Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
By Mallory Harlen
Even though ALL MY CHILDREN and GENERAL HOSPITAL have far more misses than hits these days, all hope is not lost: Both shows have at least one storyline that is hitting the right notes.
I was a vocal critic of GH's story that saw Patrick cheat on Robin with Lisa. There was no plot buildup aside from "Well, this is the reason we brought Lisa to Port Charles last year, so..." It neatly undid all of the growth Patrick experienced on his journey from Lothario to family man, and using Robin's trip to Africa for AIDS research as a scapegoat for a one-night stand was all kinds of wrong. Consider me shocked, then, by how much I enjoyed the aftermath. Lisa's trip to the land of the crazies was ripped off from Fatal Attraction , but what a fun rip-off it was! Brianna Brown, clearly relishing the chance to do something besides tell college stories and smile blandly, has made Lisa's unraveling equal parts compelling and hilarious; her friendly, breezy, conversations with Patrick and Robin after instances of kidnapping and attempted murder are amazing. Jason Thompson (Patrick) and Kimberly McCullough (Robin) are reliably excellent, but the fallout from this affair has seen some of their best work yet, getting to play guilt, fury and grief. Fingers crosses that this gets them some recognition when award season rolls around! This story also incorporated the return of Michael Sutton as Stone Cates--a return that, unlike most of GH's big returns in the past few years, did not rewrite history or serve as an excuse to sing Jason and Sonny's praises. I honestly didn't think the GH writers had it in them!
Since Jonathan Jackson took over the role of Lucky, I had been eagerly anticipating a front-burner story. "Surely GH wouldn't squander the return of an Emmy-winning actor," I thought (they would). "Surely GH will give Lucky something to do besides roam around town like an extra," I thought (they wouldn't). Finally, after a year, the show has granted my wish and sent Lucky off to Ireland for an undercover operation. The circumstances that got him there are sort of murky and poorly written, and I lost interest in the mystery of The Balkan, almost immediately, but it's been fantastic to see Lucky portrayed as smart and competent, and to hear Jonathan Jackson bust out a surprisingly good Irish accent. With the introduction of Siobhan, we even got a cute romance out of it. This is the kind of story a legacy character should have!
Over in Pine Valley, JR and Annie are embroiled in a romance of their own and, in true soap fashion, it's so dysfunctional that it's mesmerizing. Sure, their hookup led to two divorces, and the fact that Annie was once married to JR's father adds a level of profound awkwardness to everything, but Jacob Young and Melissa Claire Egan have some of the best chemistry in soaps right now. Egan is probably one of my favorite daytime actresses right now: Annie does so many horrible, self-destructive things and I still can't help rooting for her. At this point, she's one of the only people in Pine Valley I am rooting for.
My Take, Too
By Becca Thomas
I know that some people have long-standing affection for soap characters. I apparently do not. Because there are a couple of characters on GENERAL HOSPITAL that I used to adore but now loathe. Either I am completely impossible to please, or the writing for these folks is all over the place. I think you know which alternative I (narcissistically) prefer, but let’s look at this more closely to be sure.
Maxie really grew on me. I like Kirsten Storms, and once they got past Maxie’s PROJECT-RUNWAY-on-a-bad-day fashion period, and her unfortunate pill-providing affair with Lucky, Maxie’s adorable outfits and endearingly scattered self drew me in. Her anguish over Georgie’s death was palpable and convincing. But then, well, Spinelli happened. Their incredibly annoying “romance” and non-marriage (with the exception of the rather charming non-wedding), Maxie’s affair with Franco, and her increasing resemblance to the shrieking harpy eras of Carly (note: this is almost every era) did me in. I find pretty much everything she does now annoying. Her campaign to keep Spinelli away from Brenda? I actually want her to fail, and on the list of things I want to happen on GH, Spinelli having numerous scenes with Brenda is somewhere between “Jason becomes mayor” and “Sonny is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” (Note to GH powers-that-be: These are not plot suggestions. Though I can understand why you may be confused.) Why can’t Maxie be fun again? Why can’t she detach from the ridiculous caricature Spinelli permanently? Why can’t we have nice things, dear readers?
Speaking of Brenda, she’s on the list too. I loved her in the 90s (though my affection doesn’t nearly rival Mallory’s, who I think may have a Brenda Halloween costume stashed somewhere in her basement), and I still really like Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo, but oh my gosh, GH is like an old horror movie: Brenda Eats Port Charles. She is on all the time. She’s involved with everyone. I am all for story integration, but this is just a little ridiculous. I shouldn’t be surprised by this development on a show that alternates show-eating among three or four (depending on who Jason is sleeping with) characters, but I really hoped they’d do better with Marcil Giovinazzo’s return. I often want to yell at the screen, “It’s not all about you, Brenda!” But that is squarely at odds with all the writing. (Plus I generally try to avoid talking to my TV.)
Another one for the GH “Don’t actors get vacation, because this character has been onscreen for 72 straight episodes” file is Dante. I really liked Dante initially and Dominic Zamprogna is undeniably great, but I could really do without a week or so of this descent into Mafia-dom. It’s a good thing this former favorite of mine, now an irksome omnipresent character isn’t on an obvious collision course for a history-laden storyline with another one mentioned above – one like, for instance, Brenda? – that will consume months of episodes and the rest of my soap-related sanity, or anything.