Jason Morgan, a fictionalized character in ABC’s “General Hospital”, gained a following over the years as one of the longest-running characters in the daytime series. Before the character’s last appearance in the series was aired, rumors surfaced online about the possibility of his character being written off as the actor who played him was being axed from the show. Fans were confused, but the Covid-19 pandemic took center stage and every industry including TV production was highly affected by it.

A brief history of “General Hospital”

For the past 60 years, “General Hospital” has entertained its audience with all the twists and turns that many soap operas are known for, and it was only fitting that it eventually assumed the title of America’s longest-running scripted TV daytime drama series in production.

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TV premiere and premise

When “General Hospital” debuted on ABC TV network on 1 April 1963, no one knew at that time that it would revolutionize the daytime drama industry. It featured a fictionalized town in upstate New York called Port Charles, with the storyline revolving around the lives and loves of the character of Dr. Steve Hardy portrayed by John Beradino, and Nurse Jessie Brewer portrayed by Emily McLaughlin. The initial episode was filmed in 16 hours, which everyone found grueling. They were all rewarded later on when it became one of the top-rated shows on ABC.

The changes it went through to avoid getting canceled

When it was first aired, most young people weren’t interested in watching daytime drama series, so most of its narratives were created to target regular soap opera viewers. For a time in its early years it became popular, but the producers soon realized that they needed to make it much more interesting, as rival networks started to produce highly competitive series as well, which led to a decline in their viewership. In 1977, they hired Gloria Monty, one of the respected executive producers in the industry, to resuscitate the soap opera; she focused on the younger characters and ordered the writers to give them more screen time with better character development. She made sure that the show was presented with shorter scenes, exotic locations, more action scenes, and lots of cliffhangers. They lessened the focus on the mob narratives, and it worked. The soap opera attracted a huge chunk of the younger audience’s interest, and went on top of the daytime viewer ratings list. It was expanded from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and then later to an hour.

Conceptualized as a primetime offering but switched to daytime

Few people knew that “General Hospital” was originally conceptualized not as a daytime series. It was supposedly a drama aimed at attracting more viewers during the time of day when the audience was at its largest. Primetime series usually aired from 8 to 11pm, with nine to nine-thirty as its highest peak. However, when ABC network executives heard that the rival network, NBC, was also on the verge of airing a primetime series with a similar narrative called “The Doctors,” they switched gear, changing its pace and storyline to befit the daytime TV hours.

Daytime TV’s most-watched wedding episode

“General Hospital” subsequently dominated the daytime TV rating game, and in 1981 shocked everyone by garnering around 30 million viewers in an episode, when they showed the wedding of what soap opera fans labeled as the “supercouple,” Luke and Laura Spencer, played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis. Up to this day, no other daytime series has replicated the viewership record. However, the love story between the couple also became a controversial topic because it started with rape. Apparently, Luke sexually assaulted Laura, but later on the writers tweaked it and referred to it as seduction, and then further justified the act as undying love. While people debated if the show was guilty of romanticizing rape, viewers were enthralled by the chemistry between the two actors, and ABC won the TV ratings game. In November 1981, TV analysts assessed that an episode averaged over 13 million viewers, while its rival daytime series, “All My Children” and “One Life to Life,” only gained about eight million viewers.

A pioneer in controversial socio-economic and gender narratives

Another reason that the show was labeled as a daytime TV innovator was that it featured controversial or taboo topics that were usually swept under the carpet. Other soap operas also delved into these issues, but “General Hospital” was more aggressive in tackling them, and most often a tad earlier than its rivals. They featured bipolar disorder, especially after one of its actors was diagnosed with the illness, and who permitted the executive producers to use his personal experience to be written into the narrative. The show also discussed HIV and AIDS – they had a character afflicted with the disease, and they presented the struggles of people living with it.

Recently, during the pandemic, without really delving deeply into the issue surrounding Covid-19, it subtly encouraged its audience to get vaccinated by showing a vaccination ad poster in the background while two nurses were having a conversation.

