With a resume including a long-running prime-time series and feature films, actress Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo won't apologize for going back to daytime.
"If it were left up to me, I'd camp out here forever," says Giovinazzo, who has returned to "General Hospital" (3 p.m. EST weekdays, ABC) after a six-year run on NBC's "Las Vegas" and a film career including "The Rock" with Nicolas Cage. "For me, it's always about scheduling. I'm bicoastal. But I have always been vocal about (‘General Hospital') being my favorite job ever."
Giovinazzo, 42, has played heroine Brenda Barrett on the soap since 1993, but has had several years when she was off doing other projects. Six months ago, she popped back up on "GH," and the writers have placed her firmly as its lead actress.
Even in the world of soaps, Brenda has been a particularly unusual character. She's been to the altar several times but only technically married once. That alone makes Brenda a standout in a genre that relishes multiple marriages.
(Spoiler alert!) On Tuesday, after nearly 17 years of an on-again, off-again relationship with mobster Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), Brenda and Sonny will finally say "I do."
The wedding will be seen over a seven-day period, and it took more than a week to shoot. The bride will wear Oscar de le Renta. In typical soap fashion, Brenda will have many trials to overcome as she walks down the aisle.
Giovinazzo won't say that this time on the show has been easy. "We used to shoot one episode a day," she says. "Now, we can sometimes shoot up to three or four episodes in one day. When I was here before (nine years ago), we used to shoot 28 scenes in one day.
"Now we can shoot up to 60 scenes."
The economics of making a daytime soap and the dwindling viewership are factors in why so many scenes are produced in one day. Such a pace isn't for the faint-hearted, for sure.
Movie actor James Franco has had a recurring role on "GH" for more than a year (and is returning to the show Friday and Feb. 28) because he likes the challenges of soap work.
Despite such a grueling workload, Giovinazzo isn't complaining. She likes seeing how far she can push herself.
"That's the beauty of this (genre)," she says. "It's like live TV or theater. It's like getting paid to go to acting class."
Other highlights for the week of Feb. 20-26:
"The Sunset Limited" (2:15 p.m., HBO). The Cormac McCarthy play, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, delves into the life perspectives of two men who couldn't be more different.
"The Amazing Race" (8 p.m., CBS). Eleven teams consisting of former contestants are back to settle "unfinished business," which means more backstabbing, international style.
"Saturday Night Live: Backstage" (9 p.m., NBC). This behind-the-scenes documentary reveals what it takes to put together this live comedy show every week. As one-time host Betty White explained recently, it's a lot of people grabbing at your clothes during commercial breaks and shoving a bad wig on your head for the next sketch.
"Worst Cooks in America: Season 2" (9 p.m., Food Network). In the season-two finale, the remaining hopeless cooks endure a culinary boot camp to the bitter end in hopes of learning their way around a kitchen.
"World's Deadliest Towns" (8 p.m., Animal Planet). This miniseries looks at three cities in which the residents are in "extreme mortal combat" with the animals around them, says the cable channel. Killer elephants, hippos and tigers! Oh my!
"The Amanda Knox Story" (9 p.m., Lifetime). The cable channel for women has found itself under fire for this movie about the American exchange student (played by Hayden Panettiere) accused by Italian authorities of murder.
"The Real Housewives of Miami" (10 p.m., Bravo). Does anyone expect these Floridians to be well-behaved? Of course not. If anything, they can blame the heat on their outrageous manner.
"America's Next Top Model" (8 p.m., CW). Fourteen new faces vie for a professional modeling contract, representation and a classy magazine cover. All they have to do is give away their dignity in front of millions who are watching.
"Thurgood" (9 p.m., HBO). Laurence Fishburne stars in this one-man show about the civil-rights lawyer and Supreme Court justice.
"Hall of Game Awards" (7 p.m., Cartoon Network). The cable channel's first sports-awards ceremony honors male and female athletes, alternative games and even anthems and mascots.