August 17, 2004

I did the unthinkable last week.  You see, my computer desk, due to the way my house is arranged, is in the family room.  Since the computer desk tends to be my place of focus, it has to be strategically placed in the hub of the home or else, I cannot effectively multitask. If I can't multitask, there is no Eye on Soaps.

In my old house, I had a closet of an office that was in the bottom of the U shape of the house.  It was yet another hub where I could tune into almost every part of the house.  In that tiny office, I had my own TV (I have a schedule, don't you know).  Since I am now in the family room, I hold tight dominion over the TV in that room.  Mind you, my kids have their own TVs in their rooms, so they are by no means deprived.  For me, the family room TV is like the radio in the car.  The driver gets to pick the station and when I'm at the computer, I'm driving the family room.   It's sort of like the family room is my office and the family can hang out in there if they want to and refrain from bitching about whatever is on the TV or blaring out of my computer speakers on MP3s.  I thought it was a fair arrangement.

A few nights back, my daughter was feeling socially inclined and ambled out into the family room. My generosity overflowed (this is the unthinkable bit) and I let her choose what we would watch (never mind the fact that I had several hundred channels of shit on the TV to choose from and was actually interested in none of it).   There is some channel on Dish Network that we might as well call The Delena Channel (it's Noggin at Night, whatever it becomes in lieu of turning into a pumpkin when the little kids go to bed) in honor of my daughter because it houses every show she's ever loved with the exception of Buffy and Angel.  This particular evening, her televised drug of choice was a show I had never seen, "Clueless - the TV series."  I never even saw the movie.  She loves it.

I wasn't paying much attention to it, just hearing the valley speak out of the corner of my ear.  I happened to glance up at one point and my heart fell through the rest of my internal organs and landed somewhere in the vicinity of my thinking-of-emptying-on-the-spot bladder.  There, right in front of me, was Joe Freakin Kelly (Doug Sheehan, right).  That's right, the darling of General Hospital from 1979 - 1982.  Joe, who loved Rose from afar.  Joe, who loved Anne from afar.  (He was an afar kinda guy who always lost the girl, God love 'im).   We loved him... from afar.  But there was Joe Kelly, bigger than anything, being Cher's handsome father and looking like age was his best friend in the whole wide world.  *sigh*

THEN as I continued watching the show, (with lust building in my heart and loins for a man I never met, but who lived in my living room for an hour every week day for 3 years) I was stunned when I saw another of my dearest lust objects, John J. York (Mac), as Cher's teacher.  And he was acting!  And he had LOTS of lines!  It was glorious!  How could my primed out, grade A Mrs Robinson hormones handle this onslaught of male magnificence?  I found myself wishing I had recorded the show (don't know why hitting "record" hadn't dawned on me when I knew we were watching a cinematic masterpiece like "Clueless ") so I could watch it again and again.  But no, a moment in time and it was gone.

It gave me pause to realize how much I've missed Mac and true heroes like Joe.  Joe was not dark, sinister, moody, brooding or criminal.  His father, Paddy Kelly, for whom (follow this if you can) KELLY'S DINER was named, was an honorable, wise and respected man.  He didn't raid corporations.  He didn't have a gambling problem and he didn't kidnap pregnant women.  He wiped the counter and dispensed sage wisdom in Irish brogue.  He married a beautiful young woman named Rose and her handsome stepson worshipped her (from afar, remember), but respected his father (and her love for his father) too much to do anything about it (until after the death of his father).  Then Rose Kelly ran Kelly's until she left town following her failed attempt at a relationship with Bobbie's ex, Jake Meyer.  Why did they fail?  Was it because he'd been brainwashed into believing he didn't love her?  Maybe she slept around and was pregnant by another man?  Did his job as a hit man get in the way? No, he was Jewish, she was Catholic and it just didn't work. 

