History of General Hospital

History of General Hospital

History of General Hospital refers to the long-running American soap opera "General Hospital".

The Early Years (1963-1969)

The first stories were mainly set at General Hospital in an unnamed mid-sized Eastern city (the name of the city, Port Charles, would not be mentioned until the 1970s), revolving around Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) and his friend, Nurse Jessie Brewer (Emily McLaughlin). Steve was Chief Of Internal Medicine on the hospital's seventh floor and dedicated his life to healing and caring for the sick, ably assisted by Nurse Jessie. 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. Over the years, Phil became renowned for his philandering, with Jessie constantly forgiving her errant husband for his affairs. The seemingly never-ending cycle of separation and reconciliation between the two finally ended in 1974, when Dr. Phil Brewer was murdered.

Another nurse, Lucille March (Lucille Wall), brought her sister, flight attendant Audrey March (Rachel Ames) to town; slowly but surely, she romanced Dr. Hardy, eventually marrying him three times. While there was no overt tension, Jessie was disappointed as there had always been an air of sexual tension between her and Steve. It was never acted upon, as they remained close friends until Jessie (and actress Emily McLaughlin) died in 1991. Steve Hardy himself died five years later when his portrayer, John Beradino, died in 1996.

The Stagnant Years (1970-1979)

GH was glacially paced and low-rated in the earlier years, except for one relatively high-rated and fast-paced plot in 1971. In this storyline, Audrey was accused of murdering her son's babysitter and "General Hospital" was briefly elevated to the number one position, beating longtime ratings giant "As the World Turns". However, the success was short-lived. Due to relatively easygoing choices in storyline, the show almost always lost out to rival medical soap "The Doctors", which was considered by many to be more daring. TIME magazine panned "General Hospital" in 1976, and said that the acting performances were unremarkable and "antiseptic." The article went on to chide the show for its minimal budget for settings and props, calling it "not unlike a high school production," and noted that the serial's only saving grace was in the form of Dr. Lesley Williams (Denise Alexander).

When Douglas Marland objected to a planned storyline that had called for the virtuous Dr. Lesley Webber to cheat on her husband with David Hamilton, Marland was challenged to come up with an even better idea. As a result, Lesley rejected David's advances and the enraged suitor began sleeping with her sixteen-year-old daughter Laura Webber (Genie Francis) instead. This torrid affair culminated in Laura killing her older lover after discovering that he was only using her to get back at her mother. This storyline was successful and as a result, Laura became a major focus of the show. Laura's subsequent storyline, a love triangle involving her, Scott Baldwin, and Bobbie Spencer, was also a success, but soon the success of both stories would be overshadowed by a phenomenon that very few expected, when Laura crossed paths with Bobbie's brother Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary).

Faced with threats of cancellation in 1978 after several years of stagnant ratings, ABC Daytime executives gave GH six months to increase ratings and brought on Gloria Monty as Executive Producer. Monty had much experience in the genre from directing "The Secret Storm" for years. Under her tutelage, and the headwriting stints of Douglas Marland (who created longtime staples the Quartermaine and the Spencer family) and Pat Falken Smith, "General Hospital" bounced back from the brink and subsequently became the highest-rated American soap opera from 1979 to 1988. Monty stayed as Executive Producer until 1987, only to return briefly from 1991 to 1992, in a widely panned tenure during which she was accused of no longer being in touch with the daytime audience. Monty was fired in late 1991, then the equally controversial Wendy Riche come aboard.

Cultural Phenomenon & Supercouple Pairings (1980-1989)

The supercouple pairing of Luke Spencer and Laura Webber would eventually become the most popular storyline in soap opera history. Their November 16/17, 1981 wedding was watched by about 30 million people, making it the highest-rated episode of a soap opera in American television history. They were so popular that even Elizabeth Taylor wanted in on the action, she guest-starred as Helena Cassadine and adorned People Weekly magazine with Francis and Geary. Luke and Laura's relationship was not without some controversy, as Luke had raped her in 1979. Laura was traumatized and went to counseling, but after her popularity with Luke flourished, she claimed the rape was "seduction." In 1998, the issue was revisited and Laura finally admitted to herself that Luke had raped her. The success of Luke and Laura led General Hospital (and other soap operas) to try and emulate the formula. GH was very successful in creating pairings, and after Luke and Laura, other 80s pairings were popular:

*Robert Scorpio & Holly Sutton (Tristan Rogers & Emma Samms)
*Duke Lavery & Anna Devane (Ian Buchanan & Finola Hughes)
*Frisco Jones & Felicia Cummings (Jack Wagner & Kristina Wagner)

Ex-head writer Pat Falken Smith and her team of six other scribes angrily quit the show in August 1981 after repeated battles with Gloria Monty and jumped to NBC's "Days of Our Lives". "Gloria's a genius - who runs a Gestapo operation," sniped Falken Smith in a 1981 People Weekly interview. It should be noted that during Summer 1981, GH was averaging 14 million viewers per episode. The show's focus began to drift away from the original hospital setting onto a series of action/adventure plots, most of which were highly successful with the show's audience. The introduction of the WSB spy agent Robert Scorpio (and later fellow agents Sean Donely and Anna Devane)led to several popular spy mysteries involving secret formulas, hidden treasures and world domination schemes. A few of these plots were widely considered preposterous, such as the 1981 storyline in which Luke, Laura and Robert saved the town of Port Charles from being placed under a deep freeze by maniacal Mikkos Cassadine. Another far fetched storyline occurred in 1990 when Robin Scorpio (Robert Scorpio and Anna Devane's daughter) befriended Casey Rogers, an alien from the planet Lumina.

The series also launched the media career of fitness instructor Richard Simmons, who frequently appeared as himself.

The Transition (1990-1999)

In the 1990s, General Hospital entered a transitional phase as the action/adventure storylines of the 1980s became less popular. During this period, the show lost major stars such as Finola Hughes (Anna Devane) and Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio), and the much-heralded return of Anthony Geary as Luke Spencer's identical cousin Bill Eckert in 1991 was seen as a failure.

Eventually, in 1993, Anthony Geary would reprise his famous role of Luke Spencer, along with Genie Francis who reprised her role as Luke's wife Laura Spencer. Along with the reprisal of Luke and Laura came the addition of their ten year old son, Lucky Spencer, played by newcomer Jonathan Jackson.

In 1994, Anthony Geary and Genie Francis were invited to appear on an episode of "Roseanne", as Luke and Laura. The couple would race through her house 'on the run', as Roseanne was a huge fan of General Hospital. In return, (Roseanne Arnold) and her then husband, (Tom Arnold) were invited to a storyline on General Hospital. Roseanne portraying Jennifer Smith, Luke's ex-love interest and daughter of mob boss Frank Smith.

The return of Luke and Laura marked the beginning of a creative renaissance for the show. Through the efforts of executive producer Wendy Riche and Head Writer Claire Labine, the show gained critical acclaim for its sensitive handling of social issues, most notable of which were the heart transplant storyline which involved the death of eight-year-old BJ 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, Dr. Monica Quartermaine (Leslie Charleson) began a long battle with breast cancer, which led to her adopting Emily Bowen, a young girl who had been orphaned when her mother died of breast cancer.

GH was also praised for yet another storyline in the form of the beautiful but tragic love story of teenagers Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) and Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough). After a struggle that lasted throughout most of 1995, Stone died from AIDS at the age of 19 and his death was followed by storylines in which 17 year old Robin had to deal with being HIV-positive as a result of her and Stone's relationship. The storyline got Sutton a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor and won MccCullogh an Outstanding Younger Actress award.

Problems began to arise again around 1995 and 1996, when the show lost more than a million viewers. All the soaps lost ground at this time, but particular scrutiny was placed upon GH for the succession of grim stories involving BJ, Monica, and Stone. As a result, they dropped plans to give Audrey Hardy Alzheimer's Disease. However, the show remained popular and a long-rumored spin-off (which was tentatively titled "GH2") materialized in 1997 into the half-hour soap "Port Charles". From 1993 to 1997, the show produced what many consider the last major supercouple (in terms of popularity) on daytime television, in the form of mobster Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) and Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil). The hot couple's passion and heartbreak kept viewers glued to every episode like Luke and Laura did a decade before. Later, Brenda's relationship with corporate raider Jasper/Jax Jacks (Ingo Rademacher) gave "General Hospital"one of the hottest love triangle in the show's history. However, the departure of Vanessa Marcil in 1998 dealt the creative team at "General" "Hospital" a major blow.

