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General Hospital (1972-79)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of General Hospital (1972-79)
ATV for ITV, tx. 19/10/1972-19/12/1979
283 x 30 min, then 57 x 60 min episodes, colour
ProducersIan Fordyce, Royston Morley
Writers includeBrian Finch, Max Marquis
Theme musicDerek Scott

Cast: Tony Adams (Dr Neville Bywater); Lynda Bellingham (Nurse Hilda Price); Judy Buxton (Nurse Katy Shaw); David Garth (Dr Matthew Armstrong); Monica Grey (Sister Edwards); Lewis Jones (Dr William Parker-Brown); James Kerry (Dr Martin Baxter); Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Dr Robert Thorne); Carmen Munroe (Sister Washington); Peggy Sinclair (Sister Helen Chapman); Ian White (Dr Peter Ridge)

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The lives and loves of the staff of a Midlands general hospital.

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ITV's 1972 decision to start broadcasting programmes on weekday afternoons triggered a new wave of productions to fill out the extended schedules. Among the first crop of shows, aimed at giving advertisers access to 'stay at home mums' and housewives in general, were two series, the long-running rural soap Emmerdale Farm (ITV) and the twice-weekly medical drama General Hospital (ITV, 1972-79).

The programme's production company, ATV, had previously created the highly successful Emergency - Ward 10 (ITV, 1957-67) and its legacy is clearly apparent in General Hospital. Set in a fictitious Midlands town, the series followed the romantic and professional adventures of its doctors and nurses. And while the location and the characters names had been changed, in most other respects the shows were identical, a deliberate attempt to recreate the success of Emergency - Ward 10, TV's first hit medical drama.

The ploy worked, and in 1975, after 110 twice-weekly episodes, General Hospital was shunted in to a primetime slot on Friday evening. The move saw the episode lengths double from 30 to 60 minutes, while on-screen medical procedures, including detailed scenes of surgery, became more prominent.

The main star of the series was actor Tony Adams who went on to appear as the devious Adam Chance in Crossroads (ITV, 1964-88, 2001-). Among the other familiar faces to appear was Lynda Bellingham, who gained national fame as the mother in a series of Bisto gravy commercials.

General Hospital's slightly homely style looked increasingly out of place in a primetime slot at a time when TV was adopting a harder style of storytelling for 'real life' dramas. Professionals such as doctors and the police were getting a TV makeover which ultimately rendered General Hospital irrelevant. It was time for a more realistic portrayal of medics.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. A one-horse race? (3:52)
2. The delicate touch (4:18)
3. Emergency call (4:51)
Complete episode - Part 1 (11:03)
Part 2 (13:10)
Part 3 (27:01)
Medical Drama
Soap Opera