Then Ruby, the madam with a heart of gold who had pimped out her teenage niece took over the running of Kelly's.  But hey, she made good chili, so why should we hold things like that against her?  Like Paddy before her, she wiped the counter, made good food and gave good advice for many years.  Kelly's was the cornerstone of morality for General Hospital. The hospital itself was a den of iniquity, but Kelly's was the antithesis.   Like the food served inside, Kelly's was warm and wholesome and good things happened there. 

I think the first bad thing that happened at Kelly's was around the time Lily's wedding dress burned down.  The hospital was pain and death and suffering.  Kelly's was warmth and life.  The Floating Rib was upscale dining for special dates and occasions.   The Campus Disco was a bubbling cesspool of trouble waiting to happen and we could tell that was the case because the waitresses wore tiny outfits that almost showed their ass cheeks.  That alone told us no good would come out of that place and sure enough, the rape that launched soaps' greatest love story (don't get me started) happened right on its dance floor and not long afterwards, the place disappeared, having accomplished its seedy goal.

Kelly's changed and bad things started happening there.  We had Sonny and Lily running into cheating Miguel and Brenda on the stairs, playing their goofy little sex games.  We had Elizabeth asking Jason to hold her and dance (that first real Liason moment) while she smelled his leather and dreamed of dead Lucky.  Carly saw their closeness through the window when she was on her way to tell Jason that she had left AJ and they could finally be together forever, misinterpreted what she saw and kamikazed right into Sonny's bed, again a pivotal moment that launched a famous marriage.  Later, Liason strikes again when Elizabeth walked right in on Lucky and her sister, Sarah, happily consummating their lust, whacked the shit out of Lucky in one blindingly sweet moment (most of us were about done with Jacob Young by that time) and marched downstairs and out the door, running right smack into Jason, who had just returned to town with a very unfortunate haircut.  She grabbed him by the... belt and said, "Let's get out of here."  (or something that effect) We thought we were going to get Liason sex.  We didn't.  That was a bad thing.

Once bad things started to happen at Kelly's, the whole temperament of the show changed.  Let me show you:

The following is a cast list from the basic time period to which I am referring.  I didn't bother with kids because they all lived at boarding schools and the like or were off camera urchins.  I also am going with main characters and not people who just flitted through.  Mind you, the above musings and the info below are plucked from my past-glamorizing little mind (If I research all of this, we'll be here a week) and is categorized as "As best as I remember it," so there could be fatal flaws, but as nearly as I can recall, this is the overall lay of the land for about 5 or so years of GH, around and about the Joe Kelly Years.  (*sigh*)  Now as you read this, think about what's different about this cast of characters and we'll discuss it afterwards.

Denise Alexander as Dr. Lesley Faulkner Webber - A very, very good person who always tried to "do the right thing" and was cute as a bug's ear and tended to be a magnet for human tragedy.

Rachel Ames as Audrey Baldwin Hobart Hardy - Started out as a feisty little scamp of an airline attendant and became GH's Nurse Madonna and all around blessed mother.  Add in all of the Lesley qualities as well.
Richard Dean Anderson as Dr. Jeff Webber - The hottie doctor, a really good guy done wrong by his scheming wife, Monica, who was in love with his brother.  Major drama occurred when (*gasp*) she took birth control pills on the sly while they were supposedly trying to make a baby (now there's some heavy drama).  Jeff had some time of being a jerk after a head injury or some other, but then went back to being a nice guy again who was forever getting jerked about by a woman. That's why he grew up to be McGuyver, who could make a nuclear weapon out of a tampon and some hand lotion.

Jerry Ayres as David Hamilton - David was one of our very few really bad guys.  He seduced teen Laura while lusting after her mother, then MOCKED Laura that she'd never be the woman Lesley was.  Laura showed him what kind of a woman she was and killed him.

John Beradino as Dr. Steve Hardy - Everyone's hero, all around good guy who always tried to do the right thing and sometimes found himself in sticky situations where doing the right thing wasn't all that simple. 

LoAnne Bishop as Rose Kelly - All around good girl who loved deeply and faithfully and was wise beyond her years.