The last major storyline of the 1990s occurred in 1998, with the revisit of Luke's (Anthony Geary) long ago rape of his now-wife Laura (Genie Francis). Head Writer Robert Guza Jr. decided that Luke and his son, Lucky Spencer (Jonathan Jackson), needed to have a major wedge driven between them, and out of this came the idea that Lucky would find out that his father had raped his mother. The storyline also featured what many consider the last great young love story on the show; in the form of Lucky Spencer and Elizabeth Webber (Rebecca Herbst). Lucky found Elizabeth, a victim of rape, in the park on February 14 1998, and their close friendship eventually blossomed into a pure, powerful romance. Lucky wanted nothing to do with his parents when his half-brother, Nikolas Cassadine (Tyler Christopher), revealed the rape. The ensuing storyline won Daytime Emmys for Jackson, Geary, the writers, the directors, and the show. The nine-minute monologue Luke deliverers to Lucky telling him about the night of the rape, without commercial interruption, is considered one of the greatest moments in soap opera history.

Robert Guza Jr., a former GH script writer, returned and became Head Writer in 1996, and zeroed in on the mob and the popularity of Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard). Guza came and went several times during December 1997 through December 2000, then returned for good on June 13 2002. Riche left in early 2001 and was replaced by the controversial Jill Farren Phelps.

New millennium, Mob Era (2000-present)


At the beginning of the new millennium, Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) would gain a new love interest in the form of Carly Benson Jacks (Sarah Brown) after previous efforts to pair him up after the departure of his longtime love interest Brenda Barrett (Vanessa Marcil) who supposedly died in 1998, failed. The popularity of the Sonny and Carly coupling remained even after Carly's original portrayer, Sarah Brown left the show in 2001 and was replaced by Tamara Braun. Eventually though, the enormous amount of airtime that the duo (along with those in their immediate circle) received only served to polarize the audience. In particular, criticism was leveled at the amount of airtime that was devoted to the various mob storylines that these characters were involved in.

In 2001, a bus accident disrupted The Nurses Ball 2001, an annual event for AIDS research. The event has yet to return to GH.


GH aired its 10,000th episode on April 17 2002, with an episode that revolved around the show's only longest running cast member, Audrey Hardy (Rachel Ames), celebrating her 10,000th shift as a nurse at the hospital. The episode was notable for showcasing much of GH's long history in a series of clips and montages, but shortly afterwards, the show would soon be accused of forgetting its history and veteran characters.

Trouble had been brewing for quite some time (due to the increasing amount of focus on Sonny and the mob), but it really became apparent after the abrupt departure of Genie Francis (Laura Spencer) in 2002 under controversial circumstances, the re-writing of history that angered many viewers to facilitate Ms. Francis's exit. However, ratings remained stable after Francis' departure and even climbed because Vanessa Marcil returned as Brenda Barrett in a five-month stint which lasted into the early months of 2003.

After more than 35 years, Rachel Ames, who played Audrey Hardy, was taken off contract and removed from the opening credits, angering many longtime viewers. Around the same time, Brad Maule (Tony Jones) and Shell Kepler (Amy Vining) were also taken off contract. In 2004 Anna Lee was moved to recurring status after 25 years as Lila Quartermaine (Lee died soon after and some fans held the show responsible). At the same time, John Ingle, who had played Lila's husband, was fired from the show after landing the role of Mickey Horton on "Days of Our Lives", and he was replaced by Jed Allan. Kin Shriner was also let go, despite the fact that he had been with the show on and off since 1977. Other characters, such as Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman) and Felicia Jones (Kristina Wagner) became little more than extras, in spite of their years of popularity with fans.


Since 2004, General Hospital has been known for doing month-long Sweeps storylines that involve the ensemble cast in some sort of dangerous situation. Each November and February, General Hospital creates a storyline that brings the entire cast together into one setting which allows for the various characters storylines to intersect.

Two important but sensationalized storylines took place that many fans had divided opinions on. The first being the Port Charles Hotel Fire, which saw the majority of the cast trapped in a burning inferno during February sweeps. The second involved a masked serial killer terrorizing the Quartermaine mansion for five episodes. The serial killer storyline took place while the Olympic Games were screening on rival channel NBC and was widely seen as an attempt to lure NBC soap fans who were not interested in the Olympics to watch General Hospital, particularly as the serial killer storyline on General Hospital lampooned the recent serial killer storyline that had taken place on rival NBC soap "Days of Our Lives".

Another storyline involved Nikolas Cassadine being involved in a car accident. A serious head injury he wandered away from the accident and found himself on the doorstep of a heartbroken war widow, Mary Bishop. Mary's husband Connor, a Marine who was serving in Iraq, had been reported dead; when the amnesiac Nikolas literally showed up on her doorstep, the emotionally fragile Mary took advantage of the memory loss and convinced him that he was her husband. Mary and Nikolas lived together for months while most of the town still thought him dead. When Emily learns Nikolas is alive, she tries to make him see the truth. This causes Mary to kill Emily. Eventually this led to a confrontation between the three of them that resulted in Nikolas shooting Mary. Although the wound was not fatal, Mary later died in the hospital when her medications were switched.


