Embracing change: Cast shakeups and backstage drama

For the Week of December 12, 2011
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GH Two Scoops: Cast shakeups and backstage drama
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Firings, hirings, and cast shakeups rock General Hospital. Can changes bring back viewers -- and put the rest those pesky cancellation rumors? Our Two Scoops columnist, Jennifer, weighs in.

It's almost Christmas, people. So, how about a little Ho-Ho-Ho? I know there are more changes going on backstage at General Hospital than on Santa's Naughty and Nice list this time of year, but I choose to embrace the change.

Here are the facts, Scoopers. General Hospital is in trouble. It's the lone soap survivor on a network that seems to be transitioning to a network of unscripted shows. The writing has not satisfied viewers for years, and Bob Guza was ousted. Garin Wolf was put at the helm, not for long though, for what fans thought was to bring back old favorites and return the show to core families. That didn't exactly happen, so now we have a new head writer, former One Life to Live writer Ron Carlivati. Also, long-running GH executive producer Jill Farren Phelps was replaced by another One Life to Live veteran EP, Frank Valentini.

What does all this mean for viewers? It's too soon to tell, but I hope it means that creatively GH will once again thrive. Any of you who want to write a letter to Santa with this as your Christmas wish, please feel free.

Yes, I was happy to see Garin Wolf replace Bob Guza. I was sick of all the depressing tales, the constant shootings and violence, and the ignoring of the Quartermaines and beloved characters such as Mac. I thought things had improved. Had GH returned to the glory days? Certainly not. But Wolf was given very little time to correct a ship that had been set on a bumpy sea. Wolf's pacing is too slow and erratic. Some days, I feel as if I've missed a previous show because characters would be in mid-conversation about something that seemed to come from nowhere. It felt like we'd missed something. And then there are the same old stories being told over and over again -- Sonny's abuse, Jason's violent outbursts, rape.

The violence continued with the alleged rape of Sam. We had to relive Sonny's horrific childhood beatings, again, a story arc that's been tackled several times already. Lulu and Dante's daily fights made me feel like I was watching Groundhog Day. And Lucky and Liz, well, let's just say if I see them coming up in a scene, I just automatically grab for the tissues, because my eyes start tearing up more than Jonathan Jackson's. And now it looks like Robin may be battling her illness.

I had hope that the last regime would embrace opportunities and give fans what they've wanted for years. Jason could have been so compelling, if he had been given his old memories alongside his "new" life as Jason Morgan. Instead, he's having anger flashes since his brain surgery. We've seen angry Jason before, years ago after his accident, and then we saw angry Michael, after his rape. Fans were hungry for new storyline ideas, ones that hadn't been explored: Michael working at ELQ, growing close to his birth family, and sparring with Tracy. Jason grappling with his life as a mobster and reconnecting with the Q's. We didn't get them, and now is the time.

New writers take note. This show is dark. Too dark. Soap fans like romance, family gatherings, sexy flirting, socially relevant storylines -- but in moderation. General Hospital is heavy, all the time, and fans have had enough. They are tuning out. We want escapism, not realism. So, please bring back some levity.

Fans have great ideas for what they want to see. Peruse the message boards, read Two Scoops columns, do anything to get in touch with your fan base. The days of doling out whatever you choose, hoping viewers will watch, are over. Unless that's the plan all along and the reason to replace daytime with mindless talk shows.

Mr. Carlivati, I would also suggest that you take a note from the folks over at Days of Our Lives and start bringing back fan favorites. I haven't watched Days in decades, but I recently started again, after flipping through the channels and seeing the old Austin, Carrie, Jennifer, Jack, Marlena, and John. It felt like the old days. That's the feeling GH needs to invoke.

Some of you will argue that GH should chase new viewers. I'm open to that, too, but it seems like this generation is more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians and the real housewives of New Jersey than the Spencers. So, GH execs, play to your true fan base, the old fans who used to love the show and have left. You can get them back. They are the ones who tuned in to see Jax, Frisco, Felicia, Robert Scorpio, Ned, the Quartermaines, Nikolas, etc. It's my Christmas wish that GH will start the new year with a new outlook and a new direction. Santa, please don't let me down.


How fantastic was that group scene, when Mac rounded up all the suspects for Lisa's murder? That is classic old-school GH, and I loved it! Yes, naysayers, I know it would never happen in real life, but it's fun, so embrace it. It reminded me of The Mentalist, who uses that technique often, or the detective shows in the '80s, like Murder She Wrote or Magnum, P.I. Put everyone together and make them squirm, was Mac's theory, and it worked.

Thankfully, for us, we got plenty of zingers. Olivia renamed career-criminal Anthony, "Orange Jump Suit." Maxie called Ronnie a "Jersey Shore reject," and Anthony called the whole room hypocrites. Then, it took Maxie all of ten minutes, before she threw Robin under the bus. The interaction between these characters was brilliant. Mac planted the seed about evidence left behind on the boat and is waiting to see who takes the bait. I knew Mac was smarter than he has been portrayed in the past decade. Well done!

