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« Night Shift Episode 8: Employee of the Month | Main | Days of Our Lives Week in Review »

September 01, 2007

GH Showrunner Speaks Out on Controversial Storyline

Los Angeles, CA -- Sources reported strange noises coming from offices at General Hospital several times this week.  But fears of foul play were put to rest when executive producer Jill Farren Phelps clarified that the sounds were merely the show's writing team scraping the bottom of the barrel.

"Bob Guza and his fellow writers have definitely sunk pretty low before -- you have to when you've made the mafia the moral core of your show -- but this week they really stretched and I'm proud to say I think we really did reach the bottom.  We found ourselves in a bit of a predicament, because after the character of Jax was beaten, threatened, and coerced into having sex with a lunatic character that we had little reason to bring onto the canvas other than to perpetuate all kinds of disturbing crimes against one of our few remaining non-mob leading men, the fallout from that story threatened not to center around Carly, Sonny, or Jason.  So we put our minds to it and figured out that the best approach would be to make Jax being a sexual assault victim be all about Carly, and blame him for having been brutalized.  It was an inspired choice, if I do say so myself.  And as a woman, I'm especially proud to have been at the helm of ABC Daytime's flagship soap during this time, overseeing such groundbreaking storytelling.

But it wasn't easy; we really had to work to get things just right. First, we had Carly start referring to the assault as infidelity, and comparing it to when her ex actually did cheat on her.  Bob and his team wrote some great dialogue, like "My husband slept with another woman.  Something I came to expect from Sonny.  Not from Jax." There's really a lot of layers to this brilliant writing.  Among other things, this way we killed two birds with one stone because we not only made clear that Carly is the victim here, we also put Sonny -- who is a professional criminal and orders people killed as part of his "job," and who cheated on Carly -- on the same moral plane with Jax, a legitimate businessman, who still bore the marks of being repeatedly assaulted, including bruises that look like he got hit in the face with a 50-pound sandbag while wearing a steel Lone Ranger mask.

And, because a focus group in 1997 concluded that Steve Burton is really good-looking, we don't go a day without a few Jason scenes.  So we had Carly confide in Jason about her victimization.  She told Jason that Jax, by "sleeping with" Irina, "failed [her]," and Jason agreed. Bob also wanted to lighten things up a bit by throwing a little humor in, so he had Jason and Carly giggle at the idea that Jax could have been forced into having sex with Irina. 


That really amplified the hilarious nature of Jax's violation -- oops, I mean of Jax's violation of his and Carly's relationship, because Jax wasn't violated, of course.  And then we had Jason -- who kills other human beings for profit and impregnated a married woman and then lied about it for months to his fiancée -- chastise Jax for his moral lapse:  "You slept around on her!"  We're really pleased that the story has so many layers and that so many of our core characters have been able to get involved with the fallout from Jax's betrayal of Carly.

Making Carly seem like even more of a self-obsessed, shrill, entitled harpy than ever was a top priority for us, so I'm thrilled with our success on that front as well. Our well-tested theory about what the mostly female audience of soaps wants includes that women love watching one-dimensionally awful characters become the centerpieces of their favorite shows, especially if those characters are women.  Viewers particularly like it when we appear to be having a contest to see which character we can run into the ground faster.  Currently, it's a battle among Liz, Sam, and Carly, but I'm confident with this story we'll put Carly ahead for good.  Worst is best!  That's a motto that has been working out really well for us over the last decade or so.

One of the best things about this whole storyline is that it was conceived of as a redemption arc for Jerry, Jax's brother.  We needed to redeem him after we brought him back as a blond English sociopath, so we had him rescue Jax . . . by shooting the love of his life in the back and then rather gleefully dumping her body into the open ocean after stuffing her corpse into a body bag.  Since Irina was bad and therefore deserved to be killed, there's no moral ambiguity necessary for the Jerry character.  It was really moving stuff.  I couldn't be prouder of Bob and his team.  Well, if they had incorporated a tarp in some way, maybe I could be, but I'm happy with the results nonetheless.  We're confident that Jerry is now a hero in the eyes of the audience, and if we can just find a way for him to routinely interact with Sonny and Jason, I think he can replace at least three characters on the canvas -- probably a doctor, a nurse, and a cop.

