Soap Opera Weekly: 7/6/10

GENERAL HOSPITAL observed Monday’s Independence Day holiday with another rerun of its most infamous recent episode, the Jan. 29 installment in which Sonny shot Dante.

Okay, we get it, GH, that was a turning-point episode — but it also marked a low-point for Sonny, didn’t it? Dante pulled his badge to arrest Sonny. The gangster pulled his weapon and held the cop at gunpoint long enough to have a conversation with him, then unleashed a stone-cold, “Goodbye, detective” and shot Dante right in the chest. Then he stood over his victim and prepared to plug him a second time to make sure he would die. There is no way to sugar-coat what Sonny did to an officer of the law (and his own son), and replaying the (admittedly emotionally powerful) sequence drives home the point that Sonny is exactly what Dante called him: “A cold-eyed bastard who’d kill anyone to get whatever the hell he wants.”

Point taken. By now we can be pretty certain that everyone has seen this pivotal installment, so I hope we see something a little more upbeat to celebrate Labor Day. How about rerunning the May 5 episode, in which Lulu and Dante make love for the first time?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 6/11/10

This week’s wedding of Jake and Amanda on ALL MY CHILDREN was my favorite soap nuptials in a long time — thanks largely to Ricky Paull Goldin, who played Jake more like a regular guy than an idealized romantic hero so many male characters are forced to be.

I have never been to a real-life wedding in which the bride and groom wrote their own vows. Nope, it’s never happened. Yet, on soaps, every couple writes their own vows — no matter who they are, or how impromptu the ceremony. Hell, even THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS’ drunken Billy and Victoria made up their own vows on that beach a couple of weeks ago! It’s one of those soap conventions that reminds us viewers that we’re watching a fantasy. Well, Jake joked that he didn’t know he was supposed to plan something! When Jake fashioned his own vows, the words sounded realistic; it wasn’t some flowery speech clearly penned by a writer who stayed up all night crafting it. He simply professed his love and admiration and devotion for his bride. Jake was not afraid to play the goofball and look a little silly. He feels real. Goldin plays Jake as a guy who would hang out and watch a game with you — and know the teams.

Jake and Amanda’s ceremony itself also had a grounded quality that made it seem like an event that could actually take place in the real world; it was not some impossibly grandiose affair fit for fairy-tale royalty. Even with the do-it-yourself vows, this was a ceremony real people might actually be invited to.

Okay, so Jake busted out the purple prose at very end, and the happy couple made a splashy, scripted exit. But, hey, it is a soap opera, after all.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

GH’s Sins of the Father: Nature vs. Nurture

Dante (Dominic Zamprogna)

Soaps tend to try to have it both ways on the Nature vs. Nurture question, depending on what may make the best story. When it comes to an issue like paternity, soaps tend to downplay genetics and play up the idea that a “father” is the person who raised a child — biological or not. In that case, nurture is praised as more important. But if a character is worried about growing up to be just like his/her villainous father/mother, then genetics are presented as a practically inevitable destiny.

I was mulling this after watching the sequence in which GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Dante (Dominic Zamprogna) asked his mother Olivia (Lisa LoCicero) if she thought he could ever abuse a woman. He was tortured by the idea that he might have inherited an “abuse gene” from bad dad Sonny. To me, the mere fact that he was concerned about the question proves he is not that kind of man. Even if there was an abusive chromosome in his body, Olivia raised him the right way — to always respect women — and that’s the kind of training one doesn’t abruptly shrug off one day. Even if he somehow felt an urge deep in his bones to strike out violently, his moral code would quash it. C’mon, Dante is a police officer who is so dedicated to the straight-and-narrow that he is determined to put his own father behind bars. That is the mark of a man with scruples.
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General Hospital’s Not-so-Lucky Elizabeth

GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Lucky and his sister teamed up to blast his brother and treacherous fiancée, putting a new spin on the idea of sibling rivalry.

It may have been a long (long, long) time coming, but the moment when Lucky confronted Elizabeth was entirely worth the wait. The longer the secret affair dragged on, the more Lucky looked like an idiot. He’s supposed to be a detective, yet he could not detect the clues in his own family? No wonder gangsters run roughshod over Port Charles!