Susan Brown as Dr. Gail Adamson Baldwin - All around good psychiatrist, hurt by the same woman who was vexing poor Jeff Webber.  Young Monica slept with Gail's beloved husband, breaking the heart of her adopted mother.  Gail forgave her (that's just how Gail was) and she acted as Monica's conscience.

Gail Rae Carlson as Susan Moore - The Town Slut (are we doing Joe Schmo here?).  What Susan wanted more than anything was status and validation.  She thought she got it through a hot affair with Dr Alan Quartermaine which produced a son, Jason (yes, that Jason).  After a short time of scheming with Scotty, Susan was murdered.  That's what happened to mean people back then.

Norma Connelly as Ruby Anderson - Took over for Rose at Kelly's and dispensed chili and wisdom.  The chili would cost ya, the wisdom was free.  Actually, back then the joke was that they gave away so much food at Kelly's ("Your money's no good here."  "No, no, no, it's on the house.") that it was a wonder it stayed in business.  We all secretly thought that Dr Hardy was
underwriting the business.

Stuart Damon as Dr. Alan Quartermaine - Tortured young doctor who fell head over heels in love with that vixen, Monica Webber.  We figured he did the things he did (trying to kill Monica and Rick by dumping a nursery roof on their heads) because well, Alan was passionate and Monica drove him to it.

Lieux Dressler as Mrs. Alice Grant -
All around good mom who loved her crazy daughter (Heather) blindly and absolutely and would do anything to protect her.

Jane Elliot as Tracy Quartermaine Williams - She's, well, Tracy. You know her.

Genie Ann Francis as Laura Vining Faulkner Webber Baldwin - Tender, sweet little blossom who was tortured by teen angst.  The biggest problems we ever saw with Laura was that she was "willful."  Oh, and then she killed that guy, David Hamilton.

Anthony Geary as Luke Spencer - HERE was our truly tortured soul (Alan was more of a preppy tortured.   Luke was dirt poor and tortured and that was different).  The difference was that Luke knew he was tortured and wretched and never tried to be otherwise.  In some way, even though we could never condone his actions, we at least understood why Laura, his "angel," was his salvation.

Gerald Gordon as Dr. Mark Dante -  Just another really good guy.

Michael Gregory  and then Chris Robinson as Dr. Rick Webber - Dammit, he WAS a really good guy and I still refuse to believe otherwise.  He was not a killer.  He was not a serial adulterer.  He was an isolated adulterer because he was passionately in love with (guess who?) that vixen, Monica Webber, seducer of her adopted mother's husband and torturer of Rick's beloved younger brother, Jeff, her husband, before she got involved with tortured Alan Quartermaine.  Now, Rick was lovingly in love with Lesley, who was ultimately his wife, but Monica was his instant erection facilitator.
Peter Hansen as Lee Baldwin - All around good guy lawyer.  Sounds rather oxymoronic, doesn't it?  Lee was just a really, really good guy.

Craig Heubing as Dr. Peter Taylor - All around good guy doctor, a psychologist, if I remember correctly.  Peter tended to marry all around good girls who needed him.  Best friend to Jessie Brewer.

Bobbi Jordan as Terri Arnett - All around good gal who loved Mark Dante who had a mentally ill wife (Ellie or Millie or something) he couldn't bear to divorce.  She was sister to Rick and Jeff Webber and a wonderful singer.

Shell Kepler as Amy Vining - Fiesty teen whose only real flaw was her incessant (and legendary) gossiping.

