July 30, 2019, marks the 35th anniversary of the debut of the NBC soap opera "Santa Barbara." In honor of this daytime drama that followed the Capwells in the California beach city (including a young Robin Wright, who played Kelly!), Wonderwall.com is rounding up our favorite soap operas and ranking them from best to worst! Do you agree with our rankings? Keep reading for more…
No. 10: "The Doctors"
Do you remember "The Doctors"? This NBC soap first hit TV screens in 1963 and ran for nearly 20 years. It took place in the fictional town of Madison, with most of the drama revolving around the local hospital, Hope Memorial. Characters suffered from drug addictions, dealt with cancer and endured the usual soap opera hijinx, like a mother impersonating her much younger daughter after taking a special serum (that resulted in the death of Alec Baldwin's character, Billy). Other famous faces who did time on "The Doctors" include Ellen Burstyn, who played Dr. Kate Bartok in the '60s; Ted Danson, who had a role as Dr. Mitchell Pearson in 1977; and Ian Ziering, who played Erich Aldrich in the early '80s.
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No. 9: "One Life to Live"
"One Life To Live," which got its start back in 1968, centered around the wealthy Lord family. Among the most notable moments in the show's history? Viki Lord going to heaven and back not once, not twice, but three times… and that time when Clint Buchanan time-traveled back to the Old West where he found wife Viki's great-grandmother (played by the same actress, Erika Slezak). Unfortunately, "OLTL" was canceled in 2011, and though it got a revival via Hulu and iTunes for a time in 2013, it was short-lived — the last episode aired that August. Some of the soap's most famous former stars include Marcia Cross (seen here with John Loprieno, who played her on-screen love, Cord), Bryan Cranston, Blair Underwood, Ryan Phillippe, Tommy Lee Jones and even former "The Real Housewives of New York City" star Alex McCord, who was a soap star before her reality TV days.
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No. 8: "Guiding Light"
"Guiding Light" got its start on the radio before transitioning to TV in 1952. Though it was canceled in 2009, the show had an incredibly impressive run. It didn't have quite as many WTF moments as other soaps on this list, but it did provide us with plenty of entertainment in the form of the Reva cloning storyline, where the heroine of the soap discovered a clone of herself who was attempting to steal the love of her life, Josh. A memorable alum from the show? Anne Heche, who played good and evil twins Marley and Vicky from 1987 until 1991. Kevin Bacon also did a stint on "Guiding Light" from 1980 to 1981, while Calista Flockhart did a turn as Reva's babysitter in 1989. Taye Diggs also popped up on the soap in 1997.
No. 7: "The Bold and the Beautiful"
"The Bold and the Beautiful" is a classic. One advantage this show had over its fellow afternoon dramas? It clocked in at only 30 minutes, a rarity for the typically hour-long soaps. Another? It was created to be a sister soap to daytime dynamo "The Young and the Restless," which meant that there was plenty of character crossover that was fun for viewers. It debuted in 1987 and is still going strong, thanks in part to its glamorous fashion industry setting. The show centers around Forrester Creations, a Los Angeles fashion house created by the daytime drama's legendary Forrester family. "B&B" vets include "Jane the Virgin" star Justin Baldoni and Kayla Ewell from "The Vampire Diaries."
No. 6: "As the World Turns"
"As The World Turns" had a good run from 1956 until 2010, and for two decades it was the most watched soap on the air. The story took place in a small town (Oakdale, Illinois) and unlike most soaps, focused on more realistic storylines — with an emphasis on some very memorable love stories. Holden Snyder and Lily Walsh provided the poor-boy, rich-girl dynamic, while iconic couple Jeff Baker and Penny Hughes had one of the more tragic storylines during the show's long run (their romance was cut short after Jeff died in a car accident). "As The World Turns" accomplished another impressive feat too — it gave some massive stars (like Meg Ryan, seen here) their first big break. There was also a newcomer named Julianne Moore who joined the cast in 1985 before launching a film career and another, Marisa Tomei, who joined the show before her in 1983.
No. 5: "Days of Our Lives"
"Days of Our Lives" first hit the small screen in 1965, inviting us into the fictional midwestern town of Salem. Fans followed the trials and tribulations of the main families — the Hortons and the Bradys — while many other characters were introduced over time. This soap pulled off some pretty crazy plots, including a 1995 storyline that saw Marlena Evans turn into a jaguar while possessed by the devil (yes, really!) and another that saw a meteor shower drop off two alien children, the Gemini twins. Jensen Ackles got his start on this soap, which is one of the few still airing today. It was renewed for its 55th season in 2019!
No. 4: "All My Children"
When you think of "All My Children," you think of the biggest soap opera star of all time, Susan Lucci. Her role as Erica Kane is the stuff of daytime drama legend. She brought the role to life from her debut in 1970 until the show ended in 2011. This soap's fictional location — Pine Valley, Pennsylvania — delivered a whole lot of drama during our afternoons. Remember when it was discovered that Erica's aborted baby was actually alive, though he was soon killed off when he gave his heart to his half-sister, Erika's daughter Kendall? Or when Tad proposed to Dixie in a chicken costume? This show did a good job of balancing crazy and more relatable drama during its reign. It also launched the careers of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Josh Duhamel, Kelly Ripa and husband Mark Consuelos and gave Elizabeth Banks her first TV acting job with a one-episode appearance.
No. 3: "Passions"
No. 3 is a controversial pick, but hear us out! What other soap opera provided the outrageousness that "Passions" did? The quirky drama debuted in 1999, and though it only ran on NBC until 2007 (and then got a last-minute reprieve from DirectV for one more season), it left us with plenty of unforgettable, head-scratching moments. Set in Harmony, the show made you suspend belief with plotlines like resident 300-year-old witch Tabitha bringing a doll named Timmy to life to be her sidekick (she also claimed she caused the Titanic to sink and then later surfed on a door to survive a tsunami). There was character Sheridan Crane, who was supposedly best friends with Princess Diana as portrayed in flashbacks… and a character called Nurse Precious who was, well, an orangutan (who had a thing for a male character on the show, Luis). Some famous faces who got their start on this outlandish daytime drama that will always have a special place in our hearts? "This Is Us" star Justin Hartley, who played Fox Crane, and Jesse Metcalfe, who played Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald.
No. 2: "The Young and the Restless"
"The Young and the Restless" is one of only a few soap operas left today, and for good reason. Fans adore following the lives of the people of Genoa City, a fictional town in Wisconsin. The main families followed on this gem are the rich Brooks clan and the working-class Fosters. Like its fellow daytime dramas, the show has provided its fair share of unbelievable storylines — like when Skye Lockhart faked her own death (twice!) before actually dying by falling into a volcano. Or when one of the show's most legendary characters, billionaire Katherine Chancellor, discovered her doppelganger — a waitress named Marge — and criminal Clint helped the two swap places to take advantage of Katherine's wealth. The show also provided a platform for many stars to break out, including David Hasselhoff, who got his start on this soap back in 1975 at just 22 then stuck around until 1982 as Dr. William "Snapper" Foster Jr. Vivica A. Fox's role as Stephanie Simmons was one of her earliest parts, and Eva Longoria honed her skills as Isabella Brana from 2001 until 2003. The late Paul Walker also launched his career on the soap as Brandon Collins, while Adam Brody also made an appearance in his teens, as did Penn Badgley, who played Phillip Chancellor IV.
No. 1: "General Hospital"
Our No. 1 soap opera spot goes to a daytime drama that has endured the test of time, providing both ridiculous and realistic entertainment since its debut in 1963: "General Hospital." The residents of Port Charles have included soap opera supercouple Luke and Laura (played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis), whose wedding was the most watched soap episode in American TV history, and iconic families like the Quartermaines and the Cassadines. The show has consistently dabbled in over-the-top plotlines about the mob, spies and, of course, the dramatic medical issues that arise at General Hospital. And though it's not without its eyebrow-raising plot twists — remember when Robin Scorpio was visited by an alien named Casey from the planet Lumina? — the soap also sensitively wove real-life issues into storylines, tackling HIV/AIDS, mental health, alcoholism and sexual assault. And it can boast many famous alumni including Demi Moore, Ricky Martin and John Stamos!