Soap History: Port Charles
Embracing the undead.
When “Port Charles” premiered in 1997 as a spin-off of “General Hospital,” the intent was to put more focus on the happenings at the actual hospital than was seen on its parent show. And that is what happened – for the first few years at least. As the show evolved, supernatural storylines were introduced, including vampires, angels and life after death, much like ABC’s earlier gothic daytime drama, Dark Shadows. Not only did “Port Charles” buck traditional soap stories, it also switched from the standard open-ended storytelling techniques in 2000 to 13-week story arcs. It did 12 of these arcs before the 30-minute daily was canceled in 2003. Soaps.com goes back in time for a look at “Port Charles'” history.
June 2, 1997 – October 3, 2003
Livvie Locke (Kelly Monaco) and Caleb Morley (Michael Easton)
Rafe Kovich (Brian Gaskill) and Alison Barrington (Erin Hershey Presley)
Kevin Collins (Jon Lindstrom) and Lucy Coe (Lynn Herrington)
Cast and characters:
When “PC” started, the Irish Catholic Scanlons got top billing, with brothers Frank (Jay Pickett), a paramedic, and Joe (Michael Dietz), a first-year intern at GH. Their mother Mary (Patricia Crowley) had a brief dalliance with Sonny Corinthos’ (Maurice Benard) father, Mike Corbin (Ron Hale), before marrying Victor Collins (Nicholas Pryor), father of Kevin. The other interns at the hospital were the main focus during the first few years, including Julie Devlin (Lisa Ann Hadley), Eve Lambert (Julie Pinson), Karen Wexler (Jennifer Hammon) and Chris Ramsey (Nolan North). They were led by Dr. Ellen Burgess (Debbi Morgan) as they dealt with various acts of terror by deranged intern reject Greg Cooper (David Holcomb) and the General Homicide murder mystery, based on a novel written by Kevin.
Also important were Kevin, Lucy and Lucy’s best friend, Scott Baldwin (Kin Shriner). Together, they had a daughter, Serena (Carly Schroeder), of whom Lucy was the surrogate for her friend Dominique Stanton (Shell Danielson), Scott’s dead wife. More characters were introduced and many original ones were killed off as the show went into supernatural territory a few years into its run. Livvie was introduced as Kevin’s daughter, and with her came Alison, Jamal Woods (Kiko Ellsworth), Ian Thornhart (Thorsten Kaye), Rafe, and Jack Ramsey (Brian Presley). Then in 2001, vampire Caleb Morley came to town and changed everything.
The show began as a two-hour primetime movie when a group of first-year interns arrived at the hospital only to be thrown into an intense hostage situation that involved performing brain surgery on veteran “GH” character Audrey Hardy (Rachel Ames) with a power drill. From that moment on there was never a dull moment at the hospital. Explosions, serial killers, illicit drug use and kidnapping were just a few of the issues dealt with during the early years.
“Fate,” the first in the succession of story arcs kicked off with over one million viewers, but the supernatural events didn’t begin until the second arc, “Time in a Bottle,” when Karen and Joe traveled through time and fell in love. And then in “Tainted Love,” which began in June 2001, Caleb – and vampires – hit Port Charles.
One story arc, “Naked Eyes,” showed a thought-defeated Caleb’s return to town as rocker Stephen Clay, with his band, The Stephen Clay Experience. Later, during the arc “Desire,” a new vampire king was in charge. Joshua Temple (Ian Buchanan) was obsessed with making Alison his wife, which forced Caleb and Rafe to work together.
Because the show only taped six months out of the year, when it was cancelled the actors were not allowed to resolve storylines. “Port Charles” ended with a big cliffhanger during the story arc “The Gift.” While Rafe – an angel – and Alison were getting married, Caleb and Livvie were having an unholy wedding of their own. After they traded vows – and bites – Caleb revealed to Livvie that a wish she made on his ring – a wish for him to have one night of intense love he would never forget – happened. He had that night of earth-shaking passion, but not with Livvie. He had it with Alison and because of their night together, Alison was pregnant with his child. This storyline was recently picked up on “GH” when Alison returned to Port Charles with her son, also named Rafe.
After the finale:
Once the writers took the show on a supernatural turn to create a niche apart from the main show, it was hard to fold legacy characters back into their onetime home of “General Hospital,” like Kevin and Lucy, although some characters, like Scott Baldwin, were able to transition back. Ian Buchanan, who had once played Duke Lavery on “GH” before becoming vampire Joshua, recently returned to his Duke role. Other actors from “PC” were able to find a new home on “GH” as an entirely different character, like Kelly Monaco’s Samantha McCall, Kiko Ellsworth’s Stan Johnson and Eddie Matos’ Professor Pete Marquez. Many characters associated with the supernatural, like Alison, Rafe and Caleb were never heard from again until their recent storyline revival on “GH.” Lucy, a vampire slayer on “Port Charles,” also returned to “GH,” seemingly combining her earlier ties with “GH” and her later slaying ways on “PC.”
How it rated:
Ratings were never strong for “PC” and it was plagued with cancellation rumors throughout its run. It received its highest ratings ever during the three-month “Tainted Love” arc when Caleb and the vampire storyline were introduced. When ABC announced the cancellation of “PC” it was widely believed that if it had won the Daytime Emmy for Best Daytime Drama like it was favored the previous month, it would have remained on air a bit longer.
Port Charles trivia:
* Lynn Herring (Lucy) and Wayne Northrop (Rex Stanton) were married on the show and are married in real life. They worked together one other time when Herring took a brief leave from “GH” to work on “Days of our Lives,” where Northrop was playing Roman Brady at the time.
* Erin Hershey Presley met real-life husband Brian Presley (Jack) on the show.
* There were a total of 1,626 episodes that aired during the show’s run, including the two-hour pilot.
Photo credit: ABC; Aaron Montgomery/JPI
– Hollie Deese
Originally posted February 7, 2013. Refreshed by Amy Mistretta September 14, 2017.