Saturday, October 26, 2013

GENERAL HOSPITAL: The five best (and worst) things about Port Charles right now

Whenever you watch a soap – no matter the time period – the best you can say is that they’re a mixed bag.

Fans are never going to like every single thing about a soap.

Watching General Hospital is fairly frustrating for me right now. I usually love three days a week and hate two days a week. Ironically, at least right now, I’m generally loving Mondays and Fridays (and one other day, either Tuesday or Thursday, depending on the week) and hating the other two days of the week.


I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems like GH is pairing all their good stories together on the same day and then pairing their bad stories together on other days.

Is that perception?

You betcha. It still doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch the entirety of this past Wednesday’s show in less than seven minutes.

So, what’s working?

1. Robin’s return: Super villains unite! Robin’s return has been a barrel full of fun since we caught
sight of her several weeks ago. It’s an umbrella story so, of course, they’re dragging out Robin’s reveal to her husband and daughter. We’ve seen Robin spar with Jerry, go toe-to-toe with Olbrecht and have a happy reunion with longtime pal Nikolas. The Robin story has reunited Robert and Anna in their snarky goodness, introduced us to the most dysfunctional couple ever in Faison and Olbrecht and ratcheted up the emotion by having Faison tell Robin he shot her beloved Jason in the back and dumped him in the harbor. Robin is getting dressed up this Halloween – and we know little Emma is going to see her mom – but all soap fans know that the reunion that everyone is waiting for won’t happen until November sweeps. Still, I’m having a ball with the journey.

2. Robert and Anna: Not only are Robert and Anna sparring in a locked room together – casting about so many sparks that I’m worried those sheets are going to catch on fire – but they’re also drawing the duo into not one but two different umbrella stories. Not only are Robert and Anna working together to find their daughter – while fighting the attraction for each other that still emanates from both of them – but they’re also both involved in the Julian Jerome storyline. Making Robert the one that put Derek Wells in the witness protection program was pure genius. Robert needs to stay on the GH canvas permanently. He fits into just about every story. Tristan Rogers and Finola Hughes feed off each other. Their energy is palpable.

3. Nikolas and Britt: Frankly, I’m relieved. I was so worried they were going to try and force
Nikolas and Liz back together (a pairing that makes me want to throw up a little bit) that I was actually hoping Nikolas would pick up and leave town again. Nikolas and Britt have combustible chemistry, and I am enjoying the dysfunction junction family setting they’ve got going on right now. If anyone can understand Britt’s crazy past – growing up with crazy parents – it’s the prince of Spoon Island. That being said, Nikolas and Britt have a hard road ahead of them. I happen to believe that Britt knowingly stole Dante and Lulu’s embryo and implanted it in herself and that Ben is their child. When Nik finds out that Britt essentially kidnapped his nephew, he’s not going to be happy. I don’t think it’s too much for the duo to overcome, though. Britt still has some work to do on her redemption. I think hitting bottom – when she has to give up the baby – and then building the character back up from there is the way to go. 

4. Sam and Silas: A lot of the couplings on this show – especially in recent years – have been
rushed. It’s no secret that, when Kelly Monaco first came to GH, I was excited. Unfortunately, the character of Sam fell flat for me. Then, when they paired her with Jason, the character of Sam bottomed-out for me. I saw nothing to root for in a woman that acted like a walking doormat for a man one second and then an extra appendage for the same man the next. While she was with Jason, Sam never became a full person. What a difference a year makes. Sam now is a protective mama bear and her slow-burn romance with Silas is fun to watch for a bevy of reasons, including the fact that Sam doesn’t look like she’s depressed anymore. In fact, she looks happier than I remember seeing her in years.

5. Surprising friendships: What GH was lacking (for years) were believable friendships. Viewers want to be able to watch people be friends. For example, I invested in Robin and Brenda as best
friends. I invested in Brenda and Lois. I invested in Liz and Emily. I invested in Lucky and Nikolas. When was the last time GH had realistic friend pairings? In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the unlikely grieving spouses Sam and Patrick have a refreshing conversation that shows they’re bonded over shared hurt. We’ve seen Felicia and Anna having discussions. My personal favorite was watching Carly and Alexis have a conversation that was actually helpful to them both. While I don’t like Sabrina, her friendship with gossipy Felix is believable. Every relationship on the canvas doesn’t have to be romantic – and GH is proving they finally realize that.

What’s not working?

