Bittersweet symphony

geary gh

Yesterday was Anthony Geary’s last episode (at least, for now) as General Hospital’s Luke Spencer.

I have to give the man credit for spending a majority of the last 37 years playing the same role, and for an obvious desire to practice his craft and bring Luke to life.

I have mixed feelings in general about all that the Luke-and-Laura era represented for soaps. I think my thoughts (and the thoughts of fellow soap analyst Lynn Liccardo)  have been well represented in a number of our posts.

Geary and late GH executive producer Gloria Monty went on record with their dislike of traditional soap opera. I still believe that for all of the short term wins — in ratings, in audience, in growth — for these shows, the over-reliance on action/adventure was what started the dismantling of these shows. The transition to incessant darkness, and unrepentant antiheroes, has just added weight to a sinking anchor.

GH did become a more exciting show during those Luke and Laura days, and it was certainly the era for romantic action/adventure. We saw it in film, too, a la Romancing The Stone. GH and DAYS were among the shows that hit the right notes with their audience using the format.

But it also set in motion the first wave of what I’ve come to call “the Moldavian Massacre Conundrum.” Once you’ve shot everyone in the head and blown up the institutions in your story, what’s left? Where’s the tension? Where’s the novelty? It just becomes a game of shoot-’em-up cowboys.

We’re seeing this in primetime, too (my previous post on this was about Scandal), but its emergence in daytime was on GH.

Many of the established shows, including the P&G shows, attempted to mimic the GH formula. Search For Tomorrow wasn’t even subtle about it, giving Travis Sentell a Luke Spencer perm. Guiding Light initially stayed strong with the classic soap of Douglas Marland, but soon was overcome by The Dreaming Death.

I feel like what should have been the takeaway message from GH’s Monty-era success for all the shows was missed: Hey, you can try new things, and the audience will like them!

What most writers and producers heard was: Hey, GH tried something new, and it worked, so let’s all do exactly the same thing to copy them.

Geary’s goodbye interviews have been laced with disdain. I find it curious that an actor who was given near-carte-blanche over storyline and the words coming from his character’s mouth could still be so disappointed in his experience.

Last week’s news of GH head writer Ron Carlivati’s departure was a surprise. I hope that the new HW’s will give Laura — the other half of that famous pairing — a chance to explore her life as deeply as Luke was explored on the show. Laura….you know, the character who actually has even deeper roots in Port Charles?

PC will always be a place with antiheroes, bad guys and waterfront docks. But I hope that the show finds some balance in its remaining years. It might just do so, away from the long shadow of Lucas Lorenzo Spencer.

One thought on “Bittersweet symphony

  1. Very astute observations. Gloria and Tony certainly were responsible for changing the nature of daytime. And I would agree that change is largely responsible for the slow death the genre is now experiencing.

    I was exceptionally disappointed in the sendoff episodes. While it was nice to see him disappear into the fog, a la Laura’s disappearance, I was astonished that the final storyline was so ho-hum and that there weren’t any flashbacks (save for that one with Bobbie). Is the soap genre in such poor shape that we send a television icon off with a whimper rather than a bang?

    Hi James. There’s been speculation that Geary himself was very specific about what he wanted for his exit. Which…..speaks for itself, I think.

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