Ok, Greenville General. At first I wasn’t sure if you were a parody of a soap opera set in a hospital or a soap opera set in a hospital riddled with clichés. Sure your tag line is: Greenville General – Where the best medicine can’t fix a broken heart. There was the cheesy opening with syrupy music and the Greenville General hospital crew spinning in a calliope of daytime soap opera wonderland. That’s kind of parody-esque.
But man, it was really hard to tell! I watched on.
There’s Dr. Rod Steele (Rife Sibley) living in the shadow of his father’s footsteps, unable to save the woman he loves – “Of course! We’re all dying. Stephanie just got to do it sooner.” And the middle age couple, Mr. and Mrs. Day (Robert Desiderio and Brynn Thayer)trying to give love one last shot – “I’m so tired of you trying to make everything right with your roses and your champagne and your tri-tip.” (Dude should’ve gone with the fillet.)
A good parody takes the conventions of a form and lets the audience in on the joke. This seemed to play it straight. I was waiting more for the metaphorical wink at the camera. And that wink finally came when I watched Greenville General‘s sister series, Life in General – the soap opera that’s the behind-the-scenes, mock-making of a soap opera.
Both shows are created and written by Karen Harris, whose resume includes four years at The Incredible Hulk (where she was in charge of Lou Ferigno’s lines. Just kidding, Karen! Bad Joke) and 15 years and counting at (Surprise. Surprise.) General Hospital. If you thought the soap opera action on camera was chaotic, you should see what goes on off camera.
Costars Rod and Maddie (Lindze Letherman – a daytime TV regular) partake in coitus behind the scenes, as Courtney, the lead actress and bosses’ daughter, disappears on a party-binge and doesn’t show up for work, all against a backdrop of inflated actor egos, hard-lined studio execs, and underappreciated writers reveling in whatever attention they can get.
It seems like this sort of comedy ground has been covered before with shows like Extras and Entourage, riddled with a mix of inside industry lingo and showbiz hijinks. Is it possible to have a cliché parody? (The kicker is the non-ironic credit sequence with zany music and freeze frame stills from various parts of the 10-minute episode.)
That said, by themselves, there’s nothing must-see about Greenville General and Life in General. The production’s top-notch, and the acting and writing are superb, but I’m no soap opera junkie and the premise isn’t compelling enough to keep me tuned in.
The whole, however, is greater than the sum of its parts. Taken together, the two shows provide an intriguing voyeuristic window into a fictional world of calculated intrigue. Watching the surgeon and nurse exchange platitudes about losing patients is sooooo much more interesting after you’re aware of the sexy time they just had in the back of wardrobe, off-screen.