1. Baby mama drama: A baby switch storyline – which the failed surrogate storyline is essentially masquerading as – only works if you have two sides that are both sympathetic. Here, I don’t find
either side particularly sympathetic. First off, Maxie may have went into this surrogacy with the best of intentions, but what she’s doing to Dante and Lulu now is just mean. Second, Lulu has turned into such a shrill little banshee that I can barely watch her. I am not blaming Emme Rylan. I think she is a fine actress. She is not, however, the Lulu I have grown to love over the years. I think the fact that Rylan was miscast, though, is only one of the problems with this story. I think it’s fairly obvious that Maxie and Spinelli will get their baby Georgie and Lulu and Dante will (eventually) get their son Lucas (I’m just guessing on the name). However, I don’t care who ends up with either baby because I find both sides ludicrously unwatchable right now.

2. Patrick and Sabrina: There’s no real drama in the “who will Patrick choose” game because Sabrina isn’t really a consideration. Patrick is sitting around pining over his dead wife on a daily basis – and yet Sabrina seems to think it’s perfectly fine to accept a marriage proposal from him.
From Sabrina’s point-of-view, in the past week her boyfriend has told her he heard his dead wife’s voice on the phone, he’s had trouble taking off his wedding ring and she’s walked in on him looking at the tickets he bought his dead wife to go on an around-the-world vacation with. She still accepted the proposal, even though Patrick is clearly not over his wife. From Patrick’s point-of-view, he has not once moved forward with Sabrina by his own choice. He only dated her because everyone in the world told him to. He only took his wedding ring off because Carlos told him to. He only asked her to marry him because his dead wife – via a DVD -- told him to. I understand this is a plot point, but there is no way anyone believes Patrick won’t run (not walk) back to his wife the moment he sees her. Fans of the couple call them Patrina. That reminds me of the world patricide – which means killing your father. Since Patrick often looks like a dirty old man with Sabrina, the name is weirdly fitting. I mean, Sabrina is sucking the life out of Patrick. Personally, though, I have taken to calling them Purina. For me, watching them has all the appeal of eating dog food.

3. Lack of momentum: Where is AJ? Why does Liz’s only job seem to be propping Sabrina right now? Where is Ellie? Why does the teen scene drop in once every three weeks – enough to make me
want to pull my own hair out – and then disappear again? How long is Laura going to be visiting her doctors in Europe? What happened to the Deception storyline? Is Sonny ever going to find out that Ava was the one that shot Olivia? Why isn’t Felicia helping Maxie? Who does Kevin keep visiting when he leaves town? Is Rafe living with Sam or Silas? Does Rafe spend any time with Silas? Speaking of, who is watching Rafe to make sure he actually goes to school? Does Silas even want to get to know his daughter? There are too many characters on the canvas – which means momentum is constantly being thrown out the window. There is plenty of dead weight to cut. Let’s cut it and move on. If the soap is more streamlined, the stories will flow easier.

4. Franco: I love Roger Howarth as an actor. I’ve always loved Roger Howarth as an actor. He is not the problem. The problem is Franco. I am not going to invest in a serial killing painter that may or may not have raped a woman and may or may not be responsible for the rape of a young man. I’m just not going to do it. When the writers decided to bring Howarth back as Franco, were they dropping acid at the time? I don’t care that they’re trying to explain everything away by saying that Franco had a brain tumor. I don’t believe it. For the love of all that’s holy, why didn’t they bring Roger Howarth back as a Cassidine? Maybe the love child of Edward and some Cassidine matriarch? Bringing a great actor back as a terrible character still results in a painful storyline – no matter how you try to pretend otherwise.

5. Morgan and Ava: I’m not just saying this because she’s an older woman and he’s a younger boy. I
have no problem with older women and younger men (as long as they’re legal). I’m saying this because he was married to her daughter – and has been fantasizing about kissing her daughter while having sex with her: They’re gross. I am distinctly uncomfortable when they’re on my screen. And, I have nothing against the actor that plays Morgan, but he reminds me of the lost Ford brother from One Life to Live – and that’s not a good thing. When Morgan left for military school, he was a sweet kid that boasted the personality of the stepfather – Jax – that raised him. When he came back? He was a petulant, glass throwing baby with a gambling problem. The gambling problem – given the difficulties of his grandfather – was a good idea. The entitled brat routine is just rubbing me the wrong way.

What do you think? What’s working in Port Charles right now and what isn’t?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Five reasons why Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is failing

There weren’t a lot of television shows to get excited about this fall season. One of the only ones that everyone could agree they wanted to check out was Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – a spinoff of their popular super hero movies.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. looked like a slam dunk on paper. It was following last summer’s blockbuster – even utilizing (and ultimately resurrecting – kind of) the popular Phil Coulson character.
The Avengers

It was being helmed by the ubertalented Joss Whedon – a man that has created two of my top five favorite television shows ever (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, respectively).

