Does ABC’s ‘General Hospital’ Need Another Luke And Laura-Like 1981 Phenomenon For Ratings?

Chris PizzelloAP Images

The year was 1981 when more Americans sat in front of their TV sets to watch Luke and Laura’s wedding on ABC’s General Hospital than they did for the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It was during that era when Luke and Laura were almost like American royalty for the soap opera fans.

TV Series Finale reports that out of all the daytime soap operas that have graced the TV screen through the years, only four of them remain today. They are The Young and Restless (CBS), The Bold and The Beautiful (CBS), General Hospital (ABC), and Days of Our Lives (NBC). These are in the order of the popularity as far as how many total viewers each soap brings in. Could another Luke and Laura-like love story put General Hospital on top again, or are the days of daytime soaps waning?

ABC has not announced the renewal of General Hospital for another season, but as TV Series Finale conveys,”They haven’t canceled the show either so, as long as it stays on the air, perhaps no news is good news.” With the soap operas fading from the daytime TV lineup, is it time for another big jolt in the storyline like the one back in 1981 that made General Hospital a destination for many folks each weekday?

When Luke and Laura first started up, the viewers were waning, but then their love affair took hold. It was at that time that people, many who never watched General Hospital, flocked to ABC in the afternoons just to see what all the commotion was about.

According to Biography, once people started watching many of them became fans and General Hospital rocketing the show to a strong No. 1 on all the charts measuring popularity for soaps. This was the boost needed for the show that was already on the air for almost two decades back in 1981 when Luke and Laura married. The show aired its first episode on April 1, 1963, and if it is renewed for the 2118 – 2019 season, it will make the 56th season for ABC’s General Hospital.

According to Biography, General Hospital turned into a cultural phenomenon as the Luke and Laura storyline took hold. General Hospital was on the verge of cancellation when they put Luke into the plot to sway Laura’s interest away from Scotty, her “good boy” sweetheart. Suddenly Scotty was no longer the sparkle in Laura’s eyes in a twist of the plot, which was just considered a temporary infatuation at first to put a bit of intrigue into the soap.

Luke was an older man who ran the Campus Disco and had ties with the mob, but the chemistry between Genie Francis (Laura) and Anthony Geary (Luke) was so strong that they continued on with the storyline. Just like that, Scotty and Laura’s demise was penned in and Laura would go on to marry Luke, the man who raped her in the Campus Disco.

That was part of an unsettling intrigue for fans of the show during that time span. It was a confusing time for some viewers as Laura and Luke’s love affair was celebrated, yet he had raped her at one time. The Herb Alpert song “Rise” played in the background at the disco as Luke raped Laura, a song many veteran General Hospital fans still affiliate with that disturbing event today.

It is a song that still conjures up that scene in the mind’s eye for many General Hospital veteran watchers when it pops up on the radio now and then. According to Song Facts, the 1979 song Rise got a very unexpected boost from that rape scene on General Hospital. According to Song Fact, “The song was repeated several times a week for a short period afterward until the storyline changed to make Luke and Laura a romantic couple.” That scene can be seen on the video at the bottom of this article.

Luke and Laura’s romance helped push the Christopher Cross song, Think of Laura, to No. 1 on Adult Contemporary and No. 9 on the Hot 100 List back in 1983, reports Songfacts. The “action-packed love story” of Luke and Laura shot General Hospital from a pending demise hovering over the cutting room floor to number one of all the soap operas of the day, according to Biography.

Luke and Laura’s wedding aired on General Hospital on November 17, 1981, and it brought in 30 million viewers. Today it still remains as America’s highest-rated soap opera episode in the history of daytime television.

While they parted ways with the show a few years later, they would come together again to General Hospital. Their reunion on the show was nothing that compared to the 1981 love story of Laura and Luke. Today Genie Francis is still playing her role as Laura on General Hospital.