As previously reported by Soap Opera Network, ABC News’ “20/20″ will be honoring the 50th anniversary of ABC’s “General Hospital” on Saturday, April 6. Dubbed “‘General Hospital’ – The Real Soap Dish,” Katie Couric will take viewers behind the scenes of the fictional town of Port Charles, NY. The hour-long special will include interviews with such “GH” stars as Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer), Genie Francis (Laura Spencer), Jack Wagner (Frisco Jones), Rick Springfield (Noah Drake), Kelly Monaco (Sam McCall), Lisa LoCicero (Olivia Falconeri) and many more. Fans will also get to hear from Frank Valentini, who has spearheaded the soap into increased ratings since taking over as executive producer in January 2012.
As People Magazine gets ready to release its special collector’s edition honoring 50 years of “General Hospital” on Tuesday, March 12, the editors of Soap Opera Digest have collaborated on their own special tribute issue for the ABC Daytime drama series. Going on sale on Monday, March 25, the full sized Digest issue will include “revealing interviews, backstage gossip, photos, memories and more!”
“General Hospital” premiered on April 1, 1963. The series has been placed on various all-time best soap opera lists including those by such publications as Time Magazine and TV Guide Magazine.
The last time People Magazine offerred a collector’s edition of a soap opera was in September 2011, when the mag celebrated the life and history of the then canceled “All My Children.” This time the magazine is celebrating the continued life and history of “General Hospital” with a special 50th Anniversary collector’s edition that finds Luke and Laura Spencer (Anthony Geary and Genie Francis), Maxie Jones (Kirsten Storms), Sonny Corinthos and Brenda Barrett (Maurice Benard and Vanessa Marcil), Duke Lavery and Anna Devane (Ian Buchanan and Finola Highes), and Jagger Cates (Antonio Sabato Jr.) gracing the cover.
Although they weren’t listed with the other “Hot” stuff in TV Guide Magazine‘s Annual “Hot List” issue (pages 16-35), “General Hospital” earned a spot under Michael Logan‘s Daytime Highlights column (page 84) with the heading “Hot Again,” while NBC’s “Days of our Lives” also made the cut under the heading “Hot Days, Hotter Nights” courtesy of daytime’s hottest (and only) gay on screen couple, Will Horton (Chandler Massey) and Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith).
On the heels of a cancellation announcement and a failed online venture, it was announced that successful former Executive Producer, Frank Valentini, and former Head Writer, Ron Carlivati, of “One Life to Live” were hired for the same positions at a struggling “General Hospital.” Rattling many “GH” fans in recent days has been the announcement that at least several major “OLTL” stars will be showing up in Port Charles as their Llanview alter egos. Carlivati insists to insiders that “GH” fans need not worry as he has no intention of turning their soap into “OLTL.” To that end, the show-runners have also announced the return of three of “GH’s” most legendary performers and characters – Finola Hughes, Tristan Rogers and Emma Samms as Anna, Robert and Holly – for extended runs on the last-standing ABC daytime drama.
On Monday afternoon, TV Guide Magazine revealed news that “General Hospital” actor Jonathan Jackson has decided to exit the role of Lucky Spencer on the ABC daytime drama. Sources indicate to the magazine that Jackson was denied a lighter schedule following two years of non-stop drama for his beleaguered character and that ultimately played into his decision to get out of Port Charles. Jackson was also apparently disappointed that his character never got the opportunity to properly reunite with his former love interest Elizabeth Webber played by Rebecca Herbst. The four-time Daytime Emmy Award winner will last tape on November 17.
Jackson debuted on “GH” as the first-born child of daytime’s most famous couple, Luke and Laura played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis, on October 29, 1993 at the tender age of eleven. In 1999, while still filming “GH,” Jackson landed a starring role opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in the film “Deep End of the Ocean.” Jackson excited his role on the popular ABC daytime drama later that year. Other notable film endeavors for the talented actor included starring roles on “Tuck Everlasting” and “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” Jackson returned to “GH” in October 2009, controversially replacing Greg Vaughan who played the role from 2003 to 2009. When not acting, the 29-year old actor performs with the band Enation. Their music has been featured on the television series “One Tree Hill.”
Jackson’s last scenes on “GH” will likely air before the close of 2011. TV Guide reports that the actor has already taped his last scenes with his on-screen father. Jackson may see this move as not postponing the inevitable. ABC affiliates are currently lining up new programming to take over the 48-year old soap operas long-standing 3 o’clock time slot across the country for the 2012-2013 season.