Sam fans, I have tried to love this character the way you do, but every time I start to warm to her, she makes me crazy. This week, I was flabbergasted when Michael, for the first time in his life, wanted to do the right thing and "let the cops handle it" when they found Franco's DVD. But Sam chimed in with, "The cops are useless, Michael." Nice, Sam. Isn't that kind of thinking that got Michael sent to prison in the first place? I know Sam doesn't want her "rape" reported and is supposed to be super detective girl, but she should also remember she's a role model for Michael, not to mention it would be nice if the cops could actually get a shot at solving a mystery once in a while, instead of Jason and Sam.

I know some of you have problems with Garin Wolf's head-writing stint, as short as it was, but I love that Wolf has given us so much Mac Scorpio. His scenes with Robin and Maxie, were so touching. And his conversation with Alexis this week about his "misspent" youth, reminded me of the old dangerous Mac we met years ago, when he had an Aussie accent and a boatload of secrets. Mac even articulated fans' frustrations over his lack of screen time lately and the romance-that-seems-to-go-nowhere with Alexis, by telling her that they really didn't know one another, other than a few minutes at Thanksgivings and a broken-down car on New Year's Eve. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Dante, it's about time you found your spine and called out Lulu for her controlling behavior. I know you've been shot a couple times and perhaps it was the pain meds clouding your judgment, but Lulu's incessant harping would have sent most men running for the door by now. I'm excited to see Dante move on. It's clear that Lulu has issues she needs to work out.

Speaking of Lulu, Mr. Carlivati, please take this character in a new direction. As I mentioned before, she's the baby of fearless Luke and Laura. Spinelli reminded us this week that she used to be feisty and used "crazy ninja skills" on Jason Morgan at one time. I'd like to see that girl again. And Mr. Carlivati, please note that Lulu used to date Johnny. There's delicious history there that could be played, considering both Lulu and Johnny were adamant they didn't want to follow in their parents' footsteps, yet Lulu is throwing back vodka day and night and Johnny is back in the mob.

I'm warming up to Delores. That girl is gorgeous. I'm stunned that they've given her a husband, however, because she and Johnny and she and Dante seem to have nice chemistry. Maybe she's fibbing, and she really isn't married. I vote for that scenario.

Maggie is interesting. But, she reminds me physically so much of Lisa, that it's kind of strange watching her. Yet, a couple times this week, I swear I heard a bit of an Irish accent. Could she be related to Siobhan? Probably not. Perhaps I've had too much eggnog. Whatever she has on Steve, though, from their Memphis days must be good. He's totally wigged whenever she mentions the "m" word.

I know I rave weekly about this, but I can't help it. Johnny is hilarious. How he manages to have chemistry with everyone, including Sonny, Steve, and Anthony, is a conundrum. He sizzles with Olivia, Lulu, and Carly, and now he's flirting with Delores and Maggie. I loved how he was needling Steve about Olivia at Jake's. Johnny is a pot stirrer, and I love what he's cooking. More please!

Loyal readers know I don't read spoilers, but we haven't seen former Mayor Floyd in months, and suddenly he pops up at Jake's, interested in all the strippers. I think the writing is on the wall that he's the big bad bully beating them up. Or maybe it's the writers' way of just throwing us off.

Matt sure is guilty of something. I'm just not sure what. I thought for some time that he was the doctor that Anthony had on his payroll. But, now I'm not sure. His mysterious disappearance this week boggles the mind. I don't think he could have killed Lisa. He was wasted. Right?

Robin has me worried. Again, I don't read spoilers, so if you know what's going on here, please don't tell me. But, Robin is carrying around her medical files and acting strange at work and at home. I know that Kimberly McCullough has opted to leave the show to pursue a directing career, and I fear that AIDS may claim her character. That would be a hard story to digest, as we watched Robin grow up on this show. With all the darkness, rape, and death on GH lately, I really don't want to see that happen. I know certain actors define roles, but in this case, I'm open to a recast if it spares us another gut-wrenching tale. What about you?

Best Lines of the Week

There wasn't much humor in Port Charles this week. What we did get was courtesy of Alexis with Mac and Garrett, when she found out that Garrett was going by the name "Pres" from his middle name "Prescott." She called him Garrett anyway.

(Mac loses it on Alexis, saying that he could easily tamper with evidence in the Lisa Niles murder case, to make sure his family wasn't implicated.)
Mac: "I just wanted to show you my dark side...dark, tortured, dangerous. Let's face it. That's what you find attractive."
Alexis: "That is so hideously (pauses) accurate. I really need to get back into therapy. I'm not sure I've been a great example to the girls. One married a mobster. The other is in love with a gambler. I'm telling you, if Molly brings home a teenaged perp, I'm putting her in boarding school for the rest of her life."

Reader Spotlight

All the behind-the-scenes changes at GH have left many of you reeling. My mailbox is full of negative emails about how frustrated fans are with the show and all the depressing storylines. I've shared some of those here. But, I'd like to remind fans that Rome wasn't built in a day, and that change takes time. Two Scoops reader Jim has an interesting perspective, that I think we should all consider. Take it away, Jim.

