Deep Soap: A Truly Golden Anniversary for ‘General Hospital’

Fifty years of "General Hospital" (ABC)

How do you sum up fifty years in an hour? The official “General Hospital” fiftieth anniversary episode on Tuesday did it with an episode that managed to pay tribute to each of the show’s distinct eras while doing something nearly impossible these days: surprise viewers. It was an hour, minus the commercials, of love and respect for the show’s history, and its fans.

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There most subtle shot out came at the beginning which opened with Epiphany (Sonya Eddy) answering the phone at the Nurses Station, just as Nurse Jessie was in the show’s premiere in 1963. She was having a one way conversation about Frank’s surprise for Doris, a reference to the show’s creators, Frank and Doris Hurley, as well, perhaps the current executive producer Frank Valentini, who has pulled out all the stops for this momentous occasion.

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Let’s be honest. Not many fans remember the show’s early black and white years. I suspect that if Brian Frons were still running ABC they would have been deemed not sexy enough for the current generation of fans. But we got the return of original cast member Audrey (Rachel Ames). She had a long conversation with her granddaughter Liz (Becky Herbst) about the show’s original leading man, and GH Chief-of-Staff Steve (John Bernadino), Patrick (Jason Thompson) told the hospital’s new crop of interns about Steve’s lasting legacy. They were definitely the stand-in for the show’s younger viewers who never saw Steve in action. It was a great reminder that Liz is the character with the strongest connection to the show’s past.  Best of all, we got a flashback of Steve and Audrey dancing, in beautiful black-and-white.

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The 1970s and early 1980s, when GH became the GH that we watch today were represented by two very different sequences. Luke (Tony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) faced off against Helena (Constance Towers) again, this time over the disappearance of their daughter, Lulu. It was great to see Laura fighting side by side with Luke after years of her being relegated to a victim. There was dialogue about their decades of hatred, and a big, campy gun fight reminiscent of the action sequences when Luke and Laura first got together. By the end of the episode, Luke shot Helena dead (or more likely “dead,” since Helena has been killed several times but always manages to come back to life).

Then there were the funny and touching scenes in the Quartermaine mansion. Apparently the secret ingredient in Lila’s relish is ‘shrooms, because after eating it Tracy (Jane Ellliot) and Monica (Leslie Charleson) both hallucinated that they saw Alan (Stuart Damon). Unlike the earlier storyline in which Tracy had visions of her dead brother wearing a track suit and cracking jokes, this time Alan was dignified. He appeared to prevent Monica from kicking Tracy out of the Quartermaine mansion, which allowed the writers to revisit the roots of the women’s animosity towards each other, and how Monica came to own the house. That led to two more ghostly visitors, Monica’s former lover Rick (Chris Robinson) who proved that soul patches exist in heaven, and the previously unpublicized return of her daughter Emily (Natalia Livingston) who we learned is spending a lot of time with Alan in the afterlife. While Amber Tamblyn  will always be my preferred Emily, it was comforting to see Monica and Tracy reunited with the family that the prior regime decided to slaughter.

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Then there were the scenes that I wanted to see, the scenes I wasn’t sure it was possible to write, the restoration of Brenda (Vanessa Marcil). After her extraordinarily poorly written 2011 return, which managed to make one of the most fascinating, frustrating women in daytime history into a bland victim and destroy one of the show’s most enduring supercouples. Brenda and Sonny (Maurice Benard). When Brenda showed up at Sonny’s door to announce that she was engaged to his longtime rival Jax, while Jax was having the same conversation with his not-quite ex-wife Carly, it instantly reignited the S&B dynamic. Brenda learned that Sonny never read the letter she sent him after she left, declaring that she loved him and hoped he would join her in Rome where it would be safe for them be together.  The anger and passion that carried over in the next episode created a next chapter for the duo. It turns out, the chemistry is still there. It was just the writing that was lacking. I hope that this will turn into a longterm return, though to really work Ingo Rademacher would have to come back as Jax for more than a few days and let the epic Brenda/Jax/Carly/Sonny quadrangle play out in all its dysfunctional glory.

Best of all, the celebration isn’t over yet. There’s still the highly anticipated Nurses Ball.  Thank you, “General Hospital” for making watching soaps fun again.

Date Set for Daytime Emmys

The Daytime Emmys are returning to HLN. The network announced that the awards telecast will air Sunday, June 16 from 8-10PM.  The awards will again be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. In a press statement, HLN Executive Vice President and  General Manager Scott Safon said, “Last year, HLN’s first-ever presentation of the Daytime Emmy Awards was the number 1 most-watched, regularly-scheduled non-news broadcast in the network’s history, and received terrific viewer feedback both on-air and online… We are so happy to again present the program that honors the best work in daytime.”

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

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