FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN…
by Katrina Rasbold
Warning! Rampant, Uncontained Negativity!!
I come to bury Robert Guza, not to praise him. We are gathered here today to discuss the hottest news to come across the boards (literally…the message boards across the net are racking up more messages than Western Union) since Luke surfaced at Laura’s feet and the magical mystery tour that would resonate through soap history began. Yes, we are gathered together to lay Robert Guza, Jr’s second (and hopefully final) tour through General Hospital as Head Writer to rest. Lord knows I’ve tried to be objective about this and see the good side of the work he’s done and by and large, I’ve held my tongue about the screw ups that have plagued the past year in particular. Until now. I'd like to preface this rant with the absolute understanding that I LOVE General Hospital and still feel it is some of the best entertainment going. My criticism lies only with the handling of the show by our exiting Head Writer. Now, let’s take a look at the legacy he has produced on our show.
Guza will forever be known as the man who broke up Luke and Laura, Daytime Drama’s original super couple. From what he has said in his many interviews, he did it primarily for sport. He rambled something about how this was going to have a long arc and you never know what’s going to happen in the end and you’ll just have to stay tuned, blah, blah, blah. Whereas other writers placed emphasis on the solidarity of their love and the impression that no matter WHAT they went through, nothing could tear them apart, Guza jumped headlong to turning our heroes into exactly what we didn’t want them to be…you and me. We wanted to believe that there is a love that can survive anything that comes along (I still do believe that, but no thanks to this guy) and Luke and Laura were our shining example. Love them or hate them, when they broke up, an era ended. Under his hand, history was rewritten to show us that the tear-filled, joyous reunion of Luke and Laura that we personally witnessed (while Guza was probably bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie) masked the anguish of a woman who had just given birth a few months prior, then left her newborn son and lover to come find her first husband that she’d just learned was alive. In one fell swoop, Guza took the love that transcended all and irreparably marred it with a lie of omission spanning decades. We truly were supposed to believe that Laura had a son and never told Luke. For those of you who watched the show during Laura’s return, you must well remember what the atmosphere was like at that time. Luke was the conquering hero who had just saved the world from being frozen, battled David Gray for the Sword of Malkuth (or whatever that was called) and now was being inaugurated as Mayor of Port Charles. It was the crazy, surreal time of then Head Writers, Matt and Clair Labine taking us through a myriad of on-location shootings, creative storylines and edge of the seat cliffhangers. Yes, it’s dorky now to watch Laura in a ball gown holding a machine gun while Luke tries desperately to plug in the right password to save the world from freezing, but hey, it worked then. My point is that what they are saying happened simply would not have happened. Stavros was killed when he fell down a flight of stairs after tying Luke to a bed and forcing him to watch the attempted rape of Laura. This would have, of course, sent Helena through the roof but the bottom line is that Laura would definitely have told Luke about the baby and then she and Luke would have gone to Greece, gotten the kid and with the exception of a few obligatory kidnapping scenes, that would have been that. What happened was a literary crime. Guza made Luke and Laura real and their love expendable. We can have none of that.
He will forever be the man who broke up super couple #2, Lucky and Elizabeth. No, happily ever after does NOT make good TV when we visit with these people five days out of a week, but would it be so hard to have ONE couple who can remain happy and committed and in love? Just one? Lucky and Elizabeth would have had my vote. The purity and sanctity of their love easily surpassed the glory of Mom and Dad’s, simply because they did not have the baggage of the rape and the life on the run behind them. Discounting Audrey’s stares and frowns, Elizabeth and Lucky’s was a clean and pure relationship. Then it was all taken away. The scenes of Lucky’s death and the aftermath were splendidly heart-wrenching. I thought it was genius to show Lucky in the bunker and leave him there for a year before we knew what happened to him. Alas, we were robbed of the great reunion scene we should have had between Lucky and Elizabeth on his return to Port Charles. Instead, some wacky, subversive, revenge crap had to play out. What should have happened, you ask? Luke should have found out from Cesar Faison that Lucky was alive, he and LAURA (say good-night, Flea) should have tracked him down, busted him out of the bunker or cabin or where ever he was at the time and taken their boy home in a hail of gunfire and ticker tape. Let us feel the triumph again!
Continuing on in the vein of Guza’s need to destroy any and every happy couple on the show, suffice it to say that there must be some truth to the rumor that Kristina Wagner pissed off the powers that be and was promptly punished through her character. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such blatant character assassination. OK, well, maybe I have and could make a long list, but I’m already doing that, it appears. To have Felicia carry on as the devoted wife and mother who gets a little excitement on the side as a Private Investigator just wasn’t interesting enough, so we are to believe that she abandoned her husband and kids for months on end to help a friend for whom she developed a passionate obsession. Nope…I don’t buy it. Bobbie and Tony, happy together? Nope, bring on Damian Smith and that stupid bet with Lucy Coe. Ned and Lois? Nope…suddenly she’s just too overwhelmed by the Quartermaines and her hard won love for Ned Ashton is reduced back to a groupie love for Eddie Maine. Brenda and Sonny? Brenda and Jax? Nope, time to drive off a cliff.