Jonathan Jackson really knocked it out of the park when Lucky put the knock on Liz and his conniving brother. Lucky’s anger came across as righteous indignation, and the wrath of a man wronged. Jackson’s face was so contorted with pain and anguish that his red eyes almost appeared to be bleeding! He was like a vengeance demon. And he was entirely in the right.
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Soap Opera Weekly: 11/20/09

First impressions of GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Franco, as portrayed by movie star James Franco? Cautiously optimistic. Franco the actor did not have a chance to really do much beyond act all shadowy and mysterious. But Franco the character does seem really twisted — like someone out of one of those lurid prime-time procedurals. Okay, so he’s an artist, but that doesn’t make it right that he likes to play with corpses — and live girls playing dead bodies.

Was I the only one a little creeped out when Kate was instructing Maxie to do whatever is necessary to land the reclusive artist Franco for a Crimson photo shoot? Now, Kate is always very demanding, but the way she noted that Franco had been a recluse in recent years and how Maxie is such a pretty and perky blonde…well, it seemed clear that Kate was urging Maxie to seduce him. Too bad it looks like Franco’s idea of foreplay may just be to have Maxie lie in a chalk body outline. (Maxie is an “open-minded” chick, but that might be too much even for her.) Still, once she gets a gander at exactly how “facially challenged” he is, who knows what she would say?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 10/29/09

The moment he first appeared on Tuesday, wriggling his eyebrows and asking Elizabeth, “Remember me?” Jonathan Jackson effortlessly reclaimed the role of GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Greg Vaughan’s work as Lucky and not looking to disparage him at all — but I instantly liked Jackson. And maybe I was imagining it, but even perky Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) seemed to have an extra glow about her and spring in her step as a jaunty Lucky declared, “I feel lucky tonight.”

Lucky’s thrust-and-parry with Luke carried more of an edge when played by Jackson and Tony Geary. Even the scene in which father and son lounged on a bench and growled at each other felt livelier because Jackson looked so dialed in and focused. I hope that concentration eventually translates to the character, and GH stops walking all over Lucky. The man is a detective, remember, yet he’s always the last one to know important things like, oh, say, his wife is screwing around on him. Stop making him a dupe. If Lucky can look different, why can’t GH look at him differently?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: GH’s Brandon Barash

Joe and Brandon Barash

The author with Brandon Barash

One of the best parts of being an entertainment writer is getting to meet the entertainers when they are just being people. In this case, I had an opportunity to meet Brandon Barash, who plays Johnny Zacchara on GENERAL HOSPITAL. He helps GH sell the soap, but this was a more personal encounter. Soap Opera Digest‘s Vera Hadzi-Antich and I were invited to a special dinner honoring Barash’s appointment as the national celebrity ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Even better, the dinner was held at Levant East, a splendid restaurant in the Hotel Rivington, on the trendy Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In addition to a great meal in a hip nightspot (the food really was terrific!), I got to just hang with Barash, who is very open and approachable. In fact, the real Brandon reminded me of the way Johnny is when he is with Olivia – easy-going and fun. The real guy is not an angry young man at all. Before the event got under way, Brandon did a couple of interviews, and was wandering the room like anyone else when I approached him. Dressed neatly but casually in a sweater and loose tie, Brandon was quick with a handshake and happy to make small talk about being on the East Coast. When I suggested that we get our “work stuff” – the official WEEKLY interview – out of the way before dinner, he instantly clicked into business mode. He was still his gregarious self, but focused on the pretend world of Johnny, Olivia, Sonny and GH. Vera interviewed him first, on video for the SOAP OPERA WEEKLY/Soap Opera Digest Web site (See that here) while I held the light for the camera. Then Brandon sat for me. He had to address a lot of the same questions, but I tried to frame the queries a bit differently, and his responses covered the same ground, but without repeating a lot of the same phrasing. That’s a skill, folks. You should think about how many times the stars have to answer basically the same questions over and over; it can be quite a struggle to keep things interesting. With such a lively subject, our conversation quickly took on a life of its own, and I got some really interesting insights, which you will see in an upcoming issue of WEEKLY. After we finished the interview, Brandon posed so I could shoot a number of digital photos for the magazine, our Web site, and the e-mail newsletter. Then Vera snapped the image that accompanies this piece.
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Thanksgiving Thought Balloons…

Technical difficulties at the office prevented this blog from being posted at the SOAPOPERAWEEKLY.COM site. Figures that a time-sensitive piece would be delayed. Anyway, I figured if it cannnot run there, why not post it here?