We've been focusing on getting the word out about Bob and his crew's fantastic work these past few weeks:  marketing this story alongside others that involve actual infidelity in a promo called "Ultimate Betrayal" that we've been running ad nauseum on SoapNet, and sending an email to our whole list explaining how Carly was wronged.  We think the juxtaposition of Jax's situation with cases in which married or committed people had sex outside their relationships purely by choice will really make this story hit home. 

We were putting the final touches on those scripts and the ad campaign this week, which is what caused those sounds that apparently created some concern.  We're all fine, though -- fantastically self-satisfied and some might say deliriously happy, in fact.  So we appreciate everyone's interest and hope they'll tune in during sweeps, when we'll try to create a new bottom to scrape, by exploring how domestic violence can be hilarious and sexy, and why people are really way too reactionary about forcing toddlers to walk barefoot on hot coals."


Bravo, good column about whats wrong with GH I don't think for a second that GH's bottomless "pit" of a storyline barrel has scrapped the bottom though. That pit goes all the way to China.

The only thing missing from your article is the IRONY that Jax is actually culpable for the crime committed against him! If it wasn't so hedious it would be hilarilous.

Anybody harboring Jerry (which appears to be most of PC) is culpable of any crime committed by him, or in his name as Irina has done, so its like what can you do really when PC seems to inhabited by a bunch of "Night of the living DUMB" residents?

I don't think Jax is going to RUN to the feds and turn his brother in, so its like lets just "sit back" and speculate on who Jerry's "next" victim will be. Lets have a lottery on who is next to be shot, poisoned, raped or murdered so I definately take "pause" in offering any sympathy for Jax or even Jerry's past victims like Robin & Nikolas for that matter. Whats the point really? No one will do anything about it.

Once again, the characters of Carly and Jason are the "victors"...or at least the writers this so. NOT TRUE! They are so low in my book, I cannot stomach them. Who made Jason God? Who made Carly the "queen" of what's right and wrong. Really ... a joke. There are so many different ways this story could be going that would be touching and believable. Right now, all I want to do is tune out. Which is what I do! There was a really good opportunity to show what REAL people would do with a storyline such as Jax's experience. But no, instead...the writers mocked it. Made it a "laughing" matter between Jason and Carly. Carly reminds me of the girl on the school grounds who bullied all the other kids. Jason reminds me of the guy all the girls lusted after and wasn't worth dirt. I could go on..but, what's the use. GH, the way I remember it, is gone. It's all about what certain actors want...and GET! Disgusting.

The scary thought is that I truly believe that this describes TIIC thought process. I have never been as disgusted with a tv show as I am now with GH. It's mind boggling how ugly and messed up this storyline. How did this plot actually progress to the screen without anyone realizing how screwed up it is?. Ditto for promos about Jax betraying Carly. Does everyone at GH and ABC daytime live in an alternative reality where right is wrong and ugly and vile is the new beautiful.

This sick storyline has just confirmed my long-time belief that JFP, Guza, and Frons are all truly and deeply mentally ill or just plain evil. I suppose it's possible that they're just unspeakably stupid, but I don't think there is enough stupid in the world to explain away this storyline.

Every time I try to watch GH again they manage to make the show even more vile than it was before. I will not make the mistake of watching again.

I didn't see that TV Guide article,
Well it's less an article than a few comments in a yellow box, but it's something.

but as terrible as it sounds, I'm less outraged by the assault itself (I'm boycotting the r-word because I think soaps abuse it) than I am by the "Jax cheated" spin.
I agree. The assault wouldn't have bothered me if they hadn't taken it to the "Jax cheated" place.

