'General Hospital' to Utilize 'Flashback Friday' Episodes to Stretch Inventory Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

ABC has a backlog of new episodes of General Hospital left to air, even after production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. To stretch that backlog out even further, the network announced it will start airing "Flashback Friday" episodes on Fridays, beginning this week. General Hospital, which launched in 1963, is the only remaining daytime soap on ABC.

The special reruns will feature a new introduction from a General Hospital actor before the episodes begin, reports TVLine. The "Flashback Friday" episode featured Laura Wright, who plays Cary Corinthos, introducing the special 56th-canniversary episode, which aired back on April 3, 2019. The plan is to keep airing the flashback shows through May 22, with new episodes continuing to air Monday through Thursday.

ABC had about two months' worth of episodes in the can when production was shut down last month. The "Flashback Friday" move will keep new episodes airing through the end of May.

The other soaps will soon find themselves in similar situations. CBS' The Young and The Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful only have enough episodes to keep going through early May. On Friday, CBS aired the classic 1984 Y&R episode featuring the wedding of Victor (Eric Braeden) and Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott). It is not clear if CBS plans on airing classic episodes on Fridays though, like what ABC will do with GH.

NBC does not have to worry about running out of Days of Our Lives episodes, which are shot eight months in advance. Days will not run out of new episodes until the fall.

Thanks to millions of Americans staying home during the day, the ratings for the four remaining soap operas have gone through the roof. For the week of March 23, B&B averaged 3.66 million viewers, its best week in two years. GH had its strongest week in two years as well, averaging 2.57 million viewers, reports TVLine. Days averaged 2.24 million viewers, marking its best week sine February 2019. Y&R had its best week since April 2019, with 4.21 million viewers.

ABC suspended production on General Hospital on March 14. The suspension was only planned to last through Friday, April 10, but with the coronavirus pandemic only growing, that seems unlikely.

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General Hospital debuted in April 1963, and more than 14,000 episodes have aired since. It is the longest-running soap opera in production and holds the recorded for most Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series with 13 wins.

Photo credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin