Deep Soap: Do People Care About James Franco’s ‘General Hospital’ Return?

James Franco as Franco on General Hospital (ABC)

James Franco as Franco on General Hospital (ABC)

Franco Returns to ‘General Hospital’

Fans of homoerotic performance art, rejoice.  James Franco is returning toGeneral Hospital‘ as pretentious hit man Franco this summer to wrap up his storyline.  Although the mainstream press’s coverage implies that he is being brought back because of his character’s popularity, this was the plan all along. As Franco the actor wrote in his unintentionally hilarious op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal which argued that his work on GH was a form of performance art, “There will be one more step. After all of the Franco episodes are aired, my character’s storyline will be advanced in a special episode filmed in a ‘legitimate’ New York gallery. One more layer will be added to this already layer-heavy experiment. If all goes according to plan, it will definitely be weird. But is it art?”

Judging by the prior part of the “experiment” I am going to pre-emptively answer no.  GH at its best is definitely great art.  If Franco’s storyline was a painting, it would be of dogs playing poker.  His hammy performance as a hit man who was obsessed with Jason was at times funny and arguably a meta commentary on the show’s Jason worship.  But it was not good.  Based on online response, the majority of GH fans did not love the story.  Franco’s presence made no impact on the ratings whatsoever.   He did generate a lot of publicity for the show.

In a press statement Franco said, ““Working on ‘General Hospital’ was a great experience. I love the cast, writers, directors and producers. They have become a new family for me. I can’t wait for the work we will do this summer.” Since his last stint was shot in only three days, Franco must bond with people really quickly.   He may be trying smooth things over with the cast.  Not only did he write an op ed implying that soap acting was different and somehow lesser than playing a stoner in Pineapple Express, in his ‘Saturday Night Live’ monologue, which was of course written by the SNL writing staff, he joked,”A lot of people say being on General Hospital is a major step backwards, career-wise. You know… people like my family, my agent, the other people on General Hospital.”   Not all of the GH cast was amused. Nancy Lee Grahn called him a nasty name on Twitter.

Franco the character left town after attempting to kill Lulu and promising that every time Jason killed someone, he would commit murder, too. Tune in this June to see if Jason and Franco have hate sex.

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Marcy Rylan Makes A Great First Impression

It is fantastic when a recast is an immediate improvement over her predecessor.  Tuesday, Marcy Rylan made a smashing debut as Abby on ‘The Young & The Restless.’  Her Abby is a spunky troublemaker, not a spoiled brat.   Rylan is an effervescent, funny actress who lights up the television screen.  She is a unique presence in Genoa City.  The writers wisely gave her a memorable opening scene: stripping in front of a camera crew as an alleged protest against animal testing that was actually part of reality show sizzle reel.  Abby as a wannabe Kardashian is a timely and potentially hilarious idea.

Rylan had immediate chemistry with her on-screen parents Ashley (Eileen Davidson) and Victor (Eric Braeden).  It’s going to be fun to watch the lighthearted bundle of energy Abby spar with the humorless Victor. (I really wanted to punch Victor when he had the nerve to suggest that Ashley shouldn’t accept the CEO position at Jabot because Abby was troubled. When has Victor ever backburned his career for his kids?)   The 29 year old Rylan has the good fortune to look like she is still in her early twenties, and has obviously lost all of her pregnancy weight, so the SORASing is not as egregious as I feared.

My only quibble with older Abby 2.0 is that she is now going by the last name Newman.  She considered Brad to be her father and was proud to have his last name.   I hope it will be revealed that she is using the Newman name to make herself more marketable as a reality show heiress.

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‘One Life’ Sings Its Heart Out

Watching three days of ‘One Life To Live‘s Starr X’d Lovers musical extravaganza my reactions ranged from “Hell yeah!” to horrified cringing.   Pulling off three episodes’ worth of complicated song and dance sequences in for a fraction of the time and money that ‘Glee‘ has to put together in a single episode was a real challenge.  Some of the numbers worked.  Others did not.  In the end, the obvious enthusiasm of everybody involved was infectious.  The decision to bring back the show’s 80s theme song and have current cast members sing it was inspired.  The young actors were clearly having the time of their lives.  The directors and producers relished the chance to experiment and do something more ambitious than the typical scenes of two people having a conversation.

I was won over in the first episode when everyone launched into one of my favorite 80s songs, Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.”  The music director Paul Glass did a great job of blending hits that are in lots of people’s iPods with some decent original songs.   I’m amazed they were able to get the rights to so many hits.  I enjoyed the choreography of the big group number “I’ve Got A Feeling.”  Marko using the universal language of dance to express his feelings about Langston and Ford’s affair was awesome. Broadway veteran Jason Tam is so talented that I wish his character wanted to be a performer instead of a director.

The surprise standouts for me were Tika Sumpter (Leila) belting out Battlefield and Mark Lawson (Brody) singing in his Navy dress whites.  I had no idea they were such good singers.  The most cringeworthy song was the greenscreened music video take on “If I Could Turn Back Time.”  I think it is second to only the ‘Another WorldLadykiller video, which a heroic fan posted on YouTube, as the worst soap musical moment of all time.

Storywise, I wish I had a better sense of who some of the teen characters were since they were center stage.  I don’t care about Nate and Dani’s (Kelley Missal) infatuation since I don’t have any sense of who Nate is.  I had to look up the name of Destiny’s (Shenell Edmonds) date Darren since his first significant scene was inviting her to the prom.  I think the show missed a golden opportunity for hilarity by not having Todd (Trevor St.John) and Cole (Brandon Buddy) sing to each other in prison.   I also would have paid good money to hear John McBain (Michael Easton) singing something appropriately morose like Morrissey.

I applaud OLTL’s risk taking and ambition.  Its willingness to go out on a limb is what sets the show apart from all the other soaps.  I’m ready to return to the show’s regular storylines, but after a difficult couple of months for the show the musical reignited my enthusiasm for life in Llanview.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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