Time to hike up my skirt and climb back up on the ol’ Soap Box to address an issue that has been chewing away at my backside for a little while now.  This is bound to get rambly, because I’m just going to type as I think. 

The target this time (and lawd knows I try and have a target for the all important Soap Box rants since they have no schedule and are at the whim of my Muse, which has been unconscious for a few weeks, despite my best effort to nurse it back to life again), is the new GH Executive Producer and Head Writer, Jill Farren Phelps and Megan McTavish, respectively.  I got a letter from a reader last week who said: 

“Can you guys even muster up one positive thing about these two [JFP and MCT] and what is to come about on GH?!!?!?  They may be the best thing to hit GH since Claire Labine?!!?!?  Because all I read about is how McTavish and Phelps are going to turn GH into some unrecognizable show!!.... GH is ABC Daytime's "CASH COW" and the executives in charge of McTavish and Phelps will not allow them to destroy the show!!” 

First off, one must never, ever use the Labine’s name in the same paragraph as JFP and MMcT, for such is sacrilege.  Having gently reaffirmed one of the golden rules of ABC soap commentary, I shall move along to say that ABC Daytime has already allowed the destruction of OLTL under their hand and I think the cash cow is about to go to the slaughter house.  I really hate to be negative because I am nothing if not a silver lining kind of person, but when you see the long procession heading up the hill to the scaffold, toting torches and guiding one struggling figure, you can pretty well figure out that they aren’t the scaffold dismantling crew.   

The “you guys” in the above letter was referring to the other GH webmasters on the net who have, overall, been quite negative about the new honcho arrival on GH.  The OLTL folks are, on the other hand, jubilant.   

One of my beloved staff members, Leigh, says, "Let people who KNOW General Hospital write for General Hospital. Bring back Bob Guza and let Michelle Val Jean have a CHANCE!"  She is, of course, referring to the pushing aside of the incumbent head writer, Michele Val Jean, who slipped quietly into place when Bob Guza left last November.   

Our newest columnist, Brand Broo, says, “I know a lot of the people I talk with online are just sitting waiting for the mushroom cloud to rise above the docks of Port Charles. They all know what she has done in the past and that she will make sure that GH will be  nothing like the GH we love today. I guess all these fears are already coming to light. I never believed it would start so quickly, but with the departure of such a phenomenal actress like Sarah, the demolition has just begun. I am just happy I picked up OLTL and AMC so I will have something to look forward to once she all but destroys one of my favorite shows.”

Our archivist, Mary, says, “I remember Megan McT's own quote about how she wanted to bring an element of "wackiness" to the storylines on AMC and she proceeded to do a gothic weirdness there that just didn't work.  I like Dark Shadows when I know it's what I'm watching, wasn't thrilled with her smoke and mirrors crap there.  The Hayley/Mateo psychic hotline connection with the bleeding rose tattoo or the Mateo coma dreams about Hayley was annoying.  From all the rumors it looks like JFP has started moving her AW posse with her from OLTL.”    

My message board monitor, LisaJ, says, “[It would be on the] the plus side would be if they hire Kale Browne!   :-)  [But on] the negative would be getting rid of Helena....didn't I read that that was a possibility?” 

Tracey, from “Tracey’s Take” felt that she would have to use too many four-letter-words if she were quoted, so I shall speak for her, paraphrasing, and say that she feels that perhaps the hiring of JFP and MMcT is not such a great idea. 

The new broom, despite assurances to the contrary, always sweeps clean.  Already handed pink slips are Michael Saucedo (even though his firing was attributed to the previous regime, it could certainly have been changed by the new), Lisa Vultaggio and Tava Smiley (or was she?).  Now we hear that Sarah Browne has left GH in a fit of anger over a conflict with JFP.  The new EP has also been quoted as saying that the Cassadines serve no purpose and will soon be filtering away, which has raised quite a few eyebrows amongst fans.  

Most viewers on voting polls and message boards across the net are tentatively optimistic about the changes that the new regime might bring, preferring a “wait and see” attitude to the fatalistic panic attack that many GH webmasters are taking, myself included.  When I first heard that both Robert Guza, Jr and Wendy Riche were leaving, I was bright-eyed and hopeful for the future of GH.  I’ve written quite a rant on Guza, which is available to read in the archives below.  In my opinion, immense damage was done to beloved characters and the integral history of GH under the hand of Guza and Riche and the prospect of having new blood come in, possibly with understanding, love and respect for the show, its characters and its history was quite tantalizing.  When word came down that JFP was migrating over from OLTL, I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me.  Still hopeful, I wrote to my buddy, MrsDrBean and she wrote back one line:  “Be afraid, be very afraid.”  Yikes!  Chills went up my spine.  Carol Banks Webber over at Soap Zone said, “Expect GH to turn into one big, ugly, trashy Jerry Springer show.”  Greg at Llanview Online is an unmitigated crusader in the campaign against JFP.  He says, “One Life to Live under Jill and Megan was a miserable, hate-filled show, where evil reigned supreme.  It was not entertaining by any stretch of the imagination unless you get your jollies by watching people suffer and hate one another.  Characters became unrecognizable, couples had no chemistry, and happiness was virtually nonexistent.  She could not leave soon enough for me, and it's unfortunate that now all the viewers of General Hospital are going to have to put up with her (and her sidekick Megan) for years as well.”  His rant about JFP on the front page of his site, “The End of a Badly Written Era,” is a very worthy and informative read.   Laura Gedstern says, "JFP does have a reputation as very powerful and has no qualms about recasting any role...and hiring her friends.  I don't know of anyone who like's McTavish's writing...."

