Ryan's Hope

''This page is about the television program. For the rock band of the same name see Ryan's Hope (band).

Ryan's Hope (RH) is a soap opera which aired for fourteen years on ABC, from July 7 1975 to January 13 1989. The show aired a total of 3515 30-minute episodes.


In late 1974, ABC Daytime approached Claire Labine and Paul Avila Mayer, who were the Head Writers of CBS' Love of Life at the time, about creating a new soap opera. The network wanted a series similar to General Hospital. The proposed title of the new serial was City Hospital. Labine and Mayer added a large Irish family to ABC's vision of the show -- the Ryan family. RH was created, owned, and originally written by Labine and Avila Mayer, who had previously written Where The Heart Is and Love of Life.

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.

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 (1978-1983) and Felicia Minei Behr (1983-1988).

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

Multiple recasts

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 Tyan Tolan (1978-1979), and Nicolette Goulet (1979) after Kate Mulgrew departed in 1978.

Between 1977 and 1979, the show underwent several changes. At the beginning of 1977, its timeslot changed from 1:00PM to 12:30PM, serving as the anchor of the ABC daytime line-up. In late 1977, Kate Mulgrew announced she would be leaving in early 1978 after completing location footage shot in Ireland which depicted Mary's second honeymoon with Jack. Between January 1978 and December 1979, three different actresses played Mary. Although Labine and Mayer wanted to kill her character, ABC refused. However, after ABC realized no one other than Mulgrew herself would be accepted in the role, they agreed to let Mary be killed off. Mary died on the day of her sister Siobhan's wedding to Joe Novak. Mulgrew made brief appearances as Mary's spirit in 1983, 1986 and 1989. Malcolm Groome chose to leave the role of Pat Ryan in 1978 and was replaced with John Blazo (1978-1979), Robert Finoccoli (1979), and Patrick James 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 (1981-1982), 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 (when she was fired due to weight gain) 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 Hennessy (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 serial General Hospital. One of these included a gorilla who kidnapped Delia Reid 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 Head Writer, 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. Various cast members at this time dubbed the show Kirkland's Hope.

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 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. since 1977, had just been moved to the Noon/11 time slot. Ratings sank to previously unheard-of levels, which led to the 1989 cancellation.

The final years

With ratings going further and further south and many ABC affiliates dropping the show altogether, ABC asked Claire Labine to return as head writer, with her daughter, Eleanor Labine, as co-head writer. The Labines 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 Grant Show, Daniel Pilon, Gerit Quealy, Tichina Arnold, Gloria DeHaven, Christopher Durham, soap opera legend Rosemary Prinz, and Catherine Larson. The list of well-known additions even included those who came aboard due to the occurrence of SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) for two central characters. In early 1985, Joseph Hardy and Felicia Minei Behr decided that the character of Ryan Fenelli would advance to being approximately 17 years old for new storyline prospects, from the 9 year old she was currently, as played by Jenny Rebecca Dweir. Newcomer Yasmine Bleeth was hired to become the teenage Ryan, who started only a month or so after Dweir's last appearance in the role. Initially, Bleeth's Ryan Fenelli shared many youth-oriented and high-school themed plots with Grant Show's Rick Hyde and bad boy D.J. LaSalle, as played by up-and-coming actor Christian Slater. Later in 1985, young actor Jadrien Steele departed from the role of Little John Ryan, after having played him since the age of 2. Instead of replacing him with another child actor, Hardy and Behr decided to SORAS Little John's age to that of around 23 for storyline purposes as well. After several months off the show, the suddenly grown-up John Reid Ryan surfaced in 1986, and was portrayed for the rest of the run by Jason Adams.

However, the end was already in sight; ABC announced its cancellation of the series in fall 1988. The last episode (#3515) 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.

Scheduling/Ratings history

See: List of US daytime soap opera ratings

When RH premiered on July 7, 1975, ABC scheduled it at 1:00 p.m./12 Noon Central, a timeslot previously occupied by All My Children (pushing that soap to the 12:30 p.m./11:30 a.m. slot); it replaced the game show Split Second. After the show's audience grew, it swapped places with All My Children on January 3, 1977.

