July 21, 2004
My thoughts are going in many different directions this week, so I’ve decided maybe it’s time for a general overview; sort of a “State of the Soap” address, if you will. In order to not still be writing by this time next week, I will have to make a definitive effort to keep my comments to the bare minimum. I have several ideas for more in depth discussion on certain characters, but since I can’t decide which ones to focus on first we’ll have to try this general thing first and see what happens. Maybe it will clarify for me where exactly my real issues are hiding.
The show is better than it was six months ago. There does seem to be a concerted effort to incorporate more characters into new stories. The Quartermaine’s have had a bit of a revival with Lois and Brook returning, and sadly, with Lila’s death. Carly, Sonny and Jason have crept away to think somewhere on their own for a day or two on occasion, giving us a brief respite from the consistently overplayed mob mania. Not enough of a break, but apparently the mob never rests in Port Charles. I’d pick up the contract for the hit on Faith if it meant that we could have a week where Monday brings us a scene of Sonny and Jason sitting in front of Kelly’s with Johnny Fist and Joey Knuckles rounding out the table. We could watch them throw a few cards down on the table while smoking a cigar or two and then they can send Max off for some hoagies or something lunch. That’s the last we’d see of them until Friday when we’d see that they’d moved their game to the Corinthos Morgan warehouse and Paulie Twinkle Toes has just arrived to complain to Sonny about the size of his cut from the fenced fake Tiffany lamps. There’s the glamorous mob for ya.
Taking the time to work Brook into the canvas and reconnecting Lois’ ties is admirable (only what we’re due, but we are beggars after all so we’ll leave the choosiness out of this). Putting Courtney and Jax on a slow burn is another wonderful move that I’m firmly behind so far. Allowing Courtney to actually make a decision (“Jason and I are over”) and stick to it, is a huge step since there is never any of that in any Sonny related story. It’s almost like Courtney and Jax aren’t a Sonny related story, and her familial relation to him is being allowed to be in the background for now. We all know it’s there, and we know it will cause trouble, but for the most part we’re being treated like we have a brain and don’t have to be beat over the head with the implications on a daily basis. It feels, dare I say, refreshing? I like Courtney again. I love watching her tell Carly to lay off. I love that suddenly she seems to see the false piety coming from the penthouses. Courtney has strong ties in PC now, and she’s much more suitable to the role of imperfect ingénue than Emily is at this point.
Jason is the only thing that makes Sam somewhat interesting so I’ve no idea why they’ve decided to remove the need for Jason to take care of Sam and the baby. Not that there is some need for anyone to take care of a full grown adult female with child, but this is GH and the manufactured need is pretty much a given. I don’t keep up very well with spoilers, so I’ve no idea if there will be a plan B reason for Jason to be involved, but if Sam’s sticking around I guess I have to vote for a plan B. There’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that Sam is being victimized and sympathized almost beyond belief, but I’m still hesitant to say it can’t at some point work. Speaking only for myself, of course, but I’ve fallen prey to the right chemistry combination and the light touch of the right writer several times before, Courtney being a good example. One of the big problems with Sam is that she was thrust too quickly into Sonny’s sphere and at this point, Sonny is not a viable character to couple anyone with, particularly not a new character. I’ll save most of this particular topic for a future column, but suffice it to say that I believe that for Sonny to become worth watching in any relationship (including the friendship with Jason), he needs a major comeuppance and possibly another of his infamous breakdowns or something. Sonny needs to fall, and fall hard. He needs to suffer some, because at this point the sanctimony and the lack of anything below the surface of his entitlement has smothered any vulnerability Sonny ever had. Putting Sam into that mess of a marriage he and Carly have was a lost cause. I’d have to care about Sonny to have interest in anyone he’s interested in, and I no longer do. Sam was doomed from the beginning in that respect. Kelly Monaco can act, and Sam makes Carly look like a shrieking shrew even by just standing still and watching her, so at least she has that going for her.
Cheeky, spitfire, spunky, immature, funky…these all once described Emily. Emily used to annoy me, and she was never one of my favorite characters. However, I always saw the need for Emily and I appreciated that she was a conduit of sorts for the flow of several stories. Emily, even in her immaturity, was something of an old soul. Emily has most certainly left the building these days; there’s just nothing there for me. It’s perfectly fine (even expected) for “the good girl” to make mistakes and Emily made a few big ones. The problem is when she switched from funky clothes and chunky jewelry to casual chic and pearls, she apparently somehow thought it made her more important than the rest of the world. She has not accepted that she has made mistakes and that just makes her look stupid. If Emily had run off after Zander was killed, citing the need to find herself again and deal with her pain, I might have been able to buy some of what has come after. But Emily has absolutely no awareness of anything outside her current line of vision. She never faced what she did to Zander, and yes, she *did* do things to him that led to his demise. Ultimately we’re all responsible for our own actions, but that’s the part that Emily prefers to duck entirely whereas Zander ultimately accepted responsibility for his actions. So while Zander was supposedly slipping into some sort of insane behavior, he still looked more intelligent than Emily – go figure. I know there must be fans of Emily and Nikolas out there, but I am not one of them. I think Nikolas is much more intriguing away from Emily, and I think Tyler Christopher makes far better acting choices away from Natalia. It’s not anyone’s fault, some actors bring out the best in each other, and some don’t. GH just seems to have an incredibly hard time accepting that, and nobody calls me for my opinion on these matters, *sigh*.
