Should Children and Babies Be Killed off on Soap Operas?

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

Jason Thompson and Teresa Castillo as grieving parents

Back in the day … way back, actually … it was unheard of to kill off children, especially babies, on soaps. The traditional audience was, after all, stay at home moms who watched or listened to their soaps while rolling out pie crust or ironing the family laundry.

Today, the taboo has long since been abandoned, though such storylines are still distasteful to many viewers. Thus the dilemma lingers. Though this high stakes plotting has engendered much good drama, some of it award-winning, it’s done at the cost of making at least part of the audience queasy.     

This rule was first broken in the early 60s, when As the World Turns killed off Chucky, Lisa’s son, in a car accident. Others followed. In the late 80s, Laura, Brooke’s daughter, was similarly killed in a very affecting storyline All My Children. Just this year, young Delia also was killed in a car accident on The Young and the Restless, bringing about many nominations for the show in next week’s Daytime Emmys.

The controversy sharpened this month when General Hospital chose for a premature baby, Patrick and Sabrina’s son Gabriel Drake Santiago, to die at the age of barely six months.  The baby was born prematurely after Sabrina and Patrick were run off the road by a bad driver, who this week was revealed to be young Rafe. Sam, a private investigator, is currently investigating to find out who caused the accident.

The storyline has been given lots of time by GH.  Sabrina and Patrick were seen tending to their baby in the ICU for over a month.  The baby’s death led to many dramatic moments, such as when grieving mother Sabrina developed temporary amnesia, not even remembering the death of the baby, and planning her “wedding” to Patrick  (which had taken place seven months prior) the day of the funeral.   The baby’s real funeral is scheduled to take place this week.

Storylines like these, controversial or not, certainly bring out the best in the actors involved.  Jason Thompson, who is always excellent as Patrick, was so good he frequently upstaged Teresa Castillo as Sabrina – quite a feat since she, too, was in top form.  Also excellent in this storyline has been Marc Samuel who plays Teresa’s best friend and moral support Felix.

Yes, yes, I know times have changed. Graphic violence, grisly death and raw treatment of life’s calamities in general, once confined largely to pulp fiction and film noir, now are standard fare on television drama. I get it. Even so, when children are involved … count me among the queasy.

So what do you think?  Is it okay to kill off babies and children on soap operas, or are these storylines just too hard to take?  Drop me a line.

Daytime Emmy Hostess Announced

The hostess of next week’s Daytime Emmys will be Kathy Griffin.  She’s fast and funny should certainly keep the proceedings moving and most entertaining. Indeed, Ms. Griffin is such a draw, she may help the ceremony recoup a good portion of the audience it is certain to lose by moving from television to internet broadcast. I’ll be watching on www.daytimeemmys.org next Saturday, June 21 at 8PM EST. 

General Hospital Reaches a Storyline and Ratings High

 

” …let them speak now or forever hold their peace …”

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

Last week General Hospital reached a very admirable ratings high, scoring 3.3 million viewers, its highest numbers since 2007. The timing for this benchmark is something the show had long been leading up to: the revelation to Dr.  Patrick Drake that his wife Dr.  Robin is still alive.  Of course, this being soap opera, that revelation came right in the middle of Patrick’s wedding ceremony to Nurse Sabrina.

A key to this ratings spike was the fact that Patrick and Robin (“Scrubs”) have long been fan favorites.  After all, Robin has been on the show since she was six years old.  But the real secret behind the ratings high was that GH did everything it could to prolong the reveal of Robin’s survival.

They gave Robin more than two whole months in town before her existence was exposed to her widower.  During that time Robin had to formulate a miracle cure for Jerry Jacks, the same cure she had found for Luke’s plutonium poisoning.  Along the way there were many near run-ins between Patrick and Robin.  At Halloween, Robin wore a costume to disguise herself at the hospital.  In fact, Sabrina’s ex,   Carlos, actually ran into Robin in the lab.  He recognized her from a picture in Patrick’s house.  When Carlos tried to warn Patrick Robin was still alive, Patrick didn’t believe him.  Ava also tried to convince Patrick of the fact that Robin was alive, but he didn’t believe her either.

GH upped the ante by slowing down time as Patrick and Sabrina’s wedding approached.  Sabrina took forever to choose her wedding gown and finally got her mother’s gown from her visiting cousin Juan.   The day of the wedding, Robin came to the church and watched the ceremony from the doorway. The show let almost the entire ceremony (and an entire episode)  go by until Emma saw Robin standing, fully alive, in the back of the church.  

Dragging out the revelation to Patrick and Sabrina that Robin was still alive created a lot of anticipation for the audience.  It also deepened the pain of the situation.  After all, there were no villains here Robin was taken from her family innocently, and Sabrina fell in love with the man she knew as a widower.  Losing Patrick would be a true tragedy for Sabrina, even though the reunion was a pure thrill for Scrubs fans.

