One of the reasons given for the ousting of then executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and head writer Bob Guza from General Hospital circa 2011-12 was that the show became too dark under them. Even fans of Guza's storytelling (like I was) had to admit this was a fair assessment. A lot of GH watchers will never forgive the duo for gutting the Quartermaine family, slaying Georgie Jones (Lindze Letherman), etc.
Flash forward to 2017, and the current creative team at GH consistently present images and storytelling just as violent, but lacking Guza's ability to actually tell a coherent arc that even attempts to plausibly justify the carnage. On Thursday's episode, executive producer Frank Valentini and head writers Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman aired a dream sequence featuring a father putting his son in a headlock to angrily choke him.
Yes, this was only a fantasy, but who's? Certainly not the females in the 18 to 49 and 25 to 54-year-old demographics daytime is supposedly aimed at. This isn't the first example of this tone deaf creative team putting a gross, violent image on the air for the sake of shock and awe. They pretty much hobbled extremely popular couple Julian Jerome (William deVry) and Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn) by having the male half of the supercouple almost slit his lady love's throat last year.
Anyone who has read this blog, listened to our podcast and/or follows me on Twitter, knows I am no prude. I live-tweet with glee every gruesome OMG moment from shows like Game of Thrones and Scandal. But on those shows, the violence tends to make sense. Not always, but most of the time.
Additionally, coveted young mothers aren't very likely to have their toddlers bouncing around the living room while Sansa is being raped on GoT, or Olivia Pope is beating a man to death with a chair during TGIT. So much of Jelly's writing of late has been shock for the sake of shock, running parallel to meandering mystery arcs that lead to very little in the form of payoff.
"Nelle is really Carly's um...she's her long-lost adopted stepsister, which is why Jax bought a kidney from her dad."
"Let's have Valentin hold everyone hostage on Cassadine Island, kill beloved Prince Nikolas, then move to town and have lunch after lunch with batty, insecure Nina, while stealing one of Lulu's missing children and really annoying Anna Devane and the audience."
I really don't know what's going on with this show, yet I've been defending it on my podcast, as my co-hosts rip it to shreds each episode. I'll admit I grade the four remaining daytime soaps on a curve.
In my not-always-so-humble estimation, GH is more compelling to watch than The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of Our Lives. On any given day, the pacing is better. Characters don't constantly use exposition to repeat information we already know, an antiquated trick Bold still employs that drives me nuts. The GH sets aren't quite as nice as Bold's, but they're 10 times better than the ones on DAYS and even trump the once-glitzy The Young and the Restless.
Then there's the cast. GH's actors as a company tend to just be better than the other canvases. I might have gotten pissed off with leading lady Nancy Lee Grahn for shading Viola Davis and former GH head writer Ron Carlivati those times, but there's no denying she's an effing phenomenal actress who turned this violent Julexis arc from s*** to sugar.
Although I'm sick to death of seeing Sonny (Maurice Bernard) and Carly (Laura Wright) have the same old fights 20 years later, the veteran actors still bring it. Jason (Billy Miller) and Sam (Kelly Monaco), a couple I loathed with fan boi delight for a decade, are now impossibly charming, romantic and root-worthy. Heck, I even got on board with the pairing of my beloved Nurse Liz Webber (Rebecca Herbst) and reformed serial killer/sexual predator Franco (Roger Howarth), because of the palpable chemistry between the brilliant actors. If that wasn't me desperately trying to look on the bright side, I don't know what was.
So those are the reasons why I'd been defending GH of late and trying to find silver linings in Jelly's writing. There's also the fact that I truly am sick to death of bitching about soaps. Will there ever be a time when we can simply love them in the afternoon (or at midnight via DVR binges) again?
There is a serious problem behind the scenes at this soap opera. It isn't just Jelly, but their lack of care and concern for actual soap history and penchant for bad mystery arcs doesn't help. Neither do vulgar scenes visualizing what it might be like if Jason decides to snap his grade schooler's neck like a twig.