This would end up being a year of change for General Hospital. After Tamara Braun left the series, the role of Carly was recast with former "One Life to Live" star, Jennifer Bransford. This move was not met well by fans. In May 2005, Kristina Wagner opted to leave the role of Felicia Jones because of scheduling conflicts with producers. She was replaced with former "Another World" star Sandra Ferguson. Maxie Jones was also recast with former "Days of our Lives" star Kirsten Storms taking over for Robyn Richards. These recasts led to the mediocre response to the storyline revisiting Maxie's heart transplant, which viewers felt would have been more meaningful had it been done by Wagner and Richards, the actors from the original storyline. Also, these changes, as well as a succession of violent storylines that included Emily's rape by Connor and young Michael Corinthos apparently murdering his own father sent the ratings falling, so more changes were made. Just as she was becoming more popular with viewers, Jennifer Bransford was let go and replaced by former "Guiding Light" actress Laura Wright.

Jax started to date Sonny's half-sister Courtney Matthews, recently removed from a relation with Jason Morgan. They have a sex bet where if Courtney could resist sleeping with Jax she would win $10 million. Courtney won the bet but soon afterward they did have sex. Since Courtney felt Jax wasn't paying her enough attention, she started to have a friendship with Nikolas Cassadine and started to bloom into a relationship. Courtney insisted to Jax she was not unfaithful, however later she did sleep with Nikolas. Courtney learned that she was pregnant with either of Jax's child or Nikolas's child. Unbeknownst to Courtney, Jax managed to change the paternity tests twice. Jax decided he wanted Courntey back but was unsuccessful; she wanted to be with Nikolas. Following, Courtney's death, Carly and Jax started to bond. Carly felt it was her duty to keep Courtney's memory alive for her baby. Carly and Jax decide to started to date.

November sweeps saw a train wreck storyline and Reese Marshall (Kari Wührer) was the only major character to die in this storyline. Wührer, a relative newcomer to the show, having only joined in February 2005, was let go due to lacking storyline between stars Maurice Benard and Rick Hearst. Wührer later decided to sue for discrimination, claiming that her pregnancy was the cause of her dismissal. On a brighter note, the popular Kimberly McCullough returned as Robin Scorpio, and a guest appearance by former star Rick Springfield as Dr Noah Drake, quickly turned into a recurring role. The show later attempted its first gay storyline as Lucas Jones, played by Ben Hogestyn began to come out to his friends and family, but the storyline was ultimately dropped when Lucas faded into the background of GH.


February sweeps saw another major ensemble cast storyline as the entire town was once again gathered in one central location. This time, the setting was at General Hospital as many of the main cast fell victim to a virus that began to afflict many major characters, causing them to be admitted to GH. In the end, it was revealed that the former character of Holly was responsible for the virus as part of a revenge scheme. Still, two major characters will killed off: Tony Jones and Courtney Matthews both died as a result of the virus, as well as minor characters such as Sam McCall's mentally handicapped brother Danny. The storyline also served as a catalyst for several other storylines, including a romance between Emily Quartermaine and Sonny Corinthos as well as the revelation that Alexis Davis is Sam McCall's mother.

The next November, Genie Francis returned to her role as Laura Spencer in a Sweeps storyline in which Laura was given a drug which would temporarily allow her to wake from her vegetative state and re-marry Luke Spencer on their 25th Anniversary. The storyline was hailed by critics and viewers as an outstanding success and Genie Francis later won her first Emmy for Best Supporting Actress.


February marked another ensemble Sweeps event as most of the town was held hostage at the Metro Court, the hotel that was built by Jasper Jacks and named after his then-wife Courtney Matthews following the Port Charles hotel fire of 2004. Now owned by both Jasper Jacks and Carly Corinthos, the Metro Court served as the scene for a 24 (tv show) style theme where viewers saw the ending of the storyline and then went back in time 14 hours as each episode accounted for one hour's time leading up to the ending that viewers saw on the first day of Sweeps. The storyline resulted in the death of Alan Quartermaine, a beloved fan favorite who later appeared as his sister Tracy's conscience.

In September 2007, a serial killer began feasting on the citizens of Port Charles. The Text Message Killer killed Leticia Juarez, Emily Quartermaine, Georgie Jones for revenge on past acts as well as attacking Carly due to the prior relationship with Lorenzo Alcazar.

