Friday, September 18, 2009

News Round-up: GUIDING LIGHT Says Goodbye

For fans, GUIDING LIGHT was a lifeline
A native Detroiter, Jill Lorie Hurst said she was particularly fond of the Greek-American Cooper family, which she described as "the blue-collar, working class family in Springfield" that reminded her of the people she saw in Greektown. "I love each and every character on GUIDING LIGHT, but they are my comfort family," she said.

"There is an audience out there who counts on us. Some on a daily basis, some on holidays or when they're home sick with the flu -- or homesick when they go away to college and need some familiar faces to connect with on a regular basis. Everyone at GUIDING LIGHT will miss the audience as much as we will miss each other."

So where does one go after writing for the same soap for 15 years? While Hurst said she is thrilled for her three co-head writers, who already have moved on to ALL MY CHILDREN and AS THE WORLD TURNS, she has no plans to work on another daytime drama.

There's no tuning in tomorrow for longtime soap's fans
The cancellation of CBS's antediluvian soap (it started on radio in 1937) is sending shivers through the world of daytime drama. The seven remaining series are desperately trying to make over their stripes to blend into today's fast-twitch entertainment jungle.

"It was a decision that was years in the making, one we tried very hard to avoid," says Barbara Bloom, the senior vice president of Daytime Programming at CBS.

"If you have a show that hasn't won its time period or its key target demographic in 20 years," says Brian Frons, president of ABC's Daytime Division, "from a cold business point of view, you think: 'Why didn't it get canceled earlier?' "

Soap fans mourn end of GUIDING LIGHT
Even those pessimistic about the future of soaps somehow believed "Guiding Light" would escape cancellation because of its legacy, however.

"These decisions are made with the ledger sheet," said Michael Maloney, a contributing editor for Soaps in Depth magazine. "This is a huge loss."

INTERVIEW: GL executive producer Ellen Wheeler
"It’s hard to say that I would do very much differently. At the time, we thought through as many possible scenarios as we could and came up with the one we felt was best at the time. I really like where the show ended up. I like the show!"

INTERVIEW: GL's Tina Sloan (Lillian)
“I feel like I’m burying myself in a way,” Sloan said. “In fact, everyone is dying; we’re burying each other. We spent more time with each other than our real families and the sense of family we had was tremendous.”

INTERVIEW: GL's Tina Sloan (Lillian)
"We will really miss the fans because they made the show what it was. Our fans could truly relate to the GUIDING LIGHT, because there were so many generations of 'us' that stood for the generations of fans. I think a show like ours that has been around for 72 years should still be around."

INTERVIEW: GL's Tina Sloan (Lillian)
"I am now 66 years old and, since the age of 40, I have been Lillian Raines, head nurse at Cedars Hospital, Beth’s mother, Lizzie’s grandmother and, as of yesterday, Buzz Cooper’s wife — a wonderful way to end a glorious 26 years."

"From what I know, TeleNext told Ellen, 'If you can make it for X amount of dollars, you can stay on the air,' " said cast member Orlagh Cassidy, referring to the show's production company. "And so she had to make it for X amount of dollars. The truth is that she kept the show on the air."

"It's difficult news to take," said Holter Graham, New York president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has jurisdiction over daytime dramas. "You're seeing there's a lack of health in that genre, and it's hitting New York."

"In the next few years, there probably won't be a daytime lineup and a prime-time lineup, because so many people now record their shows with their DVRs," Beth Chamberlin said. "Ten years from now, there will be no such thing as Web programming and television programming. I suspect it will all be one."

Villages resident remembers mother's passion for show
“A few times I remember mother saying, ‘Oh, it’s time, I’ve got to go to the barn,’” Tomich recalled. “I could never figure out why she was going to the barn. So one day I followed her out to the barn and there she was, sitting on a milking stool with the radio … listening to GUIDING LIGHT."

GUIDING LIGHT force in TV goes off the air
For more than 70 years, fans have followed the trials and tribulations of the characters on GUIDING LIGHT. Lifelong fan, Pauline Peterson, remembered listening to it on the radio with her mom.

