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« Gasp! Moan! Oh My! | Main | Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column »

November 17, 2008

8 Simple Rules For Writing A Horrible Soap Opera Episode

Today's episode of General Hospital was pretty much a master class in how to produce an EPICALLY AWFUL hour of television. Bob Guza rarely exerts effort at anything but when he puts his mind to something, he does it full throttle, Charlie's Angels 2 style. Why he decides to put effort into crafting an episode of television that was really and truly and pretty much LITERALLY painful to watch in that I think it actually gave me an ulcer is a mystery for the ages.

But I am a conscientious pupil, one who pays diligent attention to any lesson, no matter how ludicrous, so I decided to pay attention to Guza's tutorial. After all, television has taught me lessons in the past: watching sitcoms in the 80s taught me many important things that I carry with me to this day, such as not hiding in abandoned refrigerators during games of hide and seek. Perhaps one day I, too, will feel the need to create a television show that has no real entertainment value and is produced for the sole purpose of driving the audience insane with a potent combination of rage and grief. Who knows?!

1. Have formerly level-headed characters go out of their minds

So...Diane. I have a complicated history with this character. For a supposed fashion buff, she's usually dressed like an extra from L.A. Law. A blind extra. But she and Alexis are so hilarious together! But she enables Sonny and Jason. But she also calls them out more often than anybody else on canvas does! But then she and Max take up a lot of airtime that could go to a number of other characters. But Carolyn Hennessy has such stellar delivery! I am often torn about her.

Today, I was not torn. Today was all about the pure, unadulterated hatred.

Diane: Oh, good. Oh, you finally [!!!--Ed.]decided to haul his gold-plated Aussie ass to the cleaners. Well, I'm right behind you.

Diane: You should thank your lucky stars that this woman is even willing to speak to you [!!!--Ed.], much less want to stay married to you. You have been a disastrous husband in every way [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!--Ed.]. And I can prove it.

Diane: You've pretty much done nothing but walk into and out of this marriage pretty much from the start. My client is a saint [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!--Ed.] for wanting to contest this divorce, whereas any other woman in her right mind would be hauling your butt to the cleaners.

I mean...for fucking real, show? SERIOUSLY? A SAINT?! Really. The way I see it, which is perhaps not the way the majority of GH watchers see it, is that if Jax were to come down with a case of violent thugism that so many on this show suffer from and decided to just kick Carly square in the head, I would rejoice. ESPECIALLY if she made this face at him one more time.

Carly

Why does Laura Wright do that? It is obnoxious on its own, let alone coupled with Carly's shrieking harridan shtick. Then I think it's a crime against humanity.

These tragic scenes did give me one of the episode's biggest, albeit unintentional, laughs:

Kate: Jasper Jacks really doesn't settle for second best.

Oh, Kate. What show are you watching?

2. Have your leading man, in addition to being a violently unbalanced murderer, be a whiny bitch.

I have made my peace with Sonny being a criminal inexplicably held up as the best person to grace Port Charles since Saint Carly, but I have absolutely no patience for his griping and moaning like a cranky toddler who is pissed that he had to miss Go, Diego, Go to go with his mother to the grocery store. Say what you will about Jason, and I have said a lot, but it speaks volumes about his inner strength that he hasn't just pulled out one of the guns he has on him at all times and shot Sonny in the leg.

Sonny: You should have known the truce wasn't going to last that long. You sat on your hands too long. Look what happened.

Sonny: I told you the Russians were just waiting to make a move. You wouldn't take action, and now you let everything get completely out of control.

What a winner!

I also liked how he was so flirtatious with Olivia, approximately six seconds after he broke up with her cousin. Who says romance is dead?!

Incidentally, his duh face is contagious.

Duhface3

"The square root of 49. I know this! I know this!"

Duhface2

"A route, like how to get somewhere? Let me think. I don't think there's a Route 49..."

Duhface1

"Don't ask me, I'm literally brain damaged."


3. When in doubt, make your leading ingenue a smug moron

Lulupout

Sorry, but nobody that stupid has any right to pout like that at anybody. Are we supposed to be impressed that Lulu had a breakthrough today, realizing that the Zaccharas are dangerous mobsters? Pat her on the head and congratulate her for figuring out what everybody else has known since September of last year?

