Our Latest Soap Opera Digest Column
Our latest thoughts on General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, and One Life to Live were featured in our latest column in the November 22nd edition of Soap Opera Digest.
by Mallory Harlen
DAYS OF OUR LIVES has always been the subject of sneers and rolling eyes; for some reason, people have long memories when it comes to stories about demonic possessions and entire towns falling victim to a serial killer for approximately three minutes. But when the show is on, as it has been for the past few months (…well, for the most part, anyway. The pacing, as always, leaves something to be desired; I was able to pick the show back up after an extended hiatus in a matter of minutes.), it’s really on and the rest of the soap world—ahem, GENERAL HOSPITAL—could stand to learn a few lessons from it.
Legacy characters in Salem aren’t merely brought out for cameo appearances during big splashy events and holidays: they are the heart and soul of the show. Victor Kiriakis has been hatching evil schemes since I was a toddler, and Jack and Jennifer started their epic romance decades ago and yet it is their stories that I excitedly fast forward to (no offense to the younger set, of course. They’re entertaining, too. Just less so). Too often, soaps make the assumption that “veteran” is a polite way of saying “stale” and cast aside compelling characters for something new and fun, so it’s wonderful to see the DAYS writers try new things like putting Victor and Maggie together, which is one of my favorite soap twists in ages. Meanwhile, GH’s lone couple of a certain age is Luke and Tracy, whose latest story has seen Tracy sexually blackmailed by Anthony Zacchara which, according to the uplifting score in all of their scenes, is supposed to be hilarious. Because what’s funnier than watching talented actors in an offensive story far, far below them? Anything. Anything is funnier than that.
As for the rest of the veteran characters, you’re lucky to see the rest of the Quartermaines once a month and Bobbie was shockingly absent during a storyline that saw her granddaughter in need of an organ transplant, her great-nephew die in an accident her brother was responsible for and her beloved nephew in serious need of a hug (really, GH writers: ease up on Lucky. How much misery can one human being take? And how much longer can Jonathan Jackson cry for before he becomes seriously dehydrated). I promise, GH, that these characters still have story in them.
Another lesson GH sorely needs to pay attention to: balance! DAYS has a big, talented cast and the powers-that-be manage to utilize it wisely. There’s no one character dominating every episode, whether on-screen or as a topic of conversation, while the GH writing staff is incapable of writing stories that don’t include Sonny, Jason, or Carly, which does a huge disservice to the rest of the show. Alexis hasn’t had a story in eons, Matt’s entire character arc can be summed up as “Issues with Patrick; Whines” and Ethan talks to a portrait of Laura. Surely I can’t be the only one who’d rather see the three of them embark on stories of their own than sit through another of Sonny’s copy-and-paste romances with his paramour of the moment, or listen to Sam tell Jason how wonderful he is. Spread the wealth a little bit, writers!
My Take, Too
by Louise Schwarz
Am I crazy here or does it seem like all the soaps are in the middle of some sort of major transition? Even the rumors about the ones I don’t watch make it sound like everyone is doing some sort of major overhaul or re-imagining in what I’d guess is a full-court press to re-brand themselves to stay standing. GENERAL HOSPITAL, for one, has been in a strange state of limbo for quite some time now. I keep thinking we’re being set up for something major to happen, but I’ve been thinking this for months and months. I think I’m supposed to be dying of curiosity about Steve’s past all of a sudden, but to me he’s still just a recurring character who serves a perfunctory purpose. I think I’m supposed to be similarly fascinated by Shawn’s past, but ten months into his presence on canvas and I’m still waiting to find him the least bit interesting. This is a man who fought for his country and came home with PTSD and then decided to put himself in the line of fire for a criminal organization, for which I think I’m supposed to find him honorable. Sorry, GH, I just find the idea of it disappointing. Even worse than Shawn’s dramatic back-story, though, are Steve’s flashbacks to cheering crowds or the sounds of plucking guitar strings. Is this some attempt at a new Eli Love story? Or Eddie Maine? Either way, he’s coming across more less like Dr. Noah Drake and a lot more like Dr. Lisa Niles.
Speaking of Crazy Doc Niles, her latest return has been more over-the-top insane than ever before and, if I’d had my way, is about the level of mania they should have brought her to in her prior stint. In other words, long, long ago. She’s finally done thinking she wants to be with Patrick or smugly ranting about how he mistreated her; instead she’s looking at herself as Frankenstein’s monster, as a woman “past” feelings. This showed such promise for a good “nutjob villain released on the town” storyline, but then they revealed her latest revenge plan was to inject Robin’s HIV-infected blood into Patrick. I’m willing to accept a lot on my soaps, but this was just in poor taste. Instead of rooting for the good guys or the bad guy or just a situation with high drama, I’m rooting for my own amnesia.
ONE LIFE TO LIVE, on the other hand, has been firing on almost all cylinders in its own transition. It really feels like they’re gearing up for the final story arcs that will be retired with the televised version of the show. I think most of us will appreciate it when the endless Liam’s Paternity storyline is put out to pasture, but as far as Todd’s re-entrance into the life that was taken from him? We’re just getting started. I’ve been full of complaints about how the Who Killed Victor storyline seriously delayed the drama of Todd rebuilding his life and his relationships with his loved ones, but the good news is that it means all of that is still ahead of us. The small teases of Todd with Blair have set my heart a-flutter and have left me wanting more, and Todd and Starr’s bond is just as awesome to watch as it ever was (and has finally made me root for Starr again). Here’s hoping they deliver!