The dragged out drama was rewarding in that it afforded opportunities for some great acting. The moment that Patrick saw Robin, actor Jason Thompson  captured perfectly the pain his character was feeling, down to his very soul. Likewise, actress Kimberly McCullough projected both the joy in Robin’s reunion with her husband and the character’s ambivalence about breaking up Patrick and Sabrina.  And actress Teresa Castillo did a masterful job of showing Sabrina’s great pain at seeing all her dreams come unraveled.

 All in all, this was one of GH’s finest hours. It was soap opera at its best and well worth waiting for.

General Hospital: The Misogyny-Ending Magic of Sabrina; A 50th Anniversary Appeal to GH Fans in the Poconos

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

Isn’t it amazing that we all seem to love General Hospitaldespite the fact that it’s scored three strikes within that many weeks?  The end of the vampire story was a real disaster, violent and oh so ridiculous.  Speaking of ridiculous, isn’t Sonny romancing — and sleeping with — both alters, Connie and Kate, that, and kind of disgusting as well?  Kind of beating up the mentally ill with a club, no?

Teresa Castillo as Sabrina Santiago
Marlena adores her combination of strength and vulnerability.

But worst of all is the entirely unexpected simplistic writing of the renewed Luke/Laura/Scotty triangle. Who ever would have thought they’d so waste the talents of Geary/Francis/Shriner? The only thing enjoyable about that for which we waited decades is Tracy’s jealous (and quite humorous) reaction to it all.  Jane Elliot has the only character here that’s being given the least bit of sophisticated dialogue and she’s been delivering it with aplomb, so deliciously Tracy style.

But now I’m going to say something I know so many viewers don’t agree with.  I love Sabrina, and have from the very start. Teresa Castillo gives her an innocence and youthful idealism that [Read more...]

Moose Says: General Hospital Can Snare … the Soon-to-be-Prized Old Guy Demographic?

Marlena says: Soap fans everywhere are cautiously optimistic that, against all odds, there’s been a hopeful turn in the heretofore bleak fortunes of soap opera. Ratings are strong and even improving for the four network soaps that survived the death watch of the past few years, and Prospect Park is said to be moving full steam ahead to bring two of the casualties back from the dead.

Is it too soon to rejoice? Skeptic that I am, I’m not ready to shoot off fireworks at my country retreat just yet. But I’ve has detected one tiny, tiny bit of anecdotal evidence that audience-building may, indeed, be possible: My recently retired husband Moose, long impervious to the many charms of soap opera that have inundated him daily for so many years, has been espied of late … actually watching General Hospital.

At the risk of frightening him away, I asked him to share with Thinking Fans, whose analytical powers are legendary, after all, what it is about GH that has finally captured his attention. He agreed. Listen and learn, GH producers. Or, at least, have a chuckle or two.

By Moose Goodfellow a.k.a. Old Ed, husband of Connie

I have joined the ranks of the Instantly Irrelevant, filling those weeks between Social Security direct deposits with such typical Old Guy activities as having morning coffee with Al Roker on the Weather Channel, getting haircuts, hauling [Read more...]

Sunday Reflections 12: Young and Restless’ Blah 10,000th Episode … General Hospital’s Sabrina and Her Fantasies, and Connie and Her Body Shot

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

The Young and the Restless: So, what did you think of Y&R’s 10,000th episode, aired Thursday?  This was the one in which a “dead” character came back for his own funeral. In this case, it was Victor Newman, in what seemed to be his 438th resurrection.   (It was actually his third).  Well, in the episode’s defense, it did feature the entire cast, including characters like Esther, Traci and Danny, albeit in overcrowded group scenes.  The relief at seeing Victor alive (in a $10,000 suit, after months of grimy togs) along with such Newman family characters as Victor’s daughter Abby was kind of sweet.    And Victor and Nikki had an episode-ending reunion love scene, a rarity in the history of soaps:  a scene where a couple actually ends up happy.

Victor and Nikki, together again
Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott

This celebratory episode was a treat for viewers who have never seen a soap before, but longtimers who had seen it all before were probably left feeling blasé.  For some, it may even have bordered on soap self-parody, as was accurately predicted by former Marlena contributor Patrick Erwin in a letter last week.  The over-arching problem with the episode was that it was pedestrian soap opera.  And a Y&R special shouldn’t be that un-special after 10,000 episodes!  The episode was also emblematic of the last two years or so of the inexplicably top-rated Y&R, which may be summed up with one word:  blah.  Both the show and the special episode were produced and co-written by the recently fired Maria Arena Bell. [Read more...]