4. Allow characters like Nadine onscreen

There are some people who annoy me so much that I tense up at the very sight of them. One such person is Chelsea Handler. Another is Claire Coffee, which I actually feel bad about because I am sure she is very sweet and she seems nice enough in interviews that I've read but Nadine is incredibly irksome.

Nadine

She's also a fucking lunatic.

Nadine: Look, I know you feel awkward about this and -- look, I -- I don't blame you. I totally understand. And, technically, I'm not really for the situation because it's against the law and fraud, but look, there are real criminals out there and you are not one of them and you should not be deported.

Nikolas: Once again, you've completely lost me.

Nadine: Don't worry about it. And I will marry you.

Divider

Nadine: Oh, you should see the list of errands I have to do. I mean, just because this is a marriage of convenience doesn't mean that it's not going to be done right.

Nikolas was, a mere few months ago, having sex with the ghost of his dead fiancee (or something--I've tried to repress it) and yet he is, by far, the more rational person in this equation.

5. Take a character that, against all odds, you managed to redeem and start systematically stripping her of all her great qualities

Today was not a good day for Maxie. Over the course of one episode, she managed to...

  • exhibit the blistering hatred of Liz that made her so hateable back in the day

Maxie: I have been watching her operate for years. Trust me, ok? I mean, I got all the blame for breaking up her and Lucky and I wasn't innocent, but I wasn't alone in the situation either.

Totally! You weren't alone! Liz screwed up, too! With all the...stuff she did by...being...there... 

  • randomly decide that Sam and Jason are the greatest couple of all time which is stupid because I really feel like the writers need to decide who Jason is going to be with instead of waffling with Liz for so long and deciding out of freaking nowhere to start bringing Sam into it and also FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS DATE HIRED KILLERS
  • said the words "Jason is a stud"

Again, it was not a good day for Maxie. I'd like to think that she'll go back to the adorably sassy Maxie that I love so much, but with these writers at the helm, I don't have faith in anything anymore. Jason is a stud! I ask you.

6. Don't make the dashing, devoted, doting doctor the leading man of the show!

Whenever Patrick is onscreen being all hot and charming and adorable and hot, I always get sad that he is merely a bit player in the mafia story that this show has become. There is no way that anybody can look at Sonny and Jason and Patrick and declare that Patrick isn't the dreamiest, most wonderful person of all.

The crazy, overprotective father thing has probably been done before in every television show and movie featuring a father with a newborn daughter but that doesn't make it any less sweet and hilarious.

Robin: You could go a little faster.

Patrick: No, you're -- you're all right.

Elizabeth: Do you want me to take Robin down to the garage? You can bring the car around?

Patrick: No, no, no, too many fumes in the garage.

Elizabeth: You guys can just wait in the lobby.

Patrick: You kidding? There's too many sick people in the lobby.

Divider

Robin: I hope we can get her out of this thing. It would be a shame if our little girl had to grow up strapped to a car seat in the back of a -- a van. I can't believe you're driving a van.

Patrick: Yeah, yeah. I bought it the day you stabilized. I thought it would be a little bit of a, you know, surprise.

Robin: I'm definitely surprised.

Patrick: Yep, safest car on the road.

Robin: Um, honey?

Patrick: Mm-hmm?

Robin: I think the speed limit here is 35.

Patrick: Yeah, I know. I'm not -- I'm not speeding.

Robin: I know you're not speeding. You're going 15, maybe 18 --

Patrick: Ok, well, Robin, I just don't want to jostle you and the baby.

Robin: Ok, well, Emma and I appreciate that very much, but we'd also like to get home today.

Patrick: Ok, 21, here we come.

I'm sorry, but that's adorable. The word "jostle" cracks me up in and of itself, and the entire thing made me squeal a little bit with delight. That's cuuuuute! But who wants to see adorability like this routinely when we can watch hitmen and murderous weebles instead?

7. Try your hardest to make the aforementioned dashing, devoted, doting doctor look a little bit foolish

Not to be all conspiracy theory on you, but this sweater was a blatant attempt to make Patrick look silly, right?

Patricksweater

I am reasonably sure that it is a woman's sweater, possibly from the junior's department. I'm just saying.

