Guiding Light Cancelled! After 72 Years Does It Have to Stay Dead?

Thinking Fans share their grief: Skylar laments, ”I want to call my great grandmother and tell her the news, as I’m sure she doesn’t know. But I really don’t want to be the one to deliver the news: a friend of 72 years is set to disappear forever”  … while BL says, “I’m glad for all the people I’ve met and become pals with over the years due to our shared interest in Guiding Light. The show coming to a close won’t change that or erase all the memories” … and more. See Comments below.

__________________________________ 

It’s official: CBS has cancelled Guiding Light, the New York Post reports, though TV Week says Procter & Gamble will seek a new home for the show. How profound is the loss of Guiding Light to American television? Here’s a powerful guest column by our friend, longtime TV trade reporter Ed Martin of JackMyers.com, aimed at top network television programmers, who might not have a full knowledge of what Guiding Light really means to the American audience. Look for Marlena’s commentary here soon. 

________________________________

Guiding Light logoBy Ed Martin

CBS made history today in a bad way. It cancelled Procter & Gamble Productions’ classic soap opera Guiding Light, the longest running scripted franchise in the history of modern media!

I have during the last ten years written many times about Guiding Light for Myers Reports and other publications, and whenever possible I have used those platforms to remind executives at CBS and P&G that GL isn’t simply another soap opera — it’s an American institution and a national treasure at that. Everyone reading this column has a relative, living or deceased, who either listened to GL during its run on radio (beginning in 1937) or watched it since it transitioned to television in 1952. Some of our parents can actually say that they first enjoyed this show on radio with their parents and still follow it on TV.

It isn’t sufficient to refer to this achievement as rare. This is a success story unparalleled in the history of modern media. Think about this: With few exceptions (most notoriously  the marathon daily news coverage of the O.J. Simpson

With all due respect to the fine folks at Nielsen, daytime audience measurement is, at its very best, irrefutably flawed.  The very idea that viewership for soap operas would decline in direct proportion to the ever-expanding increase in viewing options is utter bullshit.

double-murder trial), Guiding Light has been in continuous daily production through eight decades! The durability of this franchise makes it way too significant to fall victim to the current recession, when desperate short-term thinking and a sudden scarcity of valuable thought-leadership are making everything worse for all of us.

I understand that these are tough times for soap operas, which are threatening to drop like ducks from the sky during hunting season. Critics blame the storylines, networks cite the numbers, and everybody loses. Kim ZimmerWith a uniquely American success story as noteworthy as GL the next to be shot down, it’s time for everyone to halt their respective declarations of self-fulfilling damnation and acknowledge what is really going on, and what should happen next.

First, the numbers: With all due respect to the fine folks at Nielsen, daytime audience measurement is, at its very best, irrefutably flawed. We’re told that ratings for every soap have been in precipitous decline since the mid-Nineties, but you cannot go anywhere in this country (or dozens of others) and not find people who watch at least one soap opera with some degree of regularity. The very idea that viewership for soap operas would decline in direct proportion to the ever-expanding increase in viewing options is utter bullshit.

If there had been mobile viewing devices in the Sixties, millions of people would have watched Dark Shadows on the go, and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) Robert Newmanof breathless tweens and teens would not have had to run home from school every day to see the latest installment in the supernatural saga of the Collins family. And just imagine how much larger the record-holding audience for General Hospital would have been during the fabled Luke and Laura years if young people from grade school to grad school could have watched it on their terms! We didn’t even have VCRs back then!

Second, the storytelling: Yes, there is room for improvement on every soap opera, though I would argue that CBS’ Young and the Restless and As the World Turns and ABC’s One Life to Live are currently more exciting than they have been in years. As for the endangered Guiding Light, its production model was completely redesigned early last year, to mixed results. (P&G saved a lot of money, but the end product looked cheap, at least at the start. There have been improvements since that time.) Sadly, the show’s storytelling Beth Chamberlainhasn’t really improved. I’m not going to go into specifics about what should or should not be done with every character and storyline, but I think it is fair to say that GL isn’t as sexy or youthful or suspenseful as it was in the early years of this decade, and that it has lost some of its edge.

Recently, neither veteran GL viewers nor those all-important young newcomers have been particularly well served. It is possible to have it both ways. Just check out As the World Turns, which is also produced by P&G and happens to be the second-longest running scripted series in television history. Rare is the episode of ATWT that does not include dynamic appearances by long-time veteran characters, and yet the stories it tells about its younger characters are almost as forward thinking and contemporary as those on MTV’s The Real World: Brooklyn, currently the best drama about young people on TV.

