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« In Which My DVR Is An Eloquent Soap Critic | Main | Subtlety Is Not This Show's Strong Suit »

July 01, 2009

Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column

My Take
By Becca Thomas

I am not anti-villain. I love a soapy bad guy or girl. I have adored DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Victor Kiriakis and his malevolent deeds since acid-washed jeans were popular the first time around. And one of Victor’s worst enemies, Stefano DiMera? Who doesn’t root for him, at least a little bit, every time he comes back from the dead to wreak havoc? Then there’s GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Helena Cassadine, who is a kidnapper, brainwasher, and murderer many times over. Yet I love her! I could go on for pages with examples of my solidly pro-villain stance. And I also understand that even good guys have to have some villainous qualities now and then, to keep things interesting. But lately with Luke Spencer, GENERAL HOSPITAL has replaced what was a layered and interesting sometime villain with an unrepentant jerk who has lost all rootability in my eyes.

Even people who’ve never watched GH before know Luke Spencer, and know that he has certainly had his villainous moments. The character is probably best known for being a rapist, for goodness sake. But for many people, some of GH’s best years were those in the 90s, in which a mostly reformed Luke, clearly devoted to Laura and their children, made the Spencers one of Port Charles’ central families. Luke conquered many of his demons, and while he still dabbled in the occasional con and interacted regularly with the mob (which had thankfully at that point not yet consumed the entire town), he was a great, flawed, nontraditional leading man.

But now, those of us who watched during those years are supposed to believe, thanks to recent revisionist history expressed through clunky dialogue, that among other things: Luke was routinely cheating on Laura, Laura knew about this cheating and, in fact, even accepted it in advance; Luke never wanted to be a father and Luke needs a new son to replace Lucky who for some reason is a huge disappointment. None of this has come off as organic character development. Instead, it all seems to be a poke in the eye to longtime viewers from a writing team that appears to have absolutely no investment in honoring Luke and Laura’s history. And even setting aside that storied relationship, how is a logical viewer supposed to cheer on this new Luke moving forward? Am I honestly supposed to hope this vile version of Luke makes things work with the awesome Tracy Quartermaine (played by the fabulous Jane Elliot)? Sorry, but no.

Luke could absolutely have grown out of his family-man stage, rebelled against that traditionalism and turned back to his con man ways without gutting the Luke and Laura relationship and eliminating the engaging character traits that drew viewers to Luke in droves over these last few decades. Instead, we’re stuck with illogical contradictions and disjointed history rewrites that are beyond tiresome; they’re downright infuriating.

GH had enough bad guys, though since the powers-that-be seem to have long since forgotten that the mobsters were supposed to be the bad guys, I guess it’s understandable that they had to look elsewhere for their newest villain. It’s just too bad they chose Luke Spencer, in the process destroying one of soapdom’s great characters.

My Take, Too
By Mallory Harlen

Spotting a veteran character on GH not named Luke Spencer is exceedingly rare (and I’d argue that what they’ve done to Luke’s character recently makes me wish that his time on-screen was similarly rare). The Quartermaines have been systematically killed off, Bobbie appears twice yearly and Mac is basically an extra. It’s like they think, “Well, the audience had a few decades with these characters. Surely, they can’t want more of them!” which is, as is often the case with GH, completely boneheaded. If I had the choice between watching Bobbie and Monica or Rebecca and Ethan? I’d choose Bobbie and Monica every time. The show would really do well to follow the lead of ALL MY CHILDREN and YOUNG AND RESTLESS, who have centered their stories on veteran characters and are all the more entertaining for it.

I don’t completely agree with the decision to kill Stuart off on AMC, because I am always opposed to killing people off for a sweeps stunt, especially a character as well-loved as Stuart. There’s something sadistic about the whole thing. It’s very much, "Oh, this character is beloved, and you'd rather him live peacefully off camera and occasionally interact with his son? That's cute. Hold that thought while I violently murder him." However, I can’t deny that it has given David Canary ample opportunity to remind everyone that he’s probably the greatest actor in daytime. The scenes leading up to the murder were hokey, to be sure—what are the odds that that many angry people wishing Adam dead would descend upon the Chandler mansion in a storm, armed with a weapon (or picked up one of the many weapons handily strewn about the estate if they forgot theirs) all at once?—but the aftermath has been pitch perfect. Adam’s pain when he realized that Stuart was dead was palpable, and you practically see his heart breaking every time someone confronts him and blames him for Stuart’s death. I’ve taken to arranging my afternoons around AMC so that I don’t have to miss anything Adam-related. Considering that I needed to bribe myself to watch a full episode just a few short weeks ago, that’s high praise, indeed.

