General Hospital (commonly abbreviated GH) is an American daytime television medical drama and soap opera that is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running American soap opera in production and the third longest-running drama in television in American history after Guiding Light and As the World Turns. Concurrently, it is the world's third longest-running scripted drama series in production after British serials The Archers and Coronation Street, as well as the world's second-longest-running televised soap opera still in production. General Hospital premiered on the ABC television network on April 1, 1963. Same-day broadcasts as well as classic episodes were aired on SOAPnet from January 20, 2000 to December 31, 2013, following Disney-ABC's decision to discontinue the network. General Hospital is the longest-running serial produced in Hollywood, and the longest-running entertainment program in ABC television history. It holds the record for most Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, with 13 wins.
The show was created by husband-and-wife soap writers Frank and Doris Hursley, who originally set it in a general hospital (hence the title), in an unnamed fictional city. In the 1970s, the city was named Port Charles, New York. From its beginning, General Hospital starred John Beradino and Emily McLaughlin, and both actors stayed with the show until their deaths in 1996 and 1991 respectively. They were joined a year later by Rachel Ames who remains to date the longest serving actress on an ABC soap opera, having been continuously on the show from 1964 to 2007. General Hospital was the second soap to air on ABC (after the short-lived Road to Reality, which aired for several months during the 1960–61 season). In 1964, a sister soap was created for General Hospital, The Young Marrieds; it ran for two years, and was canceled because of low ratings. General Hospital also spawned a primetime spinoff with the same name in the United Kingdom from 1972 to 1979, as well as the daytime series Port Charles (1997–2003) and the primetime spin-off General Hospital: Night Shift (2007–2008) in the United States. Taped at The Prospect Studios, General Hospital aired for a half-hour until July 23, 1976. The series was expanded from 30 minutes to 45 minutes on July 26, 1976, and then to a full hour on January 16, 1978.
Ever since the late 1970s, most of the storylines have revolved around the Quartermaines and the Spencers. From 1979 to 1988, General Hospital had more viewers than any other daytime soap opera. It rose to the top of the ratings in the early 1980s in part thanks to the monumentally popular "supercouple" Luke and Laura, whose 1981 wedding brought in 30 million viewers and remains the highest-rated hour in American soap opera history. The soap opera is also known for its high-profile celebrity guest stars who have included, among others, Roseanne Barr, James Franco and the late Elizabeth Taylor. In 2007, the program was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." On April 23, 2009, General Hospital began broadcasting in high definition, making it the first ABC soap opera to make such a transition. The series aired its 13,000th episode on February 24, 2014.
General Hospital became the oldest American soap opera on September 17, 2010, following the final broadcast of CBS' As the World Turns. On April 14, 2011, ABC announced the cancellation of both All My Children and One Life to Live, leaving General Hospital as the last remaining soap opera airing on the network after January 13, 2012. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary on April 1, 2013.
General Hospital was created by Frank and Doris Hursley and premiered on April 1, 1963. The first stories were mainly set on the seventh floor of General Hospital, in an unnamed midsize Eastern city (the name of the city, Port Charles, would not be mentioned until the late 1970s). "They had this concept of the show that it was like a big wagon wheel – the spokes would be the characters and the hub would be the hospital," John Beradino (Steve Hardy) later reflected to Entertainment Weekly in 1994.
Launched in 1963, the first stories were mainly set at General Hospital in an unnamed midsized Eastern city. The name of the city, Port Charles, would not be mentioned until 1976 by headwriters Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock. Storylines revolved around Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) and his friend, Nurse Jessie Brewer (Emily McLaughlin). Jessie's turbulent marriage to the much-younger Dr. Phil Brewer (originally portrayed by Roy Thinnes; lastly by Martin West) was the center of many early storylines. In 1964 Audrey March (Rachel Ames), a flight attendant and sister of Nurse Lucille (Lucille Wall), came to town, and was the woman who won Steve's heart.
By the end of the 1970s, General Hospital was facing dire ratings when executive producer Gloria Monty was brought in to turn the show around. Monty is credited with creation of the first supercouple, Luke Spencer and Laura Webber, played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis. The end of their hour wedding on November 17, 1981 was the most-watched event in daytime serial history. During the 1980s, the series featured several high-profile action, adventure, and some science fiction-based storylines. Location shooting at sites including Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; Niagara Falls; Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Big Bear and Avalon (Catalina Island), California; and San Antonio, Texas are some that propelled the story.
