Thursday, September 20, 2018

“Love in the Afternoon”: The Nurse’s Station

The nurse’s station on General Hospital has always been the center of gossip and intrigue on the show since the very beginning when it was manned by Nurse Jessie Brewer.

Nurse Jessie supervised the goings on at General Hospital from the very beginning until the actress portraying her (Emily MacLaughlin) passed away. Always wearing her trademark sweater, Nurse Jessie was ready for anything and often served as a reliable source of gossip. (This was years before HIPAA.) In her later years, Emily often revealed some of the show’s secrets- for example, her trademark sweater wasn’t a fashion choice. The set was very cold and Emily was often just sitting or standing at the nurse’s station during her scenes. Therefore, she began wearing the sweater for practical reasons, offering to take it off while filming. The producers, however, thought it looked good with her ensemble so it became an important part of her wardrobe. The biggest secret, however, was why there was a nurse’s station to begin with- and it probably isn’t the reason you’re probably thinking.

Originally, ABC and the show’s sponsors felt that the show’s audience wouldn’t remember key plot points or scenes past a couple weeks. If audiences became confused about what was going on, ABC feared that they would tune out. That’s why many soap operas featured clunky scenes where a character would tell another character something they should have already known. For example- “As you know, Monica- your aunt- is the sole manager of our Quartermaine Family trust.” How could this explanatory dialogue become less clunky? By having it spoken by gossipy nurses! For example- “Did you hear? Ned’s aunt Monica is the sole manager of the Quartermaine Family Trust! I bet that must be awkward!” While the explanatory dialogue could still become repetitive, having it repeated by gossipy nurses made it feel slightly more natural.