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.

friz tvsourcemagazinecom
Rebecca Herbst as Elizabeth Webber and Roger Howarth as Franco http://www.tvmagazine.com

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?”

SonnyC
Maurice Bernard as Sonny Corinthos, general-hospital.wikia.com

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?

scrubs
Nurse Webber en.wikipedia.org

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.

james-franco-320
James Franco as Franco, http://www.people.com

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.

Roger Howarth
Howarth as Franco http://www.dailymotion.com

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.

  1. “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.”
  1. “Let’s make toast together forever! I want to marry you and help you raise your three children, even the two boring ones.”
  1. “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.

toast
tvsourcemagazine.com

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.

17 Comments »

  1. Absolutely spot on assessment. In a million years I’d have never thought of putting Becky/Roger together much less Franco/Liz. However, they are absolute perfection. Chemistry for DAYS!

    I am so thankful Jelly have given them a slow build & not whitewashed their past. It’s being done like classic soaps used to do & that’s refreshing.Franco’s psychosis were due to his tumor.If I can swallow back from the dead stories then this is easy to accept.

    You know you’ve struck gold when a lingering kiss on the cheek makes you feel the desire & longing.

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    • I am happy that the writers are giving Liz a sexy romance. Franco loves the fact that she is a mom and he also makes her feel sexy. I think that is a rare combination for any genre. Pairing Becky with Roger Howarth also allows us to see everything she is capable of. Too often she has been paired with actors who are not nearly as strong as she is.

      It’s pretty amazing that the writers are dealing with Franco’s past. Nothing about this woman dating this man makes any sense, but the writers saw the same chemistry we did and they ran with it. Thankfully.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  2. OMG I love this! Everything I love about this couple is exactly what you stated in this article. BH and RH are gold and I hope this show realizes what they have in them!

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  3. You speak the truth! I cannot believe how much I’m loving this pairing, along with the acting partnership responsible for it. If anyone had told me about this a year ago I’d have checked their temperature. Thank you for a great read. It’s funny and wise, and your take on Sonny made me snort – that crypt business never gets old.

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    • Thank you! I agree with you. I never thought the writers would pair Elizabeth with someone so off-beat. They have kept her with old-standbys like Nicholas and Jason for so long. Pairing her with Franco (and Herbst with Howarth) shows that the writers respect her character and believe that she is capable of something new.

      I get really tired of people criticizing Liz for having kids with different men. There is a real double standard at work in the world and certainly in PC. Sonny most definitely has super-sperm.

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  4. Hmm… from what I just read, this reminds me of another former serial killer falling for a good girl with an appalling taste in men… of course, this one came with a black duster and British accent, and her “pink collar job” was slaying vampires…

    I also want to re-read your Arrow posts and make retrospective comments but never have because (1) this season was abysmal, especially the end, and (2) I’ve been wasting my time yelling at misogynistic comic book fanboys who blame Felicity/Olicity/shippers for the show’s decline. Nope, and no, you can’t call yourself a feminist when you’re “support” of Black Canary and “outrage” at Laurel’s death is only to spite Olicity shippers.

    It’s exhausting.

    I now can say with zero irony I would be a better showrunner than Guggenheim. That’s not arrogance speaking, it’s fact. Furthermore, I have a theory (and I wrote a post about it before it got eaten by the Internet) that Comic Book Guys should never, *never*, NEVER run a TV show. Daredevil? Steven S. DeKnight, from the Joss Whedon School of Showrunning. Jessica Jones? Melissa Rosenberg, most famous for Dexter… and for making the final Twilight movies so self-aware of their awfulness that they dropped all seriousness and went as wanky as they could get (I actually love the Breaking Dawn movies for their OTT craziness). Agent Carter? Jose Molina, also from the Whedon School, and person I want to work for someday. He has also written comics, so the “TV guys shouldn’t write comics” thing isn’t true like the opposite). Agents of Shield? Jed Whedon and his wife Maurissa; they may not be the Chosen Son, but the show has improved over time. Supergirl? That charming bit of fluff and sister feels is helmed by frequent Ryan Murphy collaborator Ali Adler. I’d also like to work for her someday because of her political views of TV storytelling, so I forgive her for Glee.

    The Flash? Well, it’s a zillion times better than Arrow, but Kreisberg can’t write a female character if his life depended on it, so Caitlin and Iris have stood on the sidelines while Barry gets to live out every fanboy’s fantasy. And the constant Oliver bashing isn’t cool. No, person who wrote a fanfic about it, he is not Aaron Burr to Barry’s Hamilton; among a completely different outlook and strong set of convictions (when Felicity and Diggle are there to occasionally knock him in the head), he’d get Hamilton right in the heart, thank you very much.

    And I regretfully say Arrow is now a Bad Show. It’s actually quite terrible, but it has some of my most beloved characters of all time. It also kept THE WORST around far too long. There was a ticket to Gotham with her name on it after season 1. I stand by the conviction that if she moved to become Harvey Dent’s ADA, the world would be a much better place.

    Which brings me to Legends of Tomorrow, which I mostly define as Elusive. Here’s what I heard: Tommy was going to get the original spin-off, becoming Doctor Midnight. If there was even one iota of chemistry between Stephen and Katie Emily would have left with Colin (think Angel and Cordelia… the only flavor of Angel that doesn’t make me want to punch the TV). But Emily and Stephen were pure magic and someone still hoped they could salvage Laurel, so Tommy died as impetus for season 2.

