November 17, 1986
Mary Stuart, the show's only remaining original cast member, got the word while being held at gunpoint in an elevator shaft. In the midst of shooting a segment of SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, she was called into the producer's office. The news was sad but not unexpected: after 35 years on the air, longer than any other soap opera, her series was being canceled. Its fatal malady: low ratings.
SEARCH FOR TOMORROW premiered on CBS in 1951, when Harry Truman was President and TV soaps squeezed all their traumas into 15-minute episodes. Set in the fictional town of Henderson, the show provided early roles for such actors as Jill Clayburgh, Lee Grant and Wayne Rogers, and was an anchor of CBS's top-rated daytime lineup of the 1950s and '60s. But ratings fell, and the soap was dropped by CBS in 1982, only to resurface on NBC. In a last-ditch ploy to revive interest, a devastating flood was ordered up in February, enabling a revamp of sets, story lines and characters. It did not help: SEARCH FOR TOMORROW remained the lowest-rated network soap. Its final episode will air on Friday, Dec. 26. After that, the daily woes will be replaced by happy contestants on a new game show called WORLDPLAY.
EDITOR'S NOTE: SEARCH was the longest running television show at the time it went off the air. Initially WORDPLAY did well in the ratings beating SEARCH FOR TOMORROW's numbers. In its first week, WORDPLAY had more viewers than SEARCH had in any week over the previous two years. But it didn't last and viewers quickly tired of the game show. WORDPLAY didn't even last a year and aired its last episode on September 4, 1987.
SOAPS CANCELED AFTER 35 OR MORE YEARS AND THEIR REPLACEMENTS
SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, 1986, WORDPLAY
ANOTHER WORLD, 1999, PASSIONS
GUIDING LIGHT, 2009, LET'S MAKE A DEAL
AS THE WORLD TURNS, 2010, THE TALK
ALL MY CHILDREN, 2011, THE CHEW
ONE LIFE TO LIVE, 2012, THE REVOLUTION