Most number of wins for Emmy Outstanding Drama series

Out of all the soap opera drama series launched in the American TV industry, “General Hospital” earned the most wins for Outstanding Drama Series by Daytime Emmy Awards. After ABC TV network took home the award in June 2022 at the 49th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, the soap opera had a total of 15 awards for the said category.

Jason Morgan highlights in “General Hospital”

Jason Morgan wasn’t one of the original characters in the show, as his first appearance only happened on 11 November 1981 when he was still a child. During his growing-up years, the character was played by many child actors including Quinn Carlson (November 1981-June 1982) and Bryan Beck (September 1982-December 1988). The adult version of the character was played by Steve Burton (1991-2012), Carmel Fainbaum stepped into the role for a year, Billy Miller took over from 2014 up to 2017, and Paul Chirico played it briefly in 2017 until Steve was hired again to play the role until it was written out in 2022.

His introduction to the daytime series

Jason was the result of a love affair between Dr. Alan Quartermaine played by Stuart Damon and Susan Moore played by Gail Ramsey. As a child, he was financially supported by his father while he lived with his mother. When his father and his wife, Monica, separated following an affair, his parents moved in together and they lived as a family. However, Monica filed for sole custody of his half-brother, AJ, which ended with reconciliation with his father. Susan then filed a case against the Quartermaines for Jason’s inheritance, but she was murdered before it was resolved. After Susan’s death, Jason lived with his father and stepmother. Initially, Monica didn’t want to have anything to do with him, but later grew to love him like her own son. It created tension between the half-brothers, because AJ felt neglected by their busy parents, which led to the boys being sent off to a boarding school.

Jason was SORAsed

The next time the viewers of “General Hospital” saw Jason was when he was SORAsed, a term commonly used in daytime drama series which meant that his character underwent the acceleration of aging, or the Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. The process was quite different from a time jump because the character’s aging wasn’t consistent with the real-time narrative timeline of the series. Newly-aged characters would also re-establish their birth year to match the real-time age of the other characters in the series.

He lost his memory after a car accident with an intoxicated AJ

When Jason returned from school, he was introduced as a popular athlete and a thriving student. Everything in his life at that time was pretty positive, as he was loved by his adoptive mother and went through different relationships as a normal college student. Except for his half-brother, he had a great relationship with everyone around him including his adoptive sister, Emily Quartermaine. When AJ had too much to drink and wanted to drive, Jason went with him to stop him from having an accident, but AJ was too stubborn, the car hit a tree, and Jason was thrown out of it, with his head hitting a boulder. When he went awoke, he had amnesia, and a serious brain injury.

Jason underwent a drastic change in personality

His brain injury not only made him lose his memory, but also totally changed his personality. From the happy golden boy of the Quartermaine family, he turned into a bitter young man filled with rage; he pushed everyone away except for his grandmother Lila and little sister Emily. Eventually, he left home and didn’t want to be involved with his family again. He changed his last name to Morgan, Lila’s maiden name, and from then on became Jason Morgan.

Jason entered the mob world

After cutting ties with his family, Jason started working for his friend and mob boss, Sonny Corinthos, becoming an enforcer in Sonny’s organization which fitted his new personality. It didn’t take long for him to establish himself as Sonny’s number two, and the organization became his life. He committed many crimes as the mob enforcer, but was also shot at and framed for killing other people many times. His mob activities strained many of his relationships, and were oftentimes the reason for breaking up with the women he supposedly loved.

The women in Jason Morgan’s life

Throughout his entire stay in Port Charles, Jason was involved with many women. Some of them he truly fell in love with, but there were others whom he became entangled with for convenience or business purposes only. Here are just some of the most interesting ones:

Robin Scorpio

He was first seriously involved with Robin Scorpio who was with him when he woke up from his coma. He helped her deal with the loss of her boyfriend, Michael “Stone” Cates, who had been diagnosed with AIDS, which led to his death. They eventually became a couple, and she was the one responsible for introducing Jason to Sonny Corinthos. They were on and off as she didn’t approve of his mob activities, and even begged Sonny to fire him, but when he did, Jason broke up with her. She was also responsible for helping him with his medical needs.

