ABC Daytime Asks: What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

by | March 28, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Deep Soap

GH Shocker

General Hospital” actually shocked me Friday when Luke (Tony Geary) turned out to be the driver that ran over and killed little Jake.  Suddenly the storyline is about somebody other than Jason (Steve Burton). Who could have seen that coming? On a serious note, it’s gutsy to make the show’s most famous character responsible for the death of his own grandchild. Over the past couple years, Luke has become a buffoon who has been relegated to “comic relief” storylines about him being a con artist that seemed more about accommodating Geary’s frequent vacations than entertaining the audience. I was often tempted to fast forward through his scenes. Last week reminded me that when the man decides to show up for work, he is not only one of the best actors on daytime, he’s one of the best actors on television. This is the meatiest material he’s had since he thought Lucky (Jonathan Jackson) was dead over a decade ago. The scene where Lucky breaks the news to his father that he is responsible for the death of his own grandson was not just sad, it was devastating.  Finally, Geary and Jackson have material that is worthy of their talents.

There are numerous good things about this twist. It finally holds Luke accountable for being drunk nearly all the time, which hasn’t been funny since the first “Arthur” movie was released. It shakes up the dynamics between Luke and his family. Luke has always been obsessed with DNA. He at times acted as though Cameron and Jake weren’t his full fledged grandchildren because Lucky is not their biological father. By killing Jake, he set a chain of events in motion that resulted in Jocelyn, a Spencer by blood, being saved.  It should also set the stage for a longterm redemption saga for Luke, as he struggles to both forgive himself and rebuild his relationship with Lucky.

There are also a lot of aspects of this storyline that give me pause. First of all, how did Jocelyn recover overnight from a kidney transplant? GH is acting as though she got her tonsils removed. She wasn’t even on an I.V. or any monitors on Friday. It takes months to recover from organ transplants and Jocelyn should be on anti-rejection medication. My main concern is how unrelentingly dark this material is. It’s going to require the sort of longterm subtle writing found on premium cable shows in order to be anything but unrelentingly bleak. It’s been a long time since GH has managed to pull off subtle and sophisticated. I fear Lucky will be angry at Luke for a while, then abruptly decide to forgive him, and Jake will never be mentioned again.  Unless Geary has changed his vacation schedule, Luke’s going to have some powerful scenes than disappear for the summer to lick his wounds. By the time he returns, the story will have lost all its momentum. The writers have given themselves an out, if  the plot proves unsustainable, since Franco (James Franco) made a strange phone call to Carly saying that he felt like the situation was “all his fault.” That could mean that he was driving the car with counterfeit license plates and managed to frame Luke.  Then there’s the question of whether this is is what the majority of the audience wants to see. Dark storylines win awards, but they rarely improve the ratings. It’s interesting, but it isn’t fun.

It seems like ABC Daytime is playing a parlor game: what’s the worst thing you could imagine happening? That’s what we’re going to put on your television screens five days a week. Spoiler Alert: “All My Children” fans are about to be put through the wringer when Jesse and Angie’s child is stillborn, and Jesse ends up passing off an abandoned baby as theirs. After watching Angie sacrifice her own eyesight so she could have this miraculous late-in-life child, I want to see her rewarded with the cutest, healthiest baby ever.  Jesse and Angie are one of the most beloved couples in daytime. They were reunited after being off the canvas for decades. This should be a feel good storyline. Instead, AMC is giving us a dead baby. While I’m sure Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan will be amazing, I dread watching this. I don’t want to see them bond with this new baby, only to have to give it back when the biological mother decides to claim her child. I don’t want to see Angie rightfully feel so betrayed by Jesse’s lie that she considers leaving him. I’m sure I would be even less interested in watching this storyline if I were a parent.

There have been so many rumors and denials about AMC’s future. It seems like a safe bet that the low rated soap wants to regain some of its lost viewers. I don’t see how this is going to do that. I used to love tuning into AMC because it was such a fun show. I miss Greenlee  (Rebecca Budig) and Leo (Josh Duhamel) trying to help each other woo Scott and Becca respectively, only to realize that they were the couple who belonged together. I miss Erica’s romances with men who were as awesome as she is. Here’s what I don’t miss: Babe stealing Bianca’s baby and letting her think it was dead. At least Bianca eventually got Miranda back. There isn’t even that possibility for Jesse and Angie. Is it any wonder that beat down viewers are watching cooking shows on cable instead? Most people don’t want to see dead babies while they are eating lunch.