General Hospital’s new head writer Garin Wolf has a tough road ahead, and though I’m reluctant to believe drastic change is upon is, I’m willing to give his vision a chance.
“Sometimes They Come Back!”
Last month when news broke that General Hospital head writer Robert Guza, Jr. had been fired, I let out a collective squeal with viewers everywhere. I even had a tasty drink in celebration, but what does a head writer change really mean for the show? Will anything change?
Insert new head writer, Garin Wolf. Wolf took the reins of the show during 2007-2008 Writer’s Strike, having served as a part of the writing team since 1997. With a new promotion and the future of General Hospital at stake, Wolf spoke with TVGuide’s Michael Logan to discuss his vision and plans for the show. Wolf said in his interview, “The theme for the summer is ‘Sometimes they come back.’ I want to position characters and point them in new directions.”
Just who is they, you ask? Legacy characters that have been murdered? Recently fired cast members? Maybe (and more importantly) it’s the viewers.
Given the amount of popular characters and actors who have been killed off, stepped into an elevator only to never return, and unceremoniously fired in recent years, this is a loaded statement. Is it possible to bring back every character that has left the canvas? Probably not. Sure, Helena may have kidnapped one or two for fun, but isn’t that contrived and oft-used plot overplayed by now? Or will viewers, desperate to have the characters so loved and cherished, not care about the details as long as it ends up with favorites like Alan Quartermaine alive again? Will missed fan favorites like Leslie Charleson, Jackie Zeman, Kristina Wagner, Jon Lindstrom, Lynn Herring, Billy Warlock and others return now that there’s a new captain steering the ship? Is Wolf saying all of the right things that’ll get fans excited only to be let down yet again?
He’s saying all of the right things that may sound good to fans, but will it be possible for Wolf to implement everything he wants? It’ll be difficult for many to put faith in him until they see whether or not he’s able to pay for the check his mouth of writing. After years of ridiculous storyline teasing from Bob Guza, I’m worn out. Getting excited about pretty much anything seems worthless right now, but I’m crossing my fingers anyway.
Wolf’s first promise of balance was followed with the declaration that, “the Spencer family, the mob, the hospital, will have all have equal weight.” The mob has ruled the canvas for many years, leaving many fans begging for more hospital stories involving characters not related to the mob circuit, as well as stories involving legacy families that have been relegated to secondary status or are rarely seen on the show now.
Those hoping the mob will disappear entirely will be sadly disappointed. When asked if the Corinthos-Zacchara war will continue, Wolf answered, “For a very long time.” As a longtime viewer, I know how wars involving the Corinthos have ended in the past. Sonny and Jason come head-to-head with a rival power, make a lot of threats, shots are fired killing people, and the Corinthos side wins – every time. Is it wrong that I want to see Sonny and Jason lose? They are after, all the bad guys, no matter how many times the show has tried to tell us otherwise. They don’t deserve to get a free pass every single time. It’d be nice to see fallout that didn’t involve Sonny and Jason triumphing yet again. Sometimes the fall from grace (or power) leads to better story opportunity. Such a move would be a huge risk to take, and I doubt Wolf is willing to go that big.
Severely changing the foundation of the canvas will not happen under of Wolf, nor should it happen. Doing so would run risk of turning off the casual viewers who may enjoy the aspects of the show no longer there. Moves like that are better suited for people like Days of Our Lives executive producer Ken Corday.
He will however, be tasked with the responsibility if cleaning up the mess his predecessor created this spring when Jake Spencer was killed. Having a toddler run down by his drunk of a grandfather, whose only consequence was that of rehab left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Luke Spencer is a longtime fan favorite of viewers, but could you make a character more unlikeable with this storyline? Not only is Luke a drunken womanizer and rapist, but now he’s a child killer!
Wolf previewed his plans for the Luke and the rest of the Spencers. “Luke will walk into something he never expected. This is a puzzle I’ve been left with and I like working it out….The denial of the alcoholism is very real to me and has happened with many people in my life. It’s painfully real. There’s a fine line to walk here. Luke’s family wants him to be sober and become something he’s not. Most of us don’t know mobsters, but we do know alcoholics. I know where I’m going with this. I love a good, long story arc, and that’s what this will be. The entire Spencer family is going to go on a very big journey.” This all sounds very good but excuse me while I roll my eyes at some of this. Luke murdered his own grandson, got off free and couldn’t even fulfill the only request asked of him. I could care less Luke at this point, but I am willing to travel on this journey with Wolf. He’s got one hell of a way to go with this viewer, but I’m willing to give it a try.
One of the most promising statements made in Wolf’s interview involved Jason Thompson and Kimberly McCullough’s characters Patrick and Robin. This couple has been hit or miss for me, mostly due to the poor storytelling, but they are the closet thing to a stable, normal and happy couple on this show. And given that they’ve had to deal with affairs, ghosts of lovers past and crazy ex-girlfriends, that says a lot. Wolf says, “They live and breathe their work and it’s going to lead to tension. It’s going to take them into a very dangerous place of trust.” Am I the only one nervous about the word “dangerous”? I know it’s a soap and they require drama and secrets and lies, but Patrick and Robin could really use a break from that for a while.
My personal feelings toward GH are a mixture of heartbreak, frustration, anger, and downright hatred. I’ve watched characters I adore be decimated with the press of a keystroke; couples I’ve insanely invested in get tossed aside; legacy families be murdered off one by one. Everything I once loved about this show no longer exists. Can one man change all of this?
Wolf’s material will start airing July 25th. I understand it’s going to take time for definitive change to impact the show. One script alone won’t rejuvenate a soap that has undergone years of systematic destruction and caused the alienation of longtime fans. One script alone won’t bring back the viewers who have been burned time and time again through promises of hope and change. It will be a grueling process that will require patience and understanding from the fans who have already demanded their wishes be honored.
Attempting to tie together a canvas that has been so confined to individual characters and linear plot driven stories will be a difficult task. Weaving characters and history together again is going to take months to accomplish. It may even take some kind of cataclysmic event that will reminds viewers of how interconnected the residents of Port Charles used be – using said event as a launching pad and new starting point for relationships. I’m thinking something along the lines of the Metro Court hostage crisis storyline, which was well executive and everyone in town was personally affected by the incident.
Can I count on Garin Wolf to come through for me? I’ve been burned time and time again by this show. Is it worth re-investing my time in this show all over again to see if one man can change things? Wouldn’t new script and breakdown writers also be necessary to freshen things up? Is Wolf even going to be given enough leeway from certain executives who believe they know what’s best for the show? The soap Wolf described in his interview with Michael Logan is the kind I want to watch, but I just don’t know if it’s possible. How many times have the viewers been promised something great? How many times have we allowed ourselves to fall victim to hollow promises? For me, it’s been way too many to count, but I have to remind myself of one important factor…working under a specific writer doesn’t always mean you will be given the same types of stories.
I will have to remember that Garin Wolf is not Robert Guza, Jr. However, simply not being Guza, doesn’t mean that all of my lost faith will now be put into him. Wolf has a long and arduous road to travel to prove to me that his vision, his show, is worth five hours of my time a week. There is a lot of pressure on his shoulders, especially given the possibility that General Hospital could be the next victim of ABC’s serial killing spree. I hope through his creative vision, he’s able to show the higher ups that there is still a strong pulse at General Hospital. It’s my hope that along with these creative changes, additional changes are made to get the show under budget, and functioning at a level that is both cost productive to the network, but also conducive to the viewer at home.
The saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” As for fool me three times? I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I’ll be tuning in. Will you be watching?