Sunday, July 19, 2015

FLASHBACK: 'General Hospital' - Proving That Miracle Cures Really Do Exist! (Part 2)

Emily McLaughlin as Nurse Jessie Brewer on General Hospital.
'General Hospital': Proving That Miracle Cures Really Do Exist!

The Soap Box
Vol. IV No. 2 February 1979
by John Genovese

(continued from Part 1)

There have been many exciting developments on General Hospital. Towers-of-strength Lee Baldwin and Gail Adamson have grown more vulnerable and multi-shaded, hence more human. Immature, social climbing Bobbie Spencer provides plenty of sparks for all concerned, particularly Laura and Scotty. Peter and Diana have become more upbeat. The deep-seated conflict of the Lansing brothers, Gary and Howard, has been brought out. Newlyweds Monica and Alan Quartermaine deal with their insecurities and desires head-on, rather than engaging in inane and pointless squabbles. But we've saved the best development for last.

For suddenly, after four years as part of the woodwork, Jessie Brewer has a life again. It was a sin that this classic character, whose sad life with husband Phil Brewer had help launch the show's success, was suddenly relegated to "extra" status. Now Jessie has a story with lovable bachelor Dan Rooney, and for once it's not depressing, but beautiful. Let's hope for more of those delightful scenes with Dan courting this blushing, embarrassed, and lovely lady.

The real binding force on General Hospital, the hospital itself, is being put to proper use again, and this occurrence is long overdue. The nurses' station is once again the hub of hospital activity, and all of the characters are connected with the institution whether directly or indirectly. This particular element is vital to the show's continued success.

In terms of the cast, it bears repeating that the acting caliber on General Hospital has shown a consistent and remarkable improvement over the past year. John Beradino, in his starring role of Dr. Steve Hardy, has regained energy and believability now that he is given playable scripts again. This writer's heart went out to Beradino a couple of years ago when it was so obvious that he was fighting to make pure bilge sound halfway intelligent. Emily McLaughlin, co-starring as Jessie Brewer, is better than ever in her project of authoritarianism and warmth, with a glow which never existed before. Peter Hansen (Lee Baldwin) is one of those amazing performers who never lets up even when the going gets dull, and his recent alcoholic scenes were flawless--there wasn't a trace of the amateurish conception of the "drunk" in Hansen's well-tuned performances.

Chris Robinson as Dr. Rick Webber and Denise Alexander as
Dr. Lesley Webber.
There are so many other fine performers on General Hospital: Denise Alexander (Dr. Lesley Webber), whose heavy emotional scenes over the past summer were surprisingly lacking in her old weepy melodramatics and carried off with proportion and conviction; Chris Robinson (Dr. Rick Webber), whose tastefully underplayed assertiveness is a breath of fresh air after the awkwardness of his predecessor; Steve Carlson, who is is a natural as mischievous go-getter Gary Lansing; Jackie Zeman, whose Bobbie can be nastily calculating one moment then turn sympathy-provoking in her insecurity the next; Chris Pennock and Gail Ramsey, who consistently show motivation and color as villains Mitch and Susan.

Some of the younger people on General Hospital have made amazing strides since their raw beginnings, notably Richard Dean Anderson (Dr. Jeff Webber), Kin Shriner (Scotty Baldwin), and especially Genie Ann Francis in portraying troubled Laura during those extremely challenging scenes surrounding the Hamilton murder. Unfortunately, Mary O'Brien (Heather) still lacks substance in her portrayal. Perhaps it's due to an inferior storyline, but no matter how hard she tries, she cannot convince me that Heather is the gutsy kid she used to be.

Leslie Charleson plays Monica Quartermaine.
Our largest measure of congratulations goes out to the entire Quartermaine family. Leslie Charleson's Monica is a total professional, much more quiet and sympathetic than the former Monica and far more in control, except of course in those cases involving Rick. Jane Elliot was the ideal choice as conniving Tracy, her calculated reactions to family goings-on are priceless. Her scenes of exasperation with the stubbornness of mother Lila and brother Alan, contrasting with her gleeful grin which she flashes during bits of cunning derring-do, are fast eliciting audience notice and do wonders for the show. And Stuart Damon (Alan) is awe-inspiring as he plays against the other four. He is strong but never overpowering, his passionate fire coming from genuine sensitivity rather than a "macho" personality. His kiss-and-make-up routine after a row with Monica becomes more moving and energetic every time, and his bouts with sister-nemesis Tracy are a riot to watch.

Behind the scenes, General Hospital has become of the leaders. The new sets by William Mickley are more attractive and authentic than any other television hospital. The directing is tight. Scene changes are once again very smooth, an an increase in "extras" has served to more effectively render the atmosphere of the hospital.

After an extremely trying period, all systems are definitely "go" for General Hospital. It may not have the magic of its earlier days, but it has taken on new values which make this program well-deserving of its new popularity. It is attractive, well-written, and picking up steam in terms of pace. And it is back in the business of telling mature and carefully-conceived stories about a secure ensemble of identifiable characters who know what they want out of life and go after it--with the hospital playing an active part in their lives rather than forming a flimsy backdrop.

We never thought we would see the day.

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