So why are the GH Webmasters concerned?  Mostly, it’s the reputation.  There is saying in show biz that says you are only as good as your last act.  As with any circumstances, what is going to stand out in memory is how one has conducted oneself in the recent past.  (Thank god as I would prefer NOT to be judged on the madness that transpired in my life years ago).  In JFP’s case, however, she would do well to look beyond her stint at OLTL for reference material.  The trend has been that JFP makes room for her friends (known not-so-affectionately as “Friends of Jill” or  “FOJ” for short) on whatever show she happens to be working on at the time.  They are either brought in as recasts for existing characters (Tim Gibbs for Kevin Stapleton as Kevin, Don Jeffcoat for Nathan Fillian as Joey) or introduced as new characters en masse (the RappaDavidsons) who come in and infiltrate the whole show.  Soon, they permeate every story line that is afoot and are wrapped up in the life of every character, usually resulting in the veteran characters being back-burnered (Carlotta, Andrew, Hank).   There is also a trend to fire fan favorites (Laura Koffman, Stephen Markel, Susan Batten) or make conditions so uncomfortable that they leave voluntarily (Clint Ritchie, Robin Strasser).  Character personalities are so abruptly and totally changed as to be rendered nearly unrecognizable (Nora, Asa, Kelly, Blair, Bo) and the history that we watched unfold is not considered to be of issue or concern when writing current scripts (No, Dorian did NOT kill Victor – we watched her do it – Tori did!).  On her own, JFP would have been would have been a concern, but knowing that the new head writer had been on staff for some time with GH allowed for a degree of continuity with the show.  When it was first whispered that Megan McTavish would possibly follow her ex-boss to GH, the soap net held its breath until both camps issued statements adamantly denying that a head writer change was in order.  McTavish asserted her joy to be a part of OLTL and maintained that she would be there for a good long time.  JFP stated that there were NO plans to remove Michele Val Jean as head writer, although she did leave the door open a crack by saying that McTavish “had some ideas” for scripts for GH.  Hmmm.  Within a week of those statements, it announced that McTavish would me moving to GH and Lorraine Broderick (of PC) and Chris Whitesell would be replacing McTavish on OLTL, so we have musical writers going around.  If there is one thing I absolutely cannot abide on God’s green planet, it’s a damned liar.   

The majority of people who go to the (immense) trouble of setting up and maintaining a soap website do so out of extreme love and respect for the show.  Most of us have explored the genre beyond a fan boy approach and feel quite protective of and invested in the show we represent on our sites.  I think that when we see a person coming in the direction of our soap who has left a wake of disaster at their previous show, we have a right to be concerned.  For all of you who are pooh-poohing our doom-saying and acting as though we are unreasonable to be a tad panicked, imagine if your sister brought home a fiancée who had treated his first two wives quite well, but beat the crap out of his last three.  You probably aren’t going to be terribly thrilled about the upcoming nuptials.  This is how we feel when people start citing JFP’s success on “Santa Barbara” as grounds for comfort in her GH hiring.  For one thing, Santa Barbara did not have a thirty year history to honor and had hardly established the fan allegiance that OLTL had garnered.  People are also quick to point out that JFP has won awards for her work, therefore, she MUST be good.  If awards had anything to do with honoring the show’s history and fan’s interest, Bob Guza wouldn’t have the fancy bookends that sit on HIS shelf.  There is a reason why most awards acceptance speeches begin with, “I’d like to thank the academy…”  Emmy award winners are selected by peers, not fans.  Believe me, this business is more incestuous than a bin full of bunnies.  THAT is why you see the same executive producers, head writers and associate writers bopping around all over ABC’s shows.  As is theorized on many a message board, we seem to be heading toward one long ABC soap that blends into a muddy grey instead of the delicious individual colors we once had.  It started with Rae Cummings’ jaunt through all four shows.  It continues with Anna Devane now surfacing on AMC, tempting those elusive GH viewers to kick on the TV two hours earlier.  Skye (I suppose it runs in the family – that’s it!  The Cummings gene is the hateful harbinger of the one-soap conspiracy!) on OLTL is our first link.  Her adoptive family is on AMC, she and her mother are on OLTL and her (supposed) birth father is on GH and crosses over to PC.  If this isn’t indicative of things to come, then I don’t know what is.   

As always, I will remain carefully optimistic and hope that this husband doesn’t kick my sister into new shapes and beat her into someone I don’t recognize.  Still, DrMrsBean’s words ring in my ears, “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”  At least there aren’t any happy couples for her to break up.  That was already accomplished by her daddy/brother/uncle Bob Guza.  Maybe two negatives really will make a positive and we will see a reverse reaction.  If she can take a really great show and jack it up beyond redemption, maybe she can take a show that is on the ground and bleeding and accidentally bring it back to life.  It could happen. It’s called “homeopathy.”  Treat the ailment with the ailment and wonderful things can happen! 

* * *  

Some Interesting Comments from JFP and MMcT
Courtesy of Llanview OnLine
Edited for space, see Llanview Online for the Complete List

Jill: "The reason I broke up Bo and Nora is because the audience cared so much about them."

Megan (on the total and complete flop the Grace death scenes were): "We never really intended for you to sob for Grace. We wanted you to really care about Kevin, Ben and Sam."

Jill: "Sometimes you give the audience what they need and sometimes you give the audience what they didn't know they needed."

Megan: "Our job is to see the world from the big picture, and I think it's pretty hard for actors to see the big picture. I think they see their own picture."

Jill: "Sometimes you have to blow everybody up...so that it will be a reward when certain couples do reunite."

Jill (to Don Jeffcoat [Joey] when he complained about the bad writing): "Shut up and do your job."  


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