As a long-time viewer of General Hospital I have been thrilled with much of what I have seen on the show during the last two years. I can't say that it's been all good - the return of Caleb the Vampire and Lucy Coe's obsession with destroying him was one of the most tedious storylines I have ever seen on any soap opera, and it seriously undercut the excitement that the spectacular Lynn Herring's otherwise energizing return to the canvas had been generating. (If the show really had to go there - and I really wish it hadn't - I think Lucy should have killed Caleb by crushing his skull with one of the crystals from Lumina. Why not? Weren't the crystals found on Spoon Island, where Wyndemere and its catacombs are located?)
That not-so-hot mess aside, almost everything I saw on GH during 2013 - its 50th anniversary year - was a joy to behold. The return to the canvas of so many beloved veteran characters in ongoing stories (Anna Devane, Duke Lavery, Felicia Jones, Frisco Jones, A.J. Quartermaine, Robert Scorpio, Holly Sutton, Sean Donely, Lesley Webber, Kevin Collins, Scotty Baldwin, Laura Spencer, Bobbie Spencer, Nikolas Cassadine, Brenda Barrett, Noah Drake - even Richard Simmons) or for brief but welcome cameos (Audrey Hardy, Juan Santiago, Ethan Lovett); the return of so many exciting villains (Heather Webber, Caesar Faison, Stavros Cassadine, Julian Jerome); the inclusion of references to classic ABC soap operas Loving and Ryan's Hope (the latter heralding Ilene Kristen's return as Delia Ryan); and the resurrection of the Nurse's Ball, a cherished annual GH tradition throughout the Nineties, made for the most memorable year since Luke, Laura and Robert took on the Cassadines on that tropical island and destroyed their menacing weather-control machine.
GH even made time to acknowledge veteran characters Steve Hardy, Jessie Brewer and Amy Vining in ways that were lovely tributes to the late actors who portrayed them. There were also visits from the spirits of long-missed characters who years ago were killed off in half-assed stories, including Alan Quartermaine, Emily Quartermaine, Georgie Jones and Rick Webber. I generally detest visits from ghosts on soap operas, but these were so well done and the returns of the characters so welcome that I allowed myself to enjoy them.
After a fifteen-year period during which everything that was wonderful and history making about GH had been torn to shreds by past network executives, executive producers and head writers who were obsessed with turning the show into something resembling The Sopranos-lite, and instead delivering a show that proved to be nothing much at all, current executive producer Frank Valentini, head writer Ron Carlivati and their talented team did more than just recharge the show. They repaired it -- ending the neglect and correcting much of the damage that had been done to what had been arguably the most important scripted series in the history of daytime television. It was a ride I never thought I would get the chance to take. I couldn't be more impressed.
Along with so many blasts from the pasts came multiple new characters that have brought much to the show, especially the villainous Dr. Liesl Obrecht, her devious daughter Dr. Britt Westmore, goody two-shoes nurse Sabrina Santiago and her GBF Felix DuBois, sometime bad boy lab technician Brad Cooper, murderous vixen Ava Jerome (whose sexy scenes with young Morgan Corinthos have been ridiculously hot), the mysterious Dr. Silas Clay (brother of the aforementioned Caleb) and Clay's nephew Rafe (who's turning out to be quite the little weasel).
The early months of 2014, which are still acknowledged as part of the show's 50th anniversary, have offered similar treats: An update on Brenda's sister Julia and her company Barrett Enterprises, the return of rascally Ric Lansing, the revelation that Brad has ties to the denizens of Port Charles' Asian Quarter (an area of rife with turmoil during the mid-Eighties), the return of Bobbie's adopted son Lucas (the biological son of Julian Jerome), and the start of the first gay romantic triangle in daytime drama history (between Lucas, Brad and Felix). Why, just the other day Monica mentioned playing cards with Lesley, Audrey and Gail - the latter a beloved character that hasn't even been mentioned on the show in longer than I can remember. (Are Lee and Gail still around? Why doesn't their son Scott Baldwin ever mention them?)
Also of note: For the first time since Laura Wright took over the role, Carly Jax has lately been written as a three-dimensional character, actually softening up and showing occasional sympathy toward and support for other women. Wright has run with the chance to do something besides play Carly as a one-note mean girl who couldn't say anything nice about anyone who wasn't a mobster or murderer. These added dimensions have allowed her to move to the top tier of actresses on GH occupied by invaluable veterans Jane Elliot and Nancy Lee Grahn, the formidable Finola Hughes and blazing newcomer Maura West. (As Alexis Davis, Grahn has been just great of late, wrangling her independent teenage daughter Molly, her long-ago one-night stand Julian and her smug ex-husband Ric.)
But as glorious and nostalgic and generally wonderful as GH has been for more than a year, it has lately been undercut by a number of storylines that threaten to bring it all crashing down. Murderous Heather Webber, a woman well into middle age, was stabbed in the stomach and buried alive by her son Franco (the worst GH character ever), only to dig herself out of her grave, kidnap Carly (a much younger and stronger woman) and drag her all around Port Charles for weeks, constantly threatening to stab her but never getting around to it. It was as difficult to sit through as the prolonged struggle between Lucy and Caleb in those Wyndemere catacombs (where Heather and Carly also ended up). Heather is a great character in limited doses, but at this point she has been egregiously overused, I'm sorry to say. How many innocent people can we watch her kill before she is made to suffer for her terrible crimes? And how can a woman of her years be so physically resilient? Months before she was stabbed she fell off the roof of the title institution - a fall that would likely cripple if not kill a triathlete -- and survived with barely a bruise!
Meanwhile, just as the character of Carly has been adjusted to resemble something like a fully developed human being, the GH writers have plunged her into a highly improbable love affair with Franco, a genius artist and one-time serial killer who tormented a number of residents in Port Charles, especially Samantha (the "widow" of Carly's best friend, Jason), Lulu (Carly's niece) and Michael (Carly's son). None of this seems to matter now to Carly, who believes much of Franco's prior madness was due to a brain tumor (removed months ago and displayed in a jar in a shocking courtroom revelation). But the audience knows Franco is still a dangerous psycho (he's the one who stabbed Heather). Even without that, it seems that Carly has breezed right by the fact that Franco was largely responsible for her teenage son Michael being savagely raped in prison three years ago. (That's an event no writers on GH then or now seem to know how to handle. Michael never seemed more upset about it than a young man might be after being dumped by a girlfriend or flat-lining his SATs.) Carly has long been detestable in many ways, but never where her treatment of her children is concerned. Nothing about this storyline makes sense.
And then there is one of the most alarming storyline turn-offs to come along in years: Brain-damaged killer Jason Morgan, who supposedly died a year ago, has once again come between Dr. Robin Scorpio Drake and her long-suffering husband Patrick, with whom she was only recently reunited after being held captive by Jerry Jax and Liesl Obrecht in various locations for two years. Upon learning that Jason is still alive but frozen in suspended animation, Robin heartlessly agreed to leave not only her husband but her adoring little girl for as long as it takes to revive him. If we were expected to believe that she would abandon her family to save a loved one, the loved one should have been the supposedly deceased Emily Quartermaine or Georgie Jones. Robin would move mountains to save either or both of them and the audience would have been on her side. Instead the character, one that literally grew up on GH, has been all but destroyed by this latest turn of events.
Here we have a primary storyline that is once again all about a woman in Port Charles losing her rhymes-with-wit at the mere mention of the name Jason. It was 15 years of stories about women fawning over this deadly underworld hit man and his murderous, temper-tantrum tossing boss Sonny Corinthos that helped bring GH to the brink of cancellation just two years ago. The show has improved in every way since Jason was supposedly killed off early last year. (Even Sonny has become more interesting!) The only way for this to play out without further alienating the GH fan base is to have Jason awaken from his most recent comatose state as the "old" Jason, a happy and helpful medical student dedicated to saving lives rather than ending them. How would Jason Quartermaine deal with his own abhorrent behavior during his time as Jason Morgan? That story could play out for years.
Even more problematic than Carly falling for the man who brought about the rape of her son or Robin ditching her little girl to go save a murderer is something Sonny has done. In what may be the most unwelcome recent story turn of all, Sonny shot an unarmed A.J. point blank in the chest after he walked in on A.J. choking Ava Jerome (the person who murdered Sonny's beloved girlfriend Connie Falconeri) and, without having all of the facts, decided to kill once again. A.J., a long-time fan favorite who was "killed off" years ago by a previous writing regime in a ridiculous sweeps stunt storyline, recently returned to the canvas, only to once again become a punching bag for the borderline insane Sonny, who had previously tormented A.J. for years. (Sonny, swell fellow that he is, also once shot his son Dante point blank in the chest, just as he did A.J. Sonny didn't know at the time that Dante was his kid - he only knew him to be an unarmed police officer at the time that he shot him. Fortunately Sonny is a lousy shot - Dante and A.J. have both survived his murderous impulses.)
There have been other recent story developments that are either unwelcome or so illogical that I find myself fearing for the show's future just as I was a few years ago. Among them: The revelation that Victor Cassadine, a villainous character not seen since 1981, has been installed as the new chief of the World Security Bureau and, in that capacity, appointed as the new Chief of Staff at General Hospital the nefarious Dr. Obrecht (who has tried at least twice to commit cold-blooded murder). These moves keep two interesting characters front and center, but they have been jarring to viewers, and they have further reinforced a growing concern about the show: It seems that the many evil characters on General Hospital, from Sonny to Heather to Franco to Jerry to Liesl, never really pay for the crimes they commit, no matter how heinous. And now it appears that Helena Cassadine and her son Stavros, two more long-time murderous maniacs, may survive their most recent "deaths" and return to wreak fresh havoc on the hard-working residents of Port Charles, all of whom should know by now that the only way to stop the evil people who torment and murder their loved ones is to cut off their heads.
If the GH writers can bring back dead villains over and over again, surely they can bring back from the beyond a few more good characters, as well. Whenever I write about this show I can't resist making a renewed plea to have Dr. Alan Quartermaine, his adopted daughter Emily Quartermaine and Maxie Jones' sister Georgie Jones return to the living. The current GH regime has done an outstanding job of correcting many of the worst mistakes made by previous writers and producers (mistakes that, I believe, contributed over time to the erosion of the show's fed-up audience), but it needs to go a little further and bring these three back. I say this primarily because they were three important legacy characters in whom viewers had invested years of their time that were unceremoniously killed off in badly written and long-forgotten sweeps stories.
For all intents and purposes Emily has already returned as Rebecca, a twin sister she never knew she had. (Rebecca is easily explained away as Emily under Cassadine-induced mind control; Helena, a master at such stuff, hated Emily with every fiber of her being.) So that's an easy fix. Alan and Georgie would be a little more difficult, but I know the GH team is up to the challenge. Alan could become a background character, and Emily and Georgie could both decide not to stay in town after they return. But at least the audience would know that its wishes had been granted.
If the actors we associate with Alan, Emily and Georgie are unable to commit to this idea, or are simply not interested, any one of the three could be recast. I also think it's time to recast Robin Scorpio Drake if Kimberly McCullough, the actress who has portrayed her for 30 years, is no longer interested in doing so. Better a change than perpetually adjusting the narrative around McCullough's schedule in such a way as to piss off the audience.
I'll close with a request to the GH creative team that is more a challenge: Please fix the Rick Webber mess! I won't go into the details of the destruction and death twelve years ago of that character, one who was absolutely vital to the show during its historic heyday. Suffice it to say that it was one of the most offensive and most poorly written storylines in the history of GH -- one that rewrote much of the show's history with reckless abandon. When Alan, Emily and Rick appeared to Monica Quartermaine and Tracy Quartermaine as ghosts (or a shared hallucination brought on by secret ingredients in a jar of relish) Rick mentioned that the circumstances surrounding his return to Port Charles weren't what they appeared to be. (I'm paraphrasing.) So let's get Rick back (recast or otherwise) and give legions of longtime GH fans a story that corrects one of the greatest f-ups in the show's history.