Monday, October 10, 2011

PAGING JAMES FRANCO: PLEASE CHECK OUT OF 'GENERAL HOSPITAL' (AND DON'T EVER COME BACK)!

Shouldn't an Oscar-nominated actor like James Franco have better things to do? Dance with apes? Cut off his right arm? Get baked with Seth Rogen? Make out with Sean Penn on a subway station platform? Didn't he torture us enough co-hosting the Academy Awards last February?

Must he keep popping up in Port Charles every six months or so to throw a spanner in the works? With Katie Couric's upcoming talk show set to take over General Hospital's 3pm time slot next year, what will be ABC's sole remaining daytime soap come January is already a stinking, sinking ship. Each time Franco's character shows up -- he's conveniently named Franco and recently returned to GH for the first time since a mercifully brief appearance last Oscar season -- he's like a dead weight dropped in the middle of the grand ballroom.

Lord knows, GH already has enough problems onscreen: a young harridan -- I mean, heroine -- who spends most of her screen time shrieking at anyone who crosses her path (that would be awful Lulu, played by the awesome Julie Marie Berman), the dullest happy couple on earth (sorry JaSam fans, and I know there are a lot of you out there), and a crybaby drug-addicted hero named Lucky who deserves a story worthy of his name.

With so many talented vets sitting on the sidelines -- like Alexis and Monica, brought back to prominence at the beginning of Garin Wolf's writing regime before once again being sacrificed to mob wars -- the last thing the show needs is a pointless character eating up precious screen time. Franco (the character and the actor) is like the hammy supper-time entertainment you're forced to pay attention to when you'd much rather be gossiping and drinking.

What's his motivation? Why does a guy with such a sweet mom -- played by the actor's real-life mother -- get his kicks killing for his art? Why is he so obsessed with Jason Morgan?

Yes, when you're a soap executive producer and an actor of Franco's caliber and talent wants to be on your show, how do you say no? You don't. But neither should you create a pointless character who exists in a vacuum with the most boring male lead in daytime. (For a professional killer, Jason Morgan has absolutely no edge.) If they must keep Franco around, they should link him to the canvas by making him Johnny Zacchara's demented brother or Helena Cassadine's secret grandson.

Years ago (1981, to be exact), when Elizabeth Taylor wanted in on GH, Gloria Monty created the glamorous mysterious Helena Cassadine character especially for her, and a major GH clan was born. Thirty years later, Helena, played by Constance Towers since 1997, is still on the canvas, wreaking havoc all over Port Charles and beyond. Franco, whom 80-year-old Helena could crush while filing her nails, gets more story than Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis Davis, a Cassadine) and Leslie Charleson (Monica Quartermaine) even when, due to his more-pressing big-screen commitments, the actor is offscreen. Having characters allude to him to remind viewers that he exists only highlights how unnecessary he is.

Five years from now, long after Franco the actor has lost interest in being the subversive A-lister who dared to star on a daytime soap, will Franco the character still be around? Not a chance. But then, given its current downward trajectory, neither will GH.
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