At first, the show experienced low ratings and was ranked dead last among all the soaps during its first season; this was quite customary during that era and did not affect ABC's attitude toward the show, since no other daytime serials were starting up at the time of RH's debut. By 1976-77, ABC's patience paid off with the show's ratings finally rising, and it was now in the middle of the daytime ratings pack, in 8th place, above even fellow ABC serial General Hospital. It would continue to have steady ratings until 1982, although it never quite managed to surmount CBS' long-established Search for Tomorrow, despite the beginnings of that show's eventual decline and death; RH would only do slightly better when SFT moved to NBC in March 1982.

Despite the tenacious cult following the soap enjoyed throughout its 13 1/2-year-run, RH never became a big ratings hit, peaking at 7th place during the 1981-82 season. The main culprit for the problem was CBS' Young and the Restless, which expanded to a full hour in February 1980. From 1982 onwards, the show suffered a ratings decline, falling from 7th and 6.9 in 1981-82 to 9th and 5.6 in 1982-83 and 10th place and 5.0 in 1983-84.

A move to Noon/11 on October 8, 1984 only enabled Y&R to bear down harder, while NBC's Super Password held down the fort for game show fans. With the change in timeslot (Loving took over the slot previously occupied by RH), ratings would fall even further as many ABC affiliates pre-empted network programming at Noon in order to broadcast local news, and Ryan's Hope spent its last five years on, or near, the bottom of the ratings chart. Y&R's persistence brought about RH's end on January 13, 1989, a very long run when its mediocre ratings are taken into account.

Season HH Rating Ranking 1975-1976 5.7 14th out of 14 soaps 1976-1977 7.3 8th out of 15 soaps 1977-1978 7.0 8th out of 14 soaps 1978-1979 7.2 9th out of 14 soaps 1979-1980 7.0 9th out of 13 soaps 1980-1981 6.7 7th out of 13 soaps 1981-1982 6.9 7th out of 15 soaps 1982-1983 5.6 9th out of 14 soaps 1983-1984 5.0 10th out of 13 soaps 1984-1985 3.4 11th out of 14 soaps 1985-1986 3.2 12th out of 14 soaps 1986-1987 2.7 13th out of 14 soaps 1987-1988 2.5 12th out of 12 soaps 1988-1989 2.3 13th out of 13 soaps

Title sequence

In its thirteen-and-a-half years on the air, Ryan's Hope went through quite a few theme, visual, and credit revisions. However, the aspects that never changed were the opening sequence's concept of showing scenes of New York City life, along with the Ryan family and other contract cast members frolicking around town; and the theme song itself, "Here's To Us", written by RH co-creator Claire Labine and Carey Gold.

July 7, 1975 - February 29, 1980
The First Years During the first few years of Ryan's Hope, the opening featured a mixture of stills and 16 millimeter film footage of the principal actors in character, all shot in character appropriate New York locations. The last shot of the original opening was of Johnny and Maeve Ryan lifting their then-newborn grandson John Reid "Johnno" Ryan up to the heavens as "Here's to Us" plays in the background in a rather quiet strings, flute and harp arrangement.

There were actually three different opening variations used during the first years of Ryan’s Hope. During its first couple months on the air and again from the summer of 1976 until approximately the summer of 1977, the opening was a sixteen-millimeter film sequence of Johnny and Maeve with Little John. This same opening sequence was redone as a series of stills by the fall of 1977. The fall 1975 through summer 1976 opening featured still photos of all the principal characters.

Ending credits for the majority of Ryan's Hope’s run usually ran over either a beauty shot or a still of Ryan's Bar. From July 1975 through the early fall of 1978, Ryan's Hope’s end credit lettering was in white Grotesque No. 9 Italic. From the fall of 1978 onward, end credit lettering was set in Souvenir Bold Italic. Also beginning at that time, the credits would sometimes run over a shot of a different empty set featured in a particular episode. Until the early 1980s, RH was the only soap opera aired on ABC that contained copyright notice at the end of every broadcast, which for most daytime soaps was not standard practice at the time. This was due to the show's non-network ownership during the first five years, until Labine-Mayer Productions sold their creation to ABC in 1980.

