Just what the doctor ordered?


Anthony Geary, best known as Luke of Luke-and-Laura fame is back.

And Geary's producers believe his new character is going to be the great, blue-collar hero of daytime television. Or, maybe, anti-hero: it's a matter of definitions, say Geary and the producers.

Geary returns today to ABC's "General Hospital," the soap opera DTC he left in 1984. He returns as a cousin of Luke Spencer, the character he took to the cover of Newsweek in 1981 when Luke married Laura, the woman he had earlier raped on the dance floor of an empty discotheque. The cousin's name is Bill Eckert, and he's a machinist.

The blue-collar business is intentional and important, according to Geary and Glory Monty, the new-old executive producer of "General Hospital," which airs at 3 p.m. on Channel 13. ABC has rehired Monty, who had left the soap after leading it to ratings glory. Her mandate: Revive the slumping show.

Monty thinks she has figured out a big part of how to fill that tall order. She and much of the rest of Hollywood have discovered there's a recession out there in America. She believes reflecting the economic realities viewers are facing will make them want to watch her show.

"I strongly believe there's a change in our whole philosophy of going from the '70s and '80s and the plush society we were all living in," Monty said at a press conference last month. "So we're [going to be] doing more with working people. . . . We will go to the blue collar."

Which is where Geary comes in as the machinist-cousin of Luke Spencer.

Geary offered his analysis of Luke Spencer and Spencer's appeal at the same press conference.

"Luke Spencer was a grab bag of emotions and directions," Geary said. "And I think he sort of became a minor icon of anti-heroism in the '80s and in many ways represented a lot of what was bad with the decade as far as I'm concerned.

"He was violent. He was greedy. He was a chauvinist. He was arrogant. And playing him for five years was very taxing.

"At the same time, he was romantic and he was sensitive."

Geary said his new character, Eckert, will have little in common with Luke Spencer. He says that's one of the things -- along with a million-dollar contract -- that brought him back.

"When she [Monty] told me that she wanted me to play another character, not go back as the same person, that was what really excited me," Geary said. "The woman who created him said let's get rid of him for once and for all."

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