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General Hospital – My Black Sheep

General Hospital - My Black Sheep

My friends often ask me why I watch soap operas. To them the shows are cheap, predictable, and ridiculous, and while these days I might agree with them in some aspects, I still can’t bring myself to turn off the television.

My friends often ask me why I watch soap operas. To them the shows are cheap, predictable, and ridiculous, and while these days I might agree with them in some aspects, I still can’t bring myself to turn off the television.

Like so many soap viewers, the shows I watch are embedded into my life. There is not a time that I can’t remember tuning into some form of the daily drama, my grandmother having forced me into the addiction when I was just a little girl. Soaps were her freedom from the rest of the world, the time that she got to leave our town and go elsewhere – Pine Valley, Llanview, and Port Charles, and I loved going those places with her.

Over time, I lost touch with All My Children and One Life to Live, only keeping up with them in the summer months, but I secretly raced home nearly every day after school to watch General Hospital. Funny enough, there I always found more than one person in my family in front of the television watching the show. There are even handfuls of anecdotes that float around in my family of my aunts and uncles, my father included, skipping school to watch the timeless romance of Luke and Laura in the Eighties. The stories and romances I remember most happened more than a decade ago – Robin and Stone, the Brenda, Sonny and Jax triangle, Stone’s Death, the incredible Nurse’s Ball, and Elizabeth’s rape. I grew up with the Four Musketeers, hung on their every scene and story, part of me maybe even wanting to be one of them.

It’s difficult to think about how a show used to be when looking at the present day stories. There are few things to root for, few things even recognizable, and some days it’s difficult to hold on to General Hospital. Like so many viewers, I’m bitter and disheartened; upset by stories that are filled with holes or romances that never even had a chance. There was a time when, like so many frustrated viewers now, I wished for cancellation. I was tired of seeing something I loved so much destroyed, but in a time where two soap operas have been cancelled in the last year, I feel compelled to find things to hold on to.

As Joni Mitchell so eloquently put it in the Sixties, "Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone," and in a time where soaps are becoming dispensable, it’s important to realize what we do have.

Now, I’ll be honest when it comes to General Hospital. Most viewers feel like they don’t have much; the low ratings can attest to how little they watch. The list of things wrong with this show is endless – poorly contrived scenes, rushed romances, monstrous holes in stories. All of which is only worsened by overly hyped sweep stunts and sensational violence usually aimed at women and children. There is so much wrong with the show these days that I keep watching and hoping for something to go right.

I assume the James Franco guest spot was supposed to save the decline in ratings instead of worsening them. I’m not sure what else was expected when you cast a well-known, award-winning actor in a role where he is obsessed with Jason Morgan, Franco’s obsession for the mob enforcer matched only by the writers. The storyline was an epic failure from the beginning, and like many, I’ve been waiting anxiously for it to end, only to find out Franco will be gracing our presence again in the spring. Forgive me if I don’t throw a party immediately.

I’ll admit I had somewhat high hopes for the story. After all, it is James Franco, and I thought he might be able to sprinkle a little of his magic on the show. Instead we were forced to listen to "Mad World" entirely too much and stare at newspaper clippings of Jason’s crimes, his name written over and over on a blackboard a la Bart Simpson. The writers are trying so hard to convince us that Franco is the bad person in this situation. He’s an artist obsessed with death, who maybe kills people. So far, we know he crushed one person’s windpipe, which suddenly makes him the devil. Are we supposed to forget he’s standing next to Jason Morgan?

I understand that the whole aura around Jason is that he’s a killer with a heart of gold, a man who feels things deeper than he admits and who is incredibly selfless when it comes to the people in his life. Like so many, I was a loyal fan, but I can only take so much of the writers’ hero worship. Sonny and Jason might have kindness in their hearts and do great things for people, but that doesn’t give them a free pass to break the law.

Eventually, I just want the writers to get real because as Franco perfectly put it, Jason kills people for a living and he’s good at it. He acts as if he doesn’t want to really do it and uses Sonny, Carly, Michael, and whatever crisis of the moment as an excuse for why he is a murderer. I’m pretty sure that when Franco gave Jason that little speech, we weren’t supposed to side with him, but part of me was so proud that someone finally said it.

That moment aside, the story is still a mess. Franco has threatened, seduced, and kidnapped people in Jason’s life, giving him the opportunity to play the hero yet again. We’re going to be forced to watch Jason race around town and save everyone after which they thank him and say they owe him their life. Never mind that Jason is the reason they got into this mess in the first place. This is television that has you on the edge of your seats, isn’t it? 

The Franco storyline isn’t the only thing that has people falling asleep in their chairs. Olivia being torn between men has gotten old fast, mostly because everyone knows that eventually she’s going to end up in Sonny’s arms. The drawn-out aftermath of Claudia’s death is tiring. Lucky is trying to piece it together. Michael is falling apart. Jax is deleting evidence as everyone struggles in a cover-up that should have never existed in the first place. As horrific as it was, the murder was an accident. The viewers know this, so stop dragging us through the mud. There is also the looming fiasco that comes with Patrick’s college sweetheart being in town, Elizabeth sleeping with Lucky’s brother, Kristina’s abusive boyfriend, and Carly exploding at Jax once she learns the entire truth behind his relationship with Dante.