    Once upon a Time Nightwing was going to go to Starling City, but DC wouldn’t give B/G/K the rights, even if Steven R. McQueen from The Vampire Diaries was already tapped for the role. The Flash then got a backdoor pilot in Arrow’s season 2, and the show’s instant success was because B/G/K learned from all the mistakes they made with Arrow (no messy, toxic backstory between Iris and Barry, and no flashbacks, which I now realize is a pun).

    Bring on season 3. They asked for Blue Beetle (Ted Kord), but DC let B/G/K have Ray Palmer/ATOM instead. It was the role Brandon Routh was born to play, even if he arrived in the season 3 premiere with REBOUND tattooed on his forehead. Then they did the single stupidest move out of all four shows:

    They killed Sara so Laurel could become the Black Canary. Someone out there was quite the optimist, thinking that would actually make people like her more. As mentioned above, I think a great deal of the sudden outpouring of love for Laurel that came out after her death was to spite Olicity fans. I personally think it was a let down because she should have left two seasons ago, when we learned anything Laurel could do Sara could do better, plus being the only live-action bisexual superhero out there was a Big Fucking Deal.

    Sara’s dead, and the world is outraged. The best think they did for the 2015-2016 season was have Caity Lotz show up as a surprise guest at the CW Upfronts, where they present advertisers with their upcoming shows. The Ray spin-off was now an ensemble show, and in practice it became the Sara Lance Show with Snarky Sidekick Captain Cold, the Wise Dr. Stein, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Pyromaniac as comic relief. Oh, and Jax. And that barista. And Rory Pond, but boring without Amy around.

    I listen to a lot of TV podcasts by TV critics or TV writers, and there are two things I’ve realized are necessary to keep a TV show fresh after many seasons: (1) Keep your original characters in the front, but have the balls to cut the fat. A show about Team Arrow, plus Oliver’s sister and her boyfriend would have worked. Sara, Merlyn and Lance could be recurring characters so the focus stays on the five people we actually care about. Hell, Laurel could have remained a recurring character, kept around to give the occasional legal advice as needed.

    I love Donna, I love Curtis, and I like Ray, but there’s always a problem with B-storylines: NO ONE CARES ABOUT THEM. I don’t care about Laurel’s addiction/depression. I really like but don’t necessarily need Mama Smoak and Daddy Lance to have their own side storylines. I just want them to be cute. And NO ONE CARED ABOUT THE HAWKS. All I can remember is that Hawkgirl was a barista. Taking a shot every time she mentioned her former career makes a great drinking game. Curtis was a nice addition and I’d take him as a series regular over Laurel any day, but even he can just be comic relief. I don’t even need him (and would rather not have him) in a mask, just be himself: a brilliant black, gay man with a tangential mind that compliments Felicity.

    And whoa, that turned out long. I’m pressing save before I lose it.

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    • Hello Lex: How nice to hear from you! I missed your comments on the Arrow posts. I don’t think Season Four was so bad. As you know I didn’t like the way they handled Laurel’s death, but otherwise the show was pretty good. I LOVED Damien Darhk and was sad to see him die. Felicity is still a favorite and I am interested in seeing how Oliver and Felicity work their way back to each other. Ships don’t ruin shows. Oliver is more than a superhero, he is an actual person who needs a love life. The central fabric of these shows is the dilemma between being a hero and a real person. If we get rid of that tension there is really no reason to watch.

      I actually think that there needs to me more female characters on Flash and that they need more development. Caitlin feels like an untapped resources. I loved Legends. A lot. I wont’ miss the Hawks at all but I will really miss Captain Cold. He was my favorite.

      I think your Tommy ideas are very interesting. Laurel is still in the ‘verse so she might be resurrected on Legends? That would work for me.

      Take care and thanks for writing.

      Like

  5. What a fun read! And right on target. I was afraid this pairing wouldn’t be accepted because of the history, but Becky and Roger have made it such a fun couple to watch. I’ll never look at toast same again.

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    • Thanks! If we look too closely at any GH couple we will find very good reasons to keep people apart. Franco’s sins are just a little more visible! I’ll follow chemistry anywhere and these two actors have it to spare!

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  6. Great read. You have articulated what many of us have been thinking the past few months and so spot on.
    I am enjoying the awesome chemistry of Becky & Roger on every level. I hope GH & writers keep fleshing out this Liz & Franco partnership, as it is interesting, adorable & entertaining. I for one would like to see a full-on Webber/Baldwin family merger, lol.
    “Nothing about this woman dating this man makes any sense” except that it does…..

    Like

    • Typically when GH writers want a couple to be together they script their encounters in a very heavy handed way, such as they did when Nathan first met Maxie the night he rented her apartment as she was leaving town. I like Nathan and Maxie together, but the point is that the writers held up a big neon sign saying “These two will be a couple.” That did not happen with Elizabeth and Franco. Instead, all of their actions felt incidental instead of scripted. They remind me a bit of early Jason and Robin in that way.

      Thanks for writing!

      Like

  7. 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.

    Like

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