General Hospital (commonly abbreviated GH) is an American daytime television medical drama 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 until Disney discontinued SOAPnet on December 31, 2013. GH 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 11 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 still in production on September 17, 2010, when As the World Turns ended. On April 14, 2011, ABC announced the cancelation of both All My Children and One Life to Live, leaving General Hospital as the only soap opera airing on the network after January 13, 2012. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary on April 1, 2013. The series marked its 51st anniversary on April 1, 2014.