Any true soap fan can tell you that the best time to tune in to soaps is during Sweeps because it's when the powers that be open their wallets and our intrepid soap scribes spice things up with an exciting plot designed to leave us on the edge of our seats and waiting with bated breath for the next episode.
In case you are wondering, Sweeps is when the ratings juggernaut Nielsen tabulates viewership for television shows, so it's a pretty big deal. The best part, though, is that we, the viewers, reap the rewards of the shows putting their best foot forward to secure a place at the very top. Some of the best crisis storylines were a result of Sweeps, and I think the current writing regime could take elements from a few of them to pen something spectacular to kick off General Hospital's return from its lockdown hiatus.
Here are my top five picks for the best disaster/crisis storylines:
This was, by far, my favorite storyline in decades. It had everything from a gripping story about a mysterious briefcase locked in the hotel's safe to a cruel and ruthless villain in the form of Jerry Jacks, played by the brilliant Sebastian Roche.
Each episode centered around one hour of a 16-hour siege at the hotel in 2007 and the guests who had the misfortune to be caught in the crosshairs of masked gunmen. When everything was said and done, Dr. Alan Quartermaine was dead, Liz finally told Jason that he was the father of her unborn child, and Robin Scorpio had endured a life-saving surgery. It was heartbreaking, exciting, riveting, and, best of all, it had a climatic conclusion that included an explosion and the revelation that the man terrorizing the good people of Port Charles was known to many and loved by some.
Every single character was pulled into this storyline in one way or another, whether they were a hostage, anxious family member, or first responder. It not only yielded three weeks' worth of episodes and generated a lot of talk among fans, but it encompassed the entire cast and had some pretty cool special effects.
Why does every soap opera need a good villain? The answer is simple: they are the gift that keeps on giving. Take Jerry Jacks, for example. Not only was he the mastermind of the Metro Court hostage crisis, but he returned once again in 2012 to hold the town hostage for $88,111,000.00. Jerry Jacks poisoned the town's water supply with a deadly biotoxin, but he offered an antidote in exchange for the money. Jerry felt entitled to the cash as compensation for the theft of the Dead Man's Hand, a set of five poker cards that Wild Bill Hickock had been holding when he'd been shot and killed.
What I loved about this storyline was that it forced all the major characters to work together, friend and foe alike. There was also an incredibly touching scene when Edward Quartermaine offered his dose of the cure to save Emma Scorpio-Drake's life. The scene of Tracy looking at her father through the window of a hospital room as he sat in his wheelchair, a newsboy cap perched on his head and flashing her a thumbs-up and smile, turned out to be the final scene that John Ingle appeared in before his passing on September 16, 2012. I get weepy just thinking of it.
This storyline also had a climatic ending that was filmed outdoors and included an exciting explosion. I enjoy outdoor scenes, and I have always appreciated the glimpses that GH occasionally gives us of their outdoor park, even if the flora is native to the West Coast rather than the East Coast. That's nothing compared to the ocean view in Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, that All My Children expected me to accept.
I also liked that the writers took the time to reference a previous storyline -- Sam McCall's introduction -- because it made sense why Jerry would want to punish Sam -- and all those who had supported her -- for his father's death. Even if no one else believed in the luck of the cards, John did. Sam stole one of those cards (jack of diamonds), and, intentional or not, John died believing his health was directly tied to the five cards. For a man like Jerry, that's motive enough for revenge, even if it was later revealed that Ewan Keenan had done the deed.
I always appreciate when the writers tie the past with the present, especially on a show like GH, because there is such a long and rich history to draw from.
I have a confession to make. I do not like Luke Spencer. I was never able to get past the rape, even though Laura had clearly forgiven him. However, I can fully appreciate Tony Geary's talent and what his character brings to the show beyond that horrible night at the campus disco.
Luke is the action guy, and he always had the exciting storylines like in January 2006 when Luke returned to town with a monkey -- and a deadly virus. Admittedly, I was not a fan of the monkey, either. They are dirty, unpredictable creatures, and I can't imagine it was very much fun for that monkey on the set of a soap opera. The monkey aside, this storyline had the one thing that I love most about the show front and center -- the hospital.
Sadly, lives were lost to the deadly encephalitis virus, most notably our beloved Dr. Tony Jones. Sam's brother also died, but Danny was a lesser character who had been shown intermittently over a two-year period. It was tragic that Alexis had been given the antidote over Danny, but that was nothing compared to how I felt about Tony's death. I was crushed when they killed him off.
As much as I loved Tony, the decision to kill off a beloved character -- without any hope of a resurrection -- made this a memorable storyline and had fans not just talking, but also tuning in each day to see who might fall next, because Tony's demise proved that no one was safe.
Sometimes, an exciting event serves multiple purposes, as in February 2015 when Sonny formed an unlikely alliance with several Pentonville inmates including Julian and Ava Jerome then escaped in time to save partygoers on the Haunted Star from being blown to smithereens, compliments of a bomb that Jake Doe (later Drew Cain) had been programed to plant.
Sonny had been sent to jail for murder, but saving a ship of people, including the governor's daughter, earned him a pardon from a grateful papa. A far more plausible excuse for a commuted prison sentence for murder than "prison overcrowding" and months of "good behavior."
