#SorryNotSorry, The Brilliance of ‘General Hospital’s’ Franco Resurrection

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Port Charles residents are shocked when the mysterious man revealed himself as "Franco" on the Wednesday, May 29th episode of ABC's “General Hospital.” "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH13 (ABC/Ron Tom) ROGER HOWARTH, LAURA WRIGHT, CHAD DUELL, REBECCA HERBST, BRADFORD ANDERSON

Reaction to General Hospital‘s decision to resurrect Robert “Franco” Frank has been met with very strong reactions from fans and critics alike. While I found last week’s “shocking” reveal to be rather anticlimactic, I’m most intrigued and excited about the “what now?” – the direction the soap goes from here. Roger Howarth’s role as antagonist creates the opportunity to not only drive from his character’s perspective, but serve as the catalyst for launching new ones for others.

To say Franco’s existence is polarizing would be an understatement. There probably hasn’t been a more universally loathed character on General Hospital in years, but the disdain extended to his portrayer too. James Franco’s performance and subsequent storyline was panned, with many unsure of the reason for telling such a storyline, other than a failed attempt at stunt casting and humoring a bored celebrity.

The serial killer wreaked havoc on Port Charles from the moment he ventured into town. Franco’s obsession with Jason (Steve Burton), and subsequent rejection, led to an almost three year game of cat-and-mouse. Like Jason, Franco was “born” as a result of someone else’s actions – Jason Morgan after AJ’s drunken accident and Franco the serial killer after going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Somehow that connected them and drove his desire to see them become friends. When rejected, he focused his obsession into a need to hurt Jason. In Franco’s mind, Jason couldn’t understand just how alike they were, all the while carrying the secret knowledge that they were so “alike” because of their twin connection.

With each resurfacing, Franco’s acts of terror became more lethal, more sinister, and he had no remorse for his actions. In three years, he kidnapped numerous people, engaged in psychological warfare and masterminded the rape of Michael in prison and perpetrated the rape of Sam. When Jason killed Franco in January 2012, it was the end of a terrible chapter of GH history, one wrought with a terribly conceived, executed and acted storyline. Fast forward a year later – Franco was revealed to be Jason’s twin brother and his daughter is the key in AJ and Tracy’s battle for control of ELQ. Gone, but still very much a part of the canvas.

I can’t say I agree with head writer Ron Carlivati’s decision to saddle Howarth with James Franco’s ill-conceived character. If I were in his shoes, I would have taken a different approach, something I detailed in a column a few months back. This is an unnecessary uphill battle that Ron, his team and Howarth must contend with. It’s not going to be an easy trek, but the easy path isn’t necessarily the best one.

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Chad Duell (Michael), Maurice Benard (Sonny), Kelly Monaco (Sam) and Laura Wright (Carly) in a scene that airs the week of May 27, 2013 on ABC's "General Hospital." "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH13 (ABC/Ron Tom)

GENERAL HOSPITAL – Chad Duell (Michael), Maurice Benard (Sonny), Kelly Monaco (Sam) and Laura Wright (Carly) in a scene that airs the week of May 27, 2013 on ABC’s “General Hospital.” “General Hospital” airs Monday-Friday (2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH13 (ABC/Ron Tom)

Any good writer infuses their characters with traits that humanize them. A villain can be a villain yet have some sort of quality that viewers or readers can either relate to or sympathize with to some degree. An element that gives viewers insight to just how this person came to be, and sets up the possibility down the road that said character is more than just the things they’ve done; maybe they’re a product of their environment, upbringing or interactions with others.

This was something briefly touched upon under previous incarnations of Franco during the tenure of former head writers Robert Guza, Jr. and Garin Wolf. Ultimately the reasons for Franco’s psychosis were irrelevant. His role was to serve as the foil to Jason’s protagonist and eventually meet his end at the hands of his Jason. Further developing the character is something that must continue if Franco is to successfully be integrated beyond the “bubble” of Jason and those closest to him.

