Just this last September "The Guiding Light" ceased to light up the TV screen. GL had been broadcast for 72 years, starting with 15 minute radio shows in 1937. It moved to the small screen in 1952.
I remember my Mom watching "The Guiding Light" when I was a kid. I can still see that Lighthouse on our black and white screen and I can still hear that theme song in my head to this day. Though my mom worked most of my life she still managed to keep up with her soap operas. I don't know how she kept up on the doings in those fictional towns in the days before VCRs, DVRs and the Soap Channel but she did.
Somewhere between my childhood years and my twenties my Mom switched soaps and The Guiding Light got cancelled in our house way before CBS did it in completely. I know Mom watched a few other shows over the years but she was most faithful to The Guilding Light and Days of Our Lives. She was also a big Perry Mason fan but that was a prime time show.
THE GUIDING LIGHT
I am not a soap opera fan. The only time I ever got hooked was in the early eighties when my Mom would not leave the house until her "story" (Days of Our Lives) aired. Any plans we had to go shopping, have lunch or see a movie waited until she got the latest dope on Marlena and the gang. I ended up watching with her and got caught in the net for a while. Mom loved her "stories" and I ended up with a soap monkey on my back for a few years. Fortunately my business was booming and the pressures of a growing client list broke my addiction.
Oh, okay, I did watch "Dark Shadows" when I was in high school because all my friends did and, yup, I couldn't go anywhere with them until their "story" was over!
No matter what your opinion of daytime soaps, the one thing they were good for is providing work for aging actors and giving young actors a break into the business. Here's a list of just a few of the well known actors who appeared on just these two soap operas:
AS THE WORLD TURNS:
Courtney Cox, Dana Delany, Thomas Gibson, James Earl Jones, Julianne Moore, Parker Posey, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Richard Thomas, Marisa Tomei, Steven Weber
THE GUIDING LIGHT:
Kevin Bacon, Joan Collins, Taye Diggs, Calista Flockhart, Allison Janney, James Earl Jones (again!), Melina Kanakaredes, Harley Jane Kozak, James Lipton, Hayden Panettiere, Jimmy Smits, Mira Sorvino, Billy Dee Williams
With the cancellation of so many of these long running daytime soap operas I begin to wonder if the end is near for this form of entertainment. Daytime soap operas were aimed at the housewife of the 1940s and 1950s. They were called "soaps" because they were sponsored by laundry detergent and hand soap companies. The ads were aimed at stay-at-home moms, the shows timed to air during school hours and the story lines were written like neighborhood gossip.
Lifestyles have changed, most women work outside the home these days, talk shows seem to have overtaken the daytime landscape and soap operas have drifted into primetime in the guise of "drama". The world has turned and the days of our lives have changed the viewing habits of that earlier target audience. Women have moved on and the daytime soap seems to have outlived its value. It's just another part of television that is slowly becoming history.
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