Georganne La Piere (Cher's sister), then Mary O'Brien, then Robin Mattson as Heather Grant Webber - Heather was and has always been absolutely crazy as a bed bug.  She plotted, she schemed, she manipulated and you could see in her eyes that she was just GONE.  She had Jeff Webber's baby, put him up for adoption to Peter and Diana Taylor where he was named PJ (Peter Jr), became the insane, obsessive nanny for her own child and put LSD in Diana's drink to make her seem crazy so she could adopt her own child back again.  Ultimately, she got the baby back (both Peter and Diana died and it was thought for a long while that Heather killed Diana) and that baby became the prodigal son, Steven Lars, who is now returning to the fold.  It would have served him well had he become a psychiatrist, but no.  (Since characters on the show now are well aware - presumably - of Heather's history, it amazes me that she was working as what? A nanny.  Now she just snips the blooms off of Lila's roses)

David Lewis as Edward Quartermaine - This version of Edward was a good bit different than John Ingle's Edward, but more similar to Jed Allen's Edward.  He was stoic and rather harsh and not much yet given to the emotionally vulnerable moments that would follow with John Ingle's reign.  His only real softness was with, you guessed it, Lila.

Lisa Marie as Jennifer Smith - Scheming daughter of REAL gangster, Frank Smith, who was determined to get Luke Spencer to marry her.  Jennifer got hers.  She turned into Roseanne Barr and Sally Struthers in (much) later episodes.  Frank got his when Luke shot him in (I think) Puerto Rico (the same trip as that famous shot of Luke going off the back of the speed boat in the opening credits).  Back then, the lines were drawn clearly on who was good and who was bad and the bad guys always got theirs.

Emily McLaughlin as Jessie Brewer - All around good gal nurse who was friend to all.  Jessie held down the fort at the 7th Floor Nurses Station with wisdom and kindness, but a firm frowning when necessary.

Susan O'Hanlon as Anne Logan - All around good girl nurse who was famous for being a virgin.

Frank Parker as Paddy Kelly - You already met Paddy.  All around good guy Irishman who ran Kelly's.

Chris Pennock as Mitch Williams - Baaad senator.  Bad.  He's the guy that Luke was ordered by the mob to kill on that fateful night when Laura threw his keys out the window and his best friend Roy DiLucca took up the torch and went to shoot Mitch.  He succeeded in paralyzing him, but Roy himself was shot all to hell by secret service guys and presumed dead for 20 years.  We loved him then, we love him now.  We miss him.  :(

Patsy Rahn and then Leslie Charleson as Dr. Monica Webber Quartermaine - Back then, Monica was in the scheming slut bitch ranks of Susan Moore and wannabe scheming slut, Bobbie Jones (new kid on the block, but she was quite good at what she did and showed promise).  Monica married Jeff when she thought Rick was killed in combat (Vietnam), then was shocked to learn Rick was not only alive, but still in love with her.  After Jeff got fed up with Monica's evil ways, she moved on to a triangle with Rick and Alan.  She was quite an upstart in her day, trust me.

Tristan Rogers as Robert Scorpio - Roguish, handsome WSB agent.  We adored him.

Douglas Sheehan as Joe Kelly - All around good guy as described above.

Kin Shriner as Scotty Baldwin - Started out as the loving, honorable, longsuffering boyfriend/husband of Laura Webber, son of Lee Baldwin and stepson of Gail Baldwin, ended up a scheming, hardened, embittered cynic by the time Laura was finished with him.  Scotty wasn't bad, he was just drawn that way.

Valerie Starrett, then Brooke Bundy, as Diana Taylor - Our own
Tess of the D'Urbervilles.  Poor Diana was raped by the nefarious Phil Brewer, had her daughter, Martha, die in a car crash then went through all manner of hell at the hands of nutzoid Heather and had her husband drop dead of a heart attack.  AFTER Diana was dead, Heather, having found the body first, even dipped Diana's finger in her own blood to write out Anne's name (trying to frame The Virgin Anne Logan so she could have Jeff Webber for herself).  GH did everything but kill this woman's dog.

Jacklyn Zeman as Bobbie Spencer - She was a scheming slut in training back then, laying the groundwork to become a major character of the following decade.  Like her daughter who could come after her (literally), Bobbie was forever doing the wrong things for the right reasons in a never-ending effort to "get hers."  She unerringly "got hers" in the hardest way.