Still, I hope for some promise in them.

As much as I dislike the storyline of Dante being an undercover officer in Port Charles to take down Sonny, his character is one of the few bright spots on this show. I feel as if the ending of this story has been known from the start. Inevitably, the truth about Dante must come to light and seeing as he has already softened to Sonny and his family, he finds himself unable to turn his father in. The real surprise would be him doing it anyway and making Sonny pay for his crimes. I expect the worst or in this case the predictable, and honestly don’t mind it as long as he continues dating Lulu. 

A year ago, I couldn’t stand the character of Lulu, but Dante has breathed life back into her. I enjoy that there are no secrets between them, and that Lulu has chosen to lay the Sonny issue to rest and let it be Dante’s business. Not to mention that they are adorably smitten with one another and literally twinkle when they share a glance across the room. As with nearly every fantastic pairing on General Hospital, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and send me into a miserable spiral for ever liking, let alone investing in another couple this show put together.

I should have learned my lesson by now, especially since it was Nikolas and Elizabeth that drew me back into watching after a much needed hiatus. I’m aware that many people despise this triangle and there are aspects I do too, but I enjoy the dirty and the forbidden and love a man who will take a woman wherever he can simply because he wants her. The history is also a plus, the deeply rooted friendship and loss of Emily they can draw on and part of me just wants her to break away from Lucky. They were a great teenage romance, my favorite, but they’re adults now who have cheated, lied, and broken one another’s hearts continually. I thought the return of Jonathan Jackson would pull on my inner 13-year-old girl, but all it did was make me further realize that Lucky and Elizabeth are better apart than together.

Other couplings are faltering as well. The troubles for Maxie and Spinelli after her post-art show coital are so contrived and could be handled in one conversation. Spinelli either forgives her and they move on, or they break up and she finds someone else (and far better) to take to bed. Olivia’s constant pull towards Sonny while insisting that she wants to be with Johnny was old the very second it started. While I understand her attraction to the father of her child, I know it will end badly for her character, and ruin what she has with Johnny in the process. Jax has eased his way back into Carly’s good graces only so she can feel further betrayed once every truth comes out. He chose to delete the evidence he had on Sonny to save his marriage, but it won’t be enough. Carly puts Jason and Sonny foremost over her husband, always has and always will. It’s typical fashion for the General Hospital writers. Before a couple is set to explode, they wind them so tight in their happy, romantic world and rip it to pieces. The current state of Elizabeth and Lucky are a prime example of this – the past couple of weeks filled with poetic retellings of their history to show what they mean to one another along with a sweet New Year’s serenade that was a nod to their past. The surprise of the couple being blown to bits would be more unsettling if we didn’t see the break-ups coming from ten miles away.

Thankfully, there are some with lighthearted promise if only to lift the viewer’s spirits while everything else tanks. The Kate and Coleman pairing is strangely endearing, one that I would like to see more of onscreen rather than constantly hear about them dating off of it. I also like the idea of Mac and Alexis, especially when it pulls her three daughters together to push her towards falling for someone. It’s nice to see Sam, Kristina, and Molly interacting so sweetly with their mother. Diane and Max are a great comedic break from the show. Sure, their storylines are a little silly and repetitive, but something about them is too adorable not to enjoy. Unfortunately, these small time romances aren’t enough to drive the show and mostly leave me aching for equally sweet moments with the couples I do enjoy, the kind of romances and stories that made me love General Hospital in the first place.

And I guess that is why I keep watching this show.

I may be young, but these characters have been coming into my living room since I was in diapers. I can list specific scenes, recite them verbatim, and name exact moments that I fell in love or hate with each one of the characters. Strangely enough, they are a part of my family and our history, discussed on a daily basis and sometimes debated about over holiday dinners. I may turn my back on it from time to time and threaten to quit it completely, but like that black sheep, it finds its way back into my life. I keep hoping for it to be different, to finally change and be as amazing as it used to be, waiting in frustration until the day that General Hospital makes me eat crow about all the bad things I’ve ever said.

Here’s hoping 2010 is that year.

Amber is the latest edition to the TVSource Magazine editorial staff. We’re pleased to have her join our team.

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About the author

Amber Cunigan

Amber Cunigan is a sarcastic mid-twenties undergrad, extreme book hoarder, Netflix addict, and reality TV aficionado. She enjoys excessive amounts of chocolate and caffeine, tweeting, and all things Ezra Fitz and Ryan Gosling. When it comes to TV, she expects to be thoroughly entertained and when not, she will slam and mock you, but still tune in next week. She's a glutton for punishment. Basically, she's awesome.