8. Instead of going out of your way to help viewers forget one of the single most gratuitous and ill-advised instances of murder in this show's history, which, considering the show in question is saying something and that something is bad, make sure to have the sister of the character you killed off for no good reason be found unconscious in the exact same position and the exact same spot as her dead sister because what the hell, right? Violence around the holidays is how we roll here and what do viewers love more than women dead and/or in jeopardy? Nothing!

Spinellimaxie

This effing show.

Comments

See what happens when Jason becomes involved in a story? I totally blame him for Maxie's backslide into Worst Character in Daytime territory. And given what I know is coming up this week...well I can't wait for Christmas and what joy THAT should bring.....

Happy Holidays everyone!

This effing show!!

I was sort of hoping GH was turning a corner with the Scrubs and LnL scenes last week and that maybe I might actually WATCH a show. But nope. I see it's back to General Mobspital. Thanks for enduring this crapfest of a show for us and letting us know NOT to watch it!

I had the misfortune of actually watching parts of this episode. Never in my life have I ever wanted to choke a bitch as I did Carly today. Talk about self centered. It's her world-everyone else just lives in it. I applaud Jax for finding the strength not to punch her square in the face. I wouldn't have been so restrained.

Nikolas has the worst taste in women. Each piece of tail he gets turns out to be worse than the last. He should just take Spencer and leave town for good.

Also, at least I can be thankful we didn't have to hear Liz justify putting her children in danger just to having boring sex with a hitman like she did last week.

Thank goodness for L&O: CI. I would so rather watch Goren and Eames solve crimes than this. Even watching GH during the commercial breaks is painful.

I'll just block out the rest as usual.

In the show's defense (shudder), I think Diane was just saying all those things about Carly to show how she would be able to challenge Jax in court. I don't think that Diane actually believes any of those things. I must believe this for the sake of my own sanity.

Mallory you ROCK HARD!! Sonny was a total douche and Jason had a did you just fart look on his face when Sonny rolled him under the bus in that scene. Poor Kirsten S. I bet in her head or I at least hope in her mind when she saw this scene in the script, she was thinking..."I really hate that Bitch Guza but I also got to make the house payment this month so I better do this fucking scene no matter how much I HATE IT!" Guza really needs to get some sort of therapy and while he gets it, be off all of our TV screens for a Lonnnnnnng time. I love this and was so looking forward to your response on today's show. As per usual, you did not disappoint me at ALL. Love Ya.

LMAO!! "Square root of 49" Sonny, Lucky, and Jason's "duh" faces are made of WIN!!

Again I ask you soap gods why you don't just give me a full hour every week for the entire year of just the Scorpio-Drakes. Seriously. They were ALWAYS the best thing about this effin' show for me but as time went on it became strikingly obvious that they were the ONLY thing worth watching on this effin' show. I have said before and I will say again that when Patrick, Robin, and Emma leave I'm gone too b/c GH isn't worth it without them.

But YES, how CUTE were their scenes. When I didn't think I couldn't love Jason Thompson more(BTW at SSW his reply to "How do you feel about people wanting to rip your clothes off" "...I love stalkers..." Do you think theres a chance he WON'T get the restraining order out?!). But his sweater... *snickers* I don't know. Its certainly not the best thing he's worn but Jason Thompson has this thing about him that he makes everythng, EVERYTHING, look and sound good.

"There is no way that anybody can look at Sonny and Jason and Patrick and declare that Patrick isn't the dreamiest, most wonderful person of all." I must disagree... Guza would.

As always, you ladies are awesome. Great post Mallory :) I'm going to go off and watch my "dashing, devoted, doting doctor" with his girls... again. <3

Here's a rule for watching GH. I have trained my beautiful brain (a hot ER said I have one after a CAT Scan) to tune out everything except Scrubs/Miss Emma/Scorpio family scenes. It will take you a while to accomplish this feat but it is sooo worth it. Cuts down on headaches and violent urges to smash one's pretty tv. Robin, Patrick & baby going home had me laughing and happy well after the show went off. Oh yeah, aren't there safe luxury model SUV's out there that Patrick could buy?!! I would have loved a scene of doting cop Great-Uncle Mac and Patrick anchoring down that car seat. Mac would have been all over that to make sure that baby was safe. The writers miss a lot of opportunities. I feel a headache coming on. Let me go to my happy place-watching clips of Scrubs & Emma.

edit: that should be "hot ER Doctor"

See I'm so happy from Scrubs that I can't type right!