March 3, 1980 - March 1983
Post-Success Years As soon as visionaries Labine and Mayer sold Ryan's Hope to ABC outright, the network decided to make some image alterations of their own, as a plan to keep building on the success the show received in its first five years. Amid noticeable effects in the scripts, casting, and other production values, the opening sequence was changed during this time also so that instead of shots of the principal cast members of Ryan's Hope, there were panoramic views of New York and shots of anonymous New York City people. This opening's shot sequence was as follows:

1. Aerial shot of Empire State Building
2. Statue of Liberty
3. A ferry boat in New York Harbor
4. The Brooklyn Bridge
5. A kindergarten teacher walking her young charges down the street
6. Two children on a swing
7. A young couple sharing an apple
8. A zoom-in on sunlight reflected on a glass and steel skyscraper
9. A wealthy young woman stepping out of a limousine
10. Another young couple embracing
11. Boys playing soccer in Central Park.

The title appears on the screen after the freeze-frame of the boys tossing the soccer ball up in the air.

There was a new, more uptempo arrangement of Carey Gold's "Here's to Us" theme with this new opening, which was composed by either Sid Ramin, who had taken over the music of All My Children by early 1980, or one of the staff composer/arrangers at Elliot Lawrence Productions. Within a year after ABC took over complete control of Ryan's Hope, Carey Gold was replaced as principal music composer by General Hospital's Charles Paul, whose cues for the show from 1981 through the summer of 1983 often had a GH style and sound.

From the first episode of RH that was produced under ABC's ownership in 1980, copyright notice at the end was changed to represent that of the network's, using at first medium-sized Arial font on a single line. For a year or so, the copyright appeared directly under the "Videotaped at ABC Television Center in New York" byline as the credit scroll paused (previously, "A Labine-Mayer Production" had appeared in the Grotesque then Souvenir credit fonts above the copyright). Since the start of the series, there had never been closing display of the show's title at the end of the sequence. By the end of 1981, the title finally began appearing at the end of the sequence, and the Arial copyright notice below it became smaller.

March 1983 - March 16, 1984
The New Direction of 1983 aka Recovery From "Kirkland's Hope" The opening changed in March 1983 to once again feature shots of the main cast members playing the Ryans and their friends. Of course, the opening main title footage was shot in locations around Manhattan. The final shot in this version had Johnny, Maeve, and several of the younger Ryan children sitting in Central Park surrounded by autumn leaves, as Johnny throws a soccer ball up in the air. The frame freezes just as the ball travels out of everyone's reach, with the title appearing on the top left-hand corner. The second remix of "Here's to Us" remained for the first five months of this opening's run; however on Monday, August 22 1983, the theme was switched to an arrangement that had more of a discernible beat, and was the most uptempo to date. It was this rendition that remained over the opening and closing until the end of RH's run in January 1989.

On Monday, May 16, 1983, "All Rights Reserved" was added to the program's copyright notice for the first time. Also, sometime during the fall of 1983, but no later than Monday, December 26th of that year, the established beauty-shot/empty set ending visuals were retired, in favor of stills of scenes from that day's episode. The credit font would remain the same until Friday, March 16, 1984.

March 19, 1984 - January 13, 1989
The Final Years The most substantial changes of the opening and closings of Ryan's Hope, that occurred in 1984, continued on March 19th of that year when a whole new series of filmed shots containing all contract principals premiered, along with a mix of videotaped footage. The title logo changed from the Schadow Bold type used since day one to that of Advertisers Gothic Bold, the same lettering used in the opening titles of ABC's 1970s series Starsky and Hutch. The title now also appeared across on a single line. The freeze-fame shots in the final five years of the show featured Maeve Ryan only; from March 1984 until 1987, the title was displayed over Maeve kneeling down in the street as pigeons fly away from her; from 1987 to January 1989, Maeve was smelling spring flowers off a tree branch, and then gazes to the side of camera view. By 1988, the opening montage was almost entirely videotaped footage.

