I feel like I'm getting ready to tell a tale of two cities, which I guess, in a way, I am. Our beloved Port Charles has journeyed from a dark and dreary place to one of light and hope, thanks to improved ratings and a dream team named Cartini.
Let's start with the worst of times, which has to be hands-down, the return of Kristina Corinthos-Davis, who blew back into town like an ill wind with a horrible disaster of a storyline about a vengeance-inspired reality show called Mob Princess. For months, we were subjected to venomous tirades from Kristina about what awful parents and human beings Sonny and Alexis were for pulling some less-than-savory strings to get their ungrateful brat of a daughter into Yale. The horror of it all was enough to send Kristina into a six-month-long screaming fit that culminated in a quickie wedding to Trey to save his evil rapist father from financial ruin.
Trey eventually grew on me, but Kristina did not. In short, I just don't think that Lindsey Morgan has the acting chops to be a soap star. She is great at being angry, but otherwise, she is wooden and seems uncomfortable in scenes. This was most noticeable when Alexis was on her deathbed from the cure for the deadly pathogen that Jerry had given Alexis. Lindsey hovered awkwardly in the background, while Kelly and Haley knocked it out of the ballpark with tears and angst as Sam and Molly tried to come to terms with the possibility that their mother might die.
Everything about Kristina's return fell flat, from the story to the actress. Right now, I just need a break from her, so I'm hoping that the writers decide to send her away long enough to find a more suitable recast.
Another ill-conceived storyline was the destruction of Jason and Sam's marriage before the honeymoon was even over. After years of broken engagements, affairs, betrayals, memory loss, near-death illnesses, and two dead children, Jason and Sam had supposedly emerged stronger than ever. Yet, at the first sign of trouble, Jason crumbled and let his emotionally shattered wife slowly slip away. It didn't make any sense.
From the start, Jason wallowed in his feelings of failure for not adequately protecting his new bride from the diabolical mind of a madman who, it turned out, was Jason's twin brother. I know that the intention was to give Jason and Sam a storyline that would have fans rooting for them, but at times, Jason was frustrating to watch because it seemed that he always said the wrong things to Sam, who was dealing with the revelation that she was pregnant with her rapist's child after years of infertility and longing for a child.
If that wasn't enough tension for the newlyweds, the writers decided to complicate things further by having Sam connect with a handsome and newly arrived mystery man, who turned out to be a cop. At the same time, Jason continually leaned on his past love for emotional support. The storyline then became a runaway disaster when Steve Burton announced that he had decided to leave the show and move to Tennessee to spend time with his family. It was the final nail in the coffin because any hope of salvaging this storyline with a wonderful happy ending died -- literally.
The writers had just a few short weeks to scramble to fix what had taken nearly a year to break. I practically got whiplash from the sudden shift in Jason and Sam's attitudes towards each other and their marriage, as the writers desperately tried to reconcile the dragon and the phoenix. For reasons that I will never quite understand, Jason "died" not knowing that Danny was his biological son. Perhaps it was Ron Carlivati's way of saying that Jason loved Danny as a son, and in the end, that's all that really matters. I don't disagree with that message, but it would have been nice if Jason and Sam had had that, since their happily-ever-after turned out to be shorter than their honeymoon.
Finally, there was the saga of Kate's deteriorating mental health that revealed an alter personality named Connie Falconeri and a chilling story of a violent rape, unplanned pregnancy, and the abandonment of a newborn.
I was willing to keep an open mind about the whole Kate/Connie dissociative identity disorder twist because I kind of liked Connie in the beginning. She was feisty, funny, and daring, not evil and maniacal like a couple of other alters that I've seen on other soap operas. However, all the things that endeared me to Connie ended up grating on my nerves, mainly because she acted out of spite, not a desire to protect Kate.
It was also a huge mistake to name Kate's alter personality Connie Falconeri, because it just confused the viewing audience, since Connie Falconeri was Kate's legal name before Kate had reinvented herself as a socialite-turned-fashion editor. It left many wondering if Connie was the host personality. The storyline turned from interesting to downright ridiculous when Connie blackmailed Johnny into marrying her to keep Sonny from having her put in Shadybrook for treatment. It didn't stop there. After Sonny convinced Trey to petition the court for the authority to have Kate committed, the judge ruled in Connie's favor because a psychiatrist, who had never had a single session with Connie, testified that Connie was the host personality.
You can't do that in this day and age, when the majority of the viewing audience watches shows like Law and Order and CSI. Viewers are willing to suspend reality up to a point, but not when it insults our intelligence. It's time to get Kate into treatment because this storyline has dragged on long enough.
