Wednesday, December 26, 2018

'Search for Tomorrow' Ended 32 Years Ago Today: Cheers to 35 Years

Beloved daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow ended its 35-year run on December 26, 1986. After more than three decades on CBS, the Procter & Gamble-produced drama moved in NBC in 1982 but failed to draw in viewers on peacock network.

In "A Complete, Concise Yearly History of TV Soap Operas" in 1978 for The Soap Box, John Genovese described attempts by CBS to launch a successful TV soap opera in 1951.

Then on September 3 of that year, CBS jumped on the bandwagon again with two new offerings. The first, The Egg and I, featured Pat Kirkland and Frank Craven in a serial adaptation of Betty's McDonald's book. Egg went rotten on August 1, 1952.

The other serial to make its appearance that day was a Procter & Gamble Production called Search for Tomorrow, created by Roy Winsor and headlining a B-movie starlet named Mary Stuart in the central role of beleaguered housewife Joanne Barron. Need we say that this became the longest-running serial on television, and that the B-movie starlet we mentioned is now Mary, Queen of Soaps?

Nelson Aspen, who played Albert Prange on SFT before becoming a production coordinator, described the final episode in a 2009 article for We Love Soaps.

Original cast member Mary Stuart, as Jo, played a final scene with her longtime costar Larry Haines, as Stu, beneath a Christmas tree. "What is it you're searching for?" he asked. "Tomorrow," she replied with a sad smile. "And I can't wait!" The camera moved away and so did the viewers...a few to its replacement, Capitol, but most gave up the genre altogether. Every time a soap "dies," fans wander farther and farther away from the medium.

The final episode of SFT, taped only two weeks before airing, revolved around the wedding of Jo's daughter, Patty...a character who debuted in Episode 1 and was portrayed by myriad actresses (including Guiding Light's Tina Sloan) over the decades. In the end it was Jacqueline Schultz (ex-Dee, As the World Turns). Only a handful of cast members had been there longer than a couple years, thanks to the desperate writing regimes who'd been butchering the show in ill-fated attempts to salvage the ratings. Besides Mary and Larry, only Marcia McCabe (Sunny) and David Forsyth (Hogan) had any significant tenure. Some of us who worked on the production staff had been there a lot longer. Many, in fact, were crew from the facility's previous occupant, Edge of they were dealing with pink slips and farewells all over again
"Search for Tomorrow came to us from CBS after 31 years, but the audience didn't come with it," Brian Frons, vice president for daytime programming at NBC, said after the show's cancellation was announced. "We, therefore, had to treat the show as a new one, not one with a long history."

Aspen recently shared the above photo that features him wearing a Search for Tomorrow t-shirt that was gifted by the show's former casting director. Marie Brossard. The shirt includes the show's final logo in the front and "Cheers to 35 Years" on the back.

At successful shows in New York, Los Angeles, Australia, London and more, Aspen included some wonderful special guests including former SFT co-star and friend, Anita Gillette (Wilma Holliday). The busy entertainment personality is taking to his popular interactive cabaret show on the high seas to perform in 2019 as part of Feinsten's/54 Below at Sea series, with concert dates in beautiful destinations around the world. His first cruise will kick off right after the Oscars on Azamara Club Cruises, with stops in Australia.

Check out Nelson's soap scrapbook here.

Watch the final episode of Search for Tomorrow below.

- Nelson Aspen On The End of 'Search for Tomorrow'
- FLASHBACK: NBC Cancels 'Search for Tomorrow' (1986)
- FLASHBACK: Last Days of 'Search for Tomorrow' at Reeves Teletape Studio (1985)
- FLASHBACK: Live from New York...'Search for Tomorrow' (1983)
- FLASHBACK: Will 'Search' Run Out Of Tomorrows? (1981)
- FLASHBACK: You Are Cordially Invited to A Soap Wedding (1979)

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