Now, having sprinted barefoot thorough the crib notes of the GH cast for the late 70's - early 80's, let's do a quick overview of our current cast's heavy hitters and how they are currently written and portrayed:

Maurice Benard as Sonny Corinthos - Tortured soul with a warped sense of ethics, rampant double standards and little regard for people around him who aren't "in the club" of being worthy of his affections. 

Tamara Braun as Carly Corinthos
- Scheming, subjugated wife who validates her husband's bad behavior if he's on her good side that week and goes on the attack if he's not.  Tortured by the woman across the hall who is carrying her husband's baby and by the mystery surrounding her father's identity. 

Steve Burton as Jason Morgan - Unrepentant killer with a soft spot for babies and damsels in distress. 

Leslie Charleson as Dr. Monica Quartermaine - Seldom seen shrew who barks about home ownership.

Robin Christopher as Skye Quartermaine - Like Bobbie of Old, does the wrong things for the right reasons.  All around damaged person who reacts impulsively out of pain and is tortured by the demons of her alcoholism.

Tyler Christopher as Nikolas Cassadine - Tortured soul who bears the weight of his fractured, damaged family.

Stuart Damon as Dr. Alan Quartermaine
-  A beaten, defeated man who shows up to pay bail for his children and toss out a comment now and then in the parlor, which usually go ignored. 

Jane Elliot as Tracy Quartermaine
- Still just Tracy.  A damaged person, recently showed to be more vulnerable than we thought with priorities and ethics more twisted than a Gordian knot.

Anthony Geary as Luke Spencer
- Who would have thought our intrepid hero, savior of the world and lauded mayor of Port Charles would turn out to be an even MORE tortured soul, remorselessly depraved and unable to love.  But we love him anyway.

Nancy Lee Grahn as Alexis Davis -
Reduced from quirky and smart to almost as crazy as Heather Webber.  Neurotic to the extreme and haunted by ghosts of the past.  Tortured by her fear that Sonny will learn he is Kristina's father.

Ron Hale as Mike Corbin - Deadbeat dad tortured by a gambling problem.

Rick Hearst as Ric Lansing -
Kidnapped a pregnant woman and held her captive for weeks, drugged his wife and later was on the brink of suffocating her with a pillow, consumed by getting revenge on his brother and torturing all who love that brother.  But hey, he's the DA, so he must be a good guy, right?  Right?

Rebecca Herbst as Elizabeth Webber
- Never seen, long suffering, new 
Tess of the D'Urbervilles.  Everything bad happens to her.  How many times has she been in GH in the past 5 years???  Tortured by the show to the nth degree.

Ted King as Lorenzo Alcazar
- Tortured brother with mob connections of a tortured man with mob connections.  Kidnapped, stalked and obsessed on one woman despite her desperate pleas to leave her alone.

Wallace Kurth as Ned Ashton
- Hard driven businessman who tortures himself by denying his deepest wish to again follow his bliss as a rock and roll star.  Enjoys sex with former relatives and firearms, preferably in public places.

Natalia Livingston as Emily Quartermaine
- The panacea for all that ills anyone in Port Charles.  The golden, blessed child who walks on water and can't respect anyone's privacy or confidence.  Also cannot speak without injecting "um" or "uh" into the sentence.

Kelly Monaco as Samantha McCall
- Few vixens on GH have slept with two men (willingly) on the same day without a wash up in between.  She forced Jax to be late in saving his father's life with the magical lucky hand of cards and has suffered multiple failed attempts to leave PC.  Tortured by the secret that her brother accidentally killed their mother.

Cynthia Preston as Faith Rosco
- Crazy and lovin it, this grandma killer is an unrepentant psychopath who tortures everyone around her.

Ingo Rademacher as Jasper "Jax" Jacks -
Suffers from some kind of psychosis that will NOT let his personality remain consistent in any way.  Waxes from romantic and sexy to cruel and vicious in the blink of an eye.  I think I was married to him at one time.

Constance Towers as Helena Cassadine - Unmitigated, unrepentant source of all evil.

