Deep Soap: ‘General Hospital’ Needs a Prescrption for Happy Pills

General Hospital's Chad Duell (ABC)

General Hospital” has been saved.  Now what? Whether you believe GH is improving, or that it is being overrun by “One Life to Live” characters, or that killing off the Woman in White was the worst move since Sonny’s brief romance with Emily, I think everyone can agree that the Team Frank Valentini-Ron Carlivati’s primary goal was to keep the show from being cancelled. Mission accomplished. Though the ratings are still terrible, their changes persuaded ABC to give it another year. They should probably send a gift basket to “The Revolution” executive producer J.D. Roth to thank him for creating a show that turned out so badly that even viewers who were willing to give “The Chew” a chance refused to watch it.

Now they have the equally tough task of rebuilding the show so that the ratings will actually grow and this will turn out to be more than a one year stay of execution. With the shock and awe that was Robin’s (Kimberly McCullough) death and Todd (Roger Howarth)  and Blair’s crossover completed, GH is again showing the symptoms of its chief disease: depression. Every story on the show is still a dark, bleak chronicling of human misery.  This from the same headwriter and executive producer who, at their best, created episodes so funny that they could have aired during ABC’s Wednesday comedy block. Please, guy, lighten up. Give me some laughs and some love in the afternoon.

It’s not entirely their fault. Robin was slated to die long before they took over the show, and maximizing the fallout was just common sense. They had the good sense to reveal to the audience that she is actually alive, But the deaths of Cole, Hope, and John’s never mentioned in over a decade in Llanview even though brooding about the demise of people he cares about is John’s favorite hobby, sister is definitely on Cartini. (I refuse to count the Woman in White. That was a mercy killing.) Having the show’s early twenties characters, Starr (Kristen Alderson) and Michael (Chad Duell), forge a romance that is based on them both grieving for their dead significant others is not exactly a fun young romance.

The potential Luke-Anna pairing has the same dynamic. She’s mourning her daughter, he’s trying to get past the guilt that he feels for killing his grandson. It’s the exact opposite of escapism.  Granted, Luke (Tony Geary) has been  a million times more likable under the new team. Taking responsibility, showing remorse, and attempting to show concern for other people’s feelings goes a long way toward redeeming a character. But that does not mean he deserves someone as awesome as Anna, particularly someone who used to be married to his best friend. In fact, I think the only person in Port Charles who is currently worthy of Anna (Finola Hughes)  is Alexis (Nancy Grahn).  With “The Bold & the Beautiful” embarking on a lesbian storyline, maybe GH should jump on the bandwagon.

Sam again being concerned that she’s carried Franco’s baby is another bleak story.  Assuming that Franco is really, truly definitively dead, it’s also fairly pointless. If Jason (Steve Burton) and Franco (James Franco) were twins, it explains Franco’s obsession with Jason, but it doesn’t really move the story forward. So what if Jason killed his psychopath brother? He’s killed lots of people. If Sam is not carrying his biological child, it changes nothing storywise, because Jason will still be raising the child.

Kate’s DID is just embarrassing. Kelly Sullivan was still adjusting to playing Kate — a recast instituted by the prior regime –when she was thrown a second character. Connie Falconari of Bensonhurst is basically Olivia (Lisa LoCicero) — and one tough talking Bensonhurst woman is enough for Port Charles. Given that it appears Connie is responsible for the deaths of two beloved characters, acting not withstanding, she’s not even an entertaining crazy person.

In fact, the one story that is making me smile involves another insane character: Heather, played by the legendary Robin Mattson. She is simultaneously chilling and hilarious, as she convinces Steve (Scott Reeves) that she’s cured while resuming her pursuit of Luke, and threatening Olivia. As long as she does not kill anyone, I can get behind her brand of crazy.

I am not just advocating for a lighter GH because it’s my preference. The one soap that is gaining viewers in 2012 is “The Bold & the Beautiful”, which is pure youth oriented fluff right now. More people are tuning in to watch a truly silly love triangle then watched the show’s critically acclaimed storylines about lung cancer and homelessness. The same holds true in primetime, where the optimistic, romantic,  “Once Upon A Time” is the season’s top new series. For many people, real life is depressing enough. This is the time for GH to set aside the past decade of doom and gloom and reinvent itself.

 Watch the Latest Episode of “General Hospital”:

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

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