General Hospital’s #Friz zy Chemistry Lesson
Every decade or so in the land of soap operas there emerges a couple so fizzy, so sexy, and so wrong that they are utterly right for each other. Today General Hospital’s Franco and Elizabeth are that couple. He is a reformed serial killer (yes, I did just write reformed serial killer), she is a nurse with a heart of gold, and both are atoning for some pretty bad life choices. The good-girl-saves-bad-boy storyline is GH’s stock in trade, so what makes Franco + Liz = Friz different? In a word: chemistry. Roger Howarth’s charisma brings Rebecca Herbst’s good-girl sex appeal to the surface and together they generate enough electricity to power a small island nation.
Elizabeth Webber typically attracts men who infantilize her, cheat on her, and then move away to take jobs on other television shows. Like every character in Port Charles, she sometimes does the wrong thing. Yet unlike most characters, she attracts either adoration or venom from fans –there is no in between for Liz. And that’s because when we look at her, we see ourselves. Elizabeth is not a cardiac surgeon, an attorney for the mob, an international spy, or a fashionista. She is a single mother searching for love while toiling away at a pink collar job. She might live in a crazier world than ours, but she looks and acts a lot like we do.
Liz tends to receive unjustified criticism for conceiving three children with three different men. Sure, for a nurse she possesses an abysmal grasp of rudimentary birth control methods, but if we are going to condemn her for these so-called sins we must also condemn Carly and Alexis. Each of these women has three children with three different fathers and in both of their cases one of those fathers is Sonny Corinthos – a man who never met a woman he couldn’t knock up. If there was ever a candidate for a vasectomy it was Sonny. It’s beyond me why any one of his many wives never suggested to him, “Honey, I love you, but the chances of you having unprotected sex with a woman you hate in a crypt after a funeral is pretty high. Maybe it’s time to go in for a snip?”
After wandering the halls of General Hospital for years Nurse Webber has finally crossed paths with a man who treats her like an adult capable of making her own choices and knowing her own mind. With his bashful teenager-in-love shtick Franco appears so infatuated with Elizabeth that he can barely make eye contact with her. And, she blushes when he calls her beautiful and sexy. Elizabeth wears unisex scrubs for a living. When, was the last time anyone made her feel sexy?
Anne Hathaway’s 2011 Oscar co-host, James Franco originated GH’s “Franco” in a guest starring role. He played Franco as a one dimensional psychopath.
Later, the great Roger Howarth took up the part as a contract player and for all of his many talents the one thing he cannot achieve is one-dimensionality. His performances are all edge and nuance.
For example, Howarth’s Franco gives Elizabeth a toaster, a small kitchen appliance typically devoid of sex appeal, as a housewarming gift. After an introspective conversation with her, Franco asks Elizabeth, “Promise me that whenever you make toast that you’ll think kindly of me.” And now you are saying to yourself, “Oh please, that sounds ridiculous.” Coming from any other actor, it would be. When spoken by Howarth, however, the line’s threefold meaning becomes clear.
- “When you make toast, please think kindly of me for I am but a lonely reformed serial killer trying to make my way in an unforgiving world.”
- “Let’s make toast together forever! I want to marry you and help you raise your three children, even the two boring ones.”
- “Before we make toast, I want to tear off all of your clothes and take you right here on this attractive, yet moderately priced countertop.”
And, Rebecca Herbst’s response? Saucy Elizabeth gently rests her hand on his arm, leans in and says, “Even if it burns.” Jesus. Somethin’s on fire and it ain’t toast.
This might be a good time to get Franco’s checkered history out on the countertop since to move past it we need to talk about it. In addition to that serial killer business, he also committed unforgivable crimes against the citizens of PC from pseudo rape in one case to rape by proxy in another. He has a tendency to kidnap infants, one of whom was Elizabeth’s, so fair-minded people could see that as an obstacle to their burgeoning love. Since we’re cleaning closets, Liz is no saint herself, what with hiding her return-from-the-dead with a new face, amnesiac ex-lover’s identity from his wife so she could marry said ex-lover herself.
Franco’s reinvention began with the Roger Howarth recast and continued with a convenient medical twist. Franco committed the worst of his crimes, because he had a brain tumor. GH’s crack medical team removed the offending tumor, thus correcting Franco’s homicidal tendencies while leaving his snarky truth-telling in place. How can we not give him another chance? This is, after all, a soap opera in which character reinvention follows the change of seasons and audiences share an unwritten pact with producers to roll with them. We really can’t be too rigid toward characters inhabiting a world where returning from the dead means it’s a Tuesday.
Franco upsets Elizabeth’s workaday life in all the right ways and winning her love will help him atone. He has put his threatening behavior behind him and he doesn’t want to make her feel “anything than just better.” Given the chemistry between these two, she should really let him try.
As for me, I’m off to make some toast.