This event also triggered "Dark Luke" to reveal himself to the Spencer family, including his long-lost sister, Patricia "Pat" Spencer. For decades, fans had wondered about the seldom-mentioned mysterious sibling and why Luke and Bobbie hadn't kept in contact with their elder sister. As Sonny earned his freedom by saving people from certain death, Luke did the same by finally learning the horrific truth about Tim and Lena Spencer's last day on earth.
The flashback episode of that fateful day was one of my favorite episodes, and a shining moment for GH.
A long, long time ago, Helena Cassadine, the Queen of Evil in Port Charles, shuddered with fear at the mention of her husband's bastard son's name. Naturally, those of us who love all things Cassadine were instantly intrigued. Who was this Valentin Cassadine she spoke of, and why was Helena so afraid of him?
Those questions -- and more -- were answered in 2016 when a large group of Port Charles residents converged on Cassadine Island for various reasons. Nikolas and Ava were running from the law, Jason (later Drew Cain) and Sam were on the hunt for Nikolas, Laura and Kevin were hoping to unlock some clues left by Helena, and, of course, Valentin was there to step out of the shadows and claim what he believed was his birthright by taking everyone captive then shooting Nikolas.
The hostages were forced to band together to make a daring escape that included a doomed flight. It was shocking, tragic, and exciting all rolled into one, and it kicked off the introduction of Valentin to Port Charles. This storyline continues to play out to this day, as Nikolas was recently revealed to be alive -- and Valentin discovered that Helena was his mama rather than his step-monster.
Each of these crisis events had key elements that made for a phenomenal storyline: a ruthless villain, a tragic death, friend and foe working together to defeat a common enemy, and plot twists that kicked off other storylines. Oh, and some CGI action with a big bang.
I'm really hoping that GH makes a grand entrance when it returns to daytime by giving us a storyline like the ones above. My wish is for a whodunit murder mystery with Nelle as the victim and a slew of suspects. As much as I enjoy Nelle's antics, I feel that she's been written into a homicidal corner. She's dangerous and diabolical, and there's really only one way it should end for her.
Instead of giving us flashbacks of the things that we've already seen unfold, show viewers what transpired between when we last saw everyone and when the show picks back up. The writers have a unique opportunity to reset things -- and to draw in new viewers in the process. If they want to insert a shocking twist or two with the appearance of a super villain and an unexpected return or two, all the better. I'm even okay if we have a death other than Nelle's to add to the body count.
Reform Pentonville Penitentiary
I really wish the writers would stop having the male and female inmates freely mingle, getting married and hatching schemes to escape, while they are serving hard time for things like murder, drug trafficking, and sexual assault. It's supposed to be prison. Also, giving convicted murderers parole for bogus reasons such as prison overcrowding and thwarting an escape, when in real life they would just transfer the inmate to another facility, feels like lazy writing. I'd rather the conviction be overturned on some type of technicality, which would be far more believable than someone like Nelle serving less than two years for murder and attempted murder.
End the zombie apocalypse
There was a time when seeing someone return from the dead would send shockwaves through the viewing audience. Nowadays, it's a given that if there's no body, then the character isn't really dead. That's why I expect Drew and Morgan to return, but not Helena or A.J. When the writers want someone dead, they make sure the audience knows that person is dead. I think they need to do more of that and less of leaving the door open. This way, when someone does indeed return from the beyond, it's a true surprise, rather than an inevitability like when Nikolas was "killed" off.
Attention: Wardrobe Department
I realize that GH is filmed in California, but Port Charles is supposed to be a seaside town in New York. New York gets lots of snow and frigid temperatures, so it's a little baffling -- especially for those of us who enjoy all four seasons -- to see characters wearing tank tops or flowy dresses in the middle of winter.
Off-duty Harbor Master
Has anyone noticed that most of the criminal activity on the piers happens around or right in front of the Harbor Master's office, yet no one is ever in that office, and apparently there are zero cameras around to capture all the nefarious skulking that goes on there? I have, and I keep wondering why Mayor Laura hasn't done anything about it.
COVID-19 reality check
Okay, I realize that, to some extent, the show will have to address the pandemic. Like it or not (safe to say that most of us are in the "not" column), it's part of our new normal for the foreseeable future. However, I really don't want it to be a background character like Sonny's moss. I won't have a problem if people at the hospital are walking around wearing masks and gloves, because there, it actually makes sense, but I'm really hoping that they find a way to film in a safe way without the cloud of COVID-19 hovering over them.
Soaps have always been an escape for me, and now, more than ever, I need that escape.
I would love nothing more than for the writers to fix what they did to the character of Frisco Jones. A good group caper with Robert and Anna would make me watch again. Bring him back with Holly and Drew to finish off Peter. If these characters are written properly, GH can be funny and full of suspense again. -- Kim
It would be interesting if Lucky came back and finding out that he's been helping Nikolas for the past three years. What would Laura and Lulu do if they found out that both of them had been keeping the secret? -- Youth worker
Britt Westbourne definitely needs to return to the show for more than just a cup of coffee. If TPTB want to REALLY shake things up, they should break up JaSam for good, in favor of a Britt / Jason pairing. How refreshing would THAT be for all characters involved? Brad can stay in prison because, contrary to some opinions, Britt doesn't need him to be her partner-in-crime, especially if she hooks up with Jason. However, Britt DOES need her mother, Liesl, who should be brought back to full time status as soon as the show returns from hiatus. -- Scrimmage
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