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Is this simply another recast, an act of revenge against a popular actress daring to play with the big boys, or simply another sexist move to continue showcasing Sonny and Jason as GH’s stars?
Hell hath frozen over. I’m about to defend GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Tamara Braun as the second Carly.
You’d think with all my bitching about Tams’ excessively mean, one-dimensional interpretations, the bug eyes, the arms flailing (and the arm grabbing), that weird stuttering, stammering imitation of Maurice Benard (Sonny), the sniffling without tears, the constantly invasive glaring, etc. etc., I’d have been throwing a virtual party celebrating the actress’s decision not to re-sign.
God knows other GH fans have on various message boards. They’ve called Braun an airhog, danced on the grave of her departure, even gone so far as to prematurely align themselves with the new, third Carly, Jennifer Bransford (ex-Georgie, ONE LIFE TO LIVE), days into this GH newcomer’s April 18th debut, just to rub salt into Braun’s wounds.
As usual, towards the end of Braun’s tenure, she improved, adding inflection, nuance, layers to the role of a grieving, shaken mother faced with the brutal murder of her eldest boy. She impressed me with understatement – not normally in her repertoire – in soothing Sonny’s frazzled, suicidal nerves. She forced herself to back off slightly when in this case, she would’ve been fully within her rights to bitch-slap Alexis in a heap, after the bitch declared war on Sonny, Michael’s presumed-dead body barely warm.
But what really galvanized me in Braun’s favor was the disrespect given her. I’m not talking about the two parties in her honor, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps practically kissing her ass, ABC Daytime president B.S. Frons on hand to join in the ass-kissing, blah blah.
I’m talking about the recent comments from co-head writers Bob Guza Jr. and Charles Pratt Jr., published in various soap magazines and recently, in a Q&A with TV GUIDE ONLINE’s Delaina Dixon. They defended their choice in recasting quickly and airing the recast even quicker; no time to mourn, one Friday there’s Tamara Braun’s Carly opening the door to Sonny and Reese about to fuck, the next Monday, there’s Jennifer Bransford’s Carly bugging her eyes, staring at the fuckfest about to occur.
The head writers are betting fans care more about the ongoing kidnapping saga (and how it affects Sonny Corinthos) than they do about the actress who saved Carly (and the Sonny franchise through bombs like Hannah and Angel) for four years, who slaved through day in and day out trying to make sense of the complete misogynistic, Sonny-centered bullshit, all with a smile on her lips and only a kind word for the show and its fans.
Guza and Pratt are also banking on the short-term memory loss of most of their youth demographic, since, obviously, it makes no difference whether soaps were and are supposed to be about familiar faces fans have grown to love, respect and rely on to be there year after year. That includes the actresses with those faces, dumbasses! And I’m sure they figure most of us viewers watching year after year value the male performers over the female.
The opening credits feature the females as beauty accessories, ending in a group shot of all the men in tuxedoes. Maurice Benard (Sonny), Steve Burton (Jason), Tony Geary (Luke) would never in a million years be given the Tamara Braun treatment. Hell, Geary enjoys lucrative perks not even his equal (in legendary status) Genie Francis (ex-Laura) could, so she bailed, and nobody in charge gave a fuck.
Finally, here’s what baffles me. TPTB (The Powers That Be) were the ones who started this goddamned star system in the first place, back in the 1990s, taking advantage of the insane obsession fans developed over Sonny/Brenda/Jax, taking it from there by transforming a small-time, part-time thug into the central star around which the lesser sub-humans revolve.
Not even the exodus of superstars in their own right (and younger too), Jonathan Jackson (ex-Lucky), then Tyler Christopher (Nikolas/ex-Connor), then Amber Tamblyn (ex-1st Emily) made any dent.
TPTB seemed to cling to Sonny even tighter. It’s sick and perverted, but now, as high up on the totem pole as Geary is, he’s second fiddle to Benard.
Almost a decade of TPTB rationalizing, pushing, pimping this star system – and suddenly NOW we’re all supposed to let Tamara Braun go, like she never happened?! NOW we’re all supposed to blink and fart and welcome a new Carly in her place?!
Worst of all, TPTB expect the new Carly, Jennifer Bransford, to suddenly take up where Braun left off, keeping most of her predecessor’s mannerisms – the bug eyes, the flailing arms, the stammering – without a proper introduction to help her get a feel for the new role. Bransford is supposed to just step in the next day, resemble enough of Braun so as not to be too jarring for fans, and then quickly, take over and hold her own amongst the giants of the industry like Benard and Burton, Ted King (Lorenzo).
No small order.
My suggestion would’ve been to introduce Bransford, after a few weeks had elapsed (they’ve fudged plot points before with nobody leaving, they can fudge plot points in her case), in Bransford’s element – this chick can do intense to the point of psychotic like nobody’s business. How about A.J. kidnap Carly to torment her, to eventually kill her? Think that’s uncharacteristic of him? Kidnapping and brainwashing a child, almost punching Emily and shooting his own father in the back ain’t exactly sticking with accuracy, folks. Then, we could watch Bransford kick some of A.J.’s ass, bargain and bribe him until he’s a flaming heap at her feet. Carly saves Michael and brings her own son home.
They pretty much did the same thing for Sarah Brown’s successor. Braun’s Carly was rumored to be on the chopping block before she even got a foot through Sonny’s penthouse door. As often as I’ve heard that Maurice Benard enabled Braun to turn her temporary stint into a permanent stay, I believe it was really the episode where Braun’s Carly kept calm while a mob rival of Sonny’s kept her, Alexis and Zander (I think) his prisoner. That’s when Braun earned her keep, and proved she had a few tricks up her sleeve the old Carly could never imagine. Tough? Not Brown, try Braun.
TPTB can’t have it both ways. They can’t work a soap newcomer like Braun to death, prostitute her as the next big thing to sell their show and keep Sonny afloat through damaging second-place romantic attempts, then drop her just because she doesn’t want to stick around for more of the same, and expect the rest of us to take it without SOME bitching.
On the surface, in the press, Braun’s decision to leave GH was merely her chance to try something new, primetime and film. As an actress who craves challenge, variety and truth to her roles, in vehicles that give birth to change, inspiration, it’s inevitable she’d want to spread her wings. She stressed it’s nothing personal, just a career decision.
And yet, Maurice Benard (Sonny) let it slip in a Northwest Afternoon talk show interview with co-host Cindi Rinehart that Braun wasn’t happy on the show for a few months now. Rumors seem to support this: Braun couldn’t stand Carly as Sonny’s doormat, Carly without a career or a life of her own, Carly constantly returning to Sonny instead of being independent or heaven forbid, with another man like Lorenzo.
Another rumor gaining strength is the one about the quickie recast. Perhaps it wasn’t done just to avoid, in the words of Pruza, derailing the ongoing storyline. Perhaps it was to also stack the romantic odds in Reese’s favor, in that with a new Carly in view, Reese’s portrayer Kari Wuhrer wouldn’t be the greenhorn on the show anymore. This slight advantage could win Wuhrer’s Reese extra fans no longer invested in a Tams and Mo combo.
Of course, I can’t help wondering if maybe this quickie recast is TPTB’s way of sending a clearcut message to both Braun and those remaining the cast thinking of pulling a Braun: Leave GH in the lurch, and you pay, we’ll make the audience forget you ever existed.
Look at how quickly they replaced Braun, the actress, the opening credits, all the framed photographs in Sonny’s mansion; every trace of Braun’s distinctive touch, gone.
She’s lucky she’s not Genie Francis.
You all remember what they did to her.