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?

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Soap Opera Weekly: 4/23/10

With the demise of AS THE WORLD TURNS’s Rocco, I would like to declare a moratorium on mobbed-up Italian-American men in Oakdale.

Speaking as an Italian-American, I can say for a fact that not every one of us is in the mafia. I don’t see ATWT (or any soap) depicting any other minority groups in such a uniformly negative manner. In a genre that bends over backward to wink at the reality of organized crime so that popular characters like GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sonny can be presented as importing harmless, unspecified “shipments,” I was aghast to see ATWT’s Uncle Ralph depicted as an ugly character who runs a protection racket and threatens pregnant women. And Rocco’s mob ties produced a hit man who nearly killed Dusty. In short, why are some gangsters, like GH’s Sonny, Jason or Alcazar heroes, while Italian mobsters are always scary? Perhaps the closest parallel is the shoddy treatment that South Asians have received, playing cabbies on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL and YOUNG AND RESTLESS. But hey, at least those guys were gainfully employed doing honest work.

Sure, we all enjoyed watching THE SOPRANOS on HBO, and The Godfather movies are classics worthy of worship, but not every work of fiction needs to be packed with gangsters of Italian descent. I applaud GH for giving us Dante the crusading police officer and his loving mother, Olivia, and we need to see more characters like them. Not every Italian-American is a member of La Cosa Nostra; it’s just not our thing.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 4/01/10

It was nice to see Lindze Letherman back on GENERAL HOSPITAL this week, portraying a spirit version of Georgie. Letherman was cool and controlled, and played Georgie as sentimental without being overly emotional. I found it interesting how Maxie took her dead sister’s appearance in stride. In fact, she seemed much more interested in Spinelli than the sight of her spectral sibling, which says something about Maxie’s dedication to the Jackal.

A ghostly loved one offering someone a choice between living and dying is pretty standard in soaps (most recently seen on ABC when ALL MY CHILDREN’s Dixie dangled paradise before her son JR a couple of weeks back). However, Georgie did not seriously try to tempt Maxie into going into the light. She clearly sensed Maxie’s concern for Spinelli — especially since Maxie mulled her own potential death in terms of the effect it would have on Spin.

Everyone talks about sacrificing his or her own life for a loved one — but Maxie sacrificed her death!

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Soap Opera Weekly: 3/09/10

Watching GENERAL HOSPITAL this week, I have to wonder how somebody as insecure as Spinelli can be with Maxie. The way he works himself into a lather of fear and suspicion is ridiculous. She has chosen to hang with him, and he gives himself no credit for that at all.

How insecure can Spinelli be? I thought he settled his issues a while back, but this week he acts on his old fear that Maxie is only attracted to dark and dangerous bad boys. Okay, so she slept with Franco. But that was about Maxie and her hang-ups, not a reflection on Spinelli. She would have no problem finding other male companionship if she wanted it. The truth is, Maxie hangs with the Jackal because she wants to. She’s not legally bound to stick around until death do they part. In fact, she loves him so much that she didn’t want to ruin their friendship by marrying him. So take a cue from that, dude. Actions speak louder than words.

And your actions this week scream, “Lunatic!” While I do not question the Jackal’s intelligence, sometimes I do wonder about his sanity. A common definition of madness is “repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different outcome.” Spinelli has tried this gambit of dragging Maxie along on some manufactured adventure before, and it has never gone well. What makes him think this time it will be any different? It’s just plain dangerous. And crazy. Remember, GH, he’s supposed to be the Jackal, not the Loon.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 2/26/10

GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sonny may be the capo di tutti capi in Port Charles, but not everyone is in awe of him. Two of those folks had big scenes this week, and what a surprise, they’re both lawyers. (C’mon, aren’t attorneys scarier than coffee importers? Admit it.)