The writing team faces the unenviable task of turning the ill-conceived, one dimensional character into one that’s viable for the long-term.  I don’t mean viable in the sense of a romantic interest (though I’m sure that will come later), but as one who can become fully dimensional whilst being more than just the pre-defined antagonist; fitting him in the scheme of the current narrative. The brilliance in Carlivati’s decision to resurrect Franco lies in the various role he plays for other characters.

For Sam (Kelly Monaco) and Michael (Chad Duell), he served as the target for unresolved anger. They, undeniably the ones most affected by Franco’s machinations, were finally able to confront him for subjecting them to abuse simply because they had Jason’s love. Michael was re-confronted with his rape not only by Franco’s presence, but with the video Franco made with Carter, “proving” at least in Franco’s mind, that he did nothing to hurt Michael.

Michael was disgusted by Franco’s belief that an apology and clarity that he only intended to hurt Jason somehow excused his actions. “[Jason] was like a father to me for the first year of my life and, in his own way, every year after that. He was the best friend that I ever had. He respected me. He trusted me. He protected me from people like you,” he said emotionally. “I only got through the rape because of Jason. He taught me how to be a man. He didn’t judge. He didn’t push. He just listened. How you two could be related absolutely blows my mind, let alone be twins. So, don’t just sit there and say, ‘I only meant to hurt Jason, not you.’ No, screw you!”

The next day, while arguing with Morgan’s girlfriend Kiki (Kristen Alderson), Michael unexpectedly revealed to her that he was raped in prison. That argument led to Kiki understanding why Michael is so protective of his brother, wanting him to enjoy life and not worry about the dark consequences that could befall him if he goes too far.

Franco served as the catalyst for AJ (Sean Kanan) learning about Michael’s imprisonment and rape. AJ, who’s stated all along that Michael would have been better had he not been taken from the Quartermaines, blasted Sonny and Carly for failing to protect Michael. “You know why he went to jail? Because of whose kid he was. He was Sonny Corinthos’ kid. This is on you, and this is on you. You gotta be kidding me. This? This is who you chose to be Michael’s father? This is who was so much better than me?” He continued on: “You took our boy through hell, both of you. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.”

AJ already hates Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Carly (Laura Wright) for forcing him to sign away his parental rights, but this development added fuel to a fire that was beginning to simmer down in recent months. AJ also attacked Franco when he found out that Michael was raped because of Franco’s actions. Later, AJ tells Monica (Leslie Charleson) about Franco being alive, and his role in Michael’s attack; an incident that Monica knew nothing about. Meanwhile, Carly’s on the warpath and scheming with Sonny to find a way to eradicate Franco, which will end up affecting Shawn (Sean Blakemore) and Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) as well.

There’s also Franco’s role involving the Quartermaine family and the fight for ELQ. As Edward’s grandchild, he’s entitled his 12 percent ownership of Edward’s stock and a seat on the board. We already Franco sabotaged the Pickle-Lila segment on The Chew. Does that means he’s making a play for ELQ? If he does, will it force AJ & Tracy (Jane Elliot) to form a united front to keep him out? A sub-storyline in that deals with his estranged daughter Lauren Frank aka Lauren “Kiki” Jerome. Will she want a relationship with him after she discovers the terrible things he’s done?

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Bradford Anderson (Spinelli), Laura Wright (Carly), Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) and Chad Duell (Michael) in a scene that airs the week of May 27, 2013 on ABC's "General Hospital." "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH13 (ABC/Ron Tom) BRADFORD ANDERSON, LAURA WRIGHT, REBECCA HERBST, CHAD DUELL

GENERAL HOSPITAL – Bradford Anderson (Spinelli), Laura Wright (Carly), Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) and Chad Duell (Michael) in a scene that airs the week of May 27, 2013 on ABC’s “General Hospital.” “General Hospital” airs Monday-Friday (2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH13 (ABC/Ron Tom)

Ultimately, Franco is on a quest for something he will never be able to attain – absolution. Franco seeks it from those who won’t give it and the brother who can’t. Not because he suddenly realized what he’d done was wrong, but because the game was no longer fun. He chose to become a martyr, letting Jason
“kill” him so he could set him free from the madness he inflicted upon his life; allowing Franco to be reborn elsewhere. But, as Franco said, “And then Jason goes and gets himself killed. I mean, really — who saw that one coming? Here we seem so invulnerable. And to think — right? — After all the crap that I put him through, he goes and gets himself shot in the back and drowns. I mean, how can that be?”

