Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
Our Soap Opera Digest column is still goin' strong! The October 25th issue featured our recent thoughts on General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful. Read on if you missed it!
by Mallory Harlen
GENERAL HOSPITAL has tried mightily in recent years to build a reputation as a soap that’s not a soap. “Don’t believe the stereotypes about cheesy love scenes and diabolical supervillains—we’ve got none of that here!”, you can almost hear the producers pleading to new viewers. And they’re right! There is none of that. Unfortunately, that means that there’s not a whole lot of story going on either.
One of the biggest problems with career criminals being the romantic, heroic, moral centerpieces of the show—I mean, the biggest problem aside from every single word in that sentence—is that there is no real dramatic conflict on this show. We know how every story is going to end: with the designated Bad Guy, often of a rival mafia family who is totally different from Jason and Sonny because…because Jason and Sonny say that he is, being defeated and then, usually, brought back months later for a tired retread of the exact same story. Where is the entertainment in that? I long for the days of real soap villainy because the rogues gallery GH has assembled right now really isn’t cutting it.
Anthony Zacchara has, I will admit, been written to be a much crueler, more psychotic character than the loopy, hammy grouch we’ve come to know—after all, he did kill Siobhan, shoot Dante, and hasn’t regaled us with finger puppets in a very long time. But his latest stint as the show’s resident evildoer hasn’t been a character arc as much as it’s been a series of chaotic scenes cobbled together with no rhyme or reason. He’s feuding with Jason and Sonny like always, sure—that makes sense. But why is he involved with ELQ? Granted, it’s always nice to see Jane Elliot onscreen no matter how silly the story, but it makes zero sense! As does his inexplicable attachment to Lisa Niles and plan to use her to wreak havoc in the future; surely I’m not the only person dreading that eventual return, right? Forget the way she torments Patrick and Robin—I still haven’t forgiven her for shooting Spinelli and bringing Jackal PI into our lives in a plot twist that existed only to answer the question “Is there something in the world more irksome than Spinelli?” with a hearty yes. What kind of a mob boss takes time out of his schedule to aid a stalker in her quest to win back her disinterested ex? I know the writers need to do something with him before he is inevitably brought down by the Corinthos family, but is it really too much to ask that their treading water make some sort of sense? Or be even a little bit entertaining?
However, Anthony’s arc seems to be plotted with precision and care compared to the revolving door villainy of Franco. I realize that the show is working around James Franco’s very busy schedule of movies, graduate classes and random performance art pieces, so timing is out of their hand, but that doesn’t mean that they should get away with this recurring story that, as far as I can tell, as absolutely zero point. “Franco is obsessed with Jason” is not a point; sadly, that is just business as usual in Port Charles, where Jason is the first person on everybody’s mind. I think if the show firmly committed to making Franco scary, it could work—James Franco IS actually a great actor. But trotting this character out for increasingly bizarre and pointless scenarios does a disservice to everybody involved, most notably the audience.
My Take, Too
by Louise Schwarz
With the recent broadcast finale of ALL MY CHILDREN, being critical kind of feels like I’m not a good soap loyalist. However, pretending to enjoy something that is just not working won’t help keep a genre alive, so I’ve simply got to say it: what the sweet mercy is going on over at THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL?! After weeks of every single episode being about Hope and Liam and everyone’s thoughts on their sex life (or lack thereof), we seemed to be getting a reprieve with the promise of new business stories (with Thorne back in the opening credits, even!). But after just a few days, we did a U-turn right back into the Hope For The Future nonsense, leaving the entire show up to its eyeballs in The Grand Tale of Hope’s Virginity again. Now, we all know that B&B is notorious for its familial partner-switching and inappropriate involvement in the sex lives of the characters’ offspring, but at this point everything that isn’t outright illogical is just plain… gross. Worst of all, there is no one to root for. Hope? She’s using her personal life and her wedding to promote her fashion line (why in tarnation the consumers would be the least bit interested in this is another question altogether), and doing so without first consulting her fiancé. Liam? Sure, I feel for him that his chaste fiancée is telling the international public that he hasn’t gotten past first base, but he’s been making out with Steffy and indulging both Steffy’s and Bill’s repetitive lectures to him about how Hope won’t give him what he needs. If he’s not man enough to keep his tongue out of someone else’s mouth or shut down someone who’s perpetually bad-mouthing the woman he loves, he’s not going to make a good husband for anyone at all. Steffy? A month ago she was throwing herself at Liam’s father and is now offering to spend the rest of her life with Liam and “give him what he needs” whenever he’s in the mood. Here’s a stunt casting idea: bring Gloria Steinem in to give Steffy an intervention.
And then we have Hope’s parents, frequently having explicit discussions about their daughter’s sex life while they themselves are in gauzy robes surrounded by candles about to get into some business of their own. Please tell me my parents have never done this? And then there’s Bill, who has practically ordered the young woman he was just claiming to be in love with last month to seduce his son, while keeping Katie in the dark about the whole thing. Even the more tangential characters are making no sense – why in the world did Oliver go to Liam’s (lame) bachelor party when just the other day he said he still wanted to reunite with Hope? Fortunately this whole thing is finally exploding and I hope to enjoy the fallout, but this build-up has been way too skeevy for words. Here’s hoping the return of Rick and the re-emergence of Thorne’s relevance will lead to some juicy business stories and we can end the Countdown to Hope’s First Time once and for all!