Sonny,"Jason what you are trying to say is that when I killed Karpov I started this whole revenge thing,
Okay, If that is the case how come they are burning down you stuff.
I mean my house is still standing."

So as I was reading this I went through a lot of emotions mostly hatred and WTFness, Carly a saint gag me please. Then there was a little glimmer of happiness when it came to Patrick being hotly concerned and neurotic about the wellbeing of his newborn daughter.
But of course the best was saved for last. I scrolled down to the end of the post and was puzzled as to why there was a picture of Georgie's death in this post, wasn't that an event we were trying to forget those morons let take place? How surprised and furious was I to realize that it was actually a picture of Maxie being the latest mob victim. I really hate this show, if i could i would fly to California and go all Jason Morgan on every person responsible for the creation of this scene. Seriously I can't even believe they did that how thoughtless are they, I mean she is even in the same body position and her outfit is similar to the one Georgie was wearing. I HATE this sorry excuse for entertainment!!!

I appreciate the praise for Scrubs because I love them. I also couldn't help but feel like they belong to a different show than everything else does. I often feel that way but today it was just soooooooo glaringly obvious. I was singing in my head "One of these things is not like the others..."

I have been stewing in my juices about Maxie being found on those steps since the promo first showed it. There are not words to express the disgusting, violent, twistedness of that moment. Nor to describe Maxie having to call the borg a stud. So.much.hate.

I have to disagree to a degree about Nadine. Sometimes she annoys the crap out of me but today wasn't really one of those days. I mean the whole citizenship thing is stupid from the word go so I guess I don't totally blame her for looking stupid. Plus Nik & Nadine were the only other non-mob story besides Scrubs. It may be a ridiculous story but it's not chock full of mobby violence. For that alone I just ignore the stupidity. Besides for some reason I can really only bring myself to hate Nadine when she is near Leyall. ;)

As a Diane hater, I must also challenge you here (even though I recognize you admitted to a conflicted relationship with her). Do you recall her telling Lucky & Alexis & possibly Liz that she would "BBQ Lucky Spencer" back when she got involved in the divorce/custody battle of Lucky & Liz? She became a raving, delusional, irrational, frothing at the mouth mob lawyer then too. ANYone who gets like that on behalf of Sonny, Jason, and/or Carly needs to be muzzled permanently. Never mind how they insta-BFFed her with Alexis to the severe detriment of Alexis' relationship with her real BFF (Jax--in case you were wondering). That doesn't make me totally bitter about her or anything.

God, Sonny...it's great how he's supposed to be the unofficial "hero" of the show and yet he's less likable than quite a few mobsters from other soaps, who *are* supposed to be villains.

If I was ever drunk or deranged enough to write a fan fic crossover of my soaps, it would involve DAYS' Victor Kiriakis circa 1986 or OLTL's Carlo Hesser coming to Port Charles and kicking Sonny to the curb.

Surely hating Liz is a positive quality?!? OK maybe that's just me. If I'm going to hate Maxie it's for all the mobster-enabling she does now.

I don't think Diane gives a rat's patoot about Carly, she was just being her lawyer.

To back up Kels point here...as a card carrying member of "Oh Ugh Diane" Club...Diane also was the one who made the nonsense threat to Lucky to make him "pay through the nose" with child support for 18 years AFTER Lucky had already made that offer to Liz privately before lawyers got involved for BOTH boys. At that point I think my eyes got stuck in my head from trying to figure out how that was supposed to be a terrifying threat to Lucky and how come suddenly after like three years of Lucky is dirt poor, suddenly he was made of money.

Worst excuse for a show ever but I love Serial Drama. I no longer watch this show but you are all love.

Sonny just crawl up and die. I have hated Sonny for years now and his goodness needs to be killed off by Jason before dumbass Jason turns the gun on himself.

And Carly and Diane, I have no words. This is heading to a bad place for fans of Jasper Jacks. Stay Strong.

Lulu is too stupid to live

Nadine. I have to agree Nikolas has the absolute worst take in women and it progressively gets worse. What this show has against giving Nikolas an interesting and compelling love interest I will never know. Maybe if his name was Sonny that might change.