This is just further evidence of how cracked I feel Guza to be. What kind of childhood and adolescence did this man have to embitter him so to love? All relationships must be broken up. Period. All male characters must be dark and brooding and skulking away from a tortured secret in their past. All female characters must be sex-starved bimbos, saints, needy little things who cannot survive without a man or loud-mouthed shrews. There is no room for a strong, sane woman. (Not even Alexis…talk about a tortured soul!). Beneath the quill of a misogynist to the nth degree, we have watched as our assertive female characters (Lois, Monica, Laura, V, Alexis) have been broken down and shoved, kicking and screaming, into tight little archetypical cubbyholes. If they wouldn’t fit (say, “Hello”, V, Katherine and Lois), then the writers were helpless to do anything with them and the characters had to be dismissed because they simply could not write for them. Women who are lawyers, assistant district attorneys, cardio-surgeons and head surgical nurses are reduced to helpless, vulnerable, spineless creatures who exist only to prop up the male characters and seek out sex. The exception to this formula is the eloquent and perfectly eveeeill Helena. I must say, however, that with those scenes in the weeks before Stefan’s death and as he lay paralyzed on the floor of her yacht, I. think. we. can. see. the. issues. at. stake. there. Hmmmm. She most assuredly is a strong and vibrant female, but damn!
While the Labines gave us Robin and Stone, Ned and Lois, BJ’s Heart, Lucy, Sigmund and Kevin, Guza has given us the tantalizing love stories of Juan and Emily, Katherine and Nikolas, Sonny and Hannah, Roy and Bobbie, Felicia and Luke and Jax and Chloe. Nuff said on that one. I have to give him credit for Ned and Alexis because I hated the pairing when it started, but thanks largely to the talent of the actors portraying the two, I love them now.
The sloppiness of writing has long been an issue, illustrated by the seeming inability for loose ends to ever be tied up effectively when it would be so easy to do so. Shouldn’t we be hearing about Lesley’s interest in her (still) husband Rick? How about some interaction between her and Monica or Bobbie or someone besides Audrey and Laura? Should Elizabeth hear from her family once in a while, at least a mention in passing? Do we ever get to know her mother’s name or if she is the woman for whom Jeff left Heather off screen? Doesn’t Elizabeth have ANY interest in the woman her father used to be married to long ago? (Monica) How interesting it would be to have coffee with her and ask, “What was he like so long ago?” After waging such a campaign to find Sonny because he believed him to be his father, does Juan have NO interest in contacting Miguel when he could easily do so via L&B? Can they not schedule a tour for Miguel where Juan opens for him? What a marketing coup they are missing!
I have to commend him for having the courage to put Sonny and Carly, the two most unlikely coupling on the show, together in a blockbuster romance. I know many do not care for it, but psychologically, sexually and theatrically, it works. I had mentally marked it for disaster, but I’m impressed. By the time he had chewed up the character of Robin and spit her out as a pious saint, I was glad to see her go. I was never a fan of Brenda’s and although the relationship with Jax was getting interesting with the possibility of her going nuts due to the disease she may have inherited, I can’t say I was bummed to see her car go off the cliff. The return of Roy DiLucca woke up a lot of characters, but was that the character or the talent of the actor who plays him? Now that he has been reduced to a coat rack on which to drape Bobbie, he has fallen into the wasted character bin with Jerry, Simon and Justus.
So what happens now? There is invariably a distinct change of flavor to a show when a new head writer takes over. That is because theirs is the filter through which the writing team will create. Not only do they get their name in the coveted “written by…” slot, but they are also the ones who meet the business end of the sword when push comes to shove. Every individual head writer to come to GH will see each of our characters in a different light than the previous head writer did or than we ourselves do. This is going to result in a different feel and direction for each new regime.
It is obvious that once certain storylines are put into motion, they must be played out and that what looked and sounded good on paper, might flop when it hits the screen. We can’t go back and make Tony un-kidnap Michael or push Katherine back up on that parapet (and did anyone ever hear the word ‘parapet’ before Katherine fell off of one?). We can’t make Nikolas not exist and have Luke and Laura back together. ONE soap tried that. In a ground breaking episode, Dallas had the famous shower scene that erased a LONG series of writing mistakes and rather than heave a *whew* and get back on track again, the American public lost their minds and screamed about what a cop out it was. I don’t expect that to happen again unless the Cassadines convert Mikos’ weather machine into a time machine and haul us all back to a happier time. What I will say is to remember that Soap Operaland is one of the few places where a woman who had a hysterectomy ten years ago can have a change of life baby today. We have been redeemed of many horrid storylines, like the aforementioned David Gray and the stupid Sword of Malkuth or Monica’s mock trial of Pierce Dorman while she had him doped up on sodium pentathol. Dumb story lines and little respect for history is the soup of the day in this business, Guza is just more rampant with it than others. Slowly but surely, a new writer with vision, a healthy filter and talent will be able to ease the show back on track again and move it in a positive and entertaining direction.
Here is where it stands right now. ABC announced today that they are adding to their writing team for Port Charles. One must wonder if this is a cloaked hiring for the new broom that will start sweeping through GH. The word on the street is that Patrick Mulcahey, who writes the best of the snappy dialogue from GH and has been on hiatus for WAAAAY too long and is rumored to not get along with Bob Guza (hence the hiatus) is being courted to take over the Head Writer’s chair. Should this happened, stand back and watch as the show takes form. It’s going to be as though someone dropped a deck of cards onto the floor and an invisible hand begins scooting them together, then into a cohesive pile. We are going to see these nowhere storylines blossom into interesting and compelling drama once again. We are going to see an element of fun breathed back into the lungs of the show and subsequently, the caliber of acting will improve as the cast responds to the better quality of script. We will see the show take form and consolidate into a tighter, more streamlined package. Brighter days are ahead, of this I am certain. By the time fall sweeps roll around, you won’t even know you were watching the same show.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.