It’s been an unusual year for the world and also an unusual year for soaps. The planet was turned upside down by a global pandemic, which as a result, turned Hollywood upside down and pushed soap operas into a repeat season for the first time ever. For General Hospital, the start of the year gave the soap its own unique challenges.
Best Soap Of 2021: General Hospital
It’s hard to believe it was really this year when our soap schedule was thrown for a loop. While Days of our Lives aired at night in many markets and was also on the NBC website each evening, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful were only sporadically available on CBS All Access.
The one soap we lost completely for weeks was GH and when it returned, it did so with quite a bang. A triple bang, with a triple shootout that resulted in Laura being injured, and the introduction of Brando (Johnny Wactor) and Cyrus Renault (Jeff Kober) to the scene. That was quite the surprise plot move — and surprise was the name of the game for GH all year, which is just one reason it earned our editorial team’s pick for Best Soap of 2020.
When we were able to escape back into Port Charles, we finally learned why Nelle (Chloe Lanier) thought Carly (Laura Wright) owed her something, but we still didn’t know who would get custody of baby Wiley. And we didn’t know for a while.
It was March 13 when soaps shut down production. Days of our Lives had enough episodes in the can to not show re-runs at all, while General Hospital found a clever way to keep new material airing longer than the CBS shows.
It took episodes ready to go and extended them with flashbacks edited in after production stopped. We got an extra three weeks of new Port Charles material and GH made sure to leave us hanging at Wiley’s custody hearing. Would Nina (Cynthia Watros) turn on Nelle or not? By then we also knew that Nelle was Nina’s daughter, something Nina is still unaware of.
When GH finally returned all-new, sans constant flashbacks in August, the story picked up right where it left off in the courtroom and we finally learned that Nina was ready to take Michael (Chad Duell) and Willow’s (Katelyn MacMullen) side against Nelle. In those first weeks back, we also saw the return of Dante (Dominic Zamprogna), as well as a shocking motorcycle accident that left Jason (Steve Burton) comatose for a brief time.
And the surprises have kept coming since then, with adventure, drama, humor, and pathos in every episode. For the SH staff, GH is the soap we know will keep us enthralled day in and day out, and also bring us to tears. Who didn’t cry when Mike (Max Gail) succumbed to Alzheimer’s and who didn’t gasp when Alicia Leigh Willis made a shocking return as Courtney to escort her father to heaven?
While Genie Francis’s Laura didn’t make it back on our screens until later in the fall, the soap threw her right into the thick of things and made BOTH Martin Grey (Michael E. Knight) and Cyrus her brothers. Again, we never expected it, but we do welcome it.
That was GH all year long. Expect the unexpected, something soaps are all about. We didn’t see Nelle falling to her alleged death with Carly trying to save her life. We didn’t see Avery (Ava and Grace Scarola) holding the key to Nelle’s parentage. We certainly didn’t see Jackie Templeton (Kim Delaney) as Chase’s mom and we definitely didn’t see Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) and Neil (Joe Flannigan) finally getting together, only for him to die in her bed after a night of passion (from an alleged drug overdose).
And we certainly did not expect Alexis to become soaps’ most entertaining drunk in years, dragging character after character for filth as she embraced her alcoholism full throttle.
Through the magic of social media, we did know that Lulu (Emme Rylan) and Julian (William deVry) would be written off the canvas, but we thought for sure Lulu would perish immediately in that Floating Rib explosion. Instead, the soap kept her alive, but in an indefinite coma. And Julian’s exit? That gave us surprises galore for weeks, but perhaps the most shocking was seeing his dead body (after he escaped death about five times in five days), closing the door on a later return. (OK, seeing Sonny go into that river definitely gave us a surprise, as well.)
Keeping us guessing, keeping us riveted, and keeping us tuning in is what soaps are supposed to do. And, even with real-world calamities producing long breaks in story, General Hospital managed to do just that in 2020.