During the 1980s, there were more people watching soap operas than ever before. The big '80s soap operas like "General Hospital" were averaging 14 million viewers an episode at its peak. There were also more soap operas on the air than ever before, with as many as 15 daytime soaps airing during a week. The top soaps of the decade were General Hospital, All My Children, and One Life to Live. This list of the best daytime soap operas that aired during 1980-1989, has been voted on a ranked by your votes.
While many old soap operas continued to flourish during the 80s, some soaps saw their last years. Love of Life ended in 1980, Search for Tomorrow ended in 1982, and The Edge of Night ended in 1984, among many others. New soap operas also premiered, including Generations, Texas, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Santa Barbara. Although primetime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty were gaining popularity at this time, daytime soaps didn’t lose any of their status or popularity.
What are the best '80s soap operas? Did the daytime soaps you think were the best make this list? Vote up the 1980s soap operas you think are the best of the decade and see where the soaps you loved to watch during the '80s rank.
- Photo: General Hospital
General Hospital, set in the fictional city of Port Charles, New York, has been a staple of American television since its debut in 1963. Throughout the 80s, the show's intricate plots and memorable characters kept viewers hooked, particularly the legendary super-couple Luke and Laura, portrayed by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis. The groundbreaking storylines involving organized crime, medical mysteries, and even espionage contributed to General Hospital's status as one of the most-watched daytime dramas during that time. Its impact on popular culture was palpable, inspiring spin-offs and even influencing primetime series like Desperate Housewives.
- Photo: Days of our Lives
Days of Our Lives, an enduring classic in the realm of soap operas, premiered in 1965 and continued to captivate audiences throughout the 80s. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Salem, this daytime drama focused on the lives of the Horton, Brady, and DiMera families as they navigated love, loss, and betrayal. Boasting a talented ensemble cast, including Deidre Hall as Dr. Marlena Evans and Peter Reckell as Bo Brady, Days of Our Lives tackled social issues such as addiction, mental health, and interracial relationships, pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling. Its iconic catchphrase, "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives," became synonymous with the genre, cementing its place in pop culture history.
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One Life to Live, created by legendary soap opera writer Agnes Nixon, premiered in 1968 and continued to enthrall viewers throughout the 80s. Set in the fictional city of Llanview, Pennsylvania, the show focused on the Buchanan, Lord, and Cramer families. With a diverse cast that included Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord and Judith Light as Karen Wolek, One Life to Live tackled controversial topics such as drug addiction, and racial prejudice. The show's groundbreaking exploration of social issues set it apart from its contemporaries and solidified its place in television history.
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All My Children, another brainchild of Agnes Nixon, debuted in 1970 and remained popular throughout the 80s. Set in the fictional town of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, the show centered around the lives of the Kane, Chandler, and Martin families. Susan Lucci's portrayal of Erica Kane became iconic, earning her numerous Emmy nominations and a devoted fan following. All My Children was known for addressing real-life issues, setting the stage for future soap operas to tackle similar themes.
Guiding Light, which holds the distinction of being the longest-running soap opera in history, began as a radio show before transitioning to television in 1952. During the 80s, the show revolved around the Bauer, Spaulding, and Lewis families living in the fictional town of Springfield. With a diverse cast led by Kim Zimmer as Reva Shayne and Robert Newman as Josh Lewis, Guiding Light explored themes such as class conflict, ambition, and redemption. The show's innovative storytelling techniques, including the use of flashbacks and dream sequences, left an indelible mark on the genre.
Dynasty, a primetime soap opera that aired from 1981 to 1989, chronicled the lives of the wealthy Carrington family in Denver, Colorado. With an all-star cast led by John Forsythe as oil tycoon Blake Carrington and Joan Collins as his scheming ex-wife Alexis, Dynasty epitomized the glamour and excess of the 80s. Known for its opulent fashion, cliffhanger endings, and catfights between leading ladies, the show became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring spin-offs and even a reboot in 2017.