Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 10/15/08

GENERAL HOSPITAL: NIGHT SHIFT actually makes it worth staying up past midnight and then coming into work bleary-eyed. And it always rewards both the new fan and the lifer.

Case in point: Last night’s reunion episode, which gathered Luke (Anthony Geary), Mac (John J. York), Anna (Finola Hughes), Sean (John Reilly) and Tiffany (Sharon Wyatt) to urge Robert (Tristan Rogers) to wake up from his coma. His old pals appeared in a dream sequence that allowed the show to wink at reality by mixing the new and the old in entertaining and inventive ways, from Kimberly McCullough re-enacting her childhood introduction to Robert as a grown woman (complete with similar dress and sandwich) in the newly recreated townhouse to a lace-bedecked Anna acting like “Betty Freakin’ Crocker,” to Robert imagining his friends a little…let’s call them older and wiser. What mattered was that the original actors returned to reprise their beloved characters, and they still had it. Except for a little gray, Reilly still looks exactly the same — and he brought fire to his performance. His speech to Robert was filled with emotion as Sean told Robert that our experiences make us what we are. Tiffany’s recollections of “my Robert Scorpio” being a heartbreaker was a heart-tugger, thanks to Wyatt’s performance. Mac, ever the stalwart brother, lent a strong shoulder. And Anna even copped to making mistakes with him. And then there was Luke. As I was just discussing with my colleague Mala, Tony Geary deserves every day of his vacation time because the man truly brings it when he acts. Fresh from sabbatical, Geary hit the ground running and hit it out of the park last night. “You’re worm food, buddy-boy!” he chirped. “Deader than a mackerel.” Luke grabbed Robert and literally shook sense into him as he declared, “We deserve spectacular deaths!” like being garroted in an alley, not expiring in a hospital bed (shades of the speech/performance that won Geary his latest Emmy last year). When Luke prompted him, Robert figuratively woke up and fought back. The dream conversations were perfectly intercut with Robin in the real world attempting to reassure her father that she will be okay thanks to lessons learned from him. DreamRobin put it best when she said, simply, “I love you, Daddy.”

I was not a GH viewer back in the day, but even I could tell these characters had history, thanks to the way the scenes were written and acted. These characters (and actors) all knew each other, cared about each other and acted like it. The expressed their relationships in ways that mattered to me. As for the effect it had on longtime fans — well, the only word is squee! I don’t think the episode could have been more perfectly swoon-worthy.

But the modern storylines were not neglected, either. Soapiness was in full force at GH: Jagger and Saira were both in vulnerable states and slept together; Kyle got boyfriend Eric into a possibly life-saving clinical trial — but in Portland; Claire submitted her resignation; and Toussaint stared angstily at a photo of an adorable moppet. And then it all got blown away. Being part of the GENERAL HOSPITAL franchise, the episode ended with a big bang — but the emotional fireworks far outshined the exploding Dumpster.

Last night’s FRINGE was a bit outshined itself — by previous episodes. This was the weakest outing of the season so far. The threat of Joseph seemed too…uh, meager, to really warrant the team’s efforts. And Oliva’s impassiveness continues to be a weak spot in the storytelling.

I really want to like this series (and I do), but I am done with Walter always having previously worked on an experiment related to the exact case the team is facing each week. For me, the only way this is going to be justified is if the Pattern ultimately turns out to be based on Walter’s own work — perhaps Walter himself is responsible! There’s no other way to make me accept the overwhelming coincidences.

But I do so enjoy John Noble‘s portrayal of Walter. He was touching when Walter lamented not having access to parts of his mind, and charmingly boyish when he built up a static charge with his wool socks and zapped Peter. Walter was able to conceive of a way to “imprint” an electromagnetic pattern on carrier pigeons, yet he was awed by commonplace GPS technology — now that’s characterization! Some effort was made to bolster Olivia by making her upset by the reappearances of John, but when he finally proved his love by leading her to the engagement ring he never had a chance to give her, she didn’t seem sufficiently moved. Maybe it’s just me, but Special Agent Dunham needs to be easier to relate to; she needs to be more compelling as a person.

Oh, yeah? Sez you!

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