How Many Seasons of ‘General Hospital’ Are There?

Over 50 seasons of General Hospital are in the can, including storylines that have spanned 11 presidents, four major wars, the Summer of Love, and the demise of 15 other soap operas.

There are just three current soaps on air besides General Hospital: The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of our Lives, and The Young and Restless.

There’s growing speculation about how long soaps will be viable in daily television culture, but with the programs returning to some aspects of the roots that made them staples in our homes, that speculation may not be warranted. Take General Hospital, for instance.

‘General Hospital’ returns to its roots

MAURICE BENARD, BONNIE BURROUGHS
MAURICE BENARD, BONNIE BURROUGHS | Valerie Durant via Getty Images

General Hospital has always been about tumultuous relationships. For the first 30 years, you could tune in after missing a couple shows and get the gist of who is doing what and with whom by spending a few minutes listening to the conversations and gossip around the 7th-floor nurses’ station. Today’s storylines still focus on relationships, but quite a bit of organized crime and international intrigue has infiltrated the soap over the years.

After a hiatus from the 7th-floor nurses’ station, General Hospital is returning more to its original premise centering around the hospital.

‘General Hospital’ cast then and now

Your grandma tuned into her “stories” in the 1960s to watch the lives and loves of the doctors and nurses working on the yet unnamed hospital. Soaps were pure escapism during those couple of decades of cultural upheaval and the story arcs often reflect those mores even today. What the censors wouldn’t allow in the early years are prime game today.

Soaps had their heyday, peaking with 19 different shows on three different networks during the 1969-1970 season. By 1970, the General Hospital cast included John Beradino (Steve Hardy), Rachel Ames (Audrey March), Emily McLaughlin (Jessie Brewer), Peter Hansen (Lee Baldwin), and Martin West (Phil Brewer).

Competition was great among the soaps, but it wasn’t until “supercouple” became a household word that General Hospital pulled way ahead of the pack.

Many of the old faces are gone now, replaced by young characters dealing with contemporary issues. One current gripe among seasoned fans is that there are too many young actors dominating the storylines. But after nearly 60 years, you’ve got to expect changes as actors pass away, retire, or leave for other pastures.

As of now, there’s 27 contract actors going into the 2020-2021 season, including Benard as Sonny Corinthos, who also tops the cast list for episodes appeared.

‘General Hospital’: The longest-running soap

General Hospital began its run on April 1, 1963. Back then, it was just a half-hour soap opera before expanding to 45 minutes in 1976 and a full hour in 1977. The 2020-2021 season is General Hospital’s 58th.

What gives General Hospital its staying power lies in the power of connection with a dash of danger and intrigue, tackling contemporary issues important to today’s viewers–and returning to its roots at the hospital nurse’s station.

The 2020-2021 season marks the 58th year that General Hospital‘s been on the air. The show’s earned 13 Daytime Emmy awards, the most of any daytime drama in the history of soaps.