And Maxie. Uh no Jason is not a stud but I loved the Liz comments.BUT why oh why remind us how lovely Georgie was murdered, This show is run by a bunch of worthless hacks with no respect or sensitivity to women at all.

And GH's production of late has been worse than normal. Horrible lighting, gorgeous actors looking like crap, cheap sets. I wish I understood the appeal these days.

Well it looks like they are setting up this show for another joyful holiday season. 2007 kill off 2 beloved charcters, 2008 murder and mayham. Happy holidays.

I suppose Jason could be considered a "stud" if the definition was "a stationary piece of wood." And why does he get props from this show for keeping his hero-worshiping, dim-witted Sancho Panza away from the line of fire and sending him off to do innumerable white collar hacking crimes. My only hope is that Spinelli blames him for the attack on Maxie and breaks the connection. Then maybe I won't have to fast-forward through their scenes as well as all those featuring the other screaming, sneering mobsters and their molls.

I absolutely love Scrubs. Their only crime is keeping me watching this crap for some sign of humanity from them. Why can't they have their own show---maybe even a primetime sitcom. I know Night Shift was supposed to be about them, but they should be in every scene. Does Guza not know they are on? They haven't been screwed up yet.

Well, I agree with you over most things....I think that Maxie has made a significant change for the better and hope and pray they don't allow her quirkiness, snarkiness and knee jerk retaliation tactics subside. And although I do agree that yesterday's scenes with Sam were...odd...I think it kept with her whole "I HATE LIZ" mantra that I do't think she'll ever get over (and I am not sure I want her to)

Sam, on the other hand...well for someone who is SO in love with Lucky now she waffles on Jason? A guy who just last year told her under no uncertain terms that he would KILL her?....MMMM he must be really REALLY good for her to get past THAT !!!!

I mean great looks, great sex or not...I'm totally not into the whole...death thing. but hey...some girls are fickle like that.

NOW...I 100% agree with you regarding the whole entire Jax/Carly/Diane scene. When Diane called Carly a saint...It would have been so much better had she choked or something and then admitted it was hard for her to say. Besides....how can you verbally attack a man who in real life named his kid Peanut? I mean...brick wall...helloooo?

Many is a time I have wondered myself why Jason hasn't just put all of Port Charles out of it's misery and simply ENFORCED Sonny off the planet. His brain damage is greater than I thought. And for such a tough guy...he sure takes it in the ass from Sonny.... A LOT !!!

He COOULD be the ultimate hero of Port Charles. I mean he doesn't make decisions to hurt, he doesn't make them rashly (9 years and counting on Liz) and he considers all others, their happiness and well being and safety before himself (SAM).

Finally, the biggest problem with the writers is this...yesterday...we saw five different storylines and none of them seemingly cross over into the other.

Jax/Carly ~ divorce
Jason/Sonny ~ Mobwar
Maxie/Sam ~ well the only story I can think is "A blonde and a brunette are sitting on a couch, what's the point?
Johnny/Lulu ~ okay so they are in love....who give a flippin rip...they can't even find anywhere other than to stand in front of a burned out building to talk. (Um...isn't he like...rich? Get a room !!!)
Then there is Scrubs...a storyline in itself with no outside factors what so ever.

I think the writers and Producers need to take a month and study Y&R....maybe it would help them understnad how a real soap should be written and produced. They haven't been #1 for decades for nothing !!!

There has never been a review or critique of GH this supremely accurate, bravo!

My only comment, since if i get going on Carly's sainthood I will spontaneously combust and die in a great ball of fire, is that super hottie new daddy doting fiance Patrick's sweater is from the Limited circa 1986! When Limited or Express V-Neck striped sweaters were often worn backwords on top of Guess Jeans with the ankles rolled up with scrunchy socks and Reebok hi-tops too boot!!!! I also recall lots of plastic and rubber bracelets, crimped hair, and Sun in hair products.

as usual brilliant post. i too rolled my eyes when maxie called jason a stud. serioulsy part of the reason that maxie and patrick are my favorite characters is that they are the only 2 people on this show that are indifferent towards the borg. hearing her ssay that was just so wrong. now onto patrick. i have been screaming for years that he should be the leading male on this show. why he is a b or c character is beyond me. i think guza is jealous that he is dreamy tall sweet moral good etc all the opposites of him. how else to explain the wardrobe they put patrick in. hideous sweaters, skinny ties, sweater vests!!! the fact that he is still hot is a testament to his hotness

I couldn't disagree with you more (on the Patrick thing). Patrick is sooooooo effing hot in those sweaters. Maybe it's the former model thing. Maybe it's my love for Mr. Rogers Whatever the reason I love the sweaters, and Diane calling Carly a saint??? I almost stroked out.

