Even though your light has dimmed, you will shine on in our hearts forever.
I first began covering soap operas on the internet in May of 1999. At that time, there were 11 soaps on the air: All My Children, General Hospital, One Life to Live and Port Charles on ABC; Another World, Sunset Beach, and Days of our Lives on NBC; and, As the World Turns, Bold and the Beautiful, Guiding Light and Young and the Restless on CBS.
But the fates were not smiling kindlyon Another World and Sunset Beach. By that July, Another World was replaced by Passions - much to the very vocal chagrin of AW fans -- and shortly thereafter, NBC cancelled Sunset Beach. In 2003, Port Charles aired its last episode and Passions was the next to go in 2007 (from NBC) and 2008 (from DirecTV). To say the least, it was very sad to see the genre of daytime dramas dwindling right before my eyes.
The biggest and most disappointing shock of all was when Soapdom learned that Guiding Light had been cancelled. Guiding Light, a daytime drama institution, a 72-year-old institution, would soon be biting the dust.
The Guiding Light began in 1937 as a radio serial. For 15 minutes every day, housewives and their children would gather around the radio to hear the exploits of the likes of the Bauers (Papa, Mama, and Meta), the Reverend Rutledge, Celeste, Ethel, Clifford, Peter, Ellis and others who were around from the beginning.
In 2007, Soapdom had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Ms. Darlene Anderson, now 72, when Guiding Light celebrated its 70th anniversary. She told us how she'd been a fan of Guiding Light from the young age of about three years old. She revealed that she learned her life lessons from listening to The Guiding Light first on the radio and then seeing it on TV.
"The great thing about the stories was what my Mom taught me about right and wrong, was in the stories. I think ‘Guiding Light' may have helped build a foundation for a life," Anderson told us.
And Anderson is only one fan. Imagine how many lives have been impacted by the denizens of Springfield over the course of the last 72 years? Too many to count, no doubt, but all who will carry snippets of life on GL with them forever.
For example, in 1962 Bert Bauer had a pap smear and learned that she was in the early stages of uterine cancer. Audiences feared for her life along with her. She had surgery which was a success and Bert's brush with cancer was cured. This storyline is credited with educating several generations of daytime viewers about the value of having this routine little test.
By 1952, The Guidng Light made the leap to broadcast television. At last, audiences got to see their favorite characters as well as hear them. They lived through the major love stories, Leslie and Mike Bauer; Quint and Nola; Phillip and Beth; Frank and Eleni Cooper; Rick and Abigail; Reva and Josh; Tammy and Jonathan; and, Natalia and Olivia; the weddings, the funerals.
There were fan favorite characters like Lujack (played by Vincent Irizarry), who was killed off and brought back as Alexandra's long lost son, Nick. Other characters have lived and died and come back to continue to make their mark in Springfield. Phillip Spaulding (played by Grant Alexander) immediately comes to mind as one of the most recent to share this fate. There have been heroic rescues, like when Josh (played by Robert Newman) saved Lucy and baby Marina from the 5th Street fire, or when town patriarch, Alan (Ron Raines), donated a body part to his son Phillip (Grant Aleksander) to save Phillip's life; and, death defying stunts like when Reva (Kim Zimmer) drove a car off a pier and came back alive!
With a rich history of 72 years, it is nearly impossible to choose what to highlight in a farewell article like this. It was all so rich, so poignant. At times the storylines angered us. At times we'd go through boxes of tissues. Most of the time we were raptly engaged in the lives and loves, ups and downs, goods and bads of the people of Springfield, and our day wasn't complete with out our hour-long dose.
Let us not forget the stars who got their start on Guiding Light or found a home in daytime: Kevin Beacon, Melina Kanakaredes, Cicely Tyson, JoBeth Williams, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ruby Dee, Sandy Denis, Glenn Walken and Christopher Walken, Joseph Campanella, Blythe Danner, Calista Flockhart, Hayden Pannettiere, and Jimmy Smits to name a few. Even screen actress, Maureen O'Sullivan, did a stint on Guiding Light. And in the small world department, Ken Corday's (executive producer of Days of our Lives) father, Ted Corday (who ultimately created Days of our Lives with Irna Phillips and Allan Chase), was a director on Guiding Light in 1952.
A rich history indeed. But by late 2007, the powers that be at CBS and Procter & Gamble Television Productions saw the writing on the wall. The paradigm had shifted. Other soaps were being cancelled, and the young, coveted viewer was getting more and more difficult to attract. Ratings were in the dumper and budgets were cut to virtually nothing. So, Ellen Wheeler, Guiding Light executive producer, took the bull by the horn and went out on a major limb as a last ditch effort to keep Guiding Light afloat. She took the show out of the bottled up four walls of the sound stage, and brought it to the town of Peapack, New Jersey, where stories could now be told more realistically on location.
At first, the hand held camera movements were jarring to viewers. I, who come from a background of prime time television, and worked on the first seasons of Law & Order which were predominantly hand held, found the early attempts on location with Guiding Light to appear amateurish, with terrible lighting and poor sound.
But as the show continued to produce in this groundbreaking format for a daytime drama series, they honed the skill and before long the production quality equaled any primetime show. By the time the show aired its final episodes, I thought I was watching a feature film.
From the moment Soapdom broke the news that Guiding Light was cancelled, we received hundreds of emails from Guiding Light fans who shared the sentiment of Shirley Robinson when she wrote:
"I just heard that my favorite soap is signing off, Guiding Light. I really love that soap and wish you would reconsider about taking it off the air. I know many other loyal Guiding Light Fans will be greatly disappointed! PLEASE don't take it off the air! I look forward to watching Guiding Light every day and can't wait to watch it again and again. PLEASE KEEP IT ON THE AIR! I really enjoy all the people on it and it will be like losing a member of my family."
While everyone at Guiding Light, along with the Daytime execs at CBS, did everything in their power to keep the show on the air, the hard truth of the financial bottom line and continuously decreasing ratings forced the network's hand.
There was one bright, guiding light at the end of the tunnel, however. Jeff Branson (Shayne) won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2009 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, tying with ex Lujack/Nick, Vincent Irizarry, who won for his current role as David on All My Children. A fitting accolade to the waning soap, if not a bittersweet one.
And finally, a word on the last episodes. The writers and producers went all out to create memorable moments for everyone in the town of Springfield. There were the weddings (Billy and Vanessa, Buzz and Lillian), funerals (Alan - I gotta admit that one caught me off guard, but how fitting it was in the end), prodigal children returning to their families, town patriarchs setting out on new adventures away from Springfield. Long time on again, off again mega couple romances like Phillip (Grant Aleksander) and Beth (Beth Chamberlain) again finding resolution, and new relationships, Frank (Frank Dicopoulos) and Blake (Elizabeth Kiefer) beginning a new romantic journey thanks to meeting on line. The tears, the laughter, the memories. And of course, Reva and Josh reuniting with the Light house behind them and driving off into the sunset to start anew.
"I created Guiding Light with one fundamental theme in mind: the brotherhood of man," wrote show creator Irna Phillips in 1937. Throughout the past 72 years, Guiding Light has lovingly lived up to that mantra.
So long Guiding Light, old friend. Even though your light has now dimmed, you will shine on in our hearts forever.
|< Prev||Next >|