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Downton Abbey and General Hospital are both soap operas

February 4, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
I like my soap operas, whether they come dressed in uppercrust 1920s British fashion or ridden with mobsters and vampires on "General Hospital".

I had a taste of both over the past few days, after having bought the DVDs for the third season of "Downton Abbey" and having watched ABC's only soap opera, which is apparently in the middle of a storyline involving vampires and angels (and the usual baby switch story, mixed with cheating and perhaps an evil twin or two.)

"Downton Abbey" may look pretty classy but it's really a melodramatic soap with high production values. One sister gets left at the altar! Another sister runs off with the Irish revolutionary chauffeur, gets in a jam and returns home pregnant. She dies in childbirth while her husband and the rest of the family weeps at her bedside. The eldest sister marries her distant cousin, the heir to the estate, but they can't stop bickering about money or worrying about why she isn't pregnant yet.

His Lordship's valet is convicted of murdering his ex-wife, but he's really innocent because the evil you-know-what made it look like he'd poisoned her even though she really committed suicide. Will his new wife, the faithful maid Anna, manage to have him set free?

It may be Masterpiece Theater, but it's definitely a soap.

I'd stopped watching the considerably more low brow "General Hospital" because it was, for years, a show that glorified mobsters and had an inordinate amount of violence for a soap that aired in the early afternoon. But apparently the show is under a new writing regime and it is looking a lot more like the GH I enjoyed when it was on years ago. Veteran actors are getting real screen time, for one thing, and the whole cast is being used. The writers have apparently decided to revisit one of the wackier storylines from the 1990s, one involving vampires and vampire slayers and angels and other things supernatural, that aired on the spinoff soap "Port Charles." I gather GH has run into a legal issue involving the contracts of three actors on the show and the characters they play. The actors are under contract with "General Hospital" but "One Life to Live," a soap that is relaunching itself on the Internet, owns the characters. "General Hospital" is apparently planning to get around this backstage soap opera by having the actors play new characters.

Luckily, one of the actors, who now plays a cop on "General Hospital", also played a vampire on "Port Charles". So I guess the cop will go bye-bye and the actor will be playing only the evil vampire from now on.

On Monday's episode, a female lead character from the 1990s soap "Port Charles" (a woman who was somehow involved with both the resident vampire and the resident angel) was found murdered on the docks. Her teenage son was found kneeling over the body holding the stake he'd pulled from her chest. When he was hauled into the police station for questioning, the kid accused the cop of killing his mother. Dum dum dum. The cop is a dead ringer for the vampire. There was some question on "Port Charles" whether this kid was fathered by the angel or by the evil vampire, so it will be interesting to see if he turns evil or not. Meanwhile, Lucy Coe, the "vampire slayer", is locked up in the town loony bin after attacking the cop (whom she thought was the vampire) and is trying to escape.

You can't get much wackier or more entertaining than a soap that has decided to return to its roots and is unafraid of being outrageous. "General Hospital" appears to be doing just that.

"Downton Abbey" airs on Sundays on PBS and "General Hospital" airs weekdays at 1 p.m. on ABC.


Article Comments



Feb-06-13 9:12 AM

Soap or not... I love Downton Abbey!


Feb-05-13 4:45 PM

Right-o on "Downton Abbey" as "melodramatic soap with high production values."


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