not the least of which was that A.J. was shot by Sonny, supposedly because he killed Connie, which he did not. (Ava has confessed to the murder.)   All his life A.J. has been endlessly and sometimes unbelievably in  trouble, his antics filling way too many hours of GH drama.  Remember when he, a life-long drunk, conceived Michael in the street with Carly?  Remember when Sonny hung A.J. from a meat hook?   This time, no matter how many times he swore not to destroy A.J., his son’s Michael’s biological father, Sonny took a shot at A.J.  Will he live to die?  Actor Sean Kanan is leaving the show.

And if we are to believe GH’s Friday cliffhanger, it turns out that Luke is the one who has been bankrolling mobster Julian Jerome after all.  Huh?  Sure, Luke has not been himself since he was wrongly imprisoned in Heather’s lunatic asylum.  But where would he get the money or the resources to be behind such a major mobster like Julian?

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...]

B&B: Brooke is Now Suddenly on the Outside

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

Katherine Kelly Lang: Love is her Brooke’s “fate”

For more than 25  years, the main story of The Bold and the Beautiful has been the story of the love life of Brooke Logan Forrester (fascinatingly played by Katherine Kelly Lang) .  She’s been married to all the Forresters — Eric, Thorne and Ridge –and is the mother of five children.  When it came time to die from cancer, Stephanie Forrester chose Brooke’s arms to die in.

Brooke has been such a good soap heroine because her life is centered on what soaps are all about:  love.  To Brooke, love is all.  Whoever she has sex with she must be in love with. And because she believes love is her fate, she believes any of her actions toward that end are justified.

Armed with the nobility of that motivation, Brooke has gained much in life.  She became a top scientist and later designer at Forrester Creations, inventor of the Belief fabric formula and lead designer of Brooke’s Bedroom, a line of luxe lingerie.  When she became Mrs. Eric Forrester, she became rich and famous at a very young age.

But it’s her continuous love affair with Ridge Forrester that has dominated her life.   A young girl when she met him, she set her sights on him immediately even though he was involved with and later married Caroline Spencer Forrester. Though men came and went in her life, it was always the love of Ridge she sought — and won and lost many times.  The two have been married three times.

Because Brooke believes nothing she does is wrong, she has trespassed often on the lives of many around her.  She fell in love with her daughter Bridget’s husband Nick Marone.  She fell in love with her sister’s Katie’s husband Bill Spencer and had a torrid affair with him.

But right now everything that Brooke has stood for and believed is coming apart.  She was set to remarry Ridge when her maid of honor Katie fainted in the middle of the ceremony.  It turns out that Katie, who had been so harmed by Brooke when Brooke fell in love with her husband Bill, is now in love with Ridge. And Ridge is in love with Katie.

Now that Brooke is finally faced with what she can’t have – namely Ridge, the once inevitable “fate” of her love — it may be time for her to take a good look at herself.   What is it about her that she has been able to steal so many other women’s men?   How will she survive now that Katie has stolen her man.  Will Broke ever change and see the errors of her ways ?  Will she once again wrest  Ridge from another women’s once arms?

Y&R: Nikki Newman’s Great Strength

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

Melody Thomas Scott

One of the great things about daytime soap opera is how strong the women characters generally are.  They have to be that way to survive the problems continually thrown at them in their everyday lives. At the same time, they must be vulnerable to the vagaries of romance. The head may know best, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

One of daytime’s strongest women characters is also one of its historically most vulnerable. She is Nikki Newman, as played with such phenomenal depth and power for the last thirty years by Melody Thomas Scott on The Young and the Restless.  For the last six months Nikki has been fighting a situation that has shaken her to her very core:  She found out the baby she gave up to adoption as a young teenager is in fact the new man in town, Dylan McAvoy (Steve Burton). How, she wonders, can she earn his filial devotion?

The baby was conceived under very shady circumstances.  As a young girl, Nikki joined a cult led by a very influential, shifty and pushy man named Ian Ward.  Ward seduced the young girl and Nikki carried the baby to term, giving it up for good with the assistance of some local nuns.

One of the first things Nikki did after she revealed herself to the grown Dylan as his mother was to make sure that he knew that Ian, the rat, is his biological father.  Dylan researched Ian and found out he was still up to his old tricks, living as a shady youth counselor named John Darwin.  Darwin came to Genoa City and has since haunted the lives both of Nikki and Dylan.

Ian’s unwanted attention has been particularly frightful for Nikki, especially when he breaks the security of the Newman estate and shows up in Nikki’s living room.   But what’s really tested Nikki is Ian’s plot to similarly influence and seduce her young granddaughter Summer, who is the daughter of Nikki’s other son Nick Newman.

As played so beautifully by Scott, Nikki is able to be strong despite her fear. Even though she was frightened, she stood up to Ian, telling him she is not afraid of him.  He requested a $5 million payoff to leave town, and Nikki showed up with a fraction of the amount.  Then she scared him away from Summer, demonstrating her great strength as a character and a leading lady.

One of the great highlights of this plot has been the performance of Ray Wise, a soap opera veteran and perhaps best known for the role of Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks.  His Ian Ward is just the right shades of charming and smarmy and has had wonderful scenes with both Scott and Hunter King, who plays Summer.

Now that Ward has been exposed as a scoundrel, will he turn up dead?  And will it be Nikki — or someone else — who kills him? 

Y&R Tries Some Suspense for Sweeps

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

Tristan Rogers still has the old charm as Colin.

We’ve written several times that the biggest challenge to changing The Young and the Restless is it’s static  writing template, which has been in effect back to the days of co- creator/headwriter Bill Bell.  The show is all about slow storytelling, dragging the storylines out and instead exploring character.

Recently, the show underwent a headwriting change, with Jeanne Passanante and Shelley Altman (most recently of One Life to Live) taking over.  Whether it was by design or perhaps a sweeps month stunt, Passanante and Altman successfully picked up the show’s quality this month by careful use of the element of suspense.

The backdrop was the Delia Project Benefit, which honored the late little girl who was run over by Adam.  Strangely, Adam’s widow Chelsea attended, to prove she was not her criminal husband.  But even more strangely, the attendees at the benefit (which included everyone in town except Niki) were held hostage as a doll to be auctioned off accidentally broke open, spilling a cache of diamonds all over the ballroom floor.   An ex-con character called Womack held everyone at gunpoint.

The writers used suspense in many different ways to keep the scene exciting. A dazed Billy broke down and admitted, in front of his wife Victoria and the whole town, that he had slept with Kelly.  Would Victoria reject Billy on the spot?  Most humanely, Victoria ignored the admission, chose to stay with her ill husband and accompany him to the hospital.

Womack didn’t give up when the police arrived.  He decided to keep Cain and Lilly, the most boring couple on soap operas, as his sole hostages.  Would Womack kill Lily?  It suddenly made the couple infinitely more interesting. Finally, Womack shot Cain, just grazing him.  Cain’s father Colin stepped out of the shadows with a gun to capture Womack, with whom, it turned out, he was in cahoots all along to steal the doll.

The suspense involved in this sweeps stunt did a lot to keep this week’s worth of Y&R episodes exciting. The use of suspense might be a good tool in upgrading the show’s writing in the future.  It also did a lot to showcase the show’s two newest actors, both returnees.  Tristan Rogers showed he still has the old charm as Colin.  And David Tom has blended in very naturally and very nicely in his old role of Billy.  

General Hospital: Robin’s Reason to Leave Is Unbelievable

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

Is Kimberly McCullough’s Robin leaving again?

One of the bad things about General Hospital  is that it grows so unbelievable at times.  For example, how many would-be killer psychos can one town have at a time?  Right now, we have four:  Heather, Dr. Obrecht, Franco and Ava.

But unbelievably, the unbelievability gets worse: there are ham-handed hints that Robin is about to be written out. What? She just got back, right? And, in one of the best soap storylines in ages, laid claim to the husband and daughter she left behind. Now, Victor Cassadine has returned as the new head of the WUSB and wants Robin to leave her family to help him  resurrect three cryogenically frozen people: Stavros,  Helena and possibly Jason.

Again, WHAT? Why in the world would Robin want to leave Patrick and Emma after two long years away from them?  True, Sabrina is pregnant. But so what? Robin is too major a character for GH to contrive such a careless and improbable second exit for her.

Will smarter heads prevail? Let’s hope so.

FOUR TO WATCH IN 2014

One of the joys of soap opera is the introduction of new talent that constantly goes on as new actors are hired to play new parts.  It’s a pleasure to see how well soap casting directors do their jobs and how well actors fit into the roles.   Here are four relatively new  actors who have worked out quite well.

Ashlyn Pearce — Alexandria “Ali”  Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful.  Beautiful and a bit understated, Pearce is the perfect actress to play Ali,  the new Forrester grandchild.  She even looks like Ali’s father Thorne (actor Winsor Harmon).  Recently Aly has expressed  interest in Liam.  Can she can wrest him away from Hope, to whom he appears hopelessly attached?

Sean  Carrigan –  Stitch Rayburn, The Young and the Restless. When Dylan needed a former Army buddy confidante,  hunky  Carrigan was cast as his now doctor friend.    Carrigan is an all-around good actor who fills that role nicely, and at the same time has nice chemistry with all the women on the show, especially Amelia Heinle, who plays Victoria.

Ryan Paevey — Nathan West, GH.  Detective West came to Port Charles on the trail of Silas, who supposedly murdered his wife twenty years ago.  Paevey is quite good looking, can act well and plays a police detective quite believably.  

Ryan Carnes — Lucas Jones, GH.  Carnes who plays Lucas Jones, who has just returned to Port Charles, isn’t new to the show.  He played the role last in 2006.  He is a good actor and showed his stuff mightily in recent scenes in which Lucas told his biological father Julian Jerome (William deVry) that he is gay.  Lucas has recently Felix’ boyfriend Brad.

