Everything I Now Know About GH,
I started watching soaps at 13, and was the lone viewer in a very anti-soap household. This would be the first, but certainly not the last, sign that my interests were going to diverge from those of my university professor parents. But how could I not? After all, my sister, sixteen years older than me, way cooler and living in NEW YORK watched them. More than that, when I was visiting her the summer I turned 13, she arranged for me to visit the set of All My Children. Bear in mind here that I had absolutely no idea of the gift I was being given – I was not yet a soap watcher. My sister worked for a talent agency and had made good friends with a number of soap actors the agency represented. One of them agreed to show me and a friend around the set for the day. I was a budding wannabe actress, and jumped at the chance to meet real working successful actors. I wish I could say that every moment of the day is carved in my memory, but frankly it isn’t. But, it did start me watching soaps.
After my day on set, I started watching during the summers. All My Children was on at 11am so watching during the school year was not an option. Plus I didn’t know how to program the VCR. I hid my dirty soap habit from my family and friends – surely no one else would understand. Then, I met Debbie. She and her mother watched All My Children. And One Life to Live. And General Hospital. I had found my people.
Before I knew it, my summer days were set around a rigorous soap-watching schedule. Wake at 10. Eat breakfast. Watch All My Children. Shower. Eat lunch. Watch One Life to Live. Watch General Hospital. Read romance novels. Attempt to answer questions from parents about why I was still in my bathrobe. Eat dinner. Repeat Monday-Friday.
Needless to say, this couldn’t last forever. Slowly but surely, one soap emerged as the one I couldn’t miss. General Hospital. Take the rest, but leave me my GH, I said to my parents as they attempted to force me outside during daylight hours. As I progressed through high school, I discovered that GH was on late enough that I could actually watch most of it after school – score! Plus, the single biggest factor: Brenda.
I know, lots of people can’t stand her. She was definitely ditzy. She hogged the screen. She sat on coffee tables. She wore her shirtsleeves unbuttoned and too long. But, to my teenage brain, she was everything I wanted to be. She didn’t have real problems. Her problems were things like: ‘How do I choose between my millionaire husband and my gangster lover?’ Rather than ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ She was a supermodel, part of a mini-model community which as far as I can tell consists only of the fictional characters Erica Kane, Brenda Barrett and Gabrielle Solis. No worrying about choosing college classes or future career paths for Miss Barrett, no no.
I wanted to look like her, dress like her, although not talk like her. See previous comments on the ditzy factor. Sadly, I weighed a lot more than 98lbs and was smart enough to know that it wasn’t ever going to happen, plus my clothing budget was something less than unlimited. So, I had to settle for watching the dream on TV.
I scheduled my university classes around GH. Sad, but true. I learned that this was a good idea the hard way, after missing about half of History of East Asia. The monotone of the lecturer just couldn’t compete with Carly revealing to Bobbi that she was really her long-lost daughter, or the long-awaited (by me) reunion of Jax and Brenda. After that, I knew there was no point scheduling anything between 3 and 4. So I didn’t.
And then Brenda died. I still watched, but the spark of it was gone for me in some way. Things got steadily sillier. Unfrozen Caveman Stavros? Chloe and her habit of losing shoes? The writers blew even the best stories, like the unexpectedly good Jax/Alexis pairing. They were starting to lose me.
I still watched faithfully, despite a steady decline in quality. There were bright spots in those days. Remember early Sonny and Carly, when they seemed the most unlikely and absurd of couples? Remember Liz and Jason when that seemed like it might be the beginning of a new super couple? There was always enough to keep me going.
And then, I moved to England. Surely American soaps would be broadcast here, I thought to myself. Think again. Nothing, and I mean nothing. Okay, the Bold and Beautiful, but that really doesn’t count. And apparently they briefly had Sunset Beach. See my previous comment. But no GH. Suddenly, I was desperate for GH, declining quality or not.
And then I found Eye on Soaps. I didn’t need the nostalgic reminder of the original EOS mainpage – I saw it at the time. I haunted Wubs.net for scoops, patching together a vision of GH from spoilers. I ‘watched’ Brenda’s return, or at least part of it, through screen captures on Malibu Way. I periodically visited the enemy camp – a Sonny and Brenda website (gasp!shock!horror!) to get a better idea about what was going on overall. But still, my idea of what happened was pretty much centred around the couples and only the couples.
As you can imagine, the little details that give context, both to life and to soaps, are sadly missing from my understanding of what is happening in Port Chuck. It’s like visiting CNN’s website and never reading any stories, only headlines. Not what you might like to call an in-depth or nuanced view. More warped and based on a fantasy GH running inside my head. So here is what I know about GH now, based only on scoops, spoilers and commentary on EOS, plus my fevered imagination:
A note on English soaps: the characters have real problems and the actors are unattractive. This is not a good thing. I do not watch these soaps, because if I want to hear about not having enough money, needing to lose weight or relationship problems, I call my friends.
I want an escape. I want to watch a parade of ridiculous clothing. I want characters to rarely if ever wear the same thing twice. I want to see a world where it is totally normal to marry your brother’s ex-wife before the divorce is cold. Where true love lasts as long as the ratings are high. What more could one possibly ask for from a soap? How about to be broadcast over here!
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