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Classic Soap Operas of the 1960s: From San Fran to Next Door

For decades, soap operas dominated daytime television, filling the airwaves with drama and intrigue during the school (and dayshift) hours. And, though times have changed and soaps have faded from prominence to a large degree, their impact is still felt all across the entertainment industry. For anyone who ever had a sick day in the era of JFK and LBJ, these forgotten 60s soap operas are sure to stir the nostalgia.

The Edge of Night

“The Edge of Night,” which debuted in 1956 and was canceled in 1984, starred a cast of 60s soap opera veterans including Ruth Warrick (who played the matriarch Dr. Sara McIntyre) and John Larkin (the alcoholic cop Lt. Mike Parker). The show followed the lives of various citizens living on Elm Street after dark, and was perhaps the first soap opera to use everyday people as its cast.

General Hospital

General Hospital,” which premiered in 1963, followed the lives of residents of a New England city and was considered one of daytime television’s most venerable shows. Though its current popularity has waxed and waned with time, no list would be complete without this soap opera classic from ABC.

The Secret Storm

“The Secret Storm,” which debuted in 1964 and lasted until 1977, also had a long list of stars on its roster. The show centered around two sisters who share an often turbulent relationship: Cecilia (played by Nanette Fabray) and Mona (portrayed by Eileen Fulton). The show won a number of Emmy Awards and was the second-longest running soap opera on TV.

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Based on the 1955 movie of the same name, this soap opera followed the lives of several families and individuals in San Francisco, with Hong Kong making several geographical cameos. The show aired from 1967 to 1973 and is considered one of the first-ever “ethnic soaps.”

Search for Tomorrow

Airing on NBC daytime starting in 1951, this soap opera followed residents living in fictional town of Woodbridge, Connecticut.

As the World Turns

Airing on CBS daytime starting in 1956, this soap opera followed residents living in fictional town of Oakdale, Illinois. It was one of the first soaps to use a live studio audience and is currently considered both the longest-running American TV daytime drama in production as well as among the longest-running scripted, non-animated TV shows of all time.

Dark Shadows

“Dark Shadows,” which premiered in 1966 but ran until 1971, was one of the first shows to use color TV. The show followed the lives of a family living in Maine, including Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid) and his love interest Angelique Bouchard (Jill Haworth). “Dark Shadows” was often described as an adult soap opera due to its mature subject matter–it tackled topics like insanity, ghosts, witchcraft, and vampires.

Days of Our Lives

“Days of Our Lives” (1965-present) is the longest running soap opera on American TV. It focuses on a family, the Bradys and includes two important families: The Hortons and The DiMeras. This show lives in infamy for its many twists and turns and long list of characters that have been killed off over the years. One of the show’s most famous characters is John Black (played by Drake Hogestyn) who has been on “Days” since 1984.

Guiding Light

Set in the fictional town of Springfield, “Guiding Light” was one of the first soaps to tackle issues like homosexuality and child molestation. It also had an important role in popularizing the use of cell phones.

Another World

Another was directed at a younger, female audience. The show premiered in 1964 and followed the lives of three women: Ellen (played by Alice Barrett), Rachel Matheson (Kathleen Beller) and Vicki Tyler Dixon (Gabrielle Dow). “Another World” was known for its progressive storylines about topics like rape, homosexuality, custody disputes.

(Like Soap Operas of the 1960s? then you might like our article on 1980s Primetime Soap Operas, click here.)

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