We’ve covered a few new characters that are good additions, now let’s talk about which we have that is extraneous.
Faith – I love Cynthia Preston, but when Faith skulked out of Sonny’s penthouse today I realized that I’m over Faith. One day she’s vicious enough to take out half the mob in New York, and the next she’s dumb enough to get ambushed and run off by Carly? There’s no longer any point to Faith, and without one soon I see no reason to keep her around. I hope they find the point, I’d be happy to enjoy her again as a character rather than a caricature.
Justus – Again, perfectly good actor, but has no point on the canvas. They’ve done nothing to continue any tie he had developed with the Q’s. He’s nothing but a glorified Benny, called in when there’s something for Sonny to say and nobody else can bring himself or herself to listen. Though frankly, Benny had more balls and at least spoke his own mind on occasion. I’m really disappointed with the Justus return and I’d be surprised if M’fundo Morrison (Justice) isn’t as well. Sure, he landed in the cherry position of screen time with Sonny, but to what end exactly? He’d be flexing his acting muscles a lot more if the focus came back to Justice being a real person in Port Charles, with family and maybe a house or something.
Sage – She’s self-explanatory in this category. A familial relationship for Lorenzo could be interesting, and for about five minutes when Carly was looking at maybe dealing with Sage as something of an “I used to be this person” thing, I perked up. Otherwise though, she could be anyone. They could just parade a new curvy, scantily clad teenager in too much makeup through the Georgie/Dillon scenes every so often and it would have mostly the same effect. Her scenes completely waste my time.
Carly - *gasp* Yep, Carly. Like Faith or Justice, there is still a chance for a reasonable purpose for her, but it’s waning quickly. In fact, really, we could just have Faith develop a lust for Sonny (doesn’t have to be requited, doesn’t much matter when it comes to Sonny because he mostly acts like his women are invisible anyway) and give her every one of Carly’s scenes that Sonny or Jason aren’t in. Faith could threaten to steal Sam’s baby. Faith could dangle Alexis’ secret in front of her repeatedly. Faith could order Courtney back with Jason. She could do all these things because Carly doesn’t do them with any more feeling than a complete stranger to the situation would. She obviously feels enraged and threatened (rightly so even), but without any fear and self-recrimination under it, it’s just some lady snarling in a scene. Carly as a non-entity became complete today when she took her first step back into Sonny’s playground, I mean penthouse, without addressing the myriad of problems with her marriage. Carly has only ever wanted to be loved and accepted, and the Carly I knew did know when she wasn’t getting her fair share of that. Even when she pretended that she was getting it, we could see that she knew she wasn’t. One of the things that sparked my love/hate feelings about Carly was the fact that she thought she had people fooled into thinking she was complex, but truly if you looked, you could see Carly’s motivations and needs with almost complete clarity. Nowadays, I don’t see much except a closed up shrew in an ugly red dress.
I’m not going to include Nikolas in the list, because I think there is still more need for him than not. It was a big mistake to go this amnesia route because we need the Cassadines. Having the family all but dissolved takes away an important part of Alexis and Lucky, and rendered little need for Helena over the past few months. None of which has been a positive to the overall feel of General Hospital. Nikolas didn’t need to become involved in organized crime; there was plenty of story to mine for him without it. And again, if this is all just about obstacles for Emily and Nikolas, there were better alternatives starting with her (should be) guilt over choices she’s made. It doesn’t always take a catastrophe to start a character spinning out of his or her sphere, despite what GH likes to sell in that regard.
There have been moments where I can see wonderful stories again. When Dillon had dinner with the Scorpios and seemed befuddled by typical family behavior! I want to see that explored; I want to see Dillon and Tracy deal with his upbringing. If Dillon had to have erectile dysfunction, why couldn’t he be talking to Ned about it? I like NuLois, but it’s creeping me out to watch her traipse around in her little teeny shirts, warbling about Dillon’s penis. Courtney should stop and think about what the hell is wrong with Mike that he thinks she’s better off in Sonny’s world than in Jax’s. I love Mike, but there are huge father/son issues going on between he and Sonny and it’s obviously leaking over into his relationship with Courtney. Let’s see it! Let’s see Mike really deal with Sonny’s world now that his daughter is affected by it. Heck, if nothing else Mike should realize that having another guy to bail him out of debt might be helpful! Lois realizing that she maybe made a mistake keeping Brook from Lila is another great jumping off point. Did she and Ned also make a huge mistake not letting Brook get a taste of life with Dad more often than she did?