"We'd have lunch and then we'd talk about the soap and decide whether they are doing right or wrong and it just became a habit," Peterson said.

GUIDING LIGHT: Stars on Soap Operas Through the Years
"For many of us, it was the first show we ever watched," said Lynn Leahey, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest. Unlike prime time shows that came and went, it was a constant in people's lives. "It really is heartbreaking to see something like this go away."

Still carrying a torch
Death is rarely final in soap-opera land, where a character can be dead and eulogized one minute and alive and suffering from amnesia the next. But when CBS snuffs out GUIDING LIGHT today, the 72-year-old daytime drama will really and truly be gone. And in San Diego, Joan Harshman will mourn accordingly.

“I'm going to get out the Kleenex and cry,” said Harshman, 80.

GUIDING LIGHT by the numbers
* Most marriages: Reva Shayne gets the title with 9 marriages. She has been married to Billy Lewis, H.B. Lewis, Alan Spaulding, Josh Lewis, Richard Winslow, Buzz Cooper, Josh Lewis, Josh Lewis (again) and Jeffrey O'Neill.

* Number of wineglasses or dishes thrown against walls: 15,762.

Key characters, moments from GUIDING LIGHT
A look at Bert, Reva, Maureen, Roger and Holly.

Continue reading for previous GL stories from this week...

Fans bid farewell to beloved GUIDING LIGHT
While soaps like GUIDING LIGHT are routinely dismissed in popular culture, stereotyped as programs with preposterous storylines and pitiful acting, the stories told on daytime television also present some entertaining, occasionally inventive work that doesn't always get the attention it deserves, says Roger Newcomb, editor of

"The stories are really about people communicating, sharing their feelings," Newcomb says. "Soaps are never going to be able to tell an action adventure story as well as the prime-time shows or at the movies - they don't have the budgets. But what they can do better than anybody else is tell a story."

NEW YORK POST: Greatest moments of GUIDING LIGHT
As fans prepare to say goodbye to this TV icon, the New York Post looks back at some of the highlights (and lowlights) of the longest-running continuing saga in recorded history.

GUIDING LIGHT fades off the air
Lesbian kisses and social consciousness were not on the mind of Procter & Gamble when it developed GUIDING LIGHT and other soaps as a marketing tool to draw in housewives who do the family shopping. The shows were basically a backdrop for commercials for soap and other household products, and according to Robert C. Allen, author of “Speaking of Soap Operas,” “They're probably the most successfulbroadcast advertising vehicle ever devised.”

Allen, a professor in the American Studies Program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, adds, “If you had a time capsule, and you could put only a couple examples of commercial broadcasting in the time capsule, to represent its success in reaching a particular audience demographic, you would have to have a soap opera in the time capsule because they were the most cost-effective way of reaching women between 18 and 39 years old from the 1930s through, certainly, the 1980s and 1990s.”

Dicopoulos loses guiding light
"It's very difficult, very sad," said Frank Dicopoulos, who grew up as Frank Dickos before changing his name from its Americanized version to the Greek original. He got the bad news when executive producer Ellen Wheeler called on April Fool's Day.

"It made no sense to me whatsoever," he said. "I'm kinda frustrated and kinda angry and kinda upset."

Fans waiting for the last flicker of GUIDING LIGHT
Paula Treichler, professor emerita at the University of Illinois’ College of Media at Champaign-Urbana, said there could be several reasons for the demise of the show, which is owned by Procter & Gamble.

Up until about 20 years ago, soap operas (a term coined when the dramas were sponsored by soap manufacturers) had a “pretty reliable audience,” made up of women who didn’t work outside the home and college students. However, that viewership became fragmented when more and more women entered the workforce.

“There really is no solid, predictable audience for anything, unless you count kids who are watching on computers,” Treichler said, pointing out that even primetime serials are struggling.

Daniel Cosgrove to miss stability of GUIDING LIGHT
Cosgrove maintains the creative essence of GUIDING LIGHT always has been "the writing. When we changed up (the production method), we were kind of finding our way, so it took a little while. It was a lot of, 'Let's see how much fun we can have with the camera,' but we still had a story we had to tell. I think there will be big changes in the daytime landscape overall."