It wasn’t until after Jason died that he realized what he’d done to Jason and those he’d loved was wrong. It took for the object of his obsession to cease to exist before the epiphany happened. “That’s when it hits me. I was wrong. I made a mistake. All I wanted to do was get closer to Jason, and all I did was make an enemy of him. And I couldn’t undo it. But what I could do was try and make things right with all of the people that Jason loved.” But as Carly told him, he obviously hadn’t changed, considering he had to play one last game on all of them.

Without risk, there is no reward. Carlivati is making a huge gamble with this Franco storyline, and though it’s too soon to tell if it was worth it, I am intrigued. Franco’s resurgence creates a fascinating dynamic involving many characters that’s already had ripple effects on the canvas. It’s with caution that I’m approaching this storyline.

I want a character driven storyline to emerge from the wreckage left in the wake of Hurricane Franco’s previous visits. This story should be about the Quartermaines and the impact Franco’s arrival will have on them as a family, their friends and their company.

Don’t be afraid to use characters like Kevin (Jon Lindstrom) to delve into Franco’s psychosis. If anyone would know crazy when they see it, it’s Kevin. Don’t be afraid to have those directly affected by Franco’s actions hate him. The audience will want it and need it to believe that the town won’t miraculously forgive him just because he’s going to be a regular character now. Don’t “redeem” the character and try to turn him into some anti-hero or protagonist.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to end the story prematurely if the audience in large has rejected it. If in 6 months, the story isn’t progressing the way, please end it. Don’t try to force it. Cut your losses, wrap up the storyline and move on. Losing an actor of Howarth’s caliber would be a blow to the show, but one monkey doesn’t stop the show.

The audience needs to trust that their voices are being heard. I know sometimes it’s tough to spot the constructive complaints and criticism in a sea of those hurling nasty, vitriolic comments; a sea of voices who believe they’re entitled to what they want, when they want, exactly how they want it done. Listen to the fans, listen to their feedback – good and bad – ultimately they just want a good show. Hopefully this storyline can deliver it.

Where do you stand on Franco’s return? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section and it may be used in a follow up column in a few weeks.

Ryan White-Nobles
Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TV Source Magazine. He's began covering entertainment and soap operas in 2005. In 2009 he co-launched Soap Opera Source, and led the TV Source rebrand in 2012. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.

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  1. Well I love it and he brought goodies Mara West and Kirsten Alderson.I agree to a certain point I liked the show Angel,and Xena because its interesting seeing a Character change right before your eyes.But not just have redmption have to realy work for it .

  2. I dont mind where the story is going. RH is a great actor. Carly, Sonny, & Aj have already given some great performances out of this. I want to see Tracy & AJ work together. I love that the Q’s are finally in the spotlight, they are GH. I love the scenes with Ava & RH, 2 strong actors. James Franco was a joke on GH, the whole story was, but I don’t mind RH playing him, he has the ability to make a character likeable.

  3. Your lousy attempt at backpedaling holds no water here. By your inference and questionable logic, no character can EVER be rewritten on a soap. I get that characters can be rewritten, it’s obvious that you do not. And yes, I’ve watched GH for the better portion of 30 years-so there

  4. Did I say no character can EVER be rewritten? Plenty of them are.
    Just not ones who, for four long years, were presented as serial killer psychopaths who enjoy torturing and raping people. Who in the world would WANT to root for such disgusting madness?
    What’s this about “GH messes?” Franco was dead and gone and Danny was Jason’s. There was nothing more to revisit with Franco. There were no pressing loose ends. There was absolutely no need (or clamor) for the character to ever return. At all.
    Did you watch GH before Roger arrived a year ago?

