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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Soap Opera Weekly: 2/01/10

Watching GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sonny try to kill an unarmed cop in cold blood, I realized that the character has finally passed the point of no return. GH has been dancing along a precipice with Sonny for so many years (never identifying the contents of those mysterious “shipments” that are worth killing over, for example) but now the-powers-that-be have finally pushed him over the edge. And he’s gone.

Sonny shot an officer of the law after he had clearly displayed his badge and identified himself. There was no wiggle room in this scene; it was no “bang-bang” situation (pardon the pun) where there was no time to react. Sonny had a long, long time to think about what he was doing, to discuss what he was doing — to think twice about what he was doing. And then he did it. Sonny’s crime was made even more heinous by the scene’s editing. While going to commercial after Dante identified himself was meant to be dramatic, the practical effect make it feel like Sonny had the entire commercial break to think about what to do next, in addition to all the time he spent talking to Dante. Thus, GH made shooting the unarmed police officer a conscious decision. It might (and I stress the might part) have felt different if Sonny’s shot was depicted as a sudden, gut reaction; on instinct he whipped out his gun and fired without thinking. It could have been made to look like a crime of passion (or at least negligence). But instead, Sonny calmly drew his weapon, pointed it at the policeman, talked to him about the situation, and then said, “Goodbye, detective,” before coldly shooting him in the chest. A killshot, by the way — not an attempt to slow down the cop so Sonny could flee. The gangster meant to put him down.

And why Sonny shoot Dante? Pride. Sonny is actually innocent of Claudia’s murder. He didn’t do it. So he did not have to kill to protect himself; self-defense was not an issue. Sonny was ashamed that he had been fooled for these many months — fooled by an undercover cop so completely that he was ready to turn over the keys to the kingdom. So he lashed out. Okay, he may have feared that clearing himself of the crime would point to Michael, but using deadly force to protect someone else who is not even present does not wash Wounding Sonny’s pride does not count as a deadly threat — even if he is a megalomaniac.

The big question is, where does GH go from here? How can Sonny come back from the premeditated attempted murder of a police officer? The argument will no doubt be made that shooting his own son is “punishment enough.” Don’t you believe it. Because it’s not.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 1/21/10

I really have to hand it to GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Maxie, pulling off that redecoration of Jason’s penthouse virtually overnight. And in the midst of the Franco brouhaha, no less!

Fashionista Diane was suitably impressed, so that’s good enough for me. I’m just wondering where Maxie found the time to concentrate on fabrics and colors, considering that she was wracked with guilt over sleeping with the psycho artist and blaming herself for Lulu’s kidnapping. I mean, I can envision her purchasing the materials online, but getting the actual work done was a feat. Jason was understandably distracted, but he didn’t notice the small army that had to be tramping in and out of there to accomplish the changeover so quickly? Sonny may be right: Jason is slipping.

And, while we’re thinking about it, where did Maxie get the cash to finance the operation? I seem to recall that the reason she ended up rooming with Lulu was because that apartment was the only one in Port Charles in her meager price range. Clearly being a “junior editor” at Crimson pays very well. And maybe Spinelli kicked in — surely Jason or Sonny gives him some kind of stipend for his hacking work. However, the big question remains: Is Spinelli’s room still pink?

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Soap Opera Weekly: 1/11/10

I really enjoyed seeing GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Lucky and Dominic work together as they rooted through Franco’s workshop, trying to figure out his twisted plan. “We’re gonna have to go through this like cops,” Lucky declared. And that’s just what they did. They shared knowledge and brainstormed ideas like a couple of intelligent guys — a couple of smart police officers.

It’s rare to see GH make the good guys look good, so Dom and Lucky made the most of it. If this were a nighttime procedural, the boys would have cracked the whole case right there, but at least they were able to make some positive inroads. Going to the station, Dominic was even willing to put his secret identity on the line to save Lulu. Now that’s a hero! They talked through the problem of figuring out where he might be hiding hostages, and put it together logically and believably. Kudos to the guys for recognizing that Franco might not limit his re-creations to just the corpses.

It’s too bad the PCPD CSU neglected to pull any prints off Joey Limbo’s body. Franco was not wearing gloves and would be in the system as a result of his 2003 arrest — so a lot of strife could have been avoided. But hey, we can’t have everything.

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Soap Opera Weekly: 12/22/09

Apparently, GENERAL HOSPITAL’s James Franco is synonymous with Christmas trees. Who needs Santa Claus? Fresh off a sketch on this week’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in which he played the operator of a Christmas tree lot who was a little too…er, attached to his trees (if you consider naming and french-kissing a scotch pine “too attached”), came Monday’s GH, when Franco (the character) visited Port Charles’ only all-night Xmas tree lot. Turns out staying open until midnight made terrific business sense, because it appeared that nearly everyone in town waited until after-hours to go tree-shopping. (Note to GH: It gets cold in Buffalo, N.Y., region after dark!) Carly even brought infant Josslyn out — without a hat! — for some last-minute…er, sprucing up. There, Carly ran into Franco, who was eyeing the exact same tree, and challenged her to a coin flip (with a two-headed coin) over who would get to buy it. He ultimately relented — perhaps out of concern for Josslyn’s bald pate in the chill night air. (He did warn Carly not to take her daughter for granted.)

The tree lot was also good for family therapy: Robin and Patrick got into a spat over the size of his tree — which sent interested observer Lisa fleeing back to the relative calm of the hospital — until they agreed to compromise. Meanwhile, Luke and Lucky used the search for the perfect pine as an excuse to feel each other out and snipe over Christmas plans. Luke wasn’t sure if he was staying in town for the holiday — but he was certain he wasn’t calling Laura for her birthday! Clearly the Quartermaines were the only sane ones — since Monica and Tracy were already arguing over the decorations, they clearly must have shopped before nightfall!

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Soap Opera Weekly: 12/21/09

Well, it certainly could have been worse. And the promotional spots made it seem like it could have been much worse. I’m talking about James Franco‘s gig as host of this week’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. That one promo in which Fred Armisen slapped Franco after he copped to being on GENERAL HOSPITAL made me cringe, playing as it did off the most broad, stereotypical impressions of soaps. So I was a little nervous tuning in to the actual broadcast.

But it wasn’t quite as bad as all that. Franco grinned broadly and cracked a couple of jokes, then admitted he’s now on a soap opera — but that part isn’t a joke, it’s really true. The clip he showed, in which Franco (the character) tries to seduce Maxie with that lurid line about her panties already being halfway down her thighs was guaranteed to elicit “Whooo’s” from the SNL audience. Franco (the actor) “explained” that each year he randomly picks a few career suggestions from fans to follow and, well, last year’s suggestion was to do a soap opera. Okay, that’s pretty funny, if we’re being honest and open-minded. Franco demonstrated by pulling a couple of new cards for 2010 from a tumbler. (“Do another Spider-Man movie,” indeed!)

Surprisingly (and thankfully), that monologue bit was it for mentions of Franco’s soap career! The rest of the show was the usual frantic hit-or-miss bid for chuckles. And, well, I don’t want to take any shots at another genre after chiding SNL…

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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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