Having done daytime and prime time, Cosgrove is open again to all acting venues, including possible soap-opera work elsewhere. "One thing that is great about this is that once you do it, if things go well, you have opportunities to get into other shows."

The LIGHT fades
In 1937, FDR was inaugurated for the second time. The Hindenberg zeppelin went up in flames over New Jersey. The Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson. Amelia Earhart vanished. And THE GUIDING LIHGT soap opera debuted on radio before it moved to television 15 years later. There it has remained … until next Friday, when the comings and goings of Springfield, U.S.A., will fade to black.

ABC’s Misguided “Sweeps” Tries to Feed Off of GUIDING LIGHT's Death
Marlena De Lacroix writes: "I usually don’t read a lot of previews or spoilers. But what I’ve seen this week and what I’ve read for the rest of the month of September alarms me. The ABC soaps seem to think its sweeps month, staging stunts and attention-getting storylines that are de rigueur in crucial ratings-measuring months. September isn’t one of them. Dance marathons (ALL MY CHILDREN), a carnival that concludes with a bloody accident (GENERAL HOSPITAL), a Russian drug dealer holding citizens hostage (ONE LIFE TO LIVE) — these scream, 'Look at me, pay attention to me, love me-me-me!' Kind of like the stunts my little puppy Nigel stages at least three times a day!"

Irna Phillips, The Mother of Daytime Drama
A Jewish schoolteacher from Dayton, Ohio, she was a script-writer for a daytime radio talk show before creating and starring in the Chicago-based PAINTED DREAMS, the first daytime serial specifically targeting women listeners. By 1932, PAINTED DREAMS had become so successful that Phillips urged the local station, WGN, to sell the show to a national network. When they refused, Phillips took them to court claiming the show as her own property.

While the lawsuit was being settled (rights were eventually granted to CBS), Phillips went on to create several other soaps, including TODAY'S CHILDREN, WOMEN IN WHITE, THE BRIGHTER DAY and THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS.

INTERVIEW: GL's Kim Zimmer (Reva)
"I would love to be able to book three months here and six months there and do all the soaps. I don’t want to sign another contract unless it’s something fabulous. I mean, how do you top Reva? [laughs] It’s a good thing GL’s going off the air because what’s left for me to do? I’ve played Reva as a fiftysomething pregnant woman with cancer. I’ve played her as a psychic and a royal princess. She’s been just about everything but Jesus Christ."

GUIDING LIGHT PROJECT: Into the Home Stretch
Lynn Liccardo writes: "With GUIDING LIGHT's final episode looming at the end of this week, CBS News finally stepped up to the plate with extended stories on both CBS SUNDAY MORNING and 60 MINUTES. Even taking into account the formidable challenges posed by trying to do justice to GL's seventy-two year history in ten and fifteen-minute segments respectively, it was a mixed bag."

A genre in decline
In the 1960s and '70s — the heyday of the genre — as many as 19 soap operas dotted the daytime landscape. After GUIDING LIGHT ends, it will be down to seven. Blame competition from the Internet and cable, as well as prime-time television, which offers its own brand of melodrama via shows such as GREY'S ANATOMY and DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Reality TV has also posed a stiff challenge with its ongoing dramas that offer soapy elements.

"Viewers have discovered that real-life drama can be a lot more intriguing and fun, in some cases," says Victor Miller, an Alameda resident who wrote for GUIDING LIGHT during the '90s. "Meanwhile, the networks have seen that reality TV can be done for a lot less money. Think about it: With JUDGE JUDY, you only have to worry about one set, one star, one assistant ..."

"Soaps aren't grabbing the young girls," he says. "Mothers and wives are too busy to be a captive audience anymore. And Grandma's out working at Wal-Mart. So who's there to put the kid on their lap and watch GUIDING LIGHT?"

INTERVIEW: GL's Lisa Brown (Nola)
"That great actress Kathleen Widdoes [ATWT’s Emma] always used to say to me: 'You want to act good, Lisa, but you always want to look pretty, too.' It’s all about escape. When the actors escape, so does the audience. Our attitude, our passion, our love for what we did—it’s all gone. I want to kick somebody I get so mad thinking about it. I was not sad when I came back to shoot my scenes for the final week of GL. I was angry. I don’t want these shows to go away."

