THANK YOU Michael Logan!!
Thank you Michael Logan
In his best of 2009, Michael Logan lists his Best in Soaps
Best Soap: ABC’s General Hospital
I know I’m going to take crap for this pick because no soap maddens its fans like this one does. Yes, GH is dark and dismal and depraved. It glorifies skanks and mobsters and utterly lacks transcendent romance. You might even call it soul-less. But, compared to the rest of the soaps this year, it is the one that most commanded our attention, and not just because it somehow happened to land James Franco (who is doing a weird, fine job by the way).
GH, on its best days, is smart, muscular and chillingly complex, daring to let its characters be ugly and screwed up and, sometimes, hopelessly doomed. (Claudia’s death by hatchet was a welcome relief.) It boasts the finest acting ensemble in daytime and a casting director, Mark Teschner, who ushered in lots of startling young talent in 2009 (nuKristina, nuMichael, nuMolly—all marvelous!). The production design and camera work remain rich and artful despite the drastic across-the-boards budget cuts that are making most other soaps look kinda cheap. (However did they pull off that sprawling, spectacular Carnival of Terror?)
GH is not without its laughs (thanks in large part to Carolyn Hennesy’s caustic Diane) and it can be infectiously charming when it wants to be (Maxie and Spinelli’s almost-wedding was the best episode of the year) but it stubbornly decided long ago not to be your mama’s cup o’ tea. Instead it’s for folks drawn to Dexter and Rescue Me and Breaking Bad—shows that mesmerize even as they sicken and repel.
Mr. Logan, Thank you for understanding why viewers like me are happier with GH more than ever. I like my soap a little dark. In the 70s and 80s action and adventure, on the run, swash-buckling heroes, damsels in distress and James Bond copy cats were what audiences craved in the red white and blue, big haired, greed is good Reagan era. Thankfully (for me at least) that all changed in Aug 1993 when a dark, handsome, complex anti-hero by the name of Sonny Corinthos arrived in Port Charles. His character ushered in a new era (sorely needed in my opinion) in soaps where the lines between black and white are blurred and GH began asking viewers to mull over more complex themes like : what is good and bad? what is a criminal? ( I believe robber barons, corporate raiders, businesses that pollute the environment and exploit the poor do show criminal behavior). GH began to showcase complicated layered characters who do bad things and aren’t always easy to like. That’s not to say that I don’t recognize mobsters as violent and dangerous criminals. I certainly didn’t grow up thinking it would be just the greatest to marry a mobster. I just think that the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India, the nuclear melt down in Chernyobl, corporate raiders, Love Canal, global warming, and the subprime mortgage crisis are perfect examples of how human greed and negligence, all legal, can cause as much, if not more, harm, violence and human and ecological casualties. This is what I LOVE about GH. Yes it’s easy to point your finger at mobsters and bemoan them as a dangerous problem. However, it does also point out that robber barons, corporate raiders, are dangerous and destructive too. By giving Sonny some noble qualities such as wanting to be a good dad and a presence in his kids life is an interesting contrast to oh say dead beat dad Robert Scorpio who was off saving the world and ignoring his own kid. In Sonny’s world innocent people get hurt and killed but innocents get hurt by corporate greed too. So when I see an Edward Quartermaine (robber baron, slum landlord), or Jax (corporate raider) pointing their fingers at Sonny Corinthos it makes my blood boil. Their selfishness results in human suffering as well.
I also like that Sonny is unpredictable, has flaws, does bad things, is insecure, because those things I understand. Sonny didn’t lead a charmed life and neither have I. The fact that Sonny was an abused child does not excuse his actions but it does explain them. Plus Sonny KNOWS he’s a bad guy and he owns his mistakes. Other hypocrites try to deflect blame but Sonny does not.