All Hail Friday Cliffhangers!

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

One of the most important and unique of all daytime soap opera conventions is the Friday cliffhanger.   On Friday, at the end of a week’s worth of episodes, either a secret is exposed or something significant happens which creates big suspense, compelling the audience to want to tune in to the show on Monday.  This past Friday, our shows sprung some masterful cliffhangers, propelling viewers to tune in this Monday, which after all is the beginning of February sweeps.

On The Young and the Restless, it was disclosed to Michael that Carmine is still alive, while at the very same time Michael’s son Fen was about to be sentenced on a plea deal for his murder. The Baldwins’ interaction with Carmine, who started it all by having an affair with Lauren, has lasted the last two good years on the show.  Now if Carmine isn’t dead, and Michael and Fen aren’t suspects in his “murder” any longer, what kind of storyline, if any at all, will the Baldwins have?

On The Bold and the Beautiful, looking for a way to keep Brooke away from Ridge, Brooke’s former lover Bill stumbled across some pictures on the internet revealing what exactly Ridge was doing during his year in Paris.  The pictures, which he presented to Brooke, showed Ridge hugging another man while the two grasped a rainbow flag.  Ridge, gay?  Well, that’s a stunner. Kudos to the writers for contriving such apparently unimpeachable evidence of this shocking secret. Could it be a mistake? After all, during more than  twenty-five years on the show, Ridge has always been presented as the most heterosexual of men.  Well, you never know …

On General Hospital, Kiki visited her “grandmother” Heather at the Miscavage Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Only the catatonic blond she saw from the back turned out to be Luke, who had disappeared after confronting the real Heather, who had kidnapped Carly in the Quartermaine stables.  Tracy had just reported Luke missing at the police station. This is quite a shocker and not the most logical of cliffhangers. However, did Heather get Luke into that state and transport him to the insane asylum?   We’ll just have to tune in Monday to see.

The biggest of all Friday cliffhangers, up to which Y&R has been building the last year, might have been ruined by some advance casting news.  As you know Adam and Billy drove off the road after Adam admitted at last to being the hit and run driver who killed Delia. On Friday, Paul and Nick discovered the wrecked car.  Seems one of the car’s occupants –who? — had escaped before the car blew up into a fireball at the end of Friday’s show.

Soap news followers know that Michael Muhney, who plays  Adam, is leaving the show, as is Billy Miller, who plays Billy.  Billy has been recast with actor David Tom, who has played the role in the past. So is Billy is to be the survivor of the wreck ?  What happens to Adam?  Y&R viewers will just have to tune in Monday, and many days after that to find the answer to Adam’s disappearance.

B&B and GH: Real Love and Lackluster Crime in the Afternoon

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

Kim Matula and Darin Brooks: Real love in the afternoon (CBS Photo)

For ages we’ve complained about the absence of romance — real love — in the afternoon.  Someone must have been listening because this week The Bold and the Beautiful gave us a mega dose of love scenes concluding in a real beauty: the carefully orchestrated “first time’ for Wyatt Fuller (Darin Brooks) and Hope Logan (Kim Matula).

The two had been kissing for what seemed like forever against the backdrop of Hope’s oft-interrupted romance with Wyatt’s half-brother Liam, who she almost married several times.   Wyatt and Hope had even chastely gotten through Hope’s supposed Hawaiian “honeymoon” after her latest spoiled wedding to Liam. Wyatt nominally filled in for the rejected bridegroom. Later, Wyatt decided what Hope needed was a memorable “first time,” which he choreographed on a road trip up California’s Pacific Coast Highway.

B&B went all out with this remote. Wyatt bought an antique Airstream trailer for the occasion, and the entire sequence was shot outdoors on location along the breath-taking California coast. The couple, often half-naked, made out copiously on the beach. Their actual first sexual encounter took place, quite beautifully, in silhouette in a closed tent set up on  the beach. It was indeed a memorable “first time,” about love almost as much as it was about sex.

Now, this is the kind of fantasy good love stories — and superior soap opera – are made of.

Meanwhile, over at General Hospital , the storyline of the month — Heather’s kidnapping of Carly — was falling very flat.  All of Port Charles was properly upset over the abduction. But where’s the suspense in this storyline?   Heather hasn’t been caught in 30 years of crimes in Port Charles, and there was no reason to believe this would change. At the same time, the life of  Carly, a central character on GH ,was never really at stake.    Luke couldn’t save Carly after a chance encounter, and neither could the adorable trio of Spencer, Cameron and Emma, who ran into Carly and Heather in the Wyndemere stables.

Heather kidnapped Carly to get back at her own son Franco, who had previously “killed” her with a shank to her side. (She survived, something Franco does not know yet.)  Now, Franco is about to be arrested for Carly’s kidnapping. But we know that he didn’t do it and that Carly is very much alive and surviving.   Again … ho hum.