I was cheering when Diane not only stood up to Sonny, she told him he was wrong for wanting to plead justifiable homicide in the death of Claudia. Carolyn Hennesy shined as she stiffened Diane’s spine and told Sonny what he needed to hear — no matter how much he plugged his ears. And she kept right on butting heads with the mobster, right into the courtroom. When he undermined her and made himself look like a thug by demanding a recess, she called him on it. Diane did the best she could to convince the judge that Sonny was a loving family man (even if he was charged with killing his wife). I felt bad for Diane arguing that Sonny was not a flight risk — even as he and Jason frantically made plans to jump bail! Poor Diane. Whatever her retainer, she’s not getting paid nearly enough!

The other legal eagle who defied the kingpin was newly minted federal prosecutor Claire Walsh, played by the newly arrived Dahlia Salem. On her very first day Claire strong-armed Ed, the weak-kneed prosecutor originally assigned to the case, to let her take down the mobster. And on her first time in court she declared her intention to lock up Sonny and then lambasted him in front of the judge as the criminal he is.

With these two formidable ladies before the bar, I wouldn’t advise acting against advice of counsel.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 2/05/10

Out of the mouths of babes: GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Kristina and Molly this week gave voice to many of the criticisms about Sonny that viewers have been screaming at their own TVs. (Or…uh, so I understand *coughcough*) The basic truth is that Sonny is a bad person, and he harms everyone around him. Even a child can see that. Among the obvious facts that these kids saw: Kristina pointed out that her father had no justification whatsoever for shooting Dante. And Molly pointed out that killing a police officer is “murder with special circumstances,” which would mean life in prison without possibility of parole. Only Michael defended Sonny (and did it by impugning Dominic — how like his father!). Poor Morgan began to doubt his friendship with Dominic because of Michael’s insistence that Dominic was an untrustworthy lying rat. (There is an untrustworthy person in your family, Michael — but you already want to be in his footsteps.) Luckily, Morgan was grown-up enough to realize Dante is sincere. Kristina had her own moment of doubt when she backpedaled and defended her father to Kiefer — and that wishywashiness reflected GH’s ambivalence toward the mob kingpin. Is he a creep or not? Molly put it all in perspective by asking, “Does anyone doubt that Uncle Sonny is guilty?” Nobody did. And that’s the problem with Sonny: Everybody knows he’s a bad guy, yet they continue to hang around him at great personal cost to themselves. So why is he the hero of the show? There’s a saying: “And a child shall lead them.” GH would do well to follow the lead of Morgan, Molly and Kristina, who all see Sonny for what he is.

If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think Jax and Ronnie were taking their cues from the kids. They actually had to argue to convince people (Carly and Olivia, respectively) that Sonny should be arrested. Olivia’s recalcitrance was somewhat understandable (but only somewhat), while Carly was just in denial and repressing her memories, as usual. Liv may think guilt will chew Sonny up inside, but she hasn’t seen him for 20 years. Sonny only has a passing acquaintance with guilt; he discards it like a bad one-night stand. Bottom line, ladies: Sonny hurts your children. Give him the boot. The End.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 2/04/10

The truth about GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Dante is finally out after months of secrets and lies, so I asked Lisa LoCicero (Olivia) if she thought the climax of the story fulfills expectations. “I don’t think we could have made it any bigger or truer, so yeah, I really hope so,” she declared. “I think people are really going to like what we did.”

One aspect of the story I really liked was LoCicero’s performance as the grieving mother. She told me why she made the acting choices she did. “You can’t always think; sometimes you fall apart,” she explained. “Initially, of course, it’s just shock. As an actor who never experienced something that enormous it’s impossible to know what that would really do to you in the moment. As it played out I tried to stay true to what that would be.”

LoCicero pointed out that Olivia feels even worse because she had an indirect hand in her son’s shooting by deciding not to tell Dante or Sonny about their connection. “She said all along, there’s no way to know how Sonny would have reacted if she said he’s your son and he’s an undercover cop,” LoCicero noted. “He might have shot her in the head right where she stood. I mean, there’s really no way to tell with Sonny how that kind of information — and betrayal — was going to affect him.”

Clearly, he did not take it well…

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