Lila’s funeral could actually produce several really good story threads, if allowed. I can’t stand little Michael, but it did mean something when Jason brought him under the Quartermaine roof last week. This is the perfect time for Jason to realize that everything is not as black and white as he’d like when it comes to family. There were times that AJ could’ve been a danger to Michael. There are times when Sonny and his life are a danger to Michael. No family is perfect, despite Jason’s previous belief that Sonny’s is. Despite the danger, despite the threat of imminent destruction of his family, Sonny feels the need to claim his biological child as his own. He feels he must be a part of the baby’s life, even if it would be safer if Sam took the baby and raised it elsewhere. Why can’t Jason start to wonder why he or Sonny had the right to decide AJ could have no part of Michael? Why can’t it occur to Jason that other people can have those same feelings for their children, even while deceiving just as Sonny did? Jason’s response to Sonny, when Sonny said that he’d lied before for business, was to remind him that ultimately it was for power and money. For a second, we could see Jason’s rage at Sonny’s hypocrisy. If only we could see that follow through to complete thoughts, and maybe even *gasp*, full sentences from Jason!
As for the obvious manipulation of Lila’s life to suddenly mostly revolve around Emily and Jason, I say pfft. Overall, I was okay with the funeral, given what we normally get on a daily basis around here. There definitely could have been more people there without a lot of work on the part of tptb (Audrey?). There could’ve been more flashbacks (and we couldn’t even get an AJ/Lila moment in the flashbacks? wtf?), and there could’ve been better eulogies. I was happy though to see all the Edwards, and some of the older clips. The acting was stellar and you could easily tell those who were truly affected by losing Anna Lee, or those that have been recently affected by losses of their own. Sonny and Carly should’ve been the background; no close-ups were necessary. I wanted to see the people that really cared, that might really be suffering or maybe even actually learning something from Lila’s passing, not the people who were most likely there in the hopes of getting in a few prayers for themselves while in a church. I’m surprised Sonny didn’t accost the minister afterwards to make him listen to all Sonny’s done wrong (in the name of right, always, of course). He did manage to accost Jason afterwards though and basically demand that he unfold his hands and get up from that pew so they could discuss Sonny’s life, once again. Wait, I’ve gotten way off the point here haven’t I? Anyway, as I was saying, the funeral was about as good as I’d expect, and moments definitely got to me. I’ll miss Lila. Edward touching her roses, Monica showing true loss while listening to the eulogies, Tracy oscillating between pain and acting out, Jason showing up at the Q’s (it hurts to say, but yeah…it had an effect), Ned finding out, Alan’s face crumpling...there were definitely moments. And, there were the ridiculous moments as well. Emily yelling “That will be quite enough”…? Gag me already. The only way Emily is GH’s next Lila is if they plan to put her upstairs in the mansion and just wheel her out to make a wise (but brief) statement every six weeks or so. If that’s the plan, then yeah, Emily is Lila. I accept that Jason Q becoming Jason Morgan was a huge defining moment for the Q’s, but Lila never favored Jason over others and neither should her funeral have. AJ should’ve been there, or at least mentioned. Skye should’ve been mentioned; she’s spent more time with Lila than Jason did in the last year. I was disappointed that even in honoring Lila and Anna Lee, we had to be taken out of the moment while Emily and Jason earned another set of wings for bothering to feel as bad as everyone else did.
Watching General Hospital is very much like dealing with family. Sometimes you have a great time, the old spark is there and everything just fits for a few minutes. You can just smile, sit back, and revel in the familiarity. Other times it’s like Jax said: “I didn’t pay attention and now someone else that I loved is gone”. Maybe not gone in body, but there are certainly those gone in spirit. There is little point in mourning the GH of old I suppose; I have doubts we’ll ever see it again. My hopes hold out for a compromise of sorts, for something that will once again draw me in regularly. Write and call the comment line for those characters you like. Ignore the ones you don’t as soaps very much seem to operate on an “even negative feedback is feedback, and feedback is always positive” approach. The tide *has* turned a little, and I choose to believe that is thanks to the fans who have called for change. But then, there’s no way I’m giving the credit to a self-manifested awakening of the collective minds up there on GH’s capitol hill, so I suppose I’m biased.
It feels great to be back at talking soaps again! If you missed my LA trip recaps, they can be found here. I still plan to do a sort of off topic accounting of my trip, but even I got sick of hearing myself talk about LA so I took a break. One Life to Live is coming next because we really must talk about why Ace’s outfit had a bear face directly on his rear end…that really struck me as wrong! Take care all.
Want More of Sherry's Work?