No soap opera can replace GUIDING LIGHT
Veronica Van Dress of the Canton Repository writes: "When GUIDING LIGHT goes dark Friday after the final episode airs, I and countless others will be forced into an unsolicited withdrawal."


INTERVIEW: GL's Justin Deas (Buzz)
"I don’t watch soaps but I can see why people do. My wife, Margaret, watches them. People like them because they’re comforting, they like having these characters come into their homes. Me, I don’t want any of that. But I can certainly understand the appeal. If the soaps all go off the air, some smart person is going to figure out the right way to do it and bring ’em back. But they’ll have to rethink the form and make it bolder. I mean, we in America still haven’t gotten over our sex hang-ups! The lesbians on our show can’t kiss? What’s wrong with us? There’s a greater chance that GL would have brought in a donkey for Buzz to have sex with. Come to think of it, maybe it would have saved my career."

GL's Beth Chamberlin (Beth) on ABC 6

INTERVIEW: GL's Kim Zimmer (Reva)
"I think it would be very narrow-minded of the executive producers of the shows, if they were to say, 'She can’t do anything else.' Unless, like a Y&R or B&B brought Reva in, because Reva is not connected to anything really. I would love to play a new character, like a Sally Spectra on B&B. That would be a gas, but I could never replace Darlene Conley."

GUIDING LIGHT "means a lot" to Crystal Hunt (ex-Lizzie, now Stacy, OLTL)
"It meant a lot to all those people who followed it. The show means a lot to me personally because I was a high school teenager when I got the role and grew up on the show," she says. "I learned a lot from the actors. Some of them had been with the show for years."

GUIDING LIGHT was a "wonderful learning experiene" for Brittany Snow (ex-Daisy)
"I can't believe that it is going to be over, but I guess all good things come to an end," she says. "It was a wonderful learning experience for me because I got to play this bratty devil of a child that was so unlike what I was in real life. I learned so much from the adult actors on the show who had been there for years, like Kim Zimmer, who played my grandmother."

GUIDING LIGHT fades to black Friday
"At age 72, GUIDING LIGHT is the longest-running soap out there. Yet, its demise hasn’t gotten the kind of mainstream press that a nighttime show would get if it was being axed after all that time. But that’s the way it is with soaps — they don’t get much respect."

Des Moines fan Emily Bahnsen: How can GUIDING LIGHT end?
"Guilty pleasure though it may be, GUIDING LIGHT has been a constant for its fans. What will Bahnsen do with her newly freed hour? 'I'll probably watch Oprah.'"

GUIDING LIGHT ends 72-year run amidst melancholy feelings from cast and crew
"I would feel fine, and then, when I shot my last scene, I just broke down and cried so hard," says Beth Chamberlin, who plays Elizabeth (Beth) Ann Raines Spaulding. "It was like the death of a friend for me at that moment. As much as I was prepared, I was surprised at the death."

Head write Jill Lorie Hurst believes there's a future in the format as long as producers adapt. GUIDING LIGHT tried changing over a year ago, when the show began shooting with hand-held cameras and went outdoors.

"I don't know the audience has time to invest in hour-long shows," she said. "The existing shows could go to a half-hour. I think the storytelling will exist, but I think we're going through a change."

Once the producers got word that the show was going to end, the plan was to tell stories that didn't wrap up the characters' stories, but rather suggested a transition.

"We didn't want to leave it open to speculation," she said. "We were a little more conventional. We didn't want to have a car crash or a bus crash, or anything like that. We wanted you to have an idea of where people were going."

Mother of soap operas, GUIDING LIGHT was an influential force in storytelling
This Friday, the story ends. But at the Peapack Reform Church in Peapack-Gladstone, N.J., where location shots were filmed, GUIDING LIGHT will live on in the Fellowship Hall, which was dedicated to the show after Proctor & Gamble donated $10,000.

The church also held a short prayer service of appreciation.

It's not exactly the Rev. Ruthledge's original guiding light.

