General Hospital, no relation to the long-running ABC soap in America of the same name, launched on ITV in 1972 and soon became a hit with daytime viewers. The medical soap was produced for the ITV network by ATV who had a history with producing successful soap operas; Crossroads was nearly ten years old by the time General Hospital launched and Emergency Ward 10 had entertained millions of viewers between 1957 and 1967.
In fact General Hospital was essentially Emergency Ward 10 repackaged for a new audience. ATV boss Lew Grade had regretted axing the popular EW10 when its ratings began to fall – after a failed revamp to appeal to American audiences – and several years later decided to revive the format for daytime viewers and thus General Hospital was born. The daytime soap produced nearly 300 episodes before, in 1975, it was given a prime-time make-over and moved to the more self-contained style of drama present in current medical fare Holby City and Casualty.
Network DVD are releasing the first series of the daytime version of General Hospital on DVD later this month. Sadly not all of the episodes from the first series are present in the archives meaning the release contains the only episodes known to still exist. The missing episodes are believed to have long since been wiped; a common policy across television in the 1960s and 70s which is why episodes of other shows, such as Crossroads, Doctor Who and Dad’s Army, are thought to no longer exist.
An episode of General Hospital was previously released as part of Network DVD’s excellent Soap Box which also contained episodes of Crossroads, Emmerdale Farm, Families, Gems, Revelations, London Bridge, Albion Market, Emergency Ward 10 and The Cedar Tree.
The new General Hospital box-set will be released on Monday 20th August, subject to change, and amongst the familiar faces present in the episodes will be Lynda Bellingham who played Nurse Hilda Price.