Sure, other than Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen, the cast was pretty much unknown, but who knew the names Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan and David Boreanaz before Whedon got his hands on them?

So, when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. landed – everyone expected greatness.


When the show debuted, it was the biggest drama premiere in four years. This past week? It barely edged out NBC’s Biggest Loser – which is like in its 50th season.

So, what went wrong?

5. More action-oriented plots need to be implemented: Most of the comments I’ve seen about this show say that it’s kind of like The Avengers but there’s not as much action and there’s a little too much kitsch. I would have to agree with that. I understand the budget for a television show is far more limited than a big budget movie, but there’s got to be a happy medium. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. could go the Alias route. You don’t need a lot of money for practical effects and realistic special effects sequences that won’t break the bank. Instead of wasting money on flying cars (totally ridiculous), invest in the foundation of the show and the center of the mythology and let the show grow from there.

4. Too many gimmicks: I understand the inclination to try and draw on the success of The Avengers, The Avengers, no really.” The Avengers succeeded because it was witty, funny and visually stimulating. You can’t throw in cheeky cameos to give fans a thrill when you don’t have the basics for those cameos to build off of firmly in place.
but bringing in Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders for cameos didn’t scream “smart nod to the fans” as much as it did “see, we’re just like

3. You can’t make both comic book fans and general television fans happy: The show runners seem to be trying to straddle a line here. They want to appeal to a broad audience and not tick off their core geek audience of comic book readers. That’s kind of like trying to mix oil and vinegar. It may stick for a second – but it won’t last for the long haul. You have to pick an audience and make them happy. You can’t do both. A general television audience gets lost in too much mythology. That’s why genre shows usually have a smaller – but fiercely loyal – following. In depth plot arcs are not for everybody. ABC needs to stop trying to draw in people that will sit there and watch a procedural one hour and then flip over to a genre show the next. In general, that just doesn’t work. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be a genre show, let it be a genre show. If it’s going to go more mainstream, then do it. This straddling the line stuff isn’t going to help it last.

2. The cast is unbelievably bland: Whedon is known for casting along a broad spectrum. With the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are all generically interchangeable. They’re also boring, vanilla and pretty. They’re really, really pretty. That doesn’t mean they’re entertaining to watch. All that means is that they’re really pretty. Just because you’re pretty, that doesn’t mean you can act (just ask Keanu Reeves). The only two actors with any range on this show – again – are Clark and Wen. You could stick any one of the other actors in any one of the four remaining roles – it doesn’t matter if it’s written for a male or female – and you would get the same bland reaction shots and line recitation. That’s just not good television. You need to kill off most of this cast and start over.
exceptions of Clark and Wen, the rest of the

1. There’s no heart: Say what you want about Buffy and Angel – and if you’ve never seen them, you can’t understand their true greatness – but both of those shows had a lot of heart. Whedon created them to be more than genre shows, more than teenage shows. These were about extraordinary characters doing extraordinary things. They were also surrounded by ordinary characters that helped them do the extraordinary. Sound a little like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? That’s where the similarities end. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not only vapid but empty.  The only character you care about is Coulson – and he’s not enough to anchor the show. In the Buffy universe, you couldn’t just care about Buffy. You had to care about Willow, Xander, Oz, Giles and Cordelia, too. A television show cannot survive on the shoulders of just one character.

What do you think? Where did Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fall short?

50 Shades of Grey movie casts a new male lead -- but will it help?

I don’t get all the hoopla about Fifty Shades of Grey.

It was a terribly written book with terribly boring characters. To be fair, I only read the first book, but that was more than enough for me to realize that it wasn’t my thing.

When you’re talking about the book, it failed as fiction because it was so vapid and it failed as erotica because it just wasn’t hot.

Now that the book hoopla has all but disappeared, fans are now turning their attention to the movie adaptation.

When news broke a few weeks ago that Sons of Anarchy actor Charlie Hunnam had been cast – fans revolted. Interestingly enough, Hunnam is a serious actor and he could have lent some gravitas to the role of Christian Grey.

Hunnam, though, didn’t like the attention he was getting from the film – and the book’s crazed fans – and he dropped out of the role last week. He cited a bevy of reasons for pulling out, but it was obvious he didn’t want the attention the role would bring to him.

Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, earned the role of Anastasia
Steele. She is still in the film and, as a relative unknown, she’ll probably be fine – although most of the online polls I’ve seen have been lobbying for Alexis Bledel.

On Thursday it was announced that Jamie Dornan had won the coveted role of Christian Grey. Who is Jamie Dornan? He’s a male model that I’ve seen in exactly two things: Marie Antoinette and Once Upon a Time.

I think Dornan has a certain charisma about him and he’ll probably be fine in the role. I still feel a little bad for him.

The Christian Grey role – and the Anastasia Steele role, quite frankly – aren’t roles I would embrace as an actor. Why? They both look like Showgirls-sized anchors around the necks of the actors that take them.

What do I mean by that? Ask Elizabeth Berkley if her career ever rebounded after Showgirls. I think 50 Shades of Grey has bomb written all over it – and it could ruin the careers of the actors attached.

There’s no way to get around the fact that 50 Shades of Grey is soft-core porn. You don’t see the actors on those skin flicks on Cinemax making it big after those movies – and I don’t think you’ll see the actors in 50 Shades of Grey overcoming the stigma of being in this movie.

Sure, the books have a contingent of teenage fans that don’t know any better. I used to read V.C. Andrews as a kid, too, and 50 Shades of Grey is really no different than V.C. Andrews. I also think the movie will be just as much of a bomb as Flowers in the Attic was.

This movie has a lot going against it. First off, the buzz has already died. If they wanted this movie to
be a box office hit, they would have rushed it into production and released it a year ago.

Second, there’s going to be a certain stigma attached to this film. A lot of people aren’t going to flock to the theaters to watch a film about bondage. And those that are into those things can just order porn on their home computers.

I’m actually hoping that Dornan pulls out of this project. I think he’s a talented guy, and I don’t want to see his career ruined.

As it stands, this is one film I won’t be catching in theaters or when it’s released on DVD. The book was bad enough, I have no intention of seeing the film.

What do you think? Is 50 Shades of Grey going to be a box office winner or loser?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Walking Dead returns for fourth season Sunday

It’s hard to believe that people were worried about the long-term creativity of The Walking Dead after the second season.

I was one of the few fans that didn’t mind the slower pace on the farm – but I understand, I was in the minority.

So, when the third season premiered last year, everyone was curious what would happen.

The last think you can call the third season of The Walking Dead is slow.

In short order, our favorite zombie apocalypse survivors cleared out an overrun prison, killed a few of the not-so-dead residents that still remained, lost Lori and T-Dog to biters, started a war with a local zealot that called himself the Governor, found themselves with a baby to deal with, and fought several excursions with the denizens of Woodbury.

By the time the season ended, Andrea and Merle had joined the ranks of the dead and the survivors of Woodbury had pulled up stakes and were moving into the prison.

When we rejoin our heroes for the fourth season Sunday night, there’s a lot at stake.
First off? Rick is no longer leader. He’s just one of the men trying to make a difference in a co-op
living environment. He’s learning how to farm from Hershel and trying to make sure his son doesn’t become a sociopath in a world that is no longer civilized.

And, since this is an uncivilized world, the survivors have a few things to grapple with besides the hordes of zombies that still roam the streets. This includes a natural shortage of food – and a pandemic fever that is ravaging the survivors being housed at the prison.

The Walking Dead is more than a survival story. At its core, it’s a story about people.

The smartest thing that showrunners have done is break from cannon. They treat the show as a different entity from the source comics. This infuriates comic readers – but also keeps the show unpredictable.

For example, show favorite Daryl doesn’t even exist in the comics – while last season’s final casualty Andrea is still alive (and some of the living on the show are now dead, etc.) and knocking boots with Rick on occasion.

The Walking Dead is one of my current favorite television shows – and it’s not just because I love the horror genre as a whole. The Walking Dead is one of those rare television shows that has everything: A great cast, a great story, a great mythology and a lot of guts.

The only thing on The Walking Dead you can be sure about is that no one is safe. I’m sure this season is going to see a lot more deaths (Beth has had fodder written on her since she was introduced) and a lot more mayhem.

Even though David Morrissey (the Governor) has another AMC show, it’s rumored he’ll be doing
double duty. After he murdered Andrea last season, I have no doubt Michonne will be out for blood – and Maggie and Glenn probably still want to help her.

As it stands now, The Walking Dead is the one show I’m looking forward to above all others this season.

In other words: Don’t bug me Sunday night – and that includes for the hour after the show because I’ll be watching the Talking Dead afterwards.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to the return of The Walking Dead?