Silly me. Here I was thinking that strange noise I've been hearing all week was my head spinning around from being subjected to the truly stupid words spewing from every character involved in this asinine story.

As a "longtime listener, first-time caller," per se, I have to commend you both on your incredible talent. You have a wit and intelligence about you that far exceeds the shows you write about. Most importantly, you keep in mind the number one thing a lot of online fans should - it's just a TV show! Don't take it all so seriously. Thanks.

I have to say I'm not invested in the Jax s/l, mostly because I'm not invested in these characters, but even my mouth dropped open in disgust more than once this week with some of the dialogue used. I honestly think the show wants us to believe that Jax's "infidelity" is a way to put him on an even keel with Carly for sleeping with Sonny in February. Jax himself is not suffering any ill effects of his violation, never mind anyone that loves him. I think Laura Wright is fabulous, and I have liked Carly much more because of her portrayal, but Carly has disgusted me beyond words this week with the dialogue she's been spewing. And Jason and Lulu? Both of them need to be popped, but good. Yelling at Jax for leaving poor Carly? I believe when Lulu laid into him on Friday is when my head finally exploded.

The show better drop this like a hot potato and pretend like it never happened. It's easy enough to do - remember Soily? The show doesn't either, apparently. Even for a bunch of people who have crossed the line so often that it's a dot to them, I believe they've now created a whole new line. The gutter is now a step up for them.

I didn't watch these scenes for obvious reasons (they included Carly) but I got irate just reading your column.

GH sucks, NS sucks, Guza sucks....when will the madness end?

WE MISSED MORE GLARING HYPOCRISY!!!!!! I just watched more shameful GH from this past week on my DVR. Carly sent Jax to get tested for "filthy" diseases after his "infidelity" w/ Irina. Jax, on the plane, said she used "protection", I assume he was referring to condoms. Don't be shocked, some rapists do so to avoid getting caught by DNA evidence or getting a STD or other reasons known by the rapist. It happens.

Condoms help prevent the spread of alot of STD's, including HIV. But not all. And make no mistake I am all for being tested and retested as a sexually active person. It's the way GH handled this that makes my skin crawl.

And I AM glad he went to get screened for any other possible complications or STDs from his sexual assault. I even hope he has his torture wounds looked at too while he is there. But I doubt it! That would make sense, GH doesn't do that anymore.

HOW DARE CARLY SEND HIM TO GET TESTED LIKE HE WAS AT FAULT AND POSSIBLY RUINING THEIR MARRAIGE BY CHEATING ON HER!!!! He was raped, and even then luckily condoms were used. Even still the hypocrisy not the reality of being tested is what drives me mental.

DID JAX DEMAND SHE GET TESTED AFTER SHE SLEPT W/ SONNY? NO!!!! Another example of Jax's growing stupidity. Carly has never been faithful to anyone ever. She is a rotten cheater whose every pregnancy was unplanned as far as I can recall. She needs testing, lifelong testing. She is as always totally irresponsible when it comes to her life and those she claims to love.

Example # 34,564 Chasing a terrorist to TURKEY and bribing officials? When she should have got thrown in Turkish prison to never be heard from again who was going to raise her "precious boys"?

And look who she cheated with this most recent time, SONNY.

SONNY the saint and moral mob leader of PC. He has knocked up half the town, all surprises. And he sleeps with hookers!!! Remember GH even wrote it out clearly after the CarJax wedding! He has regular dial a whores on speed dial! Amelia and Kate have also been bedbuddies recently. After losing Stone if anyone in PC should be a condom user it's him. But nooooo.......

But Carly doesn't need testing, just Jax. AGH!!!! Fuck off Guza and Phelps! You stupid evil cruel irresponsible unimaginative morons!!!!!!!! How do you keep getting away with this horrible offensive pathetic crap? What network exec. keeps paying you for ruining GH? Does anyone at ABC even watch GH or NS? Are soaps such a lost cause that nobody cares what they air anymore?

And just to kick us when we're down Jax runs into Emily at GH before getting checked out. He apologizes profusely to her for his brother's cruelty and abuse and for his own crime of not seeing the truth and trying to rescue/defend his evil brother Jerry.

Good, Jerry did poison her boyfriend and try to kill him, has her in limbo facing treason charges if his Craig identity is ever discovered/proven, and Jerry is also culpable in her father Alan's death.

So why the hell did she go all Pollyanna and tell Jax not to give up searching for the good in Jerry? She said if Jax gives up on Jerry who else will love/save him from the darkness? (paraphrasing due to my wretching)

Does Emily have a head injury I missed? Or is this more insanity from TIIC, trying to get the viewers to love Jerry, as written by Guza? Pathetic and insulting. Redeeming a character you wrote as pure evil is never gonna happen. It's beyond suspending disbelief, you keep changing history and flipping characters around 180 degrees and expect us to buy it?!?!?! How many mystery pasts have you come up with for Sam??? Over five I think. Ridiculous, remember the one that was a ballroom dancer? What a sad unsuccessful ratings ploy. Many of us never bought that crap with Carly. She is the same lying manipulative user she was when she came to PC to destroy her Mom. At least to alot of loyal GH viewers.

Plus let's not forget, like Guza has for years now, about Robin. Where is Jax's apology to her? Not one mention. GH can't be bothered to remember they are old friends. Or that Robin nearly died because of Jerry. Nah, why bother tying Robin to anyone in PC, even if they are friends and family. Just keep her with Patrick, and for fun turn him into a mean disrespectful dick who treats her, his girlfriend, like a lousy doctor, inadequate woman, and all around loser!

I miss the fabulous hot funny sexy bickering loving Scrubs we were getting to know. Now with NS it's all gone to hell.

And the only thing on GH's horizon is another mob war.

I am a deeply flawed woman. I think my biggest one lately is my inability to drop GH from my life. I keep waiting and hoping for things to turn around. I remember how good it can be, and no matter how awful it gets, I can't forget the potential.

Let's face it...this soap now officially sucks. It has the potential to be all that it used to be. The writers really and truly are slapping the fans in the face every single day. Like it or not, if you're a gh fan and you tune in to see if POSSIBLY something good and worthwhile happens...you're disappointed. Day in and day out, the same old stuff...none of which is worth watching. Characters changing behavior before our very eyes...and we sit and watch. The writers don't care. They think we're chumps...and I'm beginning to think they are right. I literally sit down to gh and cringe...waiting for the next insane s/l to make me into a raving lunatic talking to my tv. I can't believe I am still watching this stuff. I guess there are certain characters I still love and waiting for the writers to wake up and say.."hey wait a minute...so and so would never do that"...but that day still never comes. It's the biggest waste of time in the world. All I can say is thank goodness for being able to fast forward MOST of the hour. In the good old days, there were episodes I watched more than once. Now I can barely wait to get through one episode without just shaking my head in disbelief.

I'm confused. Because it looks and reads exactly like something I would write, but a completely different person wrote it.

Anyway, I've given up completely on GH as of the week before last, but your entry really nicely highlighted at least a few of the reasons why I cannot bear to watch my favourite soap anymore...and without going into the quadrangle of doom! that is Lucky, Liz, Jason and Sam.

Seriously, if this isn't the bottom of the barrel, I don't even want to see what the bottom of the barrel is.

Adios GH, but hello serialdrama! Someone sent me a link today, and I'm definitely going to be bookmarking.

I truly thought GH could get no worse and now I see it has. This Jax/rape storyline takes the cake. After almost 30 years of watching this show, I can stomach it no longer. Great job, Frons, Phelps and Guza! You've just turned the only daytime television show that was named to TIME magazine's best shows ever into a depressing, violent, embarrassing mess!

