Tag Archive | Jean Passanante

General Hospital’s new writers pass probation with flying colors

Author’s note: I wrote this blog post nearly two weeks ago, and I procrastinated about posting it. So much has happened since then—especially the announcement that Michael Easton will be back soon—that I considered revising and updating it, but I decided to leave it as is and then post a new one in the next couple of days. Please subscribe so that you won’t miss any updates. I’ll be running a contest, too!

GH Passanante & Altman

Jean Passanante & Shelly Altman

It’s been over three months since the work of the new regime has been in evidence on General Hospital. The new head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, came on board last August after the firing of Ron Carlivati, but it wasn’t until mid-October that the fruits of their labors were on display. I was dubious at first, but it’s time for a three-month evaluation, and I believe they’ve passed their probationary period with flying colors.

News of Carlivati’s firing preceded the killing of Michael Easton’s character, Silas Clay, by only a few days. Like many of Michael’s fans, I was devastated,* and debated whether to swear off watching the soap forever, but ultimately I couldn’t shake the GH habit, and I’m glad I hung in there. No watershed moment marked the transition—it would have been uncomfortably jarring if it did—but gradually the changes became apparent.

Michael E with baby and red phone 1-27-15

Michael as Dr. Silas Clay with Ava’s baby, January 2015

 

First and foremost, romance and relationships took on more importance. Were there more steamy bedroom scenes? Were they longer, with more bare skin on display? I’m not sure, because I don’t keep count of such things, but it seemed so. The romantic dialogue sometimes seemed too saccharine and clichéd, but I didn’t mind; in fact I rather enjoyed it.

The most positive change: story lines began moving more quickly, with more action. The when-will-Jake-remember-he’s-Jason saga dragged on far too long, but the writers inherited that problem from the previous regime, and they’ve speeded things up a bit.

Heroes have become villains, and vice versa. On fan sites, many viewers bemoan the fact that Nikolas, who used to be a virtual as well as titular prince, seems to have gone over to the dark side. But they’re especially incensed at the impending break-up of Dante and Lulu Falconieri, who seemed like the ideally married golden couple until Lulu’s cousin Valerie arrived in town. Lulu became a lying, conniving bitch who drove Dante into Valerie’s arms, much to the disgust of fans who’d like to see Dante and Lulu reunited.

Maurice Benard as Sonny

Perhaps the biggest transformation is that of the mob boss Sonny Corinthos. Wheelchair-bound after a near-fatal shooting that left him unable to walk, he’s sounding more and more like a New Age guru, spouting nuggets of wisdom like “The quickest way to lose is to refuse to try.” I wrote down that quote verbatim from a recent episode, when he was dispensing advice to his son Michael.

Sonny’s full of advice for all three of his sons, including Morgan, who’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, like Sonny himself. I blogged about this development back in August, when the subject was introduced with sensitivity and understanding. For a while it looked as if the new writers were going to abandon this story line, but they’ve brought it back to the forefront. Morgan doesn’t like the flat way his new medications are making him feel, and Sonny’s giving him excellent advice, hard won from his own experiences, about the dire consequences of going off his meds. General Hospital is providing a valuable public service in disseminating essential information about this diagnosis, which the media so often links to horrendous crimes.**

(To be continued with updates)

*The reasons behind Michael Easton’s firing remain mysterious. In online comments, he’s said it came as a total shock, but he’s been unfailingly diplomatic and gentlemanly about his departure. He’s not burning any bridges, because who knows, he might decide to return some day, though I’d prefer to see him move on to bigger and better things.

GH Fantasy Michael Easton

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

 

**Speaking of bipolar disorder, I recently republished my novel Mood Swing:The Bipolar Murders. It’s now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. You can read more about it elsewhere on this blog. Please check it out. Better yet, please buy it!

 

GENERAL HOSPITAL: Women writers break the balls of their big male stars

Is General Hospital terminally ill? Should the venerable soap be put out of its misery once and for all? After more than 50

Jean Passanante & Shelly Altman

Jean Passanante & Shelly Altman

years, perhaps it’s finally time to ring down the curtain for good. After a week of watching episodes credited to the new head writers Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, I’m finding it virtually unwatchable, and I’m willing to bet thousands of other fans are feeling the same.

Ron Carlivati, the former head writer, was fired in late July, and the arrival of the two veterans of other soaps was announced with much fanfare. But the real-time arc of soap opera storytelling plays out months ahead, so Carlivati still got the onscreen head writer credit until a week ago, when Passanante and Altman’s names appeared in his place. But even if I hadn’t noticed the credits, I’d have known that something had gone grievously wrong.

