Buena Vista // 2007 // 530 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // February 27th, 2008
More drama. More sex. More soap. More story.
The most successful spin-off of General Hospital since Port Charles (a dubious award won by default), General Hospital: Night Shift expands on the impressively long-running and popular daytime soap opera into a steamy medical-themed drama centered around a recurring cast of characters who have lots of sex, deal with improbable obstacles and plot twists, and occasionally rise from the dead or plot murder on one another.
You can see why producers wanted a separate show to distinguish one franchise from the other.
If you think Port Charles is exciting during the day, then get ready for the night shift. Once the sun sets, the hospital runs over with matters of life and death, drug addition, and a disproportionate amount of gunfights, explosions, and naughty sex -- at least compared to the average hospital. Borrowing its primary cast from the mother show, Night Shift features storylines revolving around Dr. Robin Scorpio (long-time alumni Kimberly McCullough), Jason Morgan (Steve Burton), Damian Spinelli (Bradford Anderson), Dr. Lainey Winters (Kent Masters King), Dr. Kelly Lee (Gwendoline Yeo), Dr. Patrick Drake (Rick Springfield), Maxie Jones (Kirsten Storms), and Dr. Drake Ramoray (Joey Tribbiani). Just kidding on that last one. Maybe.
General Hospital: Night Shift: The Complete First Season contains all thirteen episodes of the first season, which is literally the blink of an eye in the long-running serialized world of daytime soaps. I mean, you can't even break up a marriage or bring a deceased identical twin back to life that fast. Or...can you?
* "Frayed Anatomies"
* "Skin Deep"
* "Paternity Ward"
* "Keep the Change"
* "Bed, Bath and Be Gone"
* "Love's Labors"
* "Mother's Day"
* "Employee of the Month"
* "Gutter Ball"
* "Falling Star"
* "Fools in Love"
* "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted"
* "Time Served"
A cable spin-off of a daytime soap standard, Night Shift attempts to bridge that lucrative gap between the stoic-yet-fanatical housewife demographic of the soap opera with the cash cow advertising bang of prime-time television. Except that they aired it during the summer when nobody watches TV, and only on SOAPnet, a cable television station devoted exclusively to soaps. As bridges go, not a good one -- kind of like that bridge going nowhere in Alaska.
Despite a strong initial debut, the show rapidly earned the ire of its core audience by not making any sense, even by soap opera standards -- which is impressive. The cable format allowed producers to be a bit more risque in terms of on-screen getting-it-ons, and full advantage is taken of the format immediately, and repeatedly. Fans who tuned into the new show to see their favorite General Hospital characters rapidly found all manner of incongruities ranging from minor contradictions to rift-like plot holes between the storylines. For example, in Night Shift, Maxie Jones enjoys quite the vivacious and flirtatious sex life, which only slightly contradicts her corresponding storyline on General Hospital where she is um, well, dying. A minor point, you may argue; but you know how particular soap fans can be.
A General Hospital fan I'm not, but based on what little experience I have with the show itself, with soap operas in general, and with a starling revelation from my wife (who in a past life, prior to marrying me, was a GH fan), Night Shift feels like a glossy coat of paint slathered over a rickety backyard fence. Disguise it however you want, this is still a soap opera: laughable acting, preposterous story lines, terrible dialogue, and razor wire-thin production values. In just the first episode, you have exploding ambulances, cantankerous nurses, chip-on-their-shoulder handsome doctors hooking up with younger hot female doctors who enjoy having sex in the hospital in any room available, and that lovable social commentary where medical issues force the cast to dig deep into their own psyche to "understand." And don't forget the big emotional ballad pop song played mournfully at the end of each episode as characters walk silently through the hospital, staring out windows and looking pensive. You gotta have the pensive.
Alas, back to the painted fence metaphor -- no matter how you try and approach this series, it cannot be more than the sum of its preposterously low-budgeted parts. A bad soap opera gussied up is still a bad soap opera. Even General Hospital fans were torn about Night Shift, using words like "frustrating" and "contradictory" more often than complimentary words to describe the spin-off. The story lines are insulting in their slapstick drama, the dialogue is handicapped and stilted, and the acting is way, way way over the top in that way that only a good old-fashioned soap opera can be. Also, for some reason, Billy Dee Williams must really need work, because he's the janitor in Night Shift. Depressing.
As a drama, Night Shift is laughably foolish, offering the most rudimentary value to die-hard Hospital fans and zero value for the casual observer. As a medical drama, forget about it; my cat has more surgical knowledge than any of these sex-addled fools. Still, points for the hilarious proclivity for every character to add "stat!" to the end of their sentence, regardless of the context presented. It makes the dialogue, how you say, more medical!
"Nurse, take off my pants...stat!"
As previously mentioned, this is a soap opera, a magical place where production values rank slightly above pornographic film shoots in expenditures. As such, General Hospital: Night Shift looks woefully unimpressive on DVD, with a full-frame washed-out, grainy transfer that fails to impress. Black levels are negligible, colors are nonexistent, and the "soap opera haze" effect has been liberally applied into every scene. The sound is presented in a simple stereo presentation, which does its job and nothing more -- bass response is moderate and dialogue is clear, but the overall fidelity is mediocre. In television, like all other things in life, you get what you pay for.
We get one extra, a behind-the-scenes featurette, "On The Set At Night Shift." For soap fans, this might have intrinsic value, since such supplemental materials are rarely found on soap opera DVD releases, of which there are none to begin with. It runs a scant seven minutes, but the cast and crew's enthusiasm for their new project is -- dare I say it -- infectious. Call a nurse!
Night Shift features moderately attractive women in all manner of undress and promiscuity.
There! I came up with a redeeming quality about the show. And people said it couldn't be done.
One could call the progression of numerous subplots, explosions, gunfights in the emergency room, sex-capades, and dramatic deaths "soap opera-esque," but it would be a moot gesture at best. No doubt there are die-hard General Hospital fans out there in the great wide world, if indicated only by the soap's continued presence upon the airwaves. To them, General Hospital: Night Shift is probably less the satisfying spin-off hoped, and more a necessary evil to continue story lines of beloved characters, even if they are frustratingly inconsistent.
For everyone else, best not to bother: outside of some minor T&A, this DVD is dead on arrival.
*beep* *beep* *beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep*
"Doctor, we're losing him! Stat!"
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Buena Vista
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 530 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "On The Set At Night Shift"
* Official Site