Ryan's Hope

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Ryan's Hope title card from 1975-80.

Ryan's Hope (RH) was a soap opera which aired for fourteen years on ABC, from July 7, 1975 to January 13, 1989. It was created, owned, and originally written by Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer, who had previously written Where the Heart Is and Love of Life. The show aired a total of 3515 30-minute episodes.


Creative zenith

The series was about a large Irish-American family living in the Riverside district of New York City. The patriarch, Johnny Ryan (Bernard Barrow) owned a bar, Ryan's, which was across from Riverside Hospital. His wife, Maeve (Helen Gallagher), would help in the bar's upkeep, as would their children. The Ryans and the wealthy Coleridges were the original core families of the daytime drama.

When it premiered in 1975, it originally aired in the 1:00PM time slot, immediately after All My Children. Labine and Mayer also served as the executive producers of the show at this point, with George Lefferts as the producer. Lefferts would soon be replaced by Robert Costello, who remained with the show until 1978. After Costello, the role was occupied by Ellen Barrett (1978-1982) and Felicia Minei Behr (1982-1988).

The original cast consisted of Nancy Addison Altman, Bernard Barrow, Faith Catlin, Justin Deas, Michael Fairman, John Gabriel, Helen Gallagher, Malcolm Groome, Rosalinda Guerra, Michael Hawkins, Earl Hindman, Ilene Kristen, Frank Latimore, Michael Levin, Kate Mulgrew, Hannibal Penney, Jr., and Diana van der Vlis.

At first, the show experienced low ratings and was ranked dead last among all the soaps during its first season. However, by its second season, the show's ratings had jumped, and it was now in the middle of the daytime ratings pack. It would continue to have steady ratings until 1982.

As the seventies progressed, numerous actors and actresses appeared in various roles. One of the most noteworthy was Louise Shaffer (1977-1984) was the conniving Rae Woodard. Two others included Sarah Felder as Siobhan Ryan Novak and Richard Munez as Joe Novak.


By the end of the seventies, many characters had been recast. This practice continued into the eighties and somewhat hindered the show at times when the recast did not work out. After Michael Hawkins left the role of Frank Ryan in 1976, subsequent replacements included Andrew Robinson (1976-1978), Daniel Hugh-Kelly (1978-1981), Geoffrey Pierson (1983-1985), and John Sanderford (1985-1989). Mary Ryan Fenelli was played by Mary Carney (1978), Kathleen Tolan (1978-1979), and Nicolette Goulet (1979) after Kate Mulgrew departed in 1978. Malcolm Groome chose to leave the role of Pat Ryan in 1978 and was replaced with John Blazo (1978), Robert Finoccoli (1978-1979), and James Patrick Clarke (1982-1983); Groome returned to the role in 1983 and remained with the show until 1988. Sarah Felder left the role of Siobhan in 1980 and was replaced with Ann Gillespie (1980-1982), Marg Helgenberger (1982-1986), Carrell Myers (1986-1987), and Barbara Blackburn (1988-1989).

Other characters not related to the Ryans were also recast. After Ilene Kristen left in January 1979, the role of Delia Reid was played by Robyn Millan (1979), Randall Edwards (1979-1982), and Robin Mattson (1984); Kristen returned to the show in the role from 1982-1983 and 1986-1989. After Faith Catlin was dropped from the show as Faith Coleridge in May 1976, she was replaced with Nancy Barrett (1976), Catherine Hicks (1976-1978), and Karen Morris-Gowdy (1978-1983). Joe Novak was also portrayed by Roscoe Born (1981-1983, 1988), Michael Hennessey (1983-1984), and Walt Willey (1986-1987).

"A clone of General Hospital"

Several things happened during the late seventies and early eighties to hasten the demise of the series. In 1979, Labine and Mayer were forced to sell the show to ABC due to skyrocketing production costs. ABC soon pushed for more action-adventure storylines, like the ones on their hit soap General Hospital. One of these included a gorilla who kidnapped Delia Reid Ryan Coleridge. Another included a search for a lost Egyptian queen. These were not the type of plots the show had previously been known for.