  • "Firstly, thank you Jennifer for writing this column. I enjoy reading your take on what's happening in Port Charles and the candid way you comment on the good and bad. I agree that certain moves were mistakes (the firing of Ingo Rademacher and Tyler Christopher, working Jonathan Jackson so hard that he chose to leave, steering Lulu towards alcoholism, etc.), but you also point out what the writers at GH are doing right. The fact that we're seeing the Quartermaines at all is sort of a Thanksgiving miracle, the mystery surrounding Wyndemere is developing into something amazingly dark and spooky, and Steve is finally getting his own story after who knows how many months of being written as an ineffective side character.

    Sure, there are stories in the works that shouldn't have made it past brainstorming, but like you said, we should be thankful that GH is still on the air. I read your Reader Spotlight and all of the comments sound ridiculously negative. I'll agree that Sam's potential rape is an iffy and convoluted storyline, but reactions like "If this one story goes a certain way I will never watch GH again" are no way to keep the show alive. If we can't be patient and wait for the citizens of Port Charles to get where they're going at their own pace, then we're part of the problem. We can't expect a quick fix to all of the issues on GH. We're not in the age of weather machines, aliens, and spies any more. (Maybe something like that would give the show a boost though.)

    Anyway, I'm thankful for General Hospital and I'm not going to stop watching when they need their viewers the most just because I'm not thrilled with every part of it. ----Jim

  • I was watching yesterday's episode last night and thought to myself, "Why am I watching this?" I don't want to watch Sam suffer through a "Who's the Daddy" storyline.; I don't want to watch Jason have a meltdown; I don't care about a rerun of Sonny and Kate; I don't care about Steve, Olivia, and the new crazy doctor; I have had enough of the shrews known as Lulu and Carly; and I can't bear to watch Robin die from AIDS (if that's where they're going with her exit). So I turned off the show and deleted it from my DVR. I have been watching GH forever and am finally calling it quits. If ABC cancels it, so be it. ---Anne

  • I just had to comment on GH. I just don't know where it is headed. It seems that since the demise of AMC and now OLTL we are rearranging chairs on a ship that is going down. I think Sonny and Kate are a snooze fest. I FFWD. I don't like Carly and Shawn. I FFWD. I mean she is married to Jax, and she knows for a fact he is alive. I am sick of Lulu and Dante's constant problems and her drinking. What started out as something promising for Olivia and Steve is now, what, a ménage-a-trois? The whole Lucky thing going to Ireland and ghost tour reminded me of the time Emily was going to die, if Nik hadn't taken her to a secret garden. Come on! Luke, as wonderful as he is, has not been too interesting since he came back. Tracy, whom I love, is a bitch without him. And don't get me started with Jason and Sam. I really thought this was going somewhere, with him having flash backs. I was so excited hoping for something good. However, this whole (so called) rape episode did an injustice for a lot of people who have been raped. I cannot believe she showered and they left without reporting it, when they could have told the authorities who it was. But I really think that he did nothing and just played with Jason's head. I hope their showdown is at least good. I expected so much more out of the storyline of them getting married. Seeing where it would take them. About the only interesting thing going on here is WHAT HAPPENED TO LISA NILES? I want to know who actually killed her so this mystery is good, slow but good. I love GH but I am just finding it hard to watch lately.---Toni Amelio

  • I'm feeling very sad these days. It's eerily similar to what I witnessed and experienced with the demise of my old company (and job) at the hands of a new President. We were lead to believe the changes were going to make things better at the company, when in fact theses changes were put into effect to 'destroy' the company. For the last eight months I've been watching the collapse of daytime TV, as we've know it for all these years. I watched both AMC and OLTL from the beginning, and later on GH. I believe this new "set-up" at ABC is designed to finish the job Brian Frons started.

  • The decision comes as Disney/ABC merges its daytime division with its syndicated programs. The new division, known as Times Square Studios and to be headed up by Vicki Drummer, will focus on non-scripted lifestyle and health programming. Current shows under the new structure include The View, General Hospital, The Chew, The Revolution, Katie, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire." It's only a matter of time before it's announced that GH is history, as well.

    I mean really "non-scripted lifestyle and health programming!" Does GH really fit into that description? Sadly, from all I've deduced, I think GH will be history by September. And as for all these talk shows and lifestyle shows, there is only so much I can stomach. Once GH is gone, I will be gone from ABC Daytime, for good! ---Mandy

  • I have been watching GH since the '80s and I am sick to death of the same old storylines. Here's what is going to happen: Sam will of course be pregnant and the paternity test will be changed by Franco, so they will think it is Franco's. Carly will hook up with Shawn, just as Jax comes back and he will be disgusted with her sleeping with someone so soon. So she will lose her chance at reuniting with Jax. The new doctor that came to town will be a problem doctor of course. So sick of the extremely obvious. And this Franco storyline is sick. Stop raping people! I fast forward almost every scene. I just watch Elizabeth and Lucky. --- Rose

Jennifer Biller
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