Greg Vaughan as Lucky Spencer
- Can't determine, really.  They keep him stored in the props closet and drag him out with the lamps and fake food for a scene now and then.

Catherine Wadkins as Mary Bishop -
Another insane woman, tortured by the memory of her dead husband to the point of recreating him in another man.

Alicia Leigh Willis
as Courtney Morgan - With Mac, the only character whose description can possibly begin with, "All around good _____ [fill in the blank]"

John J. York as Mac Scorpio - He was a bad guy, but by the time we met him, he was utterly repentant and cute as hell and a stand up guy.  He'd the other half of the bookend set from Courtney. 

Jacklyn Zeman as Bobbie Spencer - Went from hellish scheming slut to community wise woman to the back of a Port Charles milk carton.  Tortured by her prostitute past and lack of screen time.

I think the comparison of the two sets of characters makes my point better than I ever could (but hey, I never let redundancy stop me).  Still, let's hone a fine point on this big ol' pencil and get clear.  Back then, one of the most compelling factors about daytime drama was that the people we watched were engaged in HUMAN drama on a grander scale.  They were still prettier than we were and their circumstances were certainly more extreme than any we (usually) experienced, but the key was that we could relate to what the characters were experiencing in some kind of realistic way.  Sure, there was the occasional Sword of Mulkuth added to the mix for texture, but overall, we were captivated by realistic situations played out in an exaggerated fashion, still within the realm of possibilities for the average person.  It might be unlikely, but it was possible. 

The characters, as a rule, were good people to whom catastrophic things happened with a villain tossed in here and there to provide a human antagonist.  It was the seasoning, not the whole meal.  Now, we have a group of crazy, depraved, deplorable people who show signs of humanity from time to time.  Being "good folk" is the exception rather than the rule and seeing a character's "good side" is a rarity and warrants much pointing and oohing and ahhhing.  How many shows can boast a full list of characters to whom you can appropriately apply the word "tortured," either on the giving or the receiving end?  Is it any wonder that we are watching a show to which we can no longer relate on a personal level?  GH is a world of bad guys and insane people!  Men are required to be dark and brooding and felonious and women must be crazy, absent or vapid.  There is no human emotion through which we can live vicariously and what happens on our screen pertains to our lives no more than your garden variety science fiction story.

To further the distancing between soaps and fans, we get this HORRIBLE "Wide World of Soaps" or whatever this mess is with The Bachelor.  Evidently, being Mrs. Rebecca Budig has its benefits because no other way could a premise as bad as this be given legs to walk.

It was tasteless enough to have us watch Lesli Kay's ample bosoms being wonder bra'd out into the brave new world from the confines of her skimpy top (shall we just drop all pretenses and start referring to her as "Tits?"), but we also got to witness a blatant smack in the face of veteran daytime drama, Days of Our Lives.  I'd always thought of ABC as taking the high road, even through some of their marketing disasters (*cough* Shop the Soaps *cough*).  The marketing misses could be seen as just poor judgment, but the DOOL smack down was just a really low blow.  "Another show on another network in which a blonde spend DAYS *winkwink* and DAYS  *winkwink* ravaging a town, only to find that she didn't do it after all and they weren't really dead and were living on an island somewhere and now no one knows what's going on" or something to that effect, followed by assertions that "ABC would NEVER do THAT to their viewers."  (I'm paraphrasing, gimme a break)  As if the direct attack wasn't bad enough, this happens during the time that the summer Olympics are airing on NBC, soaps on NBC are pre-empted and the DOOL fans are very likely roaming around the channels.  "Welcome to ABC.  By the way, your show sucks."

Between the near elimination of the aggregate and individual decency and sanity of its characters, coupled with this juvenile attack of a respected soap on another network, I ask you, can ABC Daytime stick its fat, hairy, pimply, old man ass any further out of its boxer shorts and perhaps wave it around a bit more?

Personally, I don't think so.

At least I hope not.

Time for your close up, Mr Frons