One thing Maria Arena Bell has done so well since taking the reins at Y&R is making the divine Katherine Chancellor one of the show’s focal points: Jeanne Cooper languished for too many years on the backburner and the show suffered for it. Now she’s the show’s leading lady and Y&R is more entertaining than it has been in ages. Coincidence? I think not. Katherine is one half of daytime’s sweetest and most adorable romance, she and Jill are back at each other’s throats (which, I think, is where they belong) and the continuing saga of Cane/Philip Chancellor III promises to be one of the most entertaining stories of the year. My only complaint is that Jess Walton’s Jill hasn’t been afforded the same awesome writing, which I hope will be rectified soon (Hint, hint!)

Comments

Bravo to both ladies on for your comments on Luke Spencer. And while I loved Luke in the 80's and 90's, I absolutely cannot stand this version. He's totally unlikeable. I CHALLENGE Tony Geary to make Luke likable again. Believe me, that's a huge challenge.

I totally agree with your assessments of the character of Luke Spencer. Tony Geary is rarely onscreen so when he is I used to look forward to seeing the witty, daring Luke. The scenes he would be in were really guaranteed to make you smile. But now all we see is a huge jerk.

At this point I would rather TG take a permanent vacation from the show. I want to remember the Luke from the 90s that I grew up with. The one who was a family man and loved his wife more than anything. I don't recognize this character who is on my screen right now. I hate GH and TG for destroying the most famous couple in the history of daytime.

At one time the writing for Adam and Katherine was worth the stories they were in, but now Katherine is reduced to the same tired squabble with Jill over and over, Jill is treated with open contempt by the writers (ha ha, Jill has no money and has to file nails, it's hilarious!), and if spoilers are right, the Phillip story is about to fall apart.

Adam now does nothing but chase after crazy Annie, who changes personalities every few months and has no real feeling, or chemistry, for him.

I feel the need to sing The Wind Beneath My Wings to both of you for those columns....I mean I normally agree with you anyways but these....these just brought tears to my eyes and more than a few "Damn straights!" which was only slightly concerning to my co-workers when i yelled out in teh middle of a quiet day at the office....

The biggest argument against buying this "new" Luke is.....Tony Geary. All you have to do is go to YouTube, look at one of the many clips of Luke in the 90's interacting with his wife and children, and its obvious that was a guy who would NEVER cheat on his wife.

Tony Geary has stated he wants to "challenge the viewer." Well, he challenged this 30 year viewer to stop watching. Haven't watched one moment of GH since Genie Francis left last November. I think viewers have been given the middle finger by Frons, Guza, Jill Farren Phelps and now, sadly, TG. I also feel strongly that TG did not have the right to trash LnL because it is Genie Francis' legacy as well as his and he allowed her no say whatsoever. For me, that's it--I am an ex fan of TG and Luke. It would be better for Tony to retire permanently to Amsterdam than continue this pod-Luke masquerade.

I so totally agree about Luke/Geary. He's trashed the most revered couple in soap history. This so he can be close to the newbie on the soap. I have lost all respect for him as an actor and will not be watching the show when he's on. In fact, I'm so bored with the show these days I'm considering taking it off my DVR and not watching the show at all! TIIC seem to want the show to fail and don't care what the viewers think about what they are putting on the air!!!!!

I don't think Tony Geary can make Luke likable not this vision of him anyway and not without some help from genie Grancis as Laura and the dumb asses at ABC and GH don't wnat her back if I were her i don't know if I would want to come back after all the trash they have said about L&L and all the rewrites this show and the once great Luke Spencer suck.

IA about David Canary.. he IS the only reason I watch. The mob may have almost eaten Port Charles. But AMC is saddled with the force that is Zendall and it's constant whining and hospital stays.

Tony Geary's new TV G uide interview once again has him complaining about his association with the Luke and Laura story. Without that story, he would just be a thin, balding guy who had a bit part on GH. It was both Luke and Laura that made him who he is today. I think he thought it was just the "LUKE STORY". I have tuned out Tony G's NEW Luke and from the ratings so have millions of other loyal LnL fans. I'd like to see Tony G pull in 30 million viewers by himselm--His ego seems to be way out of control in his later years!!

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