Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Guiding Light" remaking itself as "The Hills"

"Guiding Light" is going MTV.

The 70-year-old CBS soap opera is ditching its bulky cameras and primitive sets in favor of tiny hand-held cameras and a reality-show feel, à la "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach."

The plan is to lend the show the more hip, realistic look of MTV's twin hit reality-soaps, which have broken new ground in recent years with slick camera work and editing that make them appear more like primetime dramas.

The new format will make its debut early next year, says "Guiding Light" executive producer Ellen Wheeler.

"It's not going to look anything like what it looks like now," she says.

Since 1937, the show has chronicled the fictional town of Springfield, Ill. - first on radio and then on TV starting in 1952.

Now, a real New Jersey town - Wheeler declined to name which one - will double as Springfield for exterior scenes.

Wheeler says she got the idea first-hand from fans and a comprehensive year-and-a-half study commissioned by the show's producers, Proctor & Gamble.

"They said . . . the show didn't feel real," says Wheeler. "I wanted to make these very real stories and very real characters feel as much like it was really happening as I possibly could.

"When I watch 'The Hills,' 'ER,' 'Grey's Anatomy' or even 'Desperate Housewives,' those shows feel real to me."

In one sense, the show has little to lose by taking a gamble like this.

The audience for daytime dramas has been dwindling for years and "GL" has been among the shows most often mentioned as a candidate for cancellation.

Wheeler says the changes are not meant to be a short-term survival strategy. "I promise that I wouldn't be putting this much work and effort into it if that were the case," Wheeler says.

"I want to efficiently and economically deliver Springfield to my audience," Wheeler says. "A real Springfield, where people have houses that have yards and people get in their cars and they drive to jobs."

She promised the show will continue with its current cast of characters and storylines, though the format will allow for more in-depth character development.

"If I see someone planting flowers, I want to know what kind of flowers they are, if is driving a car, I want to know what kind," she says.

"It will allow for a deeper understanding of who these people are."

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