On Friday, August 12, both Soap Opera Network and Soap Opera Digest reported SOAPnet’s post “All My Children” schedule (Monday, September 26), which included the insertion of “Brothers & Sisters” re-runs and the shuffling of more than 80% of the schedule into different time periods. Other than “Days of our Lives” picking up a primetime spot (8:00 PM ET/PT), nothing caught reader attention more than the network announcing classic episodes of “All My Children,” “General Hospital” and “One Life to Live.” So what is a classic episode according to the network?
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — It was June 8 when newly appointed “General Hospital” head writer Garin Wolf previewed to TV Guide Magazine‘s Michael Logan that “sometimes they come back” in reference to what fans can expect from his tenure as the shows top scribe. Since then word broke that Leslie Charleson would be returning to the soap as Dr. Monica Quartermaine nearly a year after being placed on recurring status, but never seen or used since. Also expected to return in recurring capacities are Tyler Christopher (Nikolas Cassadine) and Ingo Rademacher (Jasper ‘Jax’ Jacks), who were both fired while under the Robert Guza Jr. dictated writing regime. Also showing their face for a lengthier stay than originally thought, and in a recurring capacity, is Constance Towers whose Helena Cassadine is finding herself a new boy toy after many years of lacking a 3 dimensional personality, the return of Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and more Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliott).
“I want to make this a nice, easy transition. I want to bring balance to the show. I’m very big on secrets and romance and triangles. I’m a child of [Charles] Dickens and Doug Marland. I love “Dexter” and “Desperate Housewives.” I’m very eclectic. I love to combine a lot of different things, which is what’s great about soap operas. I love multi-generational stories,” said Wolf of what viewers could expect from him directly as a longtime fan of the medium himself. Regarding “GH” specifically, Wolf made it clear that “this is an amazing cast and I want to use everybody. I want to mix it up and bring back the entertainment. I want to bring back the reality to the characters’ lives. If you’re a cop, what is your life really like? Even in the most outrageous storyline, there must be some kind of identifiable emotion. I don’t care if we’re talking about a mobster or a plumber — you have to watch and say, ‘I know how he feels. I’ve been there.’ And we really need romance. For me, that’s all about yearning and obstacles. You have to know who you are rooting for and rooting against. I want to bring back villainy — dishy villainy, fun villainy, dangerous villainy. This is going to date me. My earliest soap opera memory is having a crush on Ann Flood on ‘The Edge of Night’ when I was 7 years old. And I went from there to ‘Dark Shadows.’ Growing up, comic books were soap operas for me.”
All the fun and excitement fans have been hearing about from stars of the drama series, including Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis Davis), who has been very vocal on Twitter, kicks off on Tuesday, July 26, when Wolf penned episodes begin airing on ABC. Almost immediately fans can expect love, romance, fights for survival, passion, courtship, reconciliations, introductions, jealousy and even a touch of “Cougar Town” (think early episodes from the shows first season) to hit their screens. In response to what she knows of Wolf’s material, Grahn shared on her Twitter page ” “It’s going to be all about women. This team loves them. That’s not to say we’ll all be saints, but it’ll be about us. The pace will be picking up. The actors have worked with him [Wolf] before and they are all happy.”
Sources tell Soap Opera Network that with all returning cast members and the creative changes hitting “General Hospital,” you should expect to hear that those returning actors will be not be offered contracts. “All of these actors are being kept on recurring in an attempt to keep costs down in order to keep the show on the air,” said a source. The same also holds true for other daytime soaps as well. “This is a trend we can expect to see more of, not just on ‘GH,’ but in daytime in general,” our source continued. “It’s been headed this way for a long time,” a daytime star told Soap Opera Network requesting anonymity during Emmy weekend earlier this month. “We’re going to see less and less contracts and more people on recurring basis. Unfortunately this is the way its been headed and in order for daytime to survive, this is the way it has to be.”
The cost cutting idea is one that makes the most sense when you think about it. You’re not guaranteed to have to pay people who aren’t being used, so the big gamble will be either risk losing key players to current storylines or lose millions of dollars on stars you don’t use, only to see your show canceled due to budget constraints. In order to avoid this all together, it is also likely we will see actors continuiously picked up for cycles as they are used and then being dropped before the next cycle kicks in.
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — After 72 years on air between radio and television, CBS’s “Guiding Light” will cease broadcasting on the CBS Television Network due to low ratings. Love may save the world, but apparently it wasn’t enough to save television’s longest running daytime drama. Even with having its name published in the Guinness World Record Book and winning three Daytime Emmy’s for Best Drama Series (the most recent being in 2007), “GL” found itself unable to withstand the mass exodus of viewers from the traditional daytime soap format in recent years.
Consistently finding itself in the ratings cellar for the past few years, many sensed that the dimming ‘Light” would soon burn out on the long-running daytime drama.
According to published reports, Proctor & Gamble, the company responsible for producing both “Guiding Light” and sister soap “As the World Turns,” sat down with cast and crew members at their studios in New York and New Jersey on Wednesday morning to break the news that “GL” would be ceasing production this fall, with the last episode airing on Friday, September 18th after more than 15,700 episodes.
The news was met with mixed emotion by fans and cast alike. Long running “GL” castmember Ron Raines, who portrays the villainous Alan Spaulding stated that the “The numbers are really tough for all these old dramas. I don’t think any of the other shows want any of us to go off. We’re all in this together. What was it? 72 years continuous? That will never be touched. It is a very sad thing, but these are the times we live in. It’s very tough out there.”
“Being on the air for more than seven decades is truly remarkable, and it will be difficult for all of us at the show to say goodbye,” said Executive Producer Ellen Wheeler. “I’m proud of everything we’ve been able to do, including outstanding storytelling, our community service around the country with ‘Find Your Light’ and the launch of our new production model. This show has such a rich history, wonderful fans, and I’m honored to have been a part of the ‘GL’ legacy.”
This afternoon’s sudden announcement has sent shockwaves that have reverberated around the nation, as news of “GL’s” demise has dominated media outlets and online soap message boards. Lynn Leahey, Soap Opera Digest editorial director, calls the cancellation “heartbreaking” and said that “it was a constant in people’s lives” that hung around, unlike its prime-time counterparts that came and went. “For many of us, it was the first show we ever watched.”
Former “GL” Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps summed up her fondness for the years she spend at the helm of the long-running daytime drama “‘Guiding Light’ has a very special place in my heart. I began my career in daytime there as a production assistant and later returned as executive producer. It was a privilege (both times) to be a part of such a fabulous group of people who did such outstanding work. Some of the most talented actors, writers, and directors have walked through the doors of ‘Guiding Light.’ The industry will mourn the loss of this beloved show, but ‘Guiding Light’ leaves a rich legacy for all of us in daytime to treasure. I wish all my dear friends a gentle landing.”
Nancy Tellem, President of CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group, had this to say about the the show’s rich legacy, “‘Guiding Light’ has achieved a piece of television history that will never be matched, it has crossed mediums, adapted its stories to decades of social change, and woven its way through generations of audiences like no other. This daytime icon will always be an indelible part of CBS’s history, with a legacy of innovation and reputation for quality and excellence at every step of the way. While its presence will be missed, its contributions will always be celebrated and will never be forgotten.”
And, according to Barbara Bloom, Senior Vice President of Daytime Programs at CBS, “No show in daytime or prime time, or anytime, has touched so many millions of viewers across so many years as ‘Guiding Light.’ We thank the cast, crew, and producers — past and present — who delivered this entertainment institution, the beloved characters, and the time-honored stories to our audience every day for seven decades. It’s been a privilege to work with such an extraordinarily talented group of people.”
Adding to “GL’s” woes within the past decade is the fact that several prominent CBS affiliates from around the country have either moved the soap to early morning or late night time slots, or removed it from their programming schedule entirely (such as KOVR-TV in Sacramento, California and WNEW-TV in Flint City, Michigan).
With sagging ratings, “Guiding Light” began to experiment with several different approaches to the traditional daytime model of storytelling within the past year. The sudser scrapped the familiar three stationary camera set-up in favor of portable cameras, which allowed producers to film cast members in various settings and locations outside the studio. Unfortunately, however, the changes did little to re-energize ‘GL,’ and largely had the opposite effect, resulting in turning off veteran fans and losing such popular cast members such as Beth Elhers and Ricky Paull Goldin (who have since moved on to ABC’s “All My Children”).
According to CBS, in 2008, the soap “premiered a brand-new daytime production model, featuring permanent sets inside its New York City studio and approximately 20% of the production shot in exterior scenes in the town of Peapack, N.J. In addition, directing and editing were changed to be done digitally and almost simultaneously, giving the sets a more realistic feeling and eliminating the need for production suites.”
In a press release issued by TeleNext Media, Inc., which oversees production of “GL” for Proctor & Gamble, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Brian T. Cahill thanked fans for their loyalty over the years and said that “We are honored to have been welcomed into the homes of multiple generations of ‘Guiding Light’ viewers. Cahill also gave “GL” fans a glimmer of soap by announcing that he and his staff are “working hard to find the show a new home, and we are exploring all our options to continue to bring loyal fans the characters and stories they love.” That ‘new home’ could come in the form of online episodes or moving ‘GL’ to a cable or satellite network following the soap’s departure from the CBS Daytime schedule this fall. However, given the recent failure of the now-defunct NBC soap “Passions,” which moved to DirecTV near the end of its run after being cancelled by the Peacock Network, the outlook for a new venue for “Guiding Light” appears bleak at best.
The demise of “Guiding Light” leaves only seven daytime soaps still airing on the Big Three Networks. ABC and CBS will each have three and NBC one. In terms of longevity, fellow P&G soap “As the World Turns” is daytime’s second oldest drama, celebrating its 53rd anniversary on April 2nd. The other six soaps (with the year they premiered in parenthesis) are “General Hospital” (1963), “Days of Our Lives” (1965), “One Life to Live” (1968), “All My Children” (1970), “The Young & the Restless” (1973), and “The Bold & the Beautiful” (1987). “GL” becomes the eighth daytime drama to be cancelled in the past twenty years, placing it with the likes of “Another World,” “Santa Barbara,” “Sunset Beach,” “Loving,” “The City,” “Port Charles,” and “Passions.”
“Guiding Light” was created nearly seventy-five years ago by the talented soap writer Irna Phillips (1901-1973). Long recognized as a daytime pioneer, Phillips created or co-created nearly a dozen soaps, three of which (“As the World Turns” and “Days of Our Lives,” which she helped Tim and Betty Corday develop) were still on the air at the beginning of 2009. Phillips has either direct or indirect ties to all but one of the eight present daytime dramas. Agnes Nixon (creator of “One Life to Live” and “All My Children”) and William J. Bell, who developed the concepts for “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” were at one time writers for Phillips on several of her soaps. This leaves “General Hospital” as the only remaining soap not either created by the late soap icon, or one of her protégés. “Guiding Light” paid homage to Phillips in a special 70th anniversary episode in 2007, which featured past and present cast members portraying Phillips, her crew, and some of the original “GL” characters while recording a radio broadcast of the show in the late 1930s.
Launched as a 15-minute NBC radio serial on January 25, 1937, “Guiding Light” would later make the transition to television, premiering on CBS on June 30th, 1952. The radio broadcast ran concurrently with its TV counterpart (and featured the same actors and characters) before coming to an end in 1956. “GL” first aired in color on September 11th, 1967, and expanded to thirty minutes the following year. In November 1977, it expanded once more, this time to sixty minutes. Ratings peaked in late 1981, but have steadily declined in the years that have followed.
Set in the fictional town of Springfield and focusing primarily on the Spaulding, Lewis, and Cooper families, “Guiding Light” has won an impressive 69 Daytime Emmy Awards and 12 Soap Opera Digest Awards during the soap’s long, record-setting history. “GL” has also broken ground over the years by tackling numerous controversial issues including teen pregnancy, cancer, alcoholism, sexual harrasement, abuse, Down Syndrome, and post-partum depression. It was also the first daytime drama to prominently feature African-Americans in frontburner storylines in 1966. ‘GL’ became the first soap to podcast audio only episodes in 2005. Veteran cast members include Kim Zimmer, Jordan Clarke, Robert Newman, Michael O’Leary, Grant Alexander, and Tina Sloan. “GL” also boasts a long list of distinguished alumni, including Justin Deas (who is tied with “One Life to Live’s” Erika Slezak and “General Hospital’s Anthony Geary for most Daytime Emmy wins, and remains a part of the cast), Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart, Allison Janney, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Taye Diggs, Hayden Panettiere, and Brittany Snow.
Originally known as “The Guiding Light” (‘the’ was dropped in 1975), the show focused around the character of the Rev. John Ruthledge, and his parishioners in the Chicago suburb of Five Points (the setting later moved to Selby Flats, before finally settling in Springfield). A continuously lit lamp in the Reverend’s study assured his flock that he was there for them whenever they needed him.
Even though the ‘Light’ will soon be extinguished, its legacy and rich history will continue to live on in future generations of soap fans. Thank you, “Guiding Light,” for your contributions to the daytime drama, and God speed. You will be missed.
Stay connected to SON as we continue to follow this story.
“Guiding Light” airs Weekdays on CBS. Anytime on CBS.com. Check local listings.