After Gloria Monty first left the series in 1987, General Hospital entered into a transitional phase that lasted until Wendy Riche took the position of executive producer in 1992. Under Riche, the show gained critical acclaim for its sensitive handling of social issues. In 1994, Riche started an annual Nurses' Ball, a fundraiser and AIDS awareness event both on the show and in real life. Later that year, a heart transplant storyline involves the death of eight-year-old B. J. Jones (daughter of Dr. Tony Jones and R.N. Bobbie Spencer) in a bus crash and the subsequent donation of her heart to her dying cousin Maxie Jones. Shortly afterwards, Monica Quartermaine (Leslie Charleson) begins a long battle with breast cancer, which leads to her adopting Emily Quartermaine, the orphaned young daughter of Monica's friend from treatment. General Hospital was also praised for the love story of teenagers Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) and Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough). After a struggle that lasted throughout most of 1995, Stone dies from AIDS at the age of 19 and his death is followed by 17-year-old Robin having to deal with being HIV-positive as a result of their relationship. Sutton received a nomination for the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and McCullough won an Outstanding Younger Actress award. ABC featured an Afterschool Special "Positive: A Journey Into AIDS" revolving around the AIDS story as well as The New York Times best selling novel Robin's Diary.
On Saturday, December 14, 1996, General Hospital aired its one of three primetime episodes, General Hospital: Twist of Fate, which picked up where that Friday's episode had left off. The special centered on Laura's supposed death at the hands of Stefan Cassadine. In 1997, the show's long-rumored spin-off materialized into the half-hour serial, Port Charles. The series' 11,000th episode aired on February 20, 2006. On April 23, 2009, General Hospital became ABC's first regular daytime drama to be taped and broadcast in high definition, though the 2008 season of its primetime spinoff General Hospital: Night Shift was in high definition. This is the second daytime drama to move to high definition after CBS's The Young and the Restless. On February 23, 2010, the series aired its 12,000th episode. On December 1, 2011, ABC confirmed that former One Life to Live executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati would replace longtime executive producer Jill Farren-Phelps and Garin Wolf respectively, though Wolf would remain on as a regular writer. The change took effect on January 9, 2012. The first episode under the direction of Valentini aired in February 1, 2012 and Carlivati's material started airing on February 21, 2012. Several storylines reminiscent of iconic story arcs of the past were created and popular characters returned to the show in order to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the series in 2013. The series marked its 51st anniversary on April 1, 2014. The series marked its 52nd anniversary on April 1, 2015 with a special episode revolving around the Spencer family.
General Hospital has aired on ABC Television and has been filmed in Hollywood since its inception. The show was filmed in the Sunset Gower Studios from 1963 to the mid-1980s. It relocated in the 1980s to The Prospect Studios, where it remains.
General Hospital has had a number of different distributors throughout the show's history, From its beginning until 1968, it was a co-production of ABC-Paramount and Selmur Productions. ABC would later buy the series outright in 1968 and its owner passed from Selmur to American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., ABC's old separate conglomerate. Ownership of the soap was then passed when the original ABC, Inc. merged with Capital Cities Communications in 1985 and it became Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. The show would change hands again when The Walt Disney Company bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1996 and Disney began to program the network and the soap in September 1997 where it remains to this day.
Though the series originally focused on solely the medical staff at Port Charles' General Hospital, and starred John Beradino as Dr. Steve Hardy and Emily McLaughlin as Nurse Jessie Brewer, the series branched out and began to focus more on the people and families of the town of Port Charles rather than those solely in the hospital.
Port Charles is full of "dysfunctional family dynamics...and family drama remains the focal point of this town." The current families on the show include the quarreling and wealthy Quartermaine family, the mobster crime Corinthos family, the middle class Scorpio/Jones family, the aristocratic Cassadine family, and the adventurous Spencer family.
