Busted to Blissful ~ February 2010 ~ GH and ATWT

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James Franso (Franco, General Hospital)BUSTED: JAMES FRANCO ON GH

While visiting my parents last week, my father walked into the room as I watched All My Children. He immediately began laughing at what was on the screen. It was the moment when Greenlee fantasized walking down the aisle covered in a thick veil to obscure her identity until she was revealed as David's new wife - at which point Erica and Ryan jumped up to protest in melodramatic fashion.

I was struck by how bad the scene was, and by how ridiculous it must look to someone who had never seen the show before. Indeed my dad's next

words were, "You watch this stuff?"

This outlandish moment on AMC caused me to reflect on how non-soap fans view soaps, especially in light of movie star James Franco's recent appearance on General Hospital.

After all the hype surrounding Franco's " special guest star" turn on GH playing an artist conveniently named Franco, I still don't know what the stunt accomplished. If it was to boost ratings, it didn't. If it was to create a compelling storyline and introduce a complex new character, it failed. If it was to demonstrate movie stars are superior actors to soap opera actors, it had the opposite effect.

Franco's performance was one note away from twirling a mustache. His caricature was keeping in line with what he presumably thought soap opera acting should be, and was not in tune with what his vastly superior (for the most part) scene partners were actually giving him. He was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying his appearance on GH was "performance art." If "performance art" is defined as over-the-top bad acting, then I guess he succeeded.

Franco's role as serial killer who turns his crime scenes into art, was dark even for a show with an unrelenting emphasis on mob violence. For GH's loyal fans, who are accustomed to sitting through the glorification of mobsters on a daily basis, this was one step too far. Franco the actor, chomped the scenery as his character killed for pleasure all in the name of pursing a bizarre fixation on Jason. It was one thing for Franco the character to kill day players and torment Jason, but his actions had an undercurrent of misogynism when he targeted Maxie, Carly, Sam, and Lulu for torture. The whole mess was uncomfortable to watch.

GH left open the possibility for Franco (the actor and the character) to return this spring. It's unfortunate fans will have to sit through Franco's (the actor) vanity project in the name of performance art yet again. It's a shame that because of his star power, he can take away screen time from the deserving actors who toil away at their craft every day in stories fans actually care about.

Maura West and Michael Park (Carly and Jack, ATWT)BLISSFUL: JACK AND CARLY'S BRIEF REUNION ON ATWT

The recent reunion and subsequent break-up of Carly and Jack on As the World Turns was text book soap opera, in a good way. It had everything soap fans want in a story: a couple to root for; a believable story with heart breaking decisions where there aren't any bad guys; good acting; and superb writing.

Fans have been waiting years for their beloved "CarJack" to get back together. When the couple recently admitted they still loved each other, fans held their collective breaths. It was almost too good to be true, considering the pair's star crossed history.

When Carly told Jack not to say he loved her again until he was really hers, it foreshadowed the tragic turn events were about to take. Jack went home to tell his wife, Janet, they were through, but before he had a chance, she informed him her teenage daughter has leukemia. Jack, who has a penchant for doing the right thing, promised to stand by Janet as her husband, and put his own needs on hold.

The ensuing scene was a master class in soap opera when Jack told Carly he could no longer be with her even though he loved her. Maura West (Carly) broke fans hearts with her joy over seeing Jack, which quickly changed to shock and sorrow as she realized the impact of his words. Never has an actress conveyed so much in so few words, letting her eyes speak for her. Michael Park (Jack) let us see the cracks under his veneer of stoicism, as his voice wavered and his eyes watered while he struggled saying goodbye to Carly for good.

Luckily for CarJack fans, "for good" on a soap is never for long, especially in light of ATWT's unfortunate cancellation. A permanent reunion must be in the works for this signature Oakdale couple. In the meantime, fans will enjoy the saga of a couple who desperately want to be together, but are trying to do the right thing by staying apart.

If someone has never seen a soap opera, ATWT is a great example of how good the genre is when all the right elements are in place. The show should be proud it doesn't need to stand on gratuitous guest star appearances to tell a story, and can hold its own with the best of them.


Lesleyann Coker is a reporter and monthly opinion columnist for Soapdom.com and a blogger for The Huffington Post. She is also the co-author of Boob Tube, a novel that goes behind the scenes of the soap opera industry. The book is available in ebook form at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/3 . She was previously a reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine.