Video: General Hospital: Critical Case

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It is TV's top soap; there must be a reason

Day 1. Useless to resist. It is everywhere. On T shirts, umbrellas, potholders, even nightgowns, Puzzles, Piggy banks. At Harvard, where they had a General Hospital weekend. It is a campus craze, a teen-age fad, a licensing bonanza and the top-rated soap on the tube, leaving All My Children and One Life to Live in the dust. Some 12 million people watch it every afternoon (3 to 4 p.m. E.S.T.). Have laid in provisions, disconnected phone. Must watch General Hospital.

Approach first day's viewing with trepidation. Last soap opera seen was Senator Harrison Williams claiming innocence during breaks in the Abscam hearings. First scenes not reassuring: a short man in a blue blazer, with eyes that glint like brass buttons, is carrying through hideous plot. Details as thin as his hair, which is combed forward in little bangs. A sure sign of flabby moral fiber and questionable sexual orientation. Only precedent, either thespian or tonsorial, is Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur. What he did to Charlton Heston the fellow in the blue blazer is doing to Port Charles, the town in which General Hospital is situated. Mr. Blue Blazer turns out to be Mikkos Cassadine, an amuck plutocrat who means to create "a brave new world." Wants to set the planet an example of his terrible power by freezing Port Charles into submission. Confused; consult TV Guide, which verifies program is General Hospital, not Flash Gordon.

Scene switches to jungle. Jungle? I think I may be going mad. Apparently outside Cassadine lair. Couple asleep in the undergrowth. Young. Trendy. First on line to buy tickets for an E.L.O. concert? No, they have come to rescue a friend, Scorpio, who is in Cassadine's clutches. They are Luke and Laura. Apparently account for the show's "youth appeal." Luke wears a shirt with cutoff sleeves and a gold chain. Laura is illegitimate daughter of Dr. Lesley Webber. Dr. Rick Webber adopted her when he married her mother but now Rick and Lesley are divorced. Pity. Who is Dr. Rick Webber? Notice Laura wears Woodstock Indian headband. Youth appeal? Learn that Luke stole her heart forever by raping her on a deserted dance floor in 1979.

I am quite certain that I am mad. But my doctor insists that I merely have General Hospital-itis. There is a lot of it going around. He has had it since the show's first broadcast in 1963. He tells me that the action really exploded when ABC brought in Gloria Monty as producer in 1978. Monty allowed that Laura's rape was really "a choreographed seduction." Says that show does not go as heavy on sex as some of the other soaps. Recent shows prove that, alas, most sexual activity is indeed conversational. Monty also claims she "didn't consciously go for a young audience." Can think of no other reason, however, to cast Sanforized Rocker Rick Springfield as an eager young doctor. Springfield's career has received boost from exposure, including No. 1 single, Jessie's Girl. Fortunately, role does not require him to sing.

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