General Hospital is the longest running American soap opera listed in Guinness World Records as the long running serial currently in production, and the sole remaining soap opera on ABC. It premiered on April 1, 1963 and still runs on the ABC network. April 1, 1963 was the same day as NBC's The Doctors, premiered. The Doctors was a medical soap opera set to rival General Hospital but unfortunately was canceled in 1982. General Hospital originally aired for a half-hour until the network expanded it to the unusual length of 45 minutes in 1976, and then, to a full hour in 1978.
General Hospital is credited for starting several trends in the soap opera genre in the 1980s, most notably that of the fast-paced action-adventure plotlines that were remarkably different from the more traditional domestic and social issues that had been the sole focus of most soap operas during the previous decades. In 2003, when General Hospital was celebrating its 40th anniversary, TV Guide named it "The Greatest Soap Opera Of All Time." In addition, it was also named as one of TIME Magazine's "Top 100 Television Shows of All Time." Also, in a 2012 online poll conducted by ABC News and People, General Hospital was voted the best soap opera of all time, beating out All My Children, Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless and Dark Shadows.
On September 17, 2010, General Hospital became the oldest American soap opera when As the World Turns ended. On April 14, 2011, ABC announced the cancellation of All My Children (which ended September 23, 2011) and One Life to Live (which ended January 13, 2012), leaving General Hospital as the network's last remaining soap opera after January 16, 2012. The show celebrated its 50th Anniversary on April 1, 2013.
Launched in 1963, the shows' storylines revolve around the fictional city of Port Charles, New York, and the staff at its General Hospital. Initially focusing on the romances of the hospital staff, storylines branched out to cover relationships of various families such as the Hardys, the Webbers, the Spencers, the wealthy Quartermaines, and the noble Cassadines. General Hospital popularized the concept of the soap opera supercouple, with Luke and Laura. Their wedding was the most watched event in daytime serial history. Other storylines have followed an action-adventure format, with con artists and mafia bosses, spies and corporate intrigue, and travel to far-off lands, but nearly all stories have some connection to either an injury or illness at the Hospital, or one of the doctors or nurses who work there.