The spin-off of the daytime drama, General Hospital, General Hospital: Night Shift debuted on Soapnet last night, and if nothing else was made obviously clear, it was that we shouldn't plan for there to be too much semblance between the storylines of this and the parent drama.
Yes, they both take place at General Hospital in the fictional town of Port Charles, New York, and yes you will see plenty of familiar faces, with a splattering of new talent and one legendary performer (Billy Dee Williams plays Toussaint Dubois — an all knowing all seeing janitor). But other than the fact that both Doctor Patrick Drake and Doctor Robin Scorpio are being punished by working the hospital's Emergency Room on Saturday nights, very little in plot meshed with the daytime show.
Biggest case in point, as Robin and Patrick rush out to meet an incoming ambulance in the first few opening minutes, an SUV pulls up. Mac gets out from behind the wheel and opens the back door, and out steps Jason (Yes, just hours earlier on GH he was still in jail and when 3:00 rolls around, he will still be in jail on the daytime version), then an injured Spinelli.
But, let's back up a bit. With the show's opening, I was most impressed with the look and the feel of the show. We begin in the doctor's lounge and Dr. Robin Scorpio in the shower, but wait she's not alone, that would be Dr. Patrick Drake moving in behind her. We get a brief taste of some steamy scrubs action, before we hear both their pagers going off. We were warned, General Hospital: Night Shift was going to be grittier and sexier and so it is.
We go from the showers into the fire. The Emergency Room is loud, crowded, and Epiphany is barking the orders (much like during the day). There is a little boy who fell out of a tree who needs a neurologist and a patient on the way in with possible neurological damage (good thing we have two doctors with that specialty on the floor on this Saturday night). As Robin and Patrick bicker about who's going to take which case and Patrick barks about "where's my patient" as they wait for the ambulance, the camera pans and we see a pregnant woman approaching, a suspicious looking man wearing camouflage who seems distressed and distracted, and the above mentioned scene with Jason and Spinelli arriving plays out.
The ambulance arrives, swerving all over the place and the two EMT's stumble out both laughing uncontrollably. Patrick opens the back of the ambulance to find the patient also in an uncontrollable fit of laughter, and determines nitrous oxide is leaking. He jumps at the guy dressed in camo as he moves to light his cigarette but it's too late, there is an explosion. Patrick is thrown to the cement, the other man is thrown into some combat flashback, and it is Jason who must pull the patient, who is on fire, from the ambulance and put out the flames with his jacket.
With one of the attending physicians now a patient, it would seem the remainder of the episode is spent introducing viewers to the new doctors and nurses, and following through with the medical stories which were set up. It turns out the man in camouflage is a post-traumatic stress patient who has served two tours in Iraq. He has little interest in consoling with Lainey though, he just wants her to prescribe him some Percodan and send him on his way, saying she can't fix what's wrong with him. Near episode's end he is able to steal some during an intense moment.
We find out the pregnant woman who was knocked off her feet by the explosion, is HIV positive when Robin is sent in to bandage her scraped knees because Dr. Lee had an emergency cesarean to perform. In this segment as well as follow ups with Robin and Patrick, and then later Jason, we once again see Robin struggling with her inner desire to become a mother someday, despite her HIV positive status. What's not familiar, however, is Patrick being even just a little bit open to it.
While Jason is waiting for Spinelli to receive treatment, he learns the woman he pulled from the ambulance died. For much of the remaining episode, the student nurses are trying to find out her identity from the hotel she was staying in. All we as viewers learn is the last name – Barrett – the same as Cooper's last name. Coincidence? I don't think so. Especially since rumors have been flying that the role of Brenda Barrett is being recast so the character can return to the daytime drama.
When student nurse Regina finally obtained the mystery woman's identity and took it down to the morgue, she discovers the woman is not dead when she moans and raises her arm. As the closing credits and montage began rolling, we see the gurney surrounded by hospital staff, including the new cardiologist Dr. Julian and a very stunned Nurse Regina wheeling her back into a trauma room and working on her. I look for this story to arc to be one of the few to cross back to the daytime counterpart eventually.
You'd think that would be enough medical drama for the hour, but it's not. Comic relief, as usual comes in the form of Spinelli, completely smitten with nurse Jolene and facing 6 months for the unsafe discharge of the weapon he used to shoot himself in the foot. Of course, hero that the hitman is, Jason steps up and says he accidentally shot Spin. He is arrested at the end of the show, but not before the elderly woman who has patiently waited in the ER for the whole episode, and has been dismissed by nurse Layla as someone who frequents the hospital because she is lonely, collapses against him, bleeding from her side.
Yes, General Hospital: Night Shift is definitely grittier and more focused on the hospital. It has familiar faces in new situations that will probably, in some instances cross over and affect the daytime drama, but not with any symbiotic relationship or continuity. This is its own entity completely. High drama in the form of the patients, the ugliness of financing medicine in the form of Dr. Ford and Miss Sneed, sex appeal in the form of Doctors Scorpio and Drake, and just enough humor to keep it from getting too dark in the form of Spinelli, Maxie, and Cooper, all work together to make this new edition to the Soapnet line-up one of the best things to be associated with daytime drama in a long time.
For the next twelve weeks you can watch General Hospital: Night Shift on the Soapnet network on Thursdays at 11:00 pm, and repeats several times during the week.