I have to be honest, I hate being negative. I try to focus on the positive, but critiquing is a necessary evil when you do an opinion column. Therefore, I prefer to take the rip-off-the-Band Aid I have to be honest, I hate being negative. I try to focus on the positive, but critiquing is a necessary evil when you do an opinion column. Therefore, I prefer to take the rip-off-the-Band Aid approach rather than draw things out.
There were several contenders for my naughty list this year, including the return of Ava as Denise DeMuccio. I love Maura West and hated that she appeared to be written off in what I thought was a very beautifully written story. It was a shock to learn that Ava had survived a plunge into the freezing river after being shot and falling from the bridge, but to learn that Silas had saved her had been a great extra twist. Maura totally knocked it out of the ballpark, as she portrayed a woman rapidly succumbing to an aggressive form of terminal cancer. I cried as Ava touchingly asked Silas to give her dignity in death by helping things along in a compassionate way.
Sadly, all that was tainted when, several weeks later, Ava popped up in town as gum-smacking Denise DeMuccio sporting a horrific Brooklyn accent, gaudy jewelry, and an awful Cleopatra wig. It was ludicrous that everyone bought the act for any length of time, including Morgan, who slept with both Ava and Denise yet didn't recognize any similarities in bed. Granted, Morgan is a moron, but the rest of the denizens of Port Charles aren't, and no one should ever trust one single DNA test from any laboratory within a 1000 mile radius of that town.
It was a horrid story that completely jumped the shark when Ava was allowed to walk free because the recording of her confessing to Connie's murder had vanished -- a recording that could be retrieved from Carly's laptop and had been used as evidence to convict Sonny. On top of that, Ava was awarded custody of Avery.
However, the naughtiest of naughty goes to the "Dark Luke" storyline. I hated every second of it from the moment Luke suddenly morphed into a creepy, lying, manipulative bastard who had no qualms about sexually harassing women with unwanted advances and crude remarks.
There was nothing likeable about Dark Luke, especially as the storyline dragged on an interminable length of time without any hints or explanations as to what was driving him to act so horrid. Further complicating matters was Tony Geary's medical leave for back surgery. It couldn't be avoided, and I totally give the actor credit for trying to make an effort by filming several scenes as he recovered in Amsterdam, but it just wasn't enough.
The storyline meandered then stalled and then aimlessly drifted some more until I no longer cared why Luke was dark as long as the torture just ended. I never fast-forwarded a scene in my life, but I came very close with Dark Luke because it was such a hot steaming mess toward the end.
The wrap-up of the storyline led to another of my least favorite storylines -- Luke's exit. Ironically, after dedicating so much time to Luke with the Dark Luke story, his exit was handled in an almost "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am," manner. It was rushed, had a ten-second montage, and then fizzled out with Luke disappearing into the fog on the piers. It was so lackluster and anticlimatic that I felt they would have been better off just leaving Luke in the sanitarium following the revelation that he had killed his parents.
Following close on the heels of Tony Geary's exit was the shocking announcement that Ron Carlivati had been fired.
To say I was blindsided would have been an understatement. Sure, there had been problems with some of the storyline directions, such as Liz's decision to keep the secret about who Jason was when she found out during the Nurses Ball, and the above-mentioned storylines, but on the whole, the show was good. I thought it was a bit premature to just let Ron go because of a few sagging ratings, since this was a man who had pretty much saved the show from certain cancellation when he first came on board.
It turned out to be a careful what you wish for decision. Ron's departure hasn't helped because the ratings continue to drop. I've also seen very little sign of the return to romance that we were promised.
I challenge you to name three truly happy couples who aren't struggling with issues -- couples that we see on a regular basis rather than people like Mac and Felicia, who have been shoved back into a closet since their marriage.
One of the couples that could always be counted on to be at the top that list were Dante and Lulu, but not so much anymore, thanks to the arrival of a siren named Valerie Spencer, who entered the picture when people finally figured out that Luke wasn't right in his head.
It was love at first sight for Valerie, even though she knew that Dante was happily married -- to her cousin no less -- and had a young son. Valerie quickly cultivated a friendship with Dante when her mother passed away, and she leaned on him for support. Yes, she had family around, including a wonderful aunt who seems determined to give Valerie a pass for everything -- even cheating with Lulu's husband -- never mind that Bobbie helped to raise Lulu and only knew Valerie less than a year. Bobbie loves Valerie, and the other family members like Carly and Lucas readily embraced Valerie with open arms, yet Valerie gravitated toward Dante because of her feelings for him.
