Three months ago I decided to take a break from ABC’s General Hospital. With a lame duck co-head writer and less than appealing storylines on the horizon, I knew I needed to walk away for my own critical (and fan) sanity.As stated last month during my mini-tweet storm, my unhappiness with the creative state of the show was the primary factor in my decision. It was becoming increasingly difficult to find aspects of the show to praise, resulting in more criticism than usual. I feared my commentary was becoming overly negative, and rather than engage it that, I opted to take a hiatus. The show, and social media for it, ceased being a source of enjoyment.
Engaging with fans is fun, but it’s also part of my job due to my role at TV Source. As an editor and critic, I’ve always believed my role should be constructive, not destructive, and as such there’s a line of professionalism that should be adhered to. When I’m on social media, I’m representing the magazine (even if I don’t always remember that). Opinions are my own yes, but those opinions can sometimes lead to headaches.
I began easing into regular viewing in the beginning of October, hoping my time way would allow me to see the show with new eyes. I’m happy to admit it did just that. Steve Burton’s return to GH as Patient 6 for the “Who is the Real Jason?” storyline was exactly what the show needed. I’m referring to some storylines with stakes – emotional and plot driven. One of our frequent critiques of GH in recent years has been the lack of payoff throughout storylines. Some believe payoff comes at the denouement, or final act, of the storyline. I’m a believer of smaller payoffs over the course of a story – you have to have moments that keep viewers engaged, and you can’t do that with weak or lacking plot developments. Furthermore, you also can’t rely on a single narrative to drive the series.
“The Jasoning” as fans call it, is admittedly convoluted, but GH creative has infused the story with the necessary layers to form umbrella storytelling. Patient 6’s storyline affects many in town, but their involvement (thus far) is secondary to their primary storylines. Ava (Maura West) was the first to encounter Patient 6 in Russia while receiving treatment, leading to an uncharacteristic decision to help the man and ultimately provide shelter when they met back up in Port Charles. The origins of Franco’s (Roger Howarth) obsession with Jason is being explored through the convoluted retcon of the retcon of the retcon of Jason having a twin, but it’s more focused on how this development affects Franco’s current life with Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst). Elizabeth has been concerned for Franco and wanted to come clean to Jason (Billy Miller) about him having a twin who “died” but opted not to when Franco convinced her his mother made it all up. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has new cause for concern when her son Jake (Hudson West) believes he saw a man with his dad’s former face, resurrecting old fears about Jake’s well-being after being traumatized by Helena.
Jason (Billy Miller) and Sam (Kelly Monaco) are starting a new chapter in their lives after a brush with danger over the summer landed Jason in a coma. This chapter – purchasing and rebranding the media company owned by Sam’s father – will ultimately create more distance between JaSam and their old lives, mainly their friendship with Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Carly (Laura Wright). Meanwhile, Sonny’s been on edge since receiving a mysterious phone call from Russia (it was Patient 6 with help from Ava), and is determined to get to the bottom of it. Ava turns over a letter to Sonny from Patient 6 that sparks a series of events that led to Sonny and Patient 6 coming face to face!
I’m primarily focusing on this story for the subject of this piece because it’s the one that’s captured my immediate attention. I’m emotionally invested in the fallouts (and there have been mini ones along the way), and I look forward to everything exploding together in the coming weeks. There are other things I’m enjoying, but that came due to the allure of Patient 6.
More has happened in the first three weeks of Shelly Altman and Chris Van Etten’s tenure as co-head writers than in the preceding two years before. Is this momentum sustainable? I certainly hope so. Four years ago ABC unveiled a short-lived promo campaign for their daytime lineup which asked “Why just watch when you can feel?” I want to feel excited when I watch GH. I want to tune in tomorrow. Anger leads to indifference, which in turn leads to lapsed viewing. GH can’t afford to turn its remaining audience into lapsed viewers.
What are your thoughts on the show at the moment? Do you agree, disagree with the column? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.