In November 2007, Nikolas Cassadine threw a lavish Black and White Ball at Wyndemere on Spoon Island as an engagement announcement party for his fiance Emily Quartermaine. Once again, the entire cast found themselves in one 24 (tv show) style solid-sweeps storyline in which each episode spanned one full hour in time leading up to the ending. During the Ball, the characters once again found themselves in dangers as a murder spree began to take place. Emily Quartermaine ended up being strangled to death by the murderer, known to fans as the Text Message Killer.


The Text Message Killer storyline carried on into 2008 as the killer feasted on more residents. His first victim of the new year was Alexis Davis, who previously killed Luis Alcazar, but she became the second to survive the attack by TMK. TMK then hung Cooper Barrett who had evidence of TMK's whereabouts but his thought it was Lorenzo.

In February sweeps, TMK went on to go after the Sam McCall who shot in back in 2006. She became the third victim to survive TMK attacks. Kristina Davis became the ninth victim of TMK as she saw the killer's face but fell into a coma. The Text Message Killer went on to attack Elizabeth Webber, Max Giambetti, Lucky Spencer, Jason Morgan, Nadine Crowell and Nikolas Cassadine. In February it was revealed that Diego Alcazar was indeed the Text Message Killer.

Another major storyline involved Michael Corinthos. Due to the violence facing his family, Michael purchases a gun, and accidentally shoots Kate Howard, Sonny's girlfriend. Michael runs away, and when Carly retrieves him the two are caught in a warehouse explosion that causes Carly to lose the baby. Sonny tries to show Michael a life without mob violence, but Michael is shot by Ian Devlin in a plan orchestrated by Claudia Zacchara and Johnny Zacchara. Carly learns Michael is in a permanent coma, and she agonizes over her decision to put him into a long-term care facility outside of town. The fallout of the tragedy causes Sonny to leave the mob organization in May. After installing Michael at the facility, Carly and Sonny have sex, and Carly convinces him to give up parental rights to Morgan. Jax quells his doubts about his relationship with Carly who is angry to learn her husband shared a kiss with her rival, Kate Howard. When a photo falsely implying that Kate performed oral sex on Jax in a limo surfaces, Carly steps up her campaign against Kate by giving the media access to Kate's office and by anonymously implying that the fashionista slept her way to the top. In retaliation, Kate pretends that Carly has been keeping Jax away from business meetings. Jax, believing Kate, decides to separate from his wife, despite Carly's insistence that she is innocent.

The second storyline involves a murder pact involving Lulu Spencer and Johnny Zacchara. Logan Hayes attacks Maxie Jones in Kate Howards office after being rejected by Lulu. After he knocks her out cold, Logan looks up and spots Lulu, who had been watching everything from Johnny's apartment balcony across the street. He leaves Maxie and rushes over to Lulu's house, determined to get her back. Lulu freaks and tries to call Lucky, but he doesn't answer. Lulu freezes when Logan starts pounding on the door. Lulu tries to get a weapon and keeps Logan talking behind the locked door. Logan knocks the door in with an axe as Lulu rushes into the kitchen and gets a knife. Lulu tries to lie as well to keep him from doing anything violent, but Logan realizes her act, disarms Lulu, and tries to hurt her, knocking her to the floor. She scrambles after the knife and stabs Logan in self defense. He dies instantly and Lulu stands over his body in shock. Johnny and Maxie come over at that moment with Claudia following soon after. Johnny immediately takes the rap for Logan's death and Claudia buys it. They immediately start to cover up the crime. Johnny and Claudia dump Logan's body in front of the clinic and not long after, Johnny is arrested for murder.

Lulu attempted to bust Johnny out of jail by bringing a gun into PCPD. The plan backfired, and Johnny ended up staging taking Lulu hostage at gunpoint. Detective tried to shoot Johnny, but Jason Morgan blocked the shot with Lulu and Johnny stealing Mayor Floyd's car running away. Once in Manhattan, Johnny took Lulu to a fire escape of his old piano teacher's apartment. Upon arrival, they find that the proffessor had died, and the place was now owned by a gang member. They hid there, and Johnny gave the owner, Sal's, siter piano lessons. Loudres soon crushed on Johnny, but paniced when she saw John and Lulu on the news, being hunted on a murder charge. When he realised that she was on to them, he agreed to be kind in order for he silence. But when Lulu runs back to Port Charles to see Laura, Johnny soon follows.

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