Main crew members
- Producers: Frank Valentini (executive producer), Mercer Barrows, Michelle Henry, Mary-Kelly Weir
- Directing team: Scott McKinsey, Craig McManus, William Ludel, Phideaux Xavier, Penny Pengra, Larry Carpenter, Christine Magarian, Peter Fillmore, Dave MacLeod
- Head writer: Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman
- Associate head writer: Elizabeth Korte
- Breakdown writers: Chris Van Etten, Anna Theresa Cascio, Katherine Schock, Christopher Whitesell, Janet Iacobuzio
- Script writers: Scott Sickles, Suzanne Flynn, Andrea Archer Compton, Elizabeth Korte
- Casting director: Mark Teschner
Former notable crew members: Gloria Monty, Jill Farren Phelps, Robert Guza, Jr., Charles Pratt Jr., John William Corrington, Lewis Arlt, Lynda Myles, Alan Pultz, Judith Pinsker, Joseph Behar, Stephanie Braxton, Norma Monty, Frank South, Ralph Ellis, Shelley Curtis, Hope Harmel Smith, Michael Conforti, Michele Val Jean and Ron Carlivati.
|Selig J. Seligman||1963|
|Gloria Monty||1978–87, 1991–92|
|H. Wesley Kenney||1987–89|
|Jill Farren Phelps||2001–12|
Since the series began in 1963, Port Charles, New York, has been the setting for the show. The town exists in the same fictional universe as other soap opera settings such as Llanview (One Life to Live), Pine Valley (All My Children), New York City (Ryan's Hope), and Corinth (Loving). The same setting was also used for the show's spinoff Port Charles.
- General Hospital is founded by Dr. Steve Hardy. It is a major employer in the city, and one of the largest medical facilities on the East Coast. In the 1990s, Sonny Corinthos donates an extra wing dedicated to AIDS research, and in the 2000s, Carly Corinthos donates a pediatric center for head neurology. In 2009, a fire destroys the hospital, which is rebuilt with money from the Quartermaine family.
- The Metro Court is a prominent hotel in Port Charles, built by Jasper Jacks on the site of the Port Charles Hotel after it is destroyed in a fire in 2004, and named in honor of Courtney Matthews who Jax was pursuing romantically. Carly Corinthos soon becomes his business partner, and later co-owns with Kate Howard when Jax sells his portion to her. The hotel boasts a skyline restaurant, spa, penthouse suites, and business offices.
- Kelly's Diner is founded by Joe "Paddy" Kelly, and becomes a vintage restaurant in the heart of Port Charles. It features boarding rooms upstairs which become homes to many Port Charles residents and guests over the years. The restaurant is operated by Paddy's wife Rose Kelly after his death, who later sells it to Ruby Anderson when Rose leaves town. When Ruby dies, she leaves the diner to her niece Bobbie Spencer and nephew Luke Spencer.
- The Haunted Star is a yacht first owned by Luke Spencer, who receives the vessel as a wedding present in 1981. In 2003, the ship is turned into a casino by Luke and investors Skye Chandler and Tracy Quartermaine. In 2011, Luke's daughter Lulu Spencer purchases the boat, and in 2012 Johnny Zacchara invests to become co-owner. Together they turn the ship into a nightclub.
- The Floating Rib is a bar located in downtown Port Charles, just a block away from General Hospital. Originally named Jake's, the bar has been a hotspot for the local nightlife since the early 1990s. Coleman Ratcliffe becomes the owner in 2002, and Mac Scorpio takes over in 2012. There was also a popular fine dining restaurant in Port Charles with the same name in the late 1970s / early 1980s.
|Start date||End date||Time slot|
|April 1, 1963||December 27, 1963||1:00 pm||30|
|December 30, 1963||July 23, 1976||3:00 pm|
|July 26, 1976||January 13, 1978||3:15 pm||45|
|January 16, 1978||September 7, 2012||3:00 pm||60|
|September 10, 2012||Present||2:00 pm|
Accolades and recognition
General Hospital's cast and crew have won many awards since 1974 when the Daytime Emmy Awards were created. In 2012, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards were created. General Hospital has won 13 Daytime Emmy's for Outstanding Drama Series.
During the 1960s, General Hospital earned decent ratings against the likes of To Tell the Truth and The Secret Storm on CBS, but there was a decline as the 1970s came, especially when NBC's Another World became highly popular. For two years, it also faced CBS' The Price Is Right, already a major hit. After continued mediocrity in the Nielsen ratings, ABC was prepared to cancel General Hospital, but decided to give it a second chance in 1977 when it expanded the show to a full hour, from an experimental 45 minutes. However, the expansion came with an ultimatum to the producers that they had six months to improve the show's ratings. Gloria Monty was hired as the new executive producer, and on her first day, she spent an extra $100,000 re-taping four episodes. A miracle occurred thanks to Monty and head writer Douglas Marland; the show became the most watched daytime drama by 1979, marking a rare instance of a daytime serial's comeback from near-extinction. During the wedding of Luke and Laura Spencer on November 17, 1981, about 30 million people tuned in to watch them exchange vows and be cursed by Elizabeth Taylor's Helena Cassadine (later played by Constance Towers).