I love what you've written but am reading the posts that follow with a mixture of regret and sympathy. I really love GH but I have to agree with everyone here that this storyline if off the rails.
I know that the GH writers probably won't care but I will write in to let them know that I'm going to stop watching. I've been a fan for many years and have been getting more, and more uncomfortable with the way the writers are handling the "good" bad guys as well as the actual good guys.

*sigh* It's a shame. The character of Jax is being so ill used with this nonsense. What a waste.

Wow. I thought I was all alone in my sadness over General Hospital's decline. But I'm thrilled to see so many smart women viewers here. I feared that GH made heroes out of criminal scum like Sonny and Jason (and all of their overacting) because women wanted men who are "decisive" and "get things done." Any man on the show who truly has a heart, like Lucky, Jax and Nikolas, are shown to be morons for not drinking the Kool-Aid and worshipping the mobsters.
Has anyone working on GH ever seen The Sopranos? That show knew the mob. Every time the audience developed some affection for the mobsters, we get a glimpse of their greed and power plays do to normal people. Lives are ruined and wiped out. Not on GH. Mobsters are sexy! And then I see these women on the "Super Soap Weekend" clips talking about how much they love their Jason and Sonny. How does the brain get that soft.
Oops. Maybe from watching General Hospital. I've been watching since junior high in the very early 80s. I'm seriously considering dropping the show all together. It's sad. I have so many good memories watching the show and chatting with friends about it. It just seems so twisted morally. (And I'm a lefty, not prone to getting righteous about morality.) But a show where Liz and Jason are star-crossed lovers and Emily is an apologist for every thug, killer and terrorist, thinks are just plain messed up.

Women should be the most insulted. You have female doctors and nurses who love and defend men who make their living killing. It doesn't make sense.

Thanks for the great blog and the brilliant comments. Some of you guys should be writing the show!

Oh yeah. And as a guy, that rape thing really bugged me. Pretty gross treatment of a really serious issue. There's never any counterpoint on the show. Carly and the mobsters are right. Any one who disagrees is wrong.

I guess this is why viewership progressively declines every year.

Save GH - sign this petition:


They have just gone too far. The story lines are just too absurd, with Mob hitmen acting as superhuman Surgeryman in an elevator. Sudden unbelieveable changes in the characters of the characters. Mob people setting the moral standards, and being the heros[It amazes me we have a Hired Killer as the leading romantic interest that all the women are fighting for] It is just disgusting. And monotonous storylines[someone ALWAYS has possession of someone elses baby...you can count on it in ANY ABC soap] Its just too silly and boring.

Steve Burton's hair is the least of GH's problems right now. GH is sinking like a stone. The way things are going, there won't be anyone around to see how he wears his hair 6 months from now. This show, with arguably the most talented cast in daytime, is currently unwatchable by anyone other than the diehard few. The producing, the writing, the vision for this show have all contributed to its near total destruction. For someone who has watched this show since 1969, I say thank you to all of you who have given me some laughs with this site about a situation that would otherwise be very sad indeed.

I think the destruction of GH started after the Metro court Story when they started killing off vets. I have watched this show a long time and felt like I new most of the characters they killed off personaly.The mob itself has never bothered me, but it has become to violent. I do however like the relationship between Jason and Liz, but would prefer they write the story better with less character destruction.

This is brilliant! I read this ages ago, and found it again and just HAD to reread it! Great great work!

Whoa, what an awesome piece! I remember reading about this particular story and was disturbed. I cannot believe a head writer who is a MAN trivialized the brutal assault and later rape of another man.

On WHAT planet is a man who is viciously raped being unfaithful to his wife? And a big "Boo, hiss" to Carly, the wife, who has the crassness to laugh at her husband's pain.

What is especially galling is the fact that, when she first arrived on the scene, Carly was a whore who slept with her mother's husband under false pretenses and with the intent of making her mother suffer.

In this era of blog ,we easily get nice & updated information for research purposes... I'd definitely appreciate the work of the said blog owner... Thanks!

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