I grew up loving the Al Pacino type anti heroes like Michael Corleone, Vito Corleone, Sonny Wortzik, Lionel Delbuchi Tony Montana, and Sal Naturile. I am a descendant of Eastern European immigrants who came to this country in the late 19th century. My grandfather worked as a coal miner in NE PA during the time of the Lattimer Mine Massacre (that resulted in the death of 19 miners). I won’t get into a long snit about the working conditions and exploitation of coal miners but I will leave you with this:
Conditions in coal mines of the late 1800s were harsh. Mine safety was very poor, such that 32,000 miners in Northeast Pennsylvania had lost their lives between 1820 and 1870…often resulting in more laborious working conditions). In some cases, companies forced workers to lease homes from the company and required them to only see company doctors when injured
My grandfather and his family (among them my dad) were forced to lease company homes, buy from the company store (at inflated prices) and go to the company doctor (again inflated fees) if they wanted to keep their jobs and support their families. So I know firsthand the devastation that corporate greed and prejudice leaves on people and the environment. I’m sorry, but I believe this to be criminal. When I see Eddie Q I don’t see a sweet old guy, I see a coal robber baron. Perhaps that’s unfair but that’s how it is. It didn’t help him in my eyes any when he referred to Catholicism as voo doo.
But I digress. I LOVE how GH asks viewers to think a little bit about what it is they’re watching. I don’t want to be patronized I want to be challenged , yes even by a soap.
The one thing that is unrealistic is their portrayal of constant mob war and violence. The coal patch town I grew up in was also home to a large mafia presence. These people were not constantly at war and their children were not in constant danger. In fact they were safe as kittens. Their kids went to my Catholic school and I used to go over to their houses and play and my parents were not concerned about my safety. My parents did recognize mobsters as criminals and were not happy about their presence in the area but they saw little difference between the mob exploitation of the area and that of big coal. Meet the new boss-same as the old boss. I have to confess that there were two mob related violent incidents in my town while I was growing up, which was very scary and disturbing to me. On the whole, though, things were quiet and those acts of violence did not put the mobster’s children in harm’s way. Mobsters did not hit other mobster’s families (at least in the 1970s they didn’t).
So will the soap press please get off your damn high horses about the mob? Those of you who think your obligation to readers is to be the morality police Please stop! It’s preachy, boorish, patronizing and I can tell you this reader doesn’t like it. Please stop saying you speak for viewers. Unless you’ve conducted a poll with a respected pollster like Zogby or Gallup, or you have talked to every single viewer, you don’t know WHAT viewers like. You may have online polls but they can be tampered with, your mail may not accurately reflect the opinion of the majority of viewers . You are journalists, I shouldn’t have to tell you this.
Oh soap press, can you explain to me the difference between the mob and the Cassadines? The soap press gushes all over Helena Cassadine, a woman who has been running around trying to kill people she considers irritants by slitting their throats, locking them in crypts, or by other nefarious means for almost 30 years. She kidnaps people and has them brain washed. She kept her serial killer son on ice and brought him back to life so he could kill again. Why is she fun and campy? She is a cold-blooded murderer-just like you accuse Sonny and Jason of being. Let’s face it–this woman loves to murder! And we don’t even know where the Cassadines got their money but since they attempted world domination (now THAT was a dumb story) it’s probably better we not know.
Stop beating your chests over soap ratings. I don’t even think these ratings are correct since they don’t include those of us who watch the soaps on non television platforms like Hulu or YouTube. There are a gazillion different cable channels and on demand services people have access to now. Soaps are never going to dominate those time slots like they did when only three networks ruled the airways. Stop offering this up as “proof” that the mob is unpopular. Even though its been a long time since I took Sister Mary Ita’s Geometry class and had to solve geometric equations I can say you are dealing with far too many unknowns to make any such conclusion.
You can’t run a story one minute about how you don’t like the mob and it’s violence and then chide GH the next by accusing Sonny or Jason as being “gummi bear” mobsters. You can’t have it both ways. Here’s an idea, why don’t you write a story about what a dead beat dad Luke is, or about how bad robber barons and corporate raiders are and explain what THEY do for a living. Why don’t you give all these issues equal time and let viewers decide? Or better yet, give up your editorializing all together unless it’s clearly identified as an editorial in which case I can skip it.
Thank you Michael Logan for putting into words what I feel (and I suspect others do too). Life is not always pretty and it’s nice to watch a soap that offers up some of the dark side.