The major graphic changes of this period even extended to the closing credits. As soon as the final theme package premiered, the Souvenir Bold Italic credit font used since 1978 changed to Advertisers Gothic Bold to match RH's new logo. These now ran over the episode stills that were introduced in the last months of the previous theme package. What was most noticeable about this latest credit format was that for the first time, the entire setup was electronically generated, whereas before then credits were still run on a scrolling machine frame. Also, character names in the cast list went from being displayed below actors' names to above them. At the same time, the copyright notice also changed to the new generic version, in a stylized italic font, that was also used on All My Children, One Life to Live and Good Morning America. These changes would remain until RH’s last telecast.

Ryan's Hope at the Emmys

Ryan's Hope won sixteen Daytime Emmy Awards.

Actors and actresses nominated for their work on Ryan's Hope included Nancy Addison Altman, Tichina Arnold, Richard Backus, Bernard Barrow, Randall Edwards, John Gabriel, Ron Hale, Andrew Robinson, and Grant Show.

In America and overseas

In 2000, SOAPnet picked up reruns of Ryan's Hope, which was one of the few daytime dramas from before 1978 which saved all of its episodes. They aired the July 1975 through December 1981 episodes from 2000 to 2003. While reruns were originally abundant (airing daily in one-hour installments every six hours starting at noon, with two marathons of the week's episodes on weekends), by 2005 the show was only aired one hour per weekdays, and for a brief time, one hour a week. Currently, reruns are broadcast daily at 5 am EST.

Ryan's Hope has also run on RTÉ 2 in Ireland and has previously aired in Australia. On January 3, 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.


Years Head writer(s)
1975 – 1982 Claire Labine & Paul Avila Mayer
1982 Claire Labine
1982 – 1983 Mary Ryan Munisteri
1983 Claire Labine & Paul Avila Mayer
1983 – 1985 Pat Falken Smith
1985 – 1987 Tom King & Millee Taggart
1987 – 1988 Claire Labine & Eleanor Labine
1988 – 1989 Claire Labine & Matthew Labine

Years Executive Producers
1975 – 1982 Claire Labine & Paul Avila Mayer
1983 – 1988 Joseph Hardy
1988 – 1989 Felicia Minei Behr

Years Producers
1975 George Lefferts
1975 – 1978 Robert Costello
1978 – 1983 Ellen Barrett
1983 – 1988 Felicia Minei Behr
1988 – 1989 Nancy Horwich

Before They Were Stars

Many primetime stars got their start on Ryan's Hope, including Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris), Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven), Yasmine Bleeth (Baywatch), Grant Show (Melrose Place), Nell Carter (Gimme a Break), Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law), Marg Helgenberger (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), Christian Slater (numerous films), Dominic Chianese (The Sopranos) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).

Rosie O'Donnell has been known to claim that Ryan's Hope was her all-time favorite soap opera. Due to the show's setting and the predominant ethinicity of its central family, the Irish Catholic and Long Island-sprung O'Donnell obviously had a lot to relate with. When she mentioned the late ABC soap during her controversial hosting stint on The View in late 2006, O'Donnell remarked "As much as I love ABC daytime soaps and [current daytime president] Brian Frons, I am still to this very day mad that they cancelled Ryan's Hope. Y'know, I blame the people at Loving for doing that, they basically moved in and mowed down my Ryan's Hope. I never liked Loving".

Deceased cast members

Actor Character Year of Death Years On Ryan's Hope
Wesley Addy Bill Woodard 1996 1977-1978
Nancy Addison Altman Jillian Coleridge 2002 1975-1989
David Bailey Teddy Malcolm 2004 1988-1989
Bernard Barrow Johnny Ryan 1993 1975-1989
Nell Carter Ethel Green 2003 1978-1979
Nicolette Goulet Mary Ryan Fenelli #4 2008 1979
Earl Hindman Bob Reid 2003 1975-1989
Frank Latimore Ed Coleridge 1998 1975-1976
Irving Allen Lee Evan Cooper 1992 1986-1989
Kenneth McMillan Charlie Ferris 1989 1975-1976
Anne Revere Marguerite Beaulac #2 1990 1977
Sylvia Sidney Sister Mary Joel 1999 1975-1976
Gale Sondergaard Marguerite Beaulac #1 1985 1976
Diana van der Vlis Nell Beaulac
Sherry Rowan
2001 1975-1976

External links

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