Ron with the traitorous Jean

Ron with the traitorous Jean

First I noticed the increase in romantic scenes. The new writers have been quoted, most recently in the October 26th ABC Soaps in Depth, as saying they want to give viewers, in Passanante’s words, “a show that is character-centered and emotion-driven. That is our first aim….Whenever we talk about story, we ask ourselves ‘What are the romantic stakes?’ Where is [sic] the yearning and love and romance.”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against romance. There’s plenty of it in my vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, and I pay my dues to the Romance Writers of America. But suddenly characters are speaking in trite, saccharine clichés that don’t even sound like the characters we thought we knew. Saying those lines must make all those talented actors want to puke. Even the background music is more syrupy.

Julian flaunts it for Alexis

Julian flaunts it for Alexis

There are more lingering kisses and shots of men’s bare torsos. Again, nothing wrong with that, but I hope the presence of six-pack abs won’t become the determining factor when they hire new actors. Then again, maybe it already is. Take William DeVry, who plays Julian Jerome. His scene with Nancy Lee Grahn as Alexis, playing footsie and sipping champagne in a big bathtub, was pretty hot, and I like the fact that they’re both 40-something. But the fact that the top five actors in the latest reader’s poll all flaunt their bare-chested physiques on a regular basis somehow unnerves me. Personally, I’d rather the cameras focus on interesting faces—like Michael Easton’s for example. But oops, that’s not going to happen—they killed off his character, Silas Clay, the same week they fired Ron Carlivati.*

But what I found most unsettling this past week was that three of the most popular romantic male leads—all of them in the aforementioned top five—had spectacular meltdowns and made stupid decisions that went totally against character. Then in the same episodes, they calmed down and did rapid turn-arounds that made no sense either.

First there was Billy Miller, aka Jake/Jason, becoming visibly agitated and impatient in his frustration over a missing DNA GH billy-miller-shirtless-general-hospital-ABCstest. His character, nicknamed “Stone Cold” in his previous incarnation, would never have blown his cool like this, then decided it wasn’t important and taken to bed with the evil Elizabeth.

Then there was William DeVry’s Julian Jerome. Learning that the baby he’d fathered with Olivia wasn’t dead after all but was alive and well and living nearby, he went charging off to reclaim the baby through brute force, although Alexis tried her best to convince him the best way to get custody or at least visitation rights was to act calm and collected and pursue the case through legal means. But no, he went charging off to confront the mother, babe in arms, and snatch the baby away. Others managed to talk him down, and by the end of the episode, he and Olivia were chatting amiably about how they could share in parenting after all.

But the most egregious folly was that of Maurice Benard’s Sonny Corinthos. Still hospitalized and bedridden after a shootingMaurice Benard as Sonny that left him at death’s door, convinced he’d become totally powerless, he insisted on going home against medical advice and convinced his son Morgan** to smuggle him out in a wheelchair. When his wife Carly intercepted them, Sonny pushed himself up from the chair and promptly fell flat on the floor in a classic pratfall. Once resettled in bed, after an off-screen conference with Carly, he did a total 180° and docilely agreed to chill out and follow doctor’s orders after all.

If these total turn-arounds in the span of a few minutes are what the new head writers mean by character-driven plotting, General Hospital is in deep doodoo. Such major transformations take time, and maybe months of therapy. (Where’s Dr. Kevin Collins when we need him?) In the examples above, it’s as if the women in these guys’ lives waved a magic wand, and voila! Men who’d been acting like raging bulls were instantly brought into submission. The new women head writers may give lip service to romance, but beneath the surface, perhaps they’re man-haters at heart, making their most powerful and sympathetic male leads into out-of-control idiots, then having the women break their balls and whip them into docility.

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Me and Michael Easton at Fan Fantasy day, April 2014

Do I sound bitter? Unlike many fans, I didn’t swear off GH forever when they fired Michael Easton, but I may not be watching much longer—more and more, the show’s an insult to my intelligence. Does anyone out there agree? I’d love to hear your comments, both pro and con. And I’d love it even more if you buy my vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal. You can read the prologue and first chapter right here on this blog, and I guarantee you’ll find it more entertaining.

*The murder of Michael Easton’s character may have been one of the factors that led to Carlivati’s firing, but the true story has never come out, and Michael’s been unfailingly gracious in his comments after he was let go. His millions of fans have been public in their outrage, however.

**Speaking of Morgan, I wonder what the new writers will do with the theme of his possibly being bipolar, which I blogged about a few posts back? I’m willing to bet they’ll drop it completely.

UPDATE, OCTOBER 28 – MEA CULPA (sort of)

Lots of GH fans took offense to the blog above and/or the way I described and linked to it on a Facebook post. Let me clarify: in no way do I want General Hospital to be cancelled. I still watch it daily, and I still like many of the actors. I hope the new writers prove me wrong, and they deserve time to settle in and hit their stride. Perhaps I was feeling particularly cranky when I wrote the above post. Nonetheless I stand by what I said and defend my right to say it!