At the beginning of 1982, ABC fired Labine and Mayer and replaced them with Mary Munisteri. During Munisteri's tenure as headwriter, the focus began to move to the newly-arrived wealthy Kirkland clan, which was headed by Hollis Kirkland III (Peter Haskell). It soon turned out that he was the father of Rae Woodard's daughter, Kimberly Harris (Kelli Maroney). As more and more Kirklands began to show up (including Christine Jones as Hollis' wife Catsy and Mary Page Keller and Ariane Munker as his daughter Amanda), less attention was paid to the Ryans and Coleridges.

Due to falling ratings, Labine and Mayer were asked back at the beginning of 1983. Ratings rose steadily with their return; however, it was not enough. By the end of 1983, they were replaced with General Hospital scribe Pat Falken Smith. Smith, along with executive producer Joseph Hardy, once again shifted the focus from the Ryans. Numerous fan favorites, including Ilene Kristen, Louise Shaffer, Karen Morris-Gowdy were either fired or left of their own accord during Smith's and Hardy's reign. The focus of the series was now centered on Greenberg's Deli, with Cali Timmins' Maggie Shelby and Scott Holmes' Dave Greenberg becoming two prominent characters.

In 1985, Smith was replaced with Millee Taggert and Tom King. The show began to go back to its roots during this time. However, the show, which had been airing at 12:30PM since 1977, had just been moved to the noon time slot. Ratings sank to previously unheard of levels.

The final years

With ratings going further and further south, ABC asked Claire Labine to return as headwriter, with her daughter, Eleanor Mancusi, as co-headwriter. Labine and Mancusi revitalized the show. A year after Labine's return, executive producer Joseph Hardy was replaced with Felicia Minei Behr.

During the eighties, there were numerous cast changes. Some of the more notable ones included the additions of Yasmine Bleeth, Grant Show, Daniel Pilon, Tichina Arnold, Gloria DeHaven, Jason Adams, Christopher Durham, and Catherine Larson.

However, the end was already in sight. ABC cancelled the series in fall 1988. The last episode (#3515) aired on January 13, 1989, and it concluded with Helen Gallagher's Maeve singing "Danny Boy" like in many previous Ryan celebrations. For the final episodes, numerous cast members who had been on the show in previous years returned.

Ryan's Hope at the Emmys

During the show's run, it received a number of Daytime Emmy Award nominations and even won a few awards. It was nominated for Outstanding Daytime Drama five times, and won twice (1976-1977 and 1978-1979). It also won six Emmys for Outstanding Writing (1976-1977, 1977-1978, 1978-1979, 1979-1980, 1982-1983, 1983-1984). Actress Helen Gallagher won three Outstanding Lead Actress Emmys for her role as Ryan matriarch Maeve (1975-1976, 1976-1977, 1987-1988). Louise Shaffer, who played Rae Woodard from 1977-1984, also won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress during the 1982-1983 season. Directors Jerry Evans and Lela Swift, along with set designer Sy Tomashoff, all got awards for their production work.

Other actors and actresses nominated for their work included Nancy Addison Altman, Tichina Arnold, Richard Backus, Bernard Barrow, Randall Edwards, John Gabriel, Ron Hale, Andrew Robinson, and Grant Show.

Before they were stars

Many primetime stars got their start on Ryan's Hope, including 7th Heaven's Catherine Hicks, Baywatch's Yasmine Bleeth, Melrose Place's Grant Show, Gimme a Break's Nell Carter, LA Law's Corbin Bernsen, and Star Trek: Voyager's Kate Mulgrew.

Daytime stars on RH

Numerous actors and actresses from Ryan's Hope can still be seen in daytime. They include Ilene Kristen (of One Life to Live), Ron Hale (of General Hospital), Justin Deas (of Guiding Light), Walt Willey (of All My Children), Maureen Garrett (of Guiding Light), Julia Barr (of All My Children), and Tracey Ross (of Passions). Recently, Roscoe Born joined the cast of The Young and the Restless after leaving One Life to Live.

In America and overseas

Reruns of Ryan's Hope currently air on SOAPnet.

On January 4, 1994, a soap opera, Onderweg naar morgen (which literally means On the way to tomorrow), debuted on Dutch television; the Dutch writers based their show on story bibles originally written by Labine and Mayer.

External links


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