  5. Franco never raped anyone-deal with it

  6. You have absolutely no clue as to what you’re talking about, By your questionable logic, no character can EVER be rewritten on a soap. That’s what a great writer’s job is-to try to make something work that didn’t. The REAL problem here is that some GH “fans” are nothing but ungrateful, hypocritical, spoiled brats. All I kept hearing from those people for years was for someone, ANYONE to fix GH and/or the messes that JFP/Guza created. So here you have Carlivati, a self-described fan of the show, attempting to fix ANOTHER mess that JFP/Guza created by delving into GH’s past and retelling a story in his vision? I swear, you people want GH gone out of spite

  7. You’re full of it, Addison-quit trying to put yourself over for grieving OLTL fans

  8. Franco was meant to be short term and was written that way. I also don’t believe he was ever meant to be redeemed. What Carlivati has done, should be taught as the first “No” in any Writing 101 class. You do not pick a character, created by someone else, who had a very limited purpose to drive story for most of your tenure. He was resurrected in spirit to drive a wedge between and create angst for Jason and Sam during their pregancy/baby storyline, which took up a good part of last year, as “NuFranco” is threatening to take up a good part of this year. Again, we are subjected to a prolonged introduction of a new character, who will be central to the show and drive story. This is not the proper utilization of exisiting “real” GH characters, they should not have supporting roles in yet another Carlivati ego fest, because he refuses to let go of OLTL and these three actors. I realize Sam’s rape was a creation of another writer, but it was left open ended, resolved for the most part and could have been further resolved by Franco or Heather or anyone sending Sam the tape ‘of what really happened”. I’m not sure we needed the further resolution and we certainly did not need a fully resurrected flesh and blood Franco calling everyone to a party, playing further mind games with them and completely trivializing the issue of rape (both Sam and Michael). Roger Howarth’s shaky snarking, grinning and wise cracking throughout was a completely absurd acting/directing choice. It was not quirky, it was not interesting, it was not Franco; it was RH playing Todd, playing Franco. I agree with every single person who says this regime relies too heavily on rape to tell a stotry. It happened on OLTL and its been brought to GH. While I do realize rape stories are a daytime staple, I have never seen it treated so campily as RC/FV treat it. Serious subject matter deserves a serious story to go along with it.

  9. Soap fans are so quick to judge sometimes. I don’t know how I feel about this story yet. But RC/FV have done so much for the show — making it a true ensemble, adding excitement, bringing back vets — I’m choosing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  10. How could I forget; Franco’s a Quatermaine so after the softening of Franco, the money will buy a judge and he won’t be doing so much time. I think it could work!

  11. Roger H. is a very talented actor. I think changing Franco’s character to a softer more likeable man, should be the goal for the next 6 months. Let him portray that clever, wise cracking humor we all love. I like what Omar has written. The audience must find away to absolve him, if only partially. Maybe an accident, like the one that changed Jason. Maybe he could save Danny or someone. Saving Jason would be the greatest but you’d need to find another actor. It doesn’t have to be SB. The switches that were done with Carly worked out okay. Maybe it gets discovered that Betsy was the mother from hell and tortured Franco, or something else that would make people have some empathy toward him. Maybe, for whatever reason he does minimal time and is then transferred to work at Fern Cliff. On T.V., anythings possible but I think the viewers feel like you think they’re fools be cause real life is so unfair sometimes; yet here’s a true villan getting away with murder etc. That just doesn’t happen. But hey, Ron, You really had to come up woth this in a hurry. Most people would have said F it. Good Job! U2 Omar.

  12. HUH? You make no sense. Ron was not dealt a bad hand–he was the dealer! He and Frank fought like hell to get Roger and instead of creating and innovative and fresh character, he utilizes the bastard child of which was the result of James Franco making love to himself.

  13. Well said–I could not agree more. And Ron’s allows the rebirth of Tanko but has Betty White beat former superspy and superhero, Robert Scorpio into a coma. This man’s priorities are majorly f ed up.

  14. This piece is incredibly well written but it seems more evocative of a truly “brilliant” show like Madmen or The Sopranos. With all due respect, it seems like you are desperately trying to make this idiotic storyline work. In fact, your prose sounds as desperate as Ron’s writing and Twittering (the man needs to stay away from Twitter). Clearly, they are trying to set up a romance between Tanko and Carly. How is this going to work when we know Tank dedicated his life to making Jason’s miserable, including torturing Jason with the idea that he raped and impregnated his wife, Little Sammy. Moreover, despite their futile and extraordinary efforts, the writers cannot erase the FACT that Tanko had young, virginal Michael violently raped in prison. We viewers know this for a fact. Roger deserved a better role than this and clearly he is hamming it up in a WTF? fashion. He’s playing it as a comedy and he’s laughing at Ron. Franco was the result of James Franco’s mental masturbation. He was a throwaway character–he was not meant to go in the recycling bin for the creative challenged Ron.
    I have watched GH for 32 years and have finally kicked the habit without looking back.

  15. I have every confidence in Roger Howarth’s abilities to portray this character well. I just think there were many other options that would have been just as good, if not better than what they chose. I liked your idea of Eric Q and even the one where he is the ‘real’ Franco and the other was an imposter. I understand everyone cannot be happy all the time – but I really am not happy with this. I will probably be FF’ing more now.

  16. Of all the available past stories they could have introduced onto the canvas, they had to choose this one? Not only is it too recent a story line to reinvent. But no one, and I mean no one, could do ‘Franco’ like James Franco. This man is not a long term character, and the risks were too great if they truly wanted Roger Howarth to stay on GH. I have been watching for 49 years, often times it was my only escape from some really tough times in my life. I am taking this very personal, as GH has been part of my life longer than my most of my own family. For Ron and his team of unimaginative writers to come here and start re-writing history, (this is not the first rewrite ie.. AJ’s return) is a huge slap in my face. So now we can never trust anything we see or have seen to be true? At any time it could all be a lie, and they are free to essentially say “don’t believe your lying eyes, believe what I am telling you now.” We remember these stories so vividly, yet they are going to change them now, and say…noooo it didn’t happen that way. They made a huge part of the story that followed, a very fitting end to Franco’s reign of terror, a ridiculous waste of time and seriously cheapened it. Jason’s exit before finding out the baby was really his, was asking more from us than was necessary. Leaving us constantly unsatisfied is sealing the fate on GH. If the fans no longer matter, what is the point for us to continue watching? If I can’t believe it, or trust it and I’m constantly disappointed in the cliff hangers outcomes, why watch? I love Roger and I know he is a fantastic actor but he isn’t Franco. They missed a great opportunity to have Roger play several different characters not everyone would remember, and would have tied him in to everyone on the show. Yet still give RH, ME & KA a chance to play something completely different than before as well. I, and many others, believe that it was more important to Exec’s to give a giant middle finger to “Prospect” for denying them the right to use the OLTL character names….”See look what I can do…I can change them in a month to become different characters, still make RH & KA father and daughter, and since ME was already another character on our spin off, make him a brother of a psycho too.” It seemed more important to do that, than to use some imagination and reinvent them altogether. The way they drag out these reveals, then leave us cold when it finally airs is excruciating, not in a good way either. If I can sit here and come up with a character for each of them to play that makes sense all the way around for everyone and everything to spin off way more story down the line…why couldn’t these “great writers” do it? They did a nice job for the anniversary, they did a rather nice job of honoring Edward when he died. So I really had some high hopes for a great show to continue, and now I just can’t watch the stupidity anymore. I hate that the old stories are being virtually ignored while they implant the OLTL 3 back on the show, and it is not worth it for me to watch the 5 minutes a week of the stories I am interested in. I am hugely disappointed in the way things are being handled, and if Ron and Frank are not interested in the continuity of the show, then I am not interested to see how they destroy my great memories of my life long obsession with GH.

  17. IF Anybody can make things fall into place, and deliver the goods, it IS Head Writer Ron Carlivati… Personally, I have been a very loyal “GH” Fan for all MY 49 years… I remember when those Who tried to destroy “GH” (Frons/Guza/Phelps) almost succeeded, had that trio not been fired when they were, there would not even still be a “GH” for US to be discussing… THEY rewrote Our beloved Character’s histories, in very bad ways… I have faith in this storyline, making Roger/Franco a Quartermaine as well as His Daughter, Lauren Katherine “Kiki” is a brilliant way to move this forward… I mean if Gloria Monty was able to redeem Luke Spencer and Wendy Riche/Claire Labine were able to redeem Sonny Corinthos, then it can be done… Some people seem to forget that originally Sonny was a pedophile, giving the 16 year old Karen Wexler drugs to work at His strip club and also sleeping with Her… Another thing people seem to overlook, the fact that Ron Carlivati has been a LONGTIME Fan of “GH” like Us, as He stated He was thrilled to have the chance to write for the show, having been watching the show since before the Luke and Laura pairing, He knows the history of the show… This Fan personally has been thrilled to see both Frank Valentini and Ron come aboard, and saving MY favorite show from cancellation for the second time, as the late-Great Gloria Monty did in the ’70s… Besides, how boring would it be IF all the Characters were Saints, with no checkered past, HELLO Carly/Caroline!!! I have been back to never missing a single episode of My favorite show of all time… I for one am loving it!!!

  18. He isn’t entitled to 12% of ELQ. With a new grandson and great grand daughter, the pie will have to be redivided and everyone will inherit a smaller percentage of ELQ stock.

  19. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Franco returning to GH because as stated in the above article the character was nothing more than failed stunt casting. I do like what Roger Howarth is doing with the role though. I don’t think an evil character is getting redeemed. Sam was still angry at Franco even though he didn’t rape her. We were even treated to her smacking him upside the head with a gun. Carly and Sonny want to kill him – AJ actually tried to. Mostly though I liked what we have gotten for the other characters so far. AJ found out what happened to Michael and let Sonny & Carly have it. Carly and Sonny are about to go all mobster and in a good way. Sam found out she wasn’t raped (yes, that is actually a good thing) and got to let Franco have it. Michael bonded with Kiki about why he is protective of his brother. And I can’t wait to see Ava’s reaction on Monday.

  20. I am all for watching the evolution of Franco. Let’s face it, this is a soap. How many characters that originally started out as villains committing murder, rape, kidnapping, etc, later turned into fan favorites? Jack Deveraux was a rapist who ended up being one of the most beloved characters ever in Days history. As stated, Franco was created only to be temporary thus why we did not see the typical reasonings that create sympathy for his deplorable actions as with other characters. However, I think all that can be overcome. Let’s face it-soap fans forget and forgive. We may rant like hell that we aren’t ever going to, but we do. Bottom line Carlivati was dealt a bad hand and he is doing the best he can with it. I say fake it til you make it!

  21. You cannot be serious. RC & FV should be tarred and feathered and run out of GH for what they have done to GH. They have no visions only memories of OLTL they can copy. What a tragic mess they have created.

  22. You’re kidding right? You want the viewers to sit through 6 months of this garbage to see if it will work? There is no redemption for this sociopath/rapist. As a woman I’m tired of the writers on this show using rape as a plot device. I watched this show for most of its 50 years on the air, but once they drove Steve Burton out, I was done. RC has turned GH into an unholy mess. And writers like you only compound the horror. Thanks for nothing.

  23. There is no “uphill battle” to fight. The only plan is to try and convince viewers that we simply didn’t see the last three years of story unfold.

    I don’t see why anyone should care about Franco’s backstory. He has demonstrated absolutely no redeeming qualities, and the convenient tapes “exonerating” him are a joke. Not to mention the fact that he enjoys killing and torturing just for kicks–not to achieve a goal–unlike the rest of GH’s villains.

    Franco should have stayed in the villain dumpster where he belongs. As a short-term sociopath hell-bent on ruining lives, he’s fine. We root for him to die, he doesn’t, and he eventually leaves. But he’s completely unusable as a character interacting with others. Any woman or man in Port Charles who speaks to him with anything other than loathing is an unrootable fool.

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