Thanksgiving is upon us, and genius that I am, I stumbled upon the shockingly original idea of compiling a list of things for which I am grateful. (Hopefully no one else will copy me!) Being thankful for family and friends almost goes without saying, but we already don’t say it enough, so it’s worth repeating: I am thankful you are all in my life. But now, here are just a few of the TV-related things (in no particular order) which are worth acknowledging:

•Carly is back on AS THE WORLD TURNS, meaning Maura West and Michael Park get to work their wonderful alchemy together again. The CarJack whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
•GUIDING LIGHT went out on a high note that almost compensated for being canceled. (Okay, it didn’t even come close to compensating; it just made the loss more painful. But it’s a holiday and I’m trying to be charitable.)
•THE SHIELD also ended its run on a near-perfect note.
•JON AND KATE PLUS 8 was canceled! Thank you! If only we could erase any record of the show ever existing…
•Fox gave a show as “out there” as GLEE a chance to not only survive, but thrive. I am a confirmed Gleek!
•STARGATE UNIVERSE got to take flight on SyFy, despite the spotty record of STARGATE: ATLANTIS.
•24 returns next month!
Tom Pelphrey is back on a soap (this time ATWT).
•Even though the brilliant David Tennant is leaving DOCTOR WHO, the show — as always — will carry on with a new face (Matt Smith’s) in 2010.
•After this weekend, I won’t have to hear the words “Black Friday” for another year.
•Soaps are slowly (but surely) making the transition to online.
•There are still seven soap operas on the air! Hang in there, folks!

Soap Opera Weekly: 10/29/09

The moment he first appeared on Tuesday, wriggling his eyebrows and asking Elizabeth, “Remember me?” Jonathan Jackson effortlessly reclaimed the role of Lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Greg Vaughan‘s work as Lucky and not looking to disparage him at all — but I instantly liked Jackson. And maybe I was imagining it, but even perky Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) seemed to have an extra glow about her and spring in her step as a jaunty Lucky declared, “I feel lucky tonight.”

Lucky’s thrust-and-parry with Luke carried more of an edge when played by Jackson and Tony Geary. Even the scene in which father and son lounged on a bench and growled at each other felt livelier because Jackson looked so dialed in and focused. I hope that concentration eventually translates to the character, and GH stops walking all over Lucky. The man is a detective, remember, yet he’s always the last one to know important things like, oh, say, his wife is screwing around on him. Stop making him a dupe. If Lucky can look different, why can’t GH look at him differently?

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com

Soap Opera Weekly: 9/30/09

It’s a good thing that AS THE WORLD TURNS’ Janet has volunteered to adopt Liberty’s baby, because there may be more unsuitable parental units than Paul and Emily, but I’m having trouble imagining who. Neither Paul nor Em is known for sound, responsible — or even rational — decisions (hooking, anyone?), but Paul’s history with children is particularly heinous. Can you imagine how extensively he had to lie on that adoption application to avoid being dismissed out of hand? The adoption agency must be well out of town to not have heard about Paul, the amazing dead/alive serial babynapper.

Liberty wanted Parker to attend the session to hear his opinions and, lo and behold, she actually asked him for his impressions of Paul and Emily, and listened to him. Okay, so Parker does not have the whole story about Paul, and his perceptions were understandably colored by Paul’s friendship during that period when Carly fled the country with Simon. But he knew about Eliza being kidnapped by her loopy dad, and expressed concerns about it. However, he also should have tried to pin Emily down about Daniel, the son no one ever sees anymore. Parker would most likely know that Danny has been warehoused at boarding school, and with his own brother J.J. similarly off the canvas,

Viewers could sense that Liberty was going to make the soft-hearted (wrong) decision, but at least it came out of her character. Liberty noted how she hates talking about embarrassing developments in her own life, and was painfully reluctant to grill Emily about her past indiscretions — even though those “mistakes” included major felonies like kidnapping and attempted murder. But that’s Liberty; she’s full of empathy. Paul and Em, however, are full of…er, B.S.

Originally published on SoapOperaWeekly.com