Carly Robert

When Carly Robert gave birth to son Michael from a one-night stand with AJ Quartermaine, Jason pretended to be the father as Carly begged him to, so the boy would be protected. Her then-boyfriend, Tony, thought he was the father, and so kidnapped the baby because he was afraid that Jason’s mob affiliation would endanger his son. Michael was rescued by Jason, and Tony was shot by Carly who claimed temporary insanity. For a time, Jason and Robin took care of Michael, however, things became complicated when Carly was released from the mental institution. When Robin had enough of Carly’s continued presence in her and Jason’s life, she revealed to AJ the truth about Michael’s identity. They all fought for custody of the child, and while the judge gave the biological parents and Jason shared custody, the latter eventually waived off all his rights to protect Michael.

Brenda Barrett

When the Sonny-Brenda-Jax love triangle was at its peak, Jason and Brenda Barrett were married. To avoid hurting anyone, Brenda blackmailed Jason. Truth be told, the only reason he agreed to the marriage was to ensure that Sonny and Carly’s marriage would remain intact. Apparently, Brenda and Sonny were very much in love before Carly came into the picture, but the relationship didn’t survive. When it was time to divorce, Jason and Brenda were involved in a lawsuit that had the potential to have them jailed. However, if they remained married, they wouldn’t be forced to testify against each other. Eventually, when things settled down and they were cleared of any crime, they divorced.

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Sam McCall

Jason and Sam had one of the most complicated love stories in “General Hospital.” They were referred to as a “supercouple,” as they became one of the most popular pairings on daytime TV. Their love story started as normal with two individuals who became friends and later fell in love, and supported each other in whatever they were doing in their lives. It was the first time that he was accepted wholly by a woman. Steve Burton, the actor who played the role, said of her character, ‘She’s always calm with him; she doesn’t try to force anything.’ Sam was with him when he had brain surgery, while Jason supported her through the encephalitis plague.

They overcame all possible soap opera obstacles that were thrown at them, and remained steadfast in their love for each other. Even during the time when everything became convoluted, as the ‘Jason’ she was spending time with was actually his twin brother, Drew Cain, who was conditioned to think and act as Jason. Apparently, the twin brothers unknowingly underwent a brain mapping experiment; Sam was quite confused as to whom she was in love with. When they sorted things out and everything was revealed, they still managed to stay together. The only thing that broke them apart was the security of their children. In November 2020, they both accepted that it would be best if they ended their relationship as they couldn’t expose their children to the dangers surrounding Jason.

What happened to Jason Morgan?

Jason was proclaimed dead in the last week of November 2021. He was looking to save his long-lost brother, Andrew Cain, inside a tunnel when it collapsed. While no one found his body, the authorities were sure that there was no sign of life in the tunnel. The character of Jason Morgan would have stayed longer in “General Hospital” if Steve Burton had only agreed to comply with the vaccination mandate during the Covid-19 pandemic. There were already rumors that he was to be written out of the daytime series, and to clear things up, he posted a video on his Instagram account, saying that he was aware that there were many speculations about him, and he wanted the fans to hear it straight from his mouth. He shared, ‘Unfortunately, General Hospital has let me go because of the vaccine mandate.’

His character’s untimely demise in 2021 surprised the fans, but the executive producers were left with no choice, as they had a major dispute with Steve over the Covid-19 mandate. His death in Port Charles was mourned by his family and friends, but fans continued to wonder if Jason would make an appearance again, since his body was never found. It wouldn’t be the first time that dead characters in the beloved soap opera turned up alive again later, with some kind of illness or new name or even a newly constructed face.

Apparently, Steve applied for religious as well as medical exemptions so he wouldn’t be forced to have the vaccine, but his request was rejected by the ABC network. He further said that while the network’s decision was painful, it was also about an individual’s personal freedom; he believed that no one should lose their job because of it. However, despite the denial of his exemption application, he wasn’t closing any door to the possibility of reprising his role as Jason Morgan in the future, when the vaccination mandate had been lifted.

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