Naturally, Lulu picked up on Valerie's crush and started to voice concerns, which led to friction in her marriage because Dante became defensive. It was sad to watch Dante and Valerie exchange heated glances and flirtatious smiles as he insisted to his wife that he and Valerie were just friends.
All it took was one lie from Lulu, so she could save her brother from certain death, and Dante had his excuse to succumb to his passion for Valerie. That is the moment that Dante began his decent into a lying, cheating pig who arrogantly expected his wife to forgive months of deceit and the worst kind of betrayal in a matter of weeks. Worse, he's back to sleeping with Valerie, who has decided that Lulu is partly to blame for Dante forsaking his wedding vows because Lulu lied to start with and then didn't immediately forgive Dante for lying and hooking up with Valerie.
I liked Valerie in the beginning and had a lot of hope for her, but this storyline has ruined both her and Dante for me. I'm actually finding myself rooting for Lulu and Johnny to get back together -- and Johnny is a criminal!
Finally, can we please stop with the unplanned "Who's the daddy" pregnancies and the walking dead storylines? I have tons of friends, and not one of them has ever returned from the dead. Ever. There have been a few who resurfaced after seemingly falling off the face of the planet, but they were never dead or thought to be dead.
As for the paternity issue, I feel it's been so overplayed that it's lost its shock value. These days, it's just embarrassing because birth control is so readily available, and it's kind of gross to think that the men of Port Charles go around hopping into bed with women without properly suiting up.
Now, it's time to get to the good stuff and talk about my favorite things on General Hospital over the past year.
If you need proof that Ron Carlivati is incredibly talented as a writer, just watch the 52nd anniversary episode when Luke, Bobbie, and Patricia took a trip back in time to the night their parents died.
It was brilliant, gripping, heart-wrenching, and superbly acted. It was General Hospital at its finest because Ron drew from the show's rich history and finally answered questions that many of us longtime viewers had had, including whatever became of Luke and Bobbie's long lost sister Patricia, who had only been mentioned once or twice when we first met Luke and his baby sister.
I loved everything about that episode, from Laura Wright's portrayal of abused housewife Lena Eckert Spencer to Tony Geary's flawless performance as Luke's violent alcoholic father, Tim Spencer. I was never a fan of Luke's, but I cried for him as he realized with horrifying clarity that he had been responsible for his parents' deaths and that his cousin Bill Eckert and sister Patricia had covered it all up.
Patricia's tragic passing as Luke finally accepted the truth turned me into a blubbering mess. I was really hoping that Patricia would be sticking around for a while.
Another of my favorite moments was when Jake was revealed to be alive. I know that I complained about the return from the dead storylines earlier, but I viewed this development more as righting a wrong. I hated that Jake had been needlessly killed off, especially when, in the end, it didn't really change Luke. Heck, he continued to remain in denial that his drinking had had anything to do with the accident and wouldn't even concede that the alcohol might have dulled his senses.
Therefore, I belonged to the group of conspiracy theorists who were certain that Helena had somehow managed to make a switcheroo.
Turns out that we were right, so besides having Jake back, we also got the added satisfaction of saying, "Nana-nana boo-boo," to all the naysayers who insisted that Jake was dead and we should accept it. Most of all, though, I loved that they brought back the child actor who had last played Jake because he was perfectly cast as Jason's son, and it eliminated any doubt that the boy living under Helena's care on Cassadine Island was indeed Jake.
Some like to point out that there were holes in the storyline, such as Lucky and Elizabeth not recognizing their own son following the accident or Jason not realizing that Jake wasn't on the table during the transplant surgery, but I recall that both Lucky and Elizabeth were warned that Jake had suffered extensive injuries, which had to have included facial injuries that led to swelling and temporary disfiguration.
If anyone could find a child to swap Jake out with, it's the queen of evil herself, Helena.
I became choked up with emotion when Lucky brought Jake home to Elizabeth, even though Lucky inexplicably left town less than a hot minute later.
The return of Jake is a story that continues to unfold as we're starting to see signs that perhaps life on Cassadine Island hadn't been as easy on Jake as everyone had hoped. This story has a lot of potential because, if written right, it could pave the way for Jason, Sam, and Liz to all forgive each other and come together to help Jake. Remember, Sam has a vested interest in Jake's well-being, not just because she loves Jason but also because Jake and Danny are brothers.
I liked General Hospital's message on Thanksgiving when we saw Olivia and Leo show up at Alexis' house for dinner and celebrate the holiday with Ava and Avery. It's the 21st century, and families are no longer always traditional.
