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Beverly Hills, Calif. • In June, Utah native Anthony Geary made history, winning his seventh Daytime Emmy as best actor.

And the man best known for his "General Hospital" role as Luke Spencer got pretty emotional when he accepted.

"I think we were all pretty emotional to get 24 nominations when we were so shaky about a year ago," Geary said. "We'd been living on death row."

These are clearly not the best of times for daytime soap operas. From a peak of 19 back in the 1960s, the genre has dwindled to four — "GH," "Days of Our Lives," "The Bold and the Beautiful" and "The Young and the Restless."

And rumors have swirled that "GH" was at death's door. That if ABC's "The Revolution" had garnered decent ratings, the soap would have followed "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" to the TV boneyard.

So winning another Emmy for a role he originated in 1978 was a thrill. Particularly because the character of Luke Spencer has become such a huge part of his life.

"When you play a character for a long time, that character has like a second life you're living," Geary said. "So it's kind of a bonus in terms of the fullness of experience in your life. I feel very grateful that the audience still is interested in this character and in seeing him explore his life."

"General Hospital" will celebrate its 50th anniversary on April 1. The celebration begins in September, and ABC will be promoting it for six months.

The question remains: Will this anniversary be a farewell tour?

Obviously, the show's cast, crew and fans hope that's not the case.

"There's something to really be valued about tradition and about something that's familiar and something that makes people feel comfortable," said Nancy Lee Grahn, who stars as Alexis Davis. "And something that's generational and that's inclusive. And I think that that really matters."

Executive producer Frank Valentini referred to soaps as "an original American art form." "I think that it's not only about tradition, I think it's about storytelling," he said. "I think it addresses the fantasy of family, the fantasy of love, the fantasy of romance, the fantasy of friendship. And those are sort of the bedrock of what this country is all about. I don't want to sound too patriotic about it, but people look to these shows as touchstones and examples within which to explore life, understand life, and to experience life as well as to be entertained by it."

Valentini has been through this before. He was executive producer of "One Life to Live" until that show was canceled and he was hired to take over "General Hospital."

He tried to sound optimistic about the future, but the most he could muster was guarded optimism.

"All I can say is they invited us here," he said, referring to the Television Critic Association press tour. "To me, that's a great sign, and they're behind us 100 percent. They're very excited about the 50th anniversary, and we'll be laying and rolling out lots of different things between now and April and past then. So I'm pretty confident."

And Geary isn't going anyplace. "I'm having a great time," said the Coalville native. "I feel like the show is as good as it's ever been. I just hope we get to keep doing it."

'General Hospital'

The ABC daytime soap airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on Channel 4. As of Sept. 10, it will move to weekdays at 1 p.m.

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