From 1979 to 1988, General Hospital remained number one in the ratings, competing against two low-rated soaps on NBC -- Texas and Santa Barbara—and Guiding Light on CBS (although Guiding Light experienced a renaissance for a brief period in the middle of 1984, and became the #1 rated soap, briefly dethroning General Hospital from the top ratings spot). For the most part, however, General Hospital continued to triumph, even after the departure of popular actors Anthony Geary and Genie Francis in the mid-1980s. Although The Young and the Restless took General Hospital's place as the highest-rated serial in 1989, General Hospital continued to maintain excellent ratings.
Even at its peak in the 1980s, General Hospital had been pre-empted in at least two markets in the United States. With the show still number one in the Nielsens, WDTN in Dayton, Ohio canceled General Hospital in May 1983 in favor of Woody Woodpecker and SuperFriends cartoons. Later, the station would air such shows as Hour Magazine, Geraldo and Maury in the show's time slot until September 2000, when the station's new owners, Sunrise Broadcasting, pulled Maury from the station's schedule, due to what it called "community standards", and brought General Hospital back. In Vermont and Plattsburgh, WVNY dropped General Hospital from the schedule in the 1980s and would only bring it back in 1995. During that hiatus, General Hospital still aired on Montreal's CFCF-TV, whose signal was decently available in Vermont and Plattsburgh.
Ever since the 1991-1992 season of General Hospital, the show has had a steady decline in ratings. On and off, it would rank between third and fifth place in the Nielsen Ratings, with CBS's The Young And The Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful coming in first and second place, respectively. General Hospital remained in between third and fifth place in the ratings during that time and from late 1991 to 1996 All My Children held the title of ABC's highest rated soap. During the 1990s General Hospital was put up against competition such as CBS's As the World Turns and NBC's Days of our Lives although neither show aired at the same time as General Hospital.
After months of speculation and cancellation rumors, Deadline.com reported on April 11, 2012 that ABC quietly made the decision to keep General Hospital on the air and to cancel instead the lower-rated talk show The Revolution. On June 26, 2012, ABC officially announced that General Hospital would move to the 2 p.m. (ET) timeslot starting on September 10, 2012, once Katie Couric's new syndicated talk show, Katie, would begin to air in the 3 p.m. (ET) timeslot on many of ABC's local stations. This represents the first schedule shifting for a daytime soap opera in the United States since CBS relocated As the World Turns from 1:30 p.m. (ET) to 2 p.m. (ET) in 1987.
Encore episodes were shown every weeknight on the former cable station SOAPnet, with a marathon on Saturday and classic episodes at 4 A.M. EST and 5 A.M. (3.AM, 4 A.M. CST).
Due to the cancellation of Katie for the 2014-15 season, beginning in September 2014 some ABC stations moved General Hospital back to its 3:00 p.m. time slot, including WLS in Chicago, KTRK in Houston, WTVD in Raleigh-Durham, WABC-TV in New York City, KABC in Los Angeles, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, KSAT in San Antonio, and KGO in San Francisco.
For historical ratings information, see List of U.S. daytime soap opera ratings
- Years as #1 series
|1987–1988||8.1 (Tied with The Young and the Restless)|
- Highest-rated week in daytime history (November 16–20, 1981)
- (Household ratings, Nielsen Media Research)
|Serial||Household rating||(Time slot) Network||Millions of households|
|1. General Hospital||16.0||(3-4pm) ABC||17.5|
|2. All My Children||10.2||(1-2pm) ABC||11.7|
|3. One Life to Live||10.2||(2-3pm) ABC||11.6|
|4. Guiding Light||7.9||(3-4pm) CBS||8.2|
The popularity of General Hospital has gained it many parodies and references in other mainstream programs. For example, in the early 1990s, some episodes of General Hospital were featured as "shorts" during the fourth season of the parody show Mystery Science Theater 3000. The series was also parodied/homaged in the song General Hospi-Tale by The Afternoon Delights, and in the film Tootsie, which took place among the cast and crew of a fictional soap opera program. In the Fox medical drama House, Dr. House enjoys Prescription: Passion, which is an over-the-top parody of General Hospital that he watches constantly. In the season three episode, "Half-Wit", House hides his blood test results under the name, "Luke N. Laura", referring to General Hospital's legendary couple. MADtv did a sketch on the series with actors Jacklyn Zeman, Rebecca Herbst, and Jacob Young. The movie Young Doctors in Love featured a large part of General Hospital's cast from 1982. In a 2010 episode of The Colbert Report, comedian Stephen Colbert poked fun at the show, responding to a clip of Maurice Benard's Sonny shooting Dominic Zamprogna's Dante, satirically screaming "Sonny shot Dante! No!"