That brings me to the mob portion of the show. I have never been a fan of the mob storylines because I think a show called General Hospital should focus on the hospital personnel, not the people who put people in the hospital.
It's for that reason that I was thrilled when Julian proved Sonny wrong by walking away from the mob. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Julian is now focused on running his legitimate empire and has a completely fulfilling and happy life.
Finally, the one romance that I continue to root for is Michael and Sabrina. To me, they are the Prince William and Kate Middleton of General Hospital, even though the writers tried to sully their relationship with a ridiculous baby secret that was completely unnecessary.
My love for Michael was rekindled when he learned the truth about what Sonny had done to A.J., severed all ties with Sonny and Carly, and then changed his name to Quartermaine. It was long overdue because I had always felt that it was wrong for Carly and Sonny to cut A.J. out of Michael's life. I thought it was a bit of karmic justice that Sonny and Carly got a taste of their own medicine by the one person they never expected to deliver it.
Meanwhile, Sabrina became Michael's friend, confidante, and trusted advisor as he tried to carve out a new life for himself. It was that solid fertile foundation that allowed a romance to blossom between Michael and Sabrina. I'm still hoping that there will be a paternity test, which reveals that Michael, not Carlos, is the baby's father, but until then, I'm rooting for these two to survive this bump in the road.
If there are two characters in desperate need of riding off into the sunset together, it's Morgan and Kiki. I'd say sail, but knowing those two, they'd probably sink the ship and drown. Nothing, not even finding out Morgan has bipolar disorder and Kiki has essentially lost both of her parents, makes up for how unlikeable I find these two characters.
I can also do without Carlos. At first I liked him -- back when he was friends with Julian and Ava -- but as time passed, he's grown increasingly darker and creepier. Fingers crossed, someone ends his life for good because he's like a bad penny that will keep turning up until he's taken out of circulation.
I would add Paul to the list, but a soap opera needs a good villain, and at least Paul is charming -- in a diabolical, sociopathic way -- and he's easy on the eyes. Can he be redeemed? Not unless he's a secret agent man like James Bond, which I highly doubt.
My heart belongs to Julian Jerome (William deVry), who arrived in town with a despicable reputation and turned his life around when he learned that he had a son and daughter -- and grandson! He put his loved ones ahead of his desire for power and left the mob.
I love Julian and Alexis' story because they are proof that love does indeed conquer all. Therefore, I appeal to the writers not to fix what isn't broken. Remember when I asked earlier to name a happy couple? Alexis and Julian was the couple that immediately sprang to my mind.
I also love Nathan and Maxie and the refreshingly wonderful relationship that they share with Spinelli and Ellie, who are raising Georgie. That's how people should behave when there are children involved. I also love that Nathan helped Maxie mature into a very sweet and compassionate person. Maxie and Nina's newfound friendship is a delight because it's very seldom that we see women having multiple female friendships.
Anna Devane is another of my favorite characters. She's had a particularly rough time lately after torturing herself over sticking Faison into a hole in the ground -- in Wyndemere's stables -- and her relationship woes with Duke that took a heartbreaking turn when she lost him to an act of mob violence that led her to unload her gun on Carlos Rivera. Don't worry, Carlos lived, so Anna is not a cold-blooded murderer.
Finola Hughes has given us so many gripping performances over the past year and has kept me rooting for her even when she did seemingly horrible things.
Honorable mentions: I love the chemistry between Franco and Nina because even though they are completely dysfunctional people, they are much-needed comedic relief from all the drama. I'm also thrilled that Tracy and Monica are being featured more than ever. I grew up with these ladies on my screen, and it's like having a visit from my favorite crazy aunts.
Most missed: Patrick and Emma. It breaks my heart that we won't get to see Emma grow up, unless someone is smart enough to have Emma visit her grandmother for summer breaks and such.
Favorite moment: Michael disowning Sonny and changing his name to Quartermaine. I have waited for that ever since Sonny had A.J. strung up on a meat hook and ordered A.J. to sign away his parental rights or die. It was as sweet as I had always imagined.
Favorite catfight: Liz and Sam on the plane as they flew to Cassadine Island, trading insults and throwing glasses of water in each other's faces until the flight attendant had to threaten them with prison time. Liz's reaction to Sam admitting that Sam had spent time in a Greek prison was priceless.
Shocking death: Silas' murder mystery. It was a perfect cliffhanger and a true mystery that was surprisingly wrapped up before we lost interest in who did it.
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