Now, for the best of times...
Hiring Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati and then moving GH to the 2:00 p.m. timeslot turned out to be two strokes of pure genius. I'm certain that this was completely unintentional and unexpected on the part of Disney/ABC, which only makes it all that much sweeter. Clearly their focus groups and "experts" underestimated the tenacity of a determined soap fan.
Despite Disney/ABC's best efforts to get GH cancelled, the soap gods intervened by pulling the rug out from under their evil machinations and putting Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati into their path. Frank and Ron quickly capitalized on the decision to move GH into the 2:00 p.m. timeslot by reaching out to those displaced soap viewers who had lost OLTL earlier that year by adding some OLTL fan favorites to the Port Charles canvas. The additions of John McBain, Starr Manning, and especially Todd Manning have been a pleasant and wonderful surprise.
Proof is in the pudding, as they say, and Cartini have proven to be exactly what GH had needed to keep it from following AMC and OLTL into soap opera heaven. The ratings are up, especially with the coveted key demographic, women 18-49. The majority of fans are excited about the show and viewers who had fallen by the wayside over the past couple of years are returning. Cartini have managed to surprise us with twists and turns that no one expected, starting with the revelation that Robin Scorpio-Drake was alive. They then got busy tackling the problems that viewers had complained about over the past couple of years.
The result is nothing short of astounding. Smart, fast-paced dialogue, huge returns of fan favorites, and much needed balance to the storylines resulted in must-see television. Soap fans sent a loud and clear message to Disney/ABC that we want soaps, not shows like Good Afternoon America and The Revolution, both of which quickly disappeared.
I love all of the return-from-the-dead storylines, but my favorite by far has been the return of A.J. Quartermaine -- for two reasons: first, it never sat well with me how Sonny, Carly, and Jason systematically set out to cut Michael out of A.J.'s life; and second, I felt that Michael had never been given a full picture of what had transpired leading up to Faith abducting him and his siblings.
I've seen the argument that if Liz didn't want her son Jake to be raised in Jason's world then she shouldn't have slept with him. I can't really disagree with that. If you want to pick and choose the father of your children, then you should do it before you get pregnant, not after.
I know Michael was an unplanned pregnancy, but Carly slept with A.J. willingly, so A.J. had just as much right to be a father to his son as Carly had a right to be a mother.
A.J.'s return is the kind of storyline that perfectly illustrates why I love soaps. It has been playing out for years and finally the one person's whose opinion matters most, Michael, will get to be the final judge of who had wronged him most in the name of love: Carly/Sonny/Jason or A.J. However, I suspect that Michael will decide to forgive all of them and build a relationship with A.J. despite everything.
The storyline that touched me the most sort of ties in with A.J.'s storyline, in that it revolves around a Quartermaine -- A.J.'s grandfather, Edward.
The decline of Edward Quartermaine's health and his eventual passing played out rather quickly and was dictated by the real-life passing of the incomparable John Ingle, who portrayed the Quartermaine patriarch from 1993 to 2012, with a two-year break from 2004 to 2006.
In what would turn out to be John Ingle's final scene, we saw a frail Edward arrive at the hospital and selflessly give the only remaining vial of life-saving serum to adorable little Emma Drake. Those scenes were poignant and bittersweet because we hadn't known then that John Ingle would pass away a short time later.
I will never forget Edward telling Tracy that he loved her in that soft, gravelly voice and then seeing him give Patrick the thumbs-up, with that sweet smile and those sparkling eyes.
The writing for Edward's passing was sublime. Everything about those scenes was perfect and a beautiful tribute to both the actor and the character. I loved that they had a stand-in for Edward to give Tracy, Monica, Michael, and even Danny a chance to say goodbye to Edward, but it broke my heart that A.J. had been denied the same opportunity. However, sometimes that's the way life works. It was great drama and made the reading of Edward's will, which had a few surprises of its own, that much more interesting to watch.
My favorite scene of that storyline was seeing Edward's spirit in the doorway of the parlor, as he led his family in the Thanksgiving song that he sang every year. I get choked up, even now, thinking about how Edward had turned to the staircase with his beloved Lila at his side. It was so touching to see him reach for her hand, as Lila stood up from the wheelchair and then ascended into the light with him. It was an Emmy-winning episode from start to finish.
Now, dear readers, it's time to hear from you. What were your favorite and not-so-favorite moments? I'd love to read what you have to say and share some of the emails in my next column.
Until next time, take care, and Happy New Year!