GUIDING LIGHT ends a 72-year run; the future of TV soaps is a cliffhanger
"It's an incredibly troubling time for soap operas, and there's no reason to think this isn't going to continue," said Michael Logan, the resident soap opera expert at TV Guide. "Soaps come and go, but this loss is so big, it can't be understated."

The numbers tell the sad story. AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT were the most-watched soap operas during the 1963-64 season, attracting 15.4 percent and 14.2 percent of all the nation's TV homes. Those are comparable to the ratings that made the Wednesday and Tuesday editions of Fox's "American Idol" the No. 1 and 2 prime-time shows last season.

But by the end of the 2007-08 season, AS THE WORLD TURNS was attracting just 2.4 percent of TV homes and GUIDING LIGHT was down to a mere 1.8 percent (ranking eighth among eight daytime soap operas).

INTERVIEW: GL's Kim Zimmer (Reva)
"When I think of GUIDING LIGHT I think about the impact it's had on generations of viewers. I think of the show as an heirloom that has been passed down from generation to generation. I can't tell you how many people I've met who've said, 'I've watched with my mother and my grandmother.' It's that family feeling that I hope people will always remember. With Reva, I hope they remember that everything that she did she did for love."

To fans, it's been more than a soap opera
"Soap viewership peaked in the 1970s and ’80s and then saw a steady ratings decline, as more women entered the workforce, cable TV offered more options, and cheaper-to-produce talk shows spread across the airwaves."

GUIDING LIGHT PROJECT: Roger Thorpe, A Darkness in the Light
"It will be odd for Roger to not be on this week; he was the dark side of the show, and he was proof that while there is darkness, there is always light as well. When Michael Zaslow was fired in 1997, a shadow appeared on the show, and on Friday the shadow will finally be gone."

VIDEO: 94 Year Old Woman Laments Loss of GUIDING LIGHT
At 72 years old, the soap didn't start on black and white tv, but on the radio. That was back when 94 year old Nathalie Vaughan was just 22. "I didn't listen on the radio," she says with a smile. "I'm that old but," and she ends with a laugh.

GUIDING LIGHT: Top 10 Moments in Series History
Michael Maloney and the Inside TV staff at AOL count down the top moments in GL history.

FLASHBACK: Celebrating the Glorious Life of GUIDING LIGHT
From a 1992 Soap Opera Weekly column: "So with all this going for it, why isn’t GL No. 1? Well, in the world of TV, high-quality programs don’t always do best in the ratings. The taste and perception level of the general public is seldom on the cutting edge.

What GL needs now is for Procter & Gamble and CBS to call attention to the show with a publicity push equivalent to the super campaign ABC recently waged for ONE LIFE TO LIVE. GL is a soap that can live up to the hype. Why keep it a secret?"

Future is dim for soap operas as LIGHT turns off
In the 1991-92 season, top-ranked soap THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS was drawing 10.3 million viewers, with GUIDING LIGHT seen by 6.5 million. EDITOR'S NOTE: This means Y&R has lost 5.5 million viewers (53%) in that span while GL (68%) has lost 4.4 million (Y&R just had a bigger cushion to lose viewers).

INTERVIEW: Former soap writer Pamela K. Long
Long was a guest on "Brandon's Buzz" on Wednesday night. Long said that "Phillip was my first love as a writer." On Tuesday's ending with Alan Spaulding's death, she added: "I was in tears. It was brilliant and kind of fitting. It was a great day in Springfield on so many levels." She also admitted that Zimmer wasn't her first choice for Reva but she is very happy she was talked into the casting.

10 notable 'GL' grads
10 notable GUIDING LIGHT alumni from the Lincoln Journal Star.

Altoona fans remember iconic CBS soap
The Altoona Mirror caught up with a few local fans of the show to gauge their feelings about the pending cancellation of GUIDING LIGHT.

GUIDING LIGHT hits off switch
"I'll probably sit here and cry. It will be a sad day," says Lorraine Dingledine, 90, of Mount Washington, who has been a fan since 1937, when she was a newlywed.

