Alan Quartermaine, RIP (If only)


Warning: there are some minor, already covered in the press, general General Hospital spoilers in this post.

Farewell Dr Alan Quartermaine.

I first met you in the period after you had tried to drop a house on your wife Monica (and I’m sorry I missed that) and were squiring your pregnant mistress Susan Moore around town.

I watched you through that affair and the wash-up with your son Jason, various machinations with more affairs and hateful and loving moments with Monica, your marriage to Lucy and her hat, Monica’s battle with cancer, the adoption of Emily, the recently much-mentioned Sidney the Bear, the loss of one son at the completely unintentional hand of the other, the loss of your grandson to a meat-hook, your graduation from sometimes unhinged leading man to solid father figure and patriarch and right on into the seniors closet in the east wing of the Quartermaine mansion (owned, of course, by Monica). I confess I did not watch you through the adoption of Skye, or the loss of AJ, but I certainly felt for you in that.

I will miss you.

And I question your death.

First because how does an experienced doctor, who was married to a cardiac surgeon and the son of a man with a history of convenient and inconvenient heart problems, and who, by his wife’s admission had regular check-ups, die of a massive heart attack with no warning? (This paragraph, in case you are a new visitor here, is entirely rhetorical.)

Second, and more importantly, because I am often torn about choices to kill off soap father figures (and mother figures, though that seems to happen less often).

I am not of the school that says all characters, once they reach patriarchal or matriarchal status, should be left to go on until the actors portraying them march off this mortal coil themselves. Certainly, there is a group to whom that status should be awarded. The originals. The Steve Hardys and Tom Hortons and Lila Quartermaines (not an original, I know, but Anna Lee!) of this world. And when they do go as a general rule the treatment awarded to them by even a show reaching depths never before seen on other levels, is spectacular.

However, these are ongoing dramas and to provide some drama not everyone can survive to achieve that status. Sometimes, the killing off of a beloved long term character before the actor is being wheeled on to set on special occasions and plonked largely unmoving on to a sofa for a scene or two provides a much better and more moving story than trying to slot an unplanned death or funeral in for a character we’ve barely seen for years. Sometimes, indeed, the exigencies of production simply require a culling of the cast and older characters have to go; the actors written off contracts and their deaths hopefully written in a manner to drive stories for a myriad of other characters based on the very history the departing character’s longevity has created.

In other words, sometimes the story that comes out of a character’s death can be of considerably more value than (a) only wheeling the character out on special occasions or (b) half-heartedly creating semi-stories for a character whose time has come.

But. You knew there was a “but” coming, right? But, when a show elects to kill off a long term character for implied if not expressed budgetary reasons, I dislike it immensely when they try to have their cake and eat it too. And in this, for once, GH is not alone.

Twice in the last six months, shows that I watch or keep in touch with have announced that they are killing off a beloved patriarch as part of a sweeps stunt/Emmy bait double-play. This has been followed by an uproar from fans, and a subsequent announcement that though the characters would really be dead, we’d still be seeing them for a while. As ghosts. First The Young and the Restless did it with John Abbott, and now GH is doing it with Alan.

That is having one’s cake and eating it too, and is so pointless it makes my jaw clench. Particularly in the case of Alan.

GH has done a great job, in my view, with Alan’s death to date. They have used it to bring up all the old and ongoing issues in his family, and has brought his father, wife, sister and son to certain realisations about how they feel about him and how they have acted in their own lives, as well as numerous scenes of devotion from his adopted daughters. It has even created in Natalia Livingston the ability to act.

Now, however, they’re going to undo all of that good work by having Alan haunt Tracy in a “comedic” fashion for some time to come. Why?

If they cut Stuart Damon from the cast for budgetary reasons, which was clearly part of the driver combined with adding a sting in the sweeps stun-, sorry, Event, then Alan should be dead and gone in a sea of fabulous flashbacks and his family should be getting months of story out of dealing with the consequences. If they were only cutting him (or Jerry Douglas) for sweeps purposes, or changed their minds when they saw the audience reaction to his departure and realised everyone did actually want to go on watching Alan and only they thought he was old and done (note to the powers that be: if you keep culling people like Alan and Tony and Ned and Robert, pretty soon Sonny will be the oldest guy on the canvas who doesn’t spend half the year in Amsterdam so you might be shooting yourselves in the foot), then they should have brought Alan to death’s door and have all the family realisations happen and then kept him alive to actually deal with them.

Killing him off to bring people back in to watch his departure, and then bringing him back to try and keep people watching goes back to my previous post about them being cynical and making their audience even more cynical. And it fools exactly nobody.

Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that an Alan/Tracy comedic double-act could be gold. Stuart Damon and Jane Elliot playing off each other, come on, it could be great. But given the choice between having Alan dying in a moving fashion as he has in the last few days and being gone forever, and him being returned in an inane tacked-on plot that undoes three-quarters of what was achieved with his death, I choose dead and gone every time. If he’s going to die, his death has to mean something, otherwise keep him alive.

Which brings me to my other point about Alan’s death, and back to the beginning. Of all the characters on GH at the moment, of the many veterans languishing in that east wing closet, Alan is the one I would think of as most obvious to have gone on to original, don’t kill them off until the actor dies, status (other than Audrey, who obviously is already there, no matter that Rachel Ames looks so damn great when she is on that I think she’ll outlast the show by a long way). The character still had some bite, but had become avuncular in recent years in a manner that made him the most obvious to take on his mother’s status as the giver of benevolent wisdom well into old age.

So, I will miss you Alan, and I think the show will too. Once you are actually gone.


6 Responses to “Alan Quartermaine, RIP (If only)”

  1. 1 Mary

    The guy is seventy afterall. Maybe he wants to retire!

  2. please bring back allan Quartermaine, let him leave as his mother lilla Quartermaine,
    he has been missed terrable

  3. 3 Chcgochic

    How Did They Get Rid Of Alan I Missed That Episode Due To A Family Emergency

  4. He had a massive heart attack during the hostage crisis and died in hospital shortly afterwards. Of course, now he’s a ghost.

  5. 5 RobynC

    oh, wow,,,I’m just glad he’s not REALLY dead.,,,.i wasnt sure
    glad i found this site

  6. 6 RobynC

    gee,, is it november already….
    anybody?! lol

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