When you're hooked on a soap you watch through births, deaths, weddings, affairs, divorces, returns from the dead, cloning, medical miracles, addictions, corporate greed, trials that send people to prison - whatever life has to offer can turn up in a soap.
When I went back to work in the 70s, Dick got home before I did, and he would tape Guiding Light for me faithfully every day. My kids would watch sometimes, but they were mostly disgusted with it. They claimed they could miss three months of the story and still be up to date!
Many folks are way too sophisticated and intellectual to watch a soap opera. But I've always found the continuity of Guiding Light to be interesting, comforting, familiar and fun. I was a constant viewer for 5 decades, and I will really miss it!
April 2, 2009
CBS Turns Out ‘Guiding Light’
By BILL CARTER
CBS announced Wednesday the cancellation of the longest-running scripted program in broadcasting history, the soap opera “Guiding Light.”
The show has been on radio and television for 72 years, beginning on NBC radio in 1937 and moving to CBS television in 1952.
The show’s run will end with an episode Sept. 18.
The move came after many years of steeply declining ratings for the hourlong soap, which is owned by Procter & Gamble and thus was a link to the earliest days of daytime serial dramas on radio. The shows were eventually called soap operas because soap companies sponsored them.
A spokeswoman for P.&G., Jeannie Tharrington, said the company would seek to place “Guiding Light” elsewhere. “We’re looking at all our options,” she said. “This show started as a 15-minute radio show, and then it was a half-hour television show, so it has adapted over the years.”
Ms. Tharrington said P.&G. would look to any possible outlet to continue the series. A canceled NBC soap, “Passions,” moved for a time to the satellite service DirecTV, but it failed there and is now gone.
None of the producers or stars of “Guiding Light” would grant an interview Wednesday about the decision. “The news is too fresh,” Ms. Tharrington said.
In an official statement, Ellen Wheeler, the executive producer, said, “It will be difficult for all of us at the show to say goodbye.”
The CBS president, Nancy Tellem, said, “It was not an easy decision to make, but we talked it over with our partners at Procter & Gamble, and we agreed it was time.” Ms. Tellem said she had not heard that P.&G. was looking to place the show elsewhere but said that CBS would wish the company well in that effort.
The biggest star in the show’s current cast is Kim Zimmer, a four-time Emmy winner for best actress in a daytime serial. Another star, Justin Deas, has won six Emmys for his acting. The show also provided breakthroughs for many well-known actors, including Kevin Bacon, James Earl Jones, Calista Flockhart, Allison Janney and Cicely Tyson. “Guiding Light” claims the distinction of being the first network soap to introduce regular African-American characters, in 1966.
CBS and the producers of “Guiding Light” — which is shot on the East Coast, in the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan and on location in Peapack, N.J. — had taken several steps in recent years to keep the series alive, especially in switching the production to a digital format.
That move, last year, included the introduction of hand-held digital cameras and permanent, four-wall sets as opposed to the traditional, constantly reconstructed three-wall sets built by soaps to accommodate bulky pedestal cameras. Rather than expensive lighting and sound equipment, the show also began using hand-held lights and microphones.
The changes resulted in a look vastly different from the traditional soap, with more camera movement, more muted lighting and much more use of outside locations. The moves saved considerable money, according to CBS executives.
But not enough to save the series. This year the audience for “Guiding Light” had declined to an average of just 2.1 million viewers an episode. Its pattern over recent years had been steadily downward. Last year it averaged about 2.4 million viewers an episode. Five years ago the average was about 3 million viewers.
“Guiding Light” also had the smallest audience of any of the remaining network daytime soaps and a smaller audience than many of the game and talk shows that also fill network daytime hours. The most-watched soap, “The Young and the Restless” on CBS, is averaging about 5.26 million viewers an episode. The network’s game show “The Price Is Right” has an average of about 4.95 million viewers. ABC’s talk show “The View” averages about 4.25 million viewers.
ABC’s top soap, “General Hospital,” averages about 2.97 million viewers, and NBC’s only soap, “Days of Our Lives,” has about 2.76 million, though those shows have much younger audiences, making them more desirable to many advertisers.
Ms. Tellem said that the hour devoted to “Guiding Light” — its scheduling has varied in different cities from 10 a.m. in New York to as late a 3 p.m. in some cities — will be retained by CBS. The network is likely to fill it with another game show or talk show, she said.
When “Guiding Light” ends, another CBS soap, “As the World Turns” — also shot in New York — will become the longest-running daytime serial drama. It started in 1956.