General Hospital has many famous fans, including Wayne Gretzky and his wife, Janet Jones, along with The Sopranos actor Vincent Pastore, who would join the show in late 2008 for a short guest stint. World-renowned skier Kristi Leskinen is a devout fan of the show, along with actor Jason Gray-Stanford and singer Billy Currington. Freestyle motocross rider Mike Metzger is also a fan of the program, and rarely misses an episode. Elizabeth Taylor to be a part of Luke and Laura's 1981 wedding, and joined the cast temporarily as the originating Helena Cassadine. Princess Diana was a devout fan of the show, and went as far as to send two bottles of Bollinger champagne to Anthony Geary and Genie Francis in time for Luke and Laura's 1981 wedding. Geary turned his into a lamp. General Hospital helped launch the singing career of Rick Springfield, who had watched the show for many years before joining the series in 1981. Comedian Jimmy Pardo frequently refers to his fandom on his podcast Never Not Funny, and has had stars of the show such as Jack Wagner, Carolyn Hennesy and Jason Thompson on the podcast as guests.
Spinoffs and specials
The success of the long-running soap opera has had one sister serial, one spinoff in the United States, and two primetime spinoffs in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Young Marrieds was ABC's first attempt at a sister serial for General Hospital. It ran for only two years, racking up a total of 380 episodes. Despite its moderate popularity, it was aired against CBS's top-rated The Edge of Night, which it could not compete against. The series finale aired on March 25, 1966, with the show's main protagonist contemplating suicide. It ended in a cliffhanger, leaving the audience wondering if the man had killed himself or not. The Young Marrieds was set in the fictional suburb of Queen's Point, which was considered by the writers to be a suburb of Port Charles.
The UK series General Hospital did not feature any characters from the American show, but was modeled after its format. It started as a half-hour program broadcast in the afternoons, which was unusual for British serials that normally aired in prime time. In 1975, it was expanded to an hour-long format and moved to Friday evenings.
Port Charles was a daytime drama that initially featured interns in a competitive medical school program, and was known for having more action actually in the hospital than General Hospital itself. It also included the characters of Scotty Baldwin. Serena Baldwin, Lucy Coe, Kevin Collins, and Karen Wexler, all of whom originally appeared as characters on General Hospital. As the show evolved, it tended more towards gothic intrigue, including supernatural elements such as vampires and life after death. It also switched formats from an open-ended daytime serial to 13-week story arcs known as "books", similar to Spanish language telenovelas.
General Hospital: Night Shift is the second American prime time spinoff of a daytime drama (the first being Our Private World, a spinoff of As the World Turns). Its first season aired from July 12, 2007 to October 4, 2007 on SOAPnet, a cable channel owned by ABC. The series follows the nighttime adventures of familiar and new characters around the hospital. As of March 2008, the first season of the series was "SOAPnet's most-watched series ever", with ABC Daytime and SOAPnet President Brian Frons noting that Night Shift drew more than 1 million new viewers to the channel during its first season.
General Hospital: Twist of Fate was a primetime special that aired on Saturday, December 14, 1996. The episode picked up where that Friday's show had left off. The special centered on Laura's supposed death at the hands of Stefan Cassadine.
On April 2, 1998, General Hospital aired a primetime special in celebration of the program's 35th anniversary. Hosted by Anthony Geary, the show focused and recapped on many popular storylines including Monica's breast cancer, BJ's death, and Stone's battle with HIV. This was the first anniversary special that was broadcast in primetime and that didn't include any of the current storyline.
General Hospital: The Real Soap Dish was a special episode of ABC news program 20/20 aired on April 6, 2013, in honor of General Hospital's 50th anniversary. It focused on the entire history of the soap, including interviews of stars and clips from the series.
On September 5, 2014, General Hospital Now was announced as a new Variety Show/Soap web series airing exclusively on ABC.com hosted by longtime cast member Nancy Lee Grahn featuring appearances by the rest of the General Hospital Cast as well as Special Guests beginning in January 2015.