I feel like most fans can agree that two of the biggest things wrong with General Hospital is the lack of romance and the lack of family relationships. These are the two things that drive the soap genre and make its fictional towns go around in its soapy circle. In theory these should be the easiest to write, but for some reason GH can’t seem to get there.
DISCLAIMER: The thoughts expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not represent the thoughts of TVSource Magazine, its advertisers or its staff.
GENERAL HOSPITAL HITS A NEW LOW
I never would have imagined that General Hospital would actually garner a 1.6 rating a few weeks ago, an all time low for a show that’s already struggling in the ratings. To think, this used to be my favorite soap opera of all time.
I keep thinking about the incredible interview that TVSource Magazine recently conducted with former Another World star Sandra Robinson (aka Sandra Ferguson), which if you haven’t read it, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. She talked about her time on General Hospital and how it was the one soap she longed to work on and how it turned out to be the worst experience she ever had. Just thinking about my disappointment as a viewer is depressing. I can’t imagine being let down as an actor, and it truly shows what this show has lost over the years.
I’m not going to venture into a long-winded tirade about how head writer Robert Guza, Jr. has damned a lot of classic history and ruined a lot of characters with terrible writing and plot point driven stories. Comparing General Hospital of the past to its present incarnation is like trying to place an Oscar next to a Razzie, and unless you’re Sandra Bullock, they’re not equally awesome by a long shot.
I feel like most fans can agree that two of the biggest things wrong with GH is the lack of romance and the lack of a core family with values. These are the two things that drive the soap genre and make its fictional towns go around in its soapy circle. In theory these should be the easiest to write, but for some reason GH can’t seem to get there.
The best soap romance takes a little time to unfold. An initial meeting, some adorable flirting and a cute first date is what will win viewers over. They succeeded tremendously with Lulu and Dante, taking their time to tell their story, allowing it to come together organically instead of forcing it to happen. However since that time, they’ve managed to damage the couple through overexposure and repetitive dialogue. It would be nice for Lulu and Dante to do something other than discuss Michael (or Sonny) and have sex. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to keep a couple interesting on this show.
Aside from these two, there’s not really very much romancing going on in Port Charles. Sure, Lisa and Stephen are dating, but it only served as a catalyst to get her and Patrick into bed. Elizabeth is pining for her long lost love Lucky, while Nikolas pines for a chance with her and the child that isn’t actually his. Sonny, Olivia, and Johnny continue to be the most convoluted threesome. Maybe Olivia should just take up polygamy and have both at the same time? Spinelli and Maxie have basically been over ever since she went to bed with that freak show Franco. And there’s also conjugal visits and phone sex with Jason and Sam, which I will never find romantic. If anything, their attempts to make it sweet cheapen a popular couple, but this is GH and they are all about cheap thrills.
None of these romances are going anywhere, and therein lies the problem. The lack of movement with these romances has become silly fodder for late night television and the poor story telling has people tuning out instead of in. Where is the tenderness, the excitement, the anticipation and other emotions that should come with watching soap couples? I keep searching and I’m not finding it here. Instead, we continue to get the systematic dismantling of the few remaining couples that fans of the show do like.
As for the family issue, it’s simple, write for the families non-Corinthos. Want an easy solution? How about writing for the Quartermaines? Of course it would be easier had the regime not killed so many of them off, but the remaining Quartermaines are still beloeved and entertaining, and serve as the tie to the days of Port Charles past when families non-Corinthos were prominent in town.
The writers did a nice job of featuring the familial bond with Alexis and her girls during Kristina’s abuse storylines, but it also came off very cheap. Pulling the family card only during crisis’ is not the way to appease those who long for the showcasing of family on a regular basis. It’s not hard to write sweet family moments where people gather for barbecues or celebrate birthdays and graduations. That’s one of my favorite things about The Young and the Restless. They show the good and the bad, and GH could use a lot of good. Instead, they divide families over Kristina pretending to sleep with a much older man or Elizabeth having contrived money problems so she can contemplate spending a five million dollar trust instead of simply tapping into the money. The inability of the writers or lack of desire to do better asks the question…is this the best they can come up with?
It was bad enough that they chose to write Kristina in an unsympathetic manner when she fingered Ethan as the culprit behind her attack. Now they have her walking around town shoving her stupid relationship with Johnny in everyone’s face. She continues to look like nothing more than an entitled brat, screaming for attention and who definitely didn’t learn from her mistakes the last time her daddy issues reared its ugly head. It continues to baffle me why they even had Johnny agree to go along with her charade. What about his loyalty to Olivia? Or the fact that he’s been portrayed as the “good” mobster, the one who hates what this business does to kids yet he’s allowing himself to be drawn into petty drama with Sonny’s daughter?
I can’t forget Sonny’s constant whining about how much he loves his children and how his Father of the Year trophy is so big and shiny it can be seen all over the country. Why does it have to continually be Olivia who stands around and placates his tantrums? Sonny says the same exact things over and over and has ever since Michael was shot. It’s not just Sonny though, multiple characters seem to repeat themselves over and over. If you’re not convinced, just watch this:
That, my friends, is a large part of the problem with this show.
If Elizabeth, the “poorest” women in town, gambles away five million dollars in hopes of being able to send Cameron to summer camp next year or so she doesn’t feel beholden to Nikolas by accepting his money, she deserves to lose it. I don’t know what the hell they did to this character in the last year or even the last six months, but it’s like ever since they wrote in her pregnancy she has been completely and utterly stupid. It pains me to say that because she’s my favorite, but I can’t stand by and support idiots. I just can’t. I’m counting down the dies until Shirley dies so Elizabeth can be free from the confines of this cancer story.
While I’m on the subject of idiocy, I can’t skip over the “five-sided love triangle” (Guza’s words not mine). First off, let’s just clear up that anything five sided is a pentagon. It took Patrick and Robin years to get through not being on the same page, not wanting the same things, and not being able to stand each other to get them married and having a baby. Then, Patrick’s stupid ex-girlfriend from college comes to town and reminds him of the good ol’ days while Robin moons over Stone, making him yearn for his sleazy past and jealous of his wife’s dead boyfriend. (Is anyone else rolling their eyes?) And in between all this, Lisa decides to start sleeping with Steven, who Patrick just happens to despise.
It’s seriously the most contrived love pentagon (and quite possibly the only love pentagon) of all time, and they’re making Patrick look like an epic bastard. I get that he used to be a total sleazebag and slept with any woman that parted her legs, but I will never understand him cheating on Robin. I’ve never doubted that he loves his wife and daughter more than anything else. My favorite part of the Scrubs relationship was seeing Patrick change his entire life to become a husband and father. He knew exactly what he was doing when he put a ring on it, and he knew exactly what he was giving up. Believe me – the writers made Robin. Again, it’s another cheap thrill of a story and a very lazy way to break up the only remaining strongly committed couple.
Add in things like Michael maybe or maybe not being raped, Max crying over the hooker he never got to buy the kid, and Spinelli being a statue on the couch in that fugly penthouse. There’s also Brook Lynn’s return, brought on by a cheap Carly scheme. She needs to watch a few episodes of Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars – shameless plug! – And see how bitches really get revenge. If you want to play schoolgirl games, at least make it a good one.
There’s also the upcoming storyline with Franco that was such a big hit the first time around. It’s safe to say that his return is the last thing to look forward to on this show. The first time around was so brilliant and fabulous that I can’t imagine what they’ll do next, and the ratings showed exactly what people thought about it. The start of this one with his silly clues and everyone stressing out about his pending arrival already has me disinterested. We know they won’t kill him and that as long as James Franco is willing to come back, we’ll be stuck with him, his mother, his best friend, his cat, his monkey and whoever else he convinces the show to hire.
These are the stories we’re being forced to suffer through, so I guess it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that GH hit a new low in ratings. I’ve said it many times and this is no different. What worries me the most is that soaps are a dying breed. As The World Turns finished taping two weeks ago and will go off air in the fall. I didn’t watch the show, but losing a soap I don’t watch is like losing a friend of a friend. Fans of GH have been rallying for change for a long time, and I worry about what will happen if that change doesn’t come.
I’m also a little nervous about Vanessa Marcil-Giovinazzo’s return in August. As unhappy as I am with the show right now, I’m looking forward to hurricane Brenda blowing back into town and turning everything upside down. The story possibilities for her are limitless and it’ll be interesting to see if they do her return justice or if they’ll have us all wishing she never agreed to come back. Maybe if I cross my fingers and pray really hard, she might be the start of the change this show has needed for a long time, but I’m not counting on it.