At the time, I truly believed that my days of watching daytime soaps came to an end when the final episode of As the World Turns aired on September 17th, 2010. Of course, as my mother was so fond of telling me: never say never.
So, when One Life to Live left the air in January, I skipped the crazy talk. I had already been checking in on General Hospital since late July, when Sara Bibel raved about the work of GH’s new headwriter, Garin Wolf. In early December, shortly after Prospect Park’s efforts to bring OLTL to the Web fell apart, it was announced that the show’s executive producer, Frank Valentini and headwriter, Ron Carlivati, would take over at GH. While the pacing of OLTL’s final months was often choppy, hampered by the demands of Prospect Park to craft a cliffhanger ending, I enjoyed the show enough that I knew I would stay with GH for the duration. But then I’m done; for real this time since I have absolutely no history with, or interest in, the remainiat ng daytime soaps – The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives. None of them has ever been my cup of tea.
How long GH will remain on the air is anyone’s guess. The show received a reprieve last month when ABC canceled OLTL’s poorly performing replacement, The Revolution, which means GH should at least reach its 50th anniversary in April 2013. But, however long it’s on I expect to be watching.
I should say, General Hospital was never my show. It wasn’t until 1990, when I wrote an article for Soap Opera Weekly on how nurses are portrayed on soaps, that I watched more than the occasional GH episode. Over the years, I’ve dropped in now and then, so I have a passing familiarity with the characters and their history. It turns out that my spotty viewing history actually helps me to enjoy the show.
One of the things I loved most about how Ron Carlivati structures his episodes is what I call the “anchor scenes” – a conversation between two characters that runs the full length of the episode, often in the same setting, that explores the relationships among the characters, and reveals the show's history so even casual viewers had some idea of how the characters, on and off the screen, were connected Since I’ve only experienced the show in broad strokes, I can enjoy those scenes unencumbered by details that fly in the face of the show’s history.
This was especially true when Port Charles came to grips with the death of legacy character, Robin Scorpio. While longtime fans argued that Robin’s Uncle Mac should have been the one to tell his step-daughter (and Robin’s cousin) Maxie about Robin’s death instead of Spinelli, I just enjoyed their richly layered scenes – and the ones that have followed as Maxie tried to atone for sins she thinks she committed. Other fans complained that the textured scenes between Robin’s mother, Anna Devane, and Luke Spencer were written to test a future coupling between the two. I watched with pleasure. There was also carping about another potential couple: Robin’s husband, Patrick, and best friend, Elizabeth, whom fans saw as predatory. I cared about none of that. For me, Jason Thompson’s portrayal of Patrick’s grief was as fine a performance as I’ve ever seen in my fifty-plus years of watching soaps. And kudos to Valentini and Carlivati for continuing to show Robin’s loved ones mourning their loss. Too often in the past, once a character was dead they were never again mentioned.
This is to not say that GH is a perfect soap; far from it. There are characters I loath or in whom I have no interest – Jason, Sonny, Carly (although I did enjoy her scenes with Sam today) – to name a few. Unlike many fans, Robin Matson’s return as Heather leaves me cold. But, I’ve never been a fan of those crazy over-the-top characters that have populated soaps over the past thirty years, which is why that favorite trope of Valentini/Carlivati, Dissociate Identity Disorder, has me skipping over the Kate/Connie nonsense. And thus far, I’ve been less than impressed with Starr’s presence in Prot Charles, although I loved her in Llanview. But, I can see how some of the pieces are starting to come together. For the rest, there’s the FF button.
© 2012 Lynn Liccardo
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