‘General Hospital’s New Headwriter Makes a Subtly Spectacular Debut

by | July 27, 2011 at 12:10 PM | Deep Soap

Garin Wolf: Day One

What a difference a day makes. When former headwriter Bob Guza replaced Richard Culliton as “General Hospital’s” headwriter in 1997 he put the following words into Luke Spencer’s (Tony Geary) mouth. “From now on every damn thing around here is going to be different.” Luke was, in my opinion, the character who best represented the Guza era. He was flashy, grandiose, self-absorbed, rebellious, stubborn, self-indulgent, and convinced he was always the smartest person in the room. He had contempt for anybody who believed in true love or families. He was also witty, compelling, and won a truckload of Daytime Emmys. (Technically, Geary won the awards, but the line between actor and character seemed to grow increasingly thin.)

Tuesday, July 26th was Garin Wolf’s first episode as headwriter of GH. It opened with a funny sex scene between Robin (Kimberly McCullough) and Patrick (Jason Thompson). They exchanged witty banter about having sex in a hospital room while they were at work, and Robin’s new job as Chief of Staff. Yes, the show’s happily married couple was having sex. In the hospital. Guza often portrayed Robin as an uptight, joyless prude. The character of Lisa (Brianna Brown) often called her frigid. Wolf’s Robin was flirtatious and fun. In a line that I am choosing to take as meta, Patrick wondered, “Is this how it’s going to be now that you are in charge?” Robin replied, “I hope so.”  Later Robin explained her interest in the Chief of Staff position by saying, “There are problems that I genuinely want to fix.” I am choosing to believe that those lines were meta, and that GH has entered the Robin Scorpio era. Robin is a character who works hard, does not constantly need to call attention to herself, has decent morals, and oh yeah, is a doctor.She can be a little anal retentive, but that sort of attention to detail is a good quality in a hospital administrator or headwriter. Robin’s quest to give all of the hospital’s surgeons, not jut “rock star” Patrick the opportunity excel also seemed meta. This episode gave meaty scenes to a couple of characters who have often been ignored while frequent airhogs Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Carly (Laura Wright) were absent.

Jason (Steve Burton) the show’s biggest rock star was portrayed as a flawed man, not a God.  Hos mother Monica (Leslie Charleson), who was rarely seen during the Guza regime, scolded him for not telling her that Jake was her grandson saying, “If you wanted to make life and death decisions, you should have become the doctor you set out to be.” If that line were uttered in a Guza episode of GH, by the end of the episode Jason would have saved Monica’s life by shooting a bad guy and she would have been forced to apologize for having issues with his career as a hitman.

Jason also had major scenes with Liz (Becky Herbst) for the first time since the immediate aftermath of Jake’s death. They went in an unexpected direction. When Liz learned of Jason’s engagement to Sam (Kelly Monaco), instead of exchanging bitchy remarks with Sam, she observed, “I really need to stop leaning so much on all the men from my past.” Sam gave her a pep talk. Wow. Women being mature and supportive of each other; it really is a whole new GH. Liason shippers were also given hope when Jason said of Liz, “We have a connection. That’s the way it is.”

In fact, every character seemed more interesting, intelligent, and multi-dimensional. It was not that Wolf fundamentally altered any of the characters. It was just that he gave them all strong points-of-view and self-awareness. Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) had wonderful scenes with her daughter Molly (Haley Pullos) about Cassadine family history after Molly found an old note from the Cassadine family cook proclaiming that something bad was going to happen. She referenced Stefan’s poetry, and her knowledge of Russian. It was a reminder of who the Cassadines, who had become cartoonishly evil, actually were.

I also enjoyed Helena’s (Constance Towers) scenes with Lulu (Julie Berman). Helena spoke of how Laura was responsible for the deaths of her sons. It was a warped perspective, but it served to remind viewers that deep down Helena has a real human motivation for her hatred of the Spencers. She thinks they killed her family. Then, at the end of the episode there was a surprise appearance by Nikolas (Tyler Christopher), who recently left the show. The Cassadines, as a family unit, seem to be coming back. I am thrilled, and wish there were a way for Stephen Nichols to do double duty as both Stefan and Tucker on “The Young  & the Restless.”

Another thing that struck me about this episode is how much it emphasized the female characters. Guza’s GH was all about the men, a curious choice for a show targeting a female demographic. There were more scenes of women talking to each other than in any recent episode I can remember. GH has so many wonderful female characters who have been given short shrift over the years. I look forward to seeing more of them.

If you have given up on the show, watch the entire episode right here, right now. If this episode is any indication of what is to come, it is time to check back into the Hospital.

This is the “General Hospital” that I loved for so many years. Wolf restored it without any expensive action sequences, gunshots or huge events. He just quietly wrote a balanced, character driven episode that addressed many fan complaints. I suspect Robin would approve.

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