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In which I discuss General Hospital Opening Sequences at Length

February 22, 2010 1 comment

Sometime in 2004 I started watching General Hospital.  I was in college dealing with a lot of drama and had some free time in the afternoons where I often found myself back in my dorm room.  Somehow, all the drama going on in Port Charles made mine easier to deal with.  Plus theirs was so much more sexy.  I’ve been watching fairly regularly for something like 6 years now (which is fairly embarrassing now that I’m committing it to print) and I have a feeling that embarrassing number is only going to get bigger.

Tomorrow will be General Hospitals 7,000,000th episode (not really, it’s their 12,000th which is an equally impressive milestone) and to celebrate they’re going to unleash new opening credits upon the world.  I for one am fairly excited about this (are soap fans the only ones who get this excited about new opening credits?  Their facebook announcement has over 700 comments), so I thought I’d take some time to look at a couple opening sequences throughout the years.

In the Beginning

GH debued in 1963 which these stunning credits which lasted a whopping 7 months.  Hey, don’t judge!  These credits are from back in the day when sopas were just babies.  They were still filmed live at this point!

Then there were exterior shots

The longest running opening sequence that General Hospital used was this beauty featuring an ambulance racing followed by a lovely exterior shot of the hospital.  According to Wikipedia, these were some of the longest running title sequences in the history of soaps.  Through the years there were some minor changes like the font they used for the title and the music that was played, but for thirty years if you were watching GH, this was your opening.  I think most would consider this the true classic (but I have something else in mind).

The Classic (Faces of the Heart)

In 1993, General Hospital made a huge shift from the simple openings we’ve seen to what I consider to be the iconic GH opening.  This sequence was a great update for a new era of soap operas.  It reminded why you were watching – for the characters of course!

I love the music.  It’s the right kind of schmaltzy that says “you’re about to watch a soap opera” and it used to get me really cheesed up to watch the show.  It’s the signature sound of General Hospital.  Play a few bars, and I’ll always crack a smile.  Plus, it was super easy to update.  Wanna insert some more recent romantic scenes?  Just throw a red/orange filter on your chosen 1.3 seconds of sexy and you’re set!  Have a new cast member?  Just set up a big fan in front of a wall, film them for a minute, throw in a couple of good hair tosses, add in the filter and you’re golden.

This video is from the very first time this opening was screened.  I love how they made such a huge deal out of it – John Beradino, Dr. Steve Hardy himself – introduced the change.  These titles debuted on April 1, 1993 which was GH’s 30th anniversary.

This updated version of Faces is what was airing when I started watching in 2004.  And this version was even better!  It was even more exciting with their updates.  This opening was even more exciting!  In addition to the the ambulance racing (almost) towards the camera, someone (I think Frisco?) jumps off the roof of General Hospital (Oh my gawd!!)  and I don’t know what’s up with the speedboat but DUDE THERE’S A SPEEDBOAT!  How exciting is that?! There’s an extra flair at the end of the music and they added the character names – which I found extremely helpful when I first started watching the show.  I am also pretty sure that the opening credits are the reason I fell in love with Sam McCall (Kelly Monaco).  God she’s sexy.

Current AKA Sirens (in all its flashing light glory)

So I only got to enjoy the good credits for a few months before ABC dumped this crap on me.  I remember when I saw it for the first time.  My initial reaction was “OMG I’M HAVING A SEIZURE!”  My second reaction was “what happened to General Hospital?”  All the flashing lights, and fancy camera work was just too much for me.  This sequence is too flashy and is trying too hard to be “sexy”, something the Faces of the Heart opening did subtly and beautifully. I felt right away this was going to be something ABC regretted.

It’s pretty obvious that this whole sequence was shot as some big project over several days where they had a fancy set up with all the actors on hand in costume, etc.  Just check out the fancy way they Elizabeth, Nikolas and Lucky come into frame.  And the ending shot of all the male cast members was cute when it first aired (I actually like the silly bit where Luke walks off, but you know, he does that) but caused some problems later.  “How are they going to update this?” I wondered.  It seemed pretty complicated to me.  Well, it turns out they hadn’t really thought that part through. Here’s the first version of this monstrosity.

So this version looks fairly cohesive.  Well, as they added new characters, it just started to fall apart.  It still looks okay, but this is what we’re currently working with:

So where we started out with a bunch of characters walking around the set, looking breazy and fabulous we now have mostly stationary people with the camera panning up and down their torsos.  They’ve almost completely done away with the overlapping character thing, I think because it was too difficult to recreate.  The lighting doesn’t seem to match GOD I hate the music.  It’s embarrassing.  I usually mute it even if I’m home alone.  And why does Luke need to stare at the camera for for so painfully long?  I love Luke as much as the next GH fan, but that 5 second shot is semi creepy at best.  Oh, and the best part?  That shot of all the gents at the end?  We’ve lost so many actors since this first debuted in 2004 that it’s practically a joke.  There are 11 men in that shot and 7 (SEVEN!) are no longer on the show for one reason or another.  When more than 60% (check out my math skillz!) of the people in your final shot aren’t even on your show any more there’s a problem.

So, tomorrow is the big day – we finally get new credits.  I am hoping that we’ll have something more like what it was in the 90s but I have a sneaky suspicion it’ll be more like the seizure-fest we have today.  This post on their Soap Net web page leads me to believe it’ll be more like the seizue-fest we have today.  And their comment about “letting the women in on the fun” leads me to believe we’ll have a similar final shot, but this time with the ladies (wanna take bets on who gets to walk off a la Luke Spencer?).  If that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before we run into the same problem we have with the tuxedo shot of the current sequence.  If it could be somewhere in the middle, I think I’ll be happy.  At the very least I’m hoping for better music with less seizure causing lighting.  Here’s to tomorrow and (another) new GH sequence.  Hopefully we’ll get a new classic out of this one.

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