I...just...there are no words to describe how terrible GH is. This episode was a prime example of the shit Guza and company churn out every day. While I may not be a big fan of Jax, I hate Carly even more, and this whole divorce thing is just ridiculous. The mob... don't even get me started. I like to pretend they don't even exist, which is hard because they are the inexplicable focus of a show about a hospital. Speaking of, the characters who work in said titular hospital are so entertaining and adorable that it should be contagious.

Also, I totally agree with you about Nadine, Mallory. She is the female version of Spinelli, and I do not mean that as any form of a compliment. She annoys the hell out of me, and every time she is onscreen, especially with Nikolas, I cringe. As for Nikolas, I would just like to point out the sheer stupidity on the part of Guza and TPTB and their blatant ignorance when it comes to US citizenship. Granted, I am only going off of my high school government class, but it is my understanding that Nikolas does not even need a green card, much less a valid one, because he is in fact a US citizen. Because Laura is his mother, and she herself is an American citizen, Nikolas has been a citizen since he was born, regardless of whether or not he is of Russian nobility or born and raised in Greece. Being born to a US citizen automatically extends citizenship to any children. Ipso facto, this story is shit. A little bit of realism and fact-checking would be greatly appreciated in the future, moronic TPTB! Is that too much to ask?

Well considering that when Nik was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of his grandmother the idea of deporting him never EVER came up but woo boy do something truly dangerous like break into a hotel room in LA and the INS is breathing down your backs....I would venture to say that yes....yes it is far too much to ask them to fact check ANYTHING. This is the same show, set in upstate New York, that had Jason and Johnny worrying about getting the death penalty in a state THAT NO LONGER HAS THE DEATH PENALTY.

Diane can SHUT THE EFF UP and DIE along with that soul sucking loud mouth cow Snarly Jax is dumb for marring that whore Sonny I have loved forever but he looks dumb everytime he opens his mouth Jason should put the viewers out of their misery and kill the so called "russians" than turn the gun on himself and Liz relizing what she lost meaning Jason she should also die so we can all suffer in peace Maxie can also shut the hell up about Jason and Sam they were good once but than they sucked and they are DEAD so they should stay that way and Jason and Liz should get together for containment reasons only and I don't want the nasty bint near Lucky

Clearly, the Awesome Police responsible for the last few weeks were kicked out of the building.

Damn, that can only mean one thing: Guza's back from his vacation. Or rehab. Or both.

It is nice to see credit given where it is due. GH/Guza excels at writing horrible episodes. They deserve so much more recognition of this fact! Thank you for stepping up.

Diane. Whatever. She merely verbalized what Guza believes we believe - that Carly is a saint. Well....no she isn't. She's an evil witch, but this is Guza we're talking about.

Sonny. I don't watch him anymore.

Lulu. See above for Sonny. The same applies.

Nadine. I like her. And she makes me like Nik again which is a big deal.

Maxie. Every once in a while they do this to her. They revert her. I don't watch her on such occasions and as such was spared the "stud" comment. If I didn't hear it, I can say it never happened. The writers have no concept whatsoever of character growth and development, they just write whatever dialogue they want to hear, damned if it makes sense or not. Quit paying attention to this, viewers, you are annoying.

Patrick. Ah, Patrick. Doing everything hotly. EVEN wearing that sweater. There is no limit to Jason Thompson's talent because that ridiculous sweater looked good on him. Now, if he wants to take it off, that's fine too!

The Georgie/Maxie similarity. Hate. This. Show. There were so many other ways to draw the comparisons and to push the story forward without the horrible imagery. Horrible imagery is another area where GH excels. So sad that they are great at the sucky stuff.

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