Our September Soap Opera Digest Column
We hope that you were all able to check out the 9/18 issue of Soap Opera Digest. The cover had everything you could possibly hope for: shirtless James Scott! Pretty Megan Ward! Steve Burton looking like someone just asked him the square root of 49! For our September My Take/My Take, Too column, we turned our hypercritical eyes to two of the most disappointing soaps: General Hospital: Night Shift and All My Children.
Becca discusses the tragic trajectory of NS and wonders how the powers-that-be managed to screw up a full hour of television centered around Patrick and Robin, let alone why they decided to waste Billy Dee Williams the way they have. Mallory was in mourning, trying to cope with pain of Greenlee losing her charm, Spike and Ian in peril, and Jonathan Lavery's continued presence in Pine Valley.
By Becca Thomas
I wanted to like NIGHT SHIFT. And I don't mean that in the "Gee, I really wanted to like the lingerie model-slash cardio-thoracic surgeon wife of my ex-boyfriend who cheated on me and took all the good CDs and my first edition Catcher in the Rye when he moved in, but unfortunately I hate her--bummer!" kind of way. I sincerely wanted to like the show. Patrick and Robin are one of my favorite soap couples--fun and smart, and Jason Thompson and Kimberly McCullough have oodles of chemistry and can banter like nobody's business. So I was optimistic about their central roles on NIGHT SHIFT. And I am a sucker for prime-time medical dramas (I'm even sticking with GREY'S ANATOMY through the George and Izzie fiasco, and I've been watching recycled plots on ER since it premiered in 1794). So in theory, I should adore NIGHT SHIFT. Unfortunately for ABC/SOAPnet, in reality, after a promising first episode, I've alternately hated or been totally bored by it.
First of all, the alternate reality is ridiculous. Stan (the Mafia computer hacker) is a labor organizer? Jason (the hitman/babydaddy/prison inmate) is a janitor? If I thought the latter meant that the GH powers-that-be had finally realized that an unrepentant murderer doesn't make a good romantic lead, and were testing transitioning Jason out of that "career," I might cast aside my annoyance with the incongruity. But it doesn't, so I won't.
Even smaller stories are completely different, for no reason. Spinelli is in love with Lulu on GH, but Jolene on NS? Speaking of Jolene, what was the point of adding all those student nurse characters, none of whom is being developed or holds my interest for more than a minute? Epiphany didn't have enough people to snap at, really? And the bigger issue: Why introduce all these new people when Maxie, Cooper, Nikolas, Emily, Georgie, Lulu, Logan and any number of other Port Charles residents who already have an audience following could have gotten more exposure on NIGHT SHIFT?
And what of Patrick and Robin, who were supposed to be a major focus of the show? They have been reduced to a predictable pattern: bantering turns to bickering, either because of or leading up to Patrick flirting inappropriately with another woman and Robin overreacting, and then they ultimately resolve nothing and end up near an awful special-effects sunrise. The actors are still great, but they deserve something new and interesting.
There are so many other problems with NS, including continuity errors, spotty pacing and medical plots we've seen 17 times before. Oh, and at some point, maybe after many martinis, I might understand getting Billy Dee Williams to agree to appear on your soap, but then opting to make him a weird janitor with a creepy affection for elevators, but as of now I'm pretty confused.
So overall, I am disappointed with what had been a promising, new soapy diversion. But maybe I'm just being unfairly harsh. It wouldn't be the first time...it wouldn't even be the first time today.
My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen
Poor Sabine Singh.
I can only imagine how excited she was to land the role of Greenlee on ALL MY CHILDREN and all of the snotty one-liners that come with the role. I would be, too! I'm guessing, though, that nobody told her that, as part of the recast, they'd be systematically destroying all of the qualities that made Greens likable. The old Greenlee, who was equal parts nasty and charming, has been replaced by a girl who is obviously insane and (even worse!) whiny and pitiful. It just seems excessively cruel to me to put a newcomer into storylines where her character (1)obsesses over Ryan like a lunatic, because that story has never been done before (2)briefly kidnaps the show's most beloved child (3) because of said kidnapping, causes the child to go deaf and (4) is lectured by Babe, of all people, on how to be a functioning human being (chillingly, Babe's lecture made total sense and if it had come from anybody besides Pine Valley's resident baby thief, it would have been an excellent speech.)
Then again, so many of AMC's current storylines seem to be exceedingly cruel to the viewers at home. The show has obviously improved since new Headwriters Barbara Esensten and James Harmon Brown took over, but there are still so many things that make me scratch my head and wonder what's going on in the writers' room:
WRITER 1: You know what daytime doesn't have enough of? Babies in danger.
WRITER 2: Actually, our show has lots of babies in danger, all the time. Spike was born prematurely while Kendall was in a coma, Jenny was kidnapped, Miranda was kidnapped, Leora died...
WRITER 1: Well, we don't have enough babies in danger at once. I was thinking, what's more tragic than a baby in a terrible accident who goes deaf?
WRITER 2: Obviously, a baby born with a hole in his heart.
WRITER 1: Exactly! And what if a mother had to deal with one son going deaf and the other born prematurely with a hole in his heart?
WRITER 2: I think we've got a ratings bonanza on our hands, here!
Luckily, even the most loathsome and ludicrous storylines have been saved by the stellar AMC cast. Alicia Minshew has been absolutely amazing with Kendall’s latest traumas, and she and Thorsten Kaye have an insane amount of chemistry. Leven Rambin has handled her new dual roles as Lily and Ava better than I could have imagined. Both characters are clearly defined and she seems to be having a blast. It’s a pity that the show can’t find a suitable love interest for her; as charming as Jeff Branson is, I’m all too ready for Jonathan to leave Pine Valley for good. I’m hoping that, maybe, the writers are just trying to ease into a period of total excellence, as if going from dreadful to great in a short span of time would wreak havoc with our equilibrium, Maybe, say, December, the show will be great again.
A girl can dream!