Yahoo Buzz: Lights Dim for Daytime Soaps
Interestingly, though, the fans maintain their fix by tracking their favorites online. (Yes, they're mostly female, but men make up anywhere from 20% to 26% of soap-opera lookups). For instance, during the 2008-2009 season, searches for YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS increased 32% compared to the previous season. Some are holding steady: AS THE WORLD TURNS, THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL and ONE LIFE TO LIVE.

Losing Web steam are shows like DAYS OF OUR LIVES (-14% compared to last season), GENERAL HOSPITAL(-6%), and ALL MY CHILDREN (-4%).

GUIDING LIGHT demise continues soaps' decline
"It's very difficult to see how it could have survived," says Ashley Dos Santos, an account executive and pop culture expert with the Washington-based public relations firm Crosby-Volmer, noting that even she's ceased to follow GL in the past few years. With the multichannel universe, particularly the alternatives of talk shows, judge shows and reality shows, "I feel that a lot people, if they have to make a choice, they'd rather see 'Ellen.' "

Michael Sands, a Southern California-based media consultant, is blunter. "Soaps are passe ... old-fashioned," he says. "They're boring and stale. The public thrives on real-life drama. I'm surprised soaps lasted this long."

INTERVIEW: GL's Crystal Chappell (Olivia)
"I don’t think there was any hidden agenda. They wanted to tell a love story, and because the show was coming to an end. GL ends with the feeling that anything is possible and love is the most important thing. That’s true for Olivia and Natalia, and Frank and who he ends up with, and all these people in Springfield. We really just get the sense that there is hope for the future and life goes on, and some wonderful things are going to happen."

Soaps rose from serials, exploded with TV
Modern daytime dramas have their roots in the 1930s, observes Sam Ford, an analyst with the communications firm Peppercom. After catching on as local Chicago programming, the shows hit the national stage, largely thanks to Irna Phillips, a writer and creator of several daytime dramas. Phillips recognized the need for sponsors, and several brands -- particularly the detergent company Procter & Gamble -- saw a ready-made market of women. The two quickly came together. "By the late '30s, this was a very recognizable genre," says Ford. "There were dozens of soap operas."

Coming Soon: Irna Phillips' Unpublished Autobiography
Not in Madison yet, but coming soon, is Phillips' unpublished autobiography. Tom discovered it earlier this year in a box after his sister died in Los Angeles. He's read it, and after his wife and kids read it, he plans to send it here. Irna Phillips attended graduate school in speech at UW-Madison in the 1920s, as did Tom - in American history - in the 1960s.

GUIDING LIGHT fans brace for end, fall reunion with faves
GUIDING LIGHT actor Robert Newman is advising longtime viewers of the CBS soap to arrive armed with plenty of tissues when the final episode of the 72-year-old serial airs Friday. "As a cast we understand what the fans are going through," Newman says. "We went through the tears and all those emotions three weeks ago when we wrapped production. A therapist friend told me the most traumatic things we go through in life are death, divorce, moving and losing a job. This sort of encompasses all three."

Crystal Chappell on GOOD DAY LA
Crystal Chappell appeared on GOOD DAY LA this morning and talked about the end of GUIDING LIGHT, returning to DAYS OF OUR LIVES, as well as promoted her new web series, VENICE.

Crystal Chappell on CNNi's CONNECT THE WORLD
"Emmy award-winning actress and tech-savvy businesswoman Crystal Chappell" appeared on CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN International on Wednesday afternoon.

Chappell answered questions submitted on the CONNECT THE WORLD web site and from host Becky Anderson.

Anderson told Chappell her supporters had crashed their website earlier in the day with the biggest reponse they have ever had on their show.

GL: Hard to say goodbye
St. Petersburg native April Grant still fondly recalls many days spent watching the classic soap opera Guiding Light with mom Margaret — continuing a tradition that started with her grandmother, who first heard the 72-year-old program when it was a radio broadcast.

"It's like a death in the family … losing the last tangible piece of a grandmother or parents," said Grant.

1 comment:

  1. No suprise that JLH fav family is the Coopers they kinda took over for a while there and it scares me what Frons said OLTL and AMC heck sometimes GH doesnt win their timeslot or demographic I have a feeling he would cancel one of his soaps in a heartbeat.