This is especially true of the tumultuous romance of teens Noah Mayer and Luke Snyder, daytime’s first male super-couple and one of the most popular soap couples in every industry survey, especially among young women. Many fans are following the story of Luke and Noah on YouTube and elsewhere online, where their scenes are lifted from the rest of the show and repackaged as sequential video clips. (There are almost 300 at present.) Might the networks consider separating out specific stories Otaliafrom all the soaps in this manner on their own Web sites? Would advertisers respond accordingly? This is one small out-of-the-box possibility for the future of soap viewing and packaging, but there must be soaps with which to do so!

Which brings me back to Guiding Light: Are there out-of-the-box opportunities for this venerable property that might rescue it from CBS’ death grip? If not, there ought to be. Here’s one: How about turning it into a primetime series that runs once a week, 52 weeks a year? I like to think CBS of all networks could pull this off: This mighty broadcaster was once home to Dallas, the most successful primetime serial in television history. If a pumped up version of the current GL couldn’t cut it, how about one in which the detectives and police officers on its canvas are moved to the forefront, thereby turning it into an ongoing serial filled with elements of CBS’ successful prodecural crime dramas? If that isn’t an option, a customized primetime version of GL could be produced for a basic cable network.

I realize we will all survive without Guiding Light. But does it have to die? I can’t help wondering: Has the franchise truly run its course, or did it simply fall victim to the mindsets of current executives at CBS and P&G?  They’re holding history in their hands. Can they handle it?

Comments

  1. esther says:

    It didn’t have to die. Sadly it’s going to do just that. And meanwhile, the network people who helped drum it into the ground will continue to work despite their painfully obvious incompetence. Just more proof that life ain’t fair.

    Marlena says: Esther, your enthusiasm for this show was infectious when we first met years ago. Think of all the joy and laughs we’ve had talking about GL over the years and the marvelous friends we made through our fandom of the show. What a dark day this is for all of us!

  2. Skylar says:

    The first soap I watched in my own right was Guiding Light. I remember being about 13 in 1999 and one summer falling for Danny, Michelle, Pilar, Drew, and of course Carmen. The Santos’ were new, but they sucked me in. My great-grandmother had kept up with Guiding Light since its days on radio, and she would fill me in on the history when I’d visit her. It was a nice way to bond. Ten years later, she still asks me about GL when I call or visit, even though I now watch All My Children and General Hospital.

    I think there’s something to be said for new media. I watch General Hospital online because, well, I have things to do at 2:00 on a weekday. If I don’t catch it online I catch it on SoapNet. Why aren’t *all* soaps on SoapNet? Why aren’t *all* soaps free on abc.com, cbs.com, or nbc.com? It might help.

    I’m just devastated by the loss of Guiding Light. I want to call my great grandmother and tell her the news, as I’m sure she doesn’t know. But I really don’t want to be the one to deliver this news: a friend you’ve had for 72 years is set to disappear forever in a couple months.

    How do you tell somebody something like that?

  3. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    The loss of this show very well could be the death toll for all other soaps. I think that by cancelling “GL” it would make it very easy for the other networks to say, “Well why not cut our losses and save some money.” I think that “ATWT,” “OLTL” and “AMC” along with “DOOL” are all in danger of being cancelled, only “Y&R”, “GH” and “B&B” are safe at the current moment.

    I think that this needs to serve as a lesson for the other soaps to up their game, get numbers up and put out the best show possible.

    One suggestion I have is to use the prime dead zone that is Friday and Saturday nights to program with a shortened (maybe 30 mins) version of “Guiding Light” (or other soaps). If they can produce five days a week worth of soap, how hard could it be to produce one or two episodes a week of a 30 min soap? They could scale down its cast to just the most essential people and make the stories more sophisticated so it appeals to a primetime audience as well as a daytime audience. And it has to be cheaper than running reality shows that get cancelled after a week.

  4. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    Also, what about is the possibility that “GL” could live on in some form as a syndicated series? Could P&G repackage the show and sell it to affiliates who want to keep their daytime line-up intact instead of having to program it with some unknown entity? Maybe if they cut it to a half hour they could keep it on the air in syndication?

  5. Ed, I agree with and appreciate most of what you say here.

    But I have to disagree with your comparison of GL to ATWT. I think GL has returned in the last 6 months to classic soap in a big way, especially with the slow burn of the “Otalia” story.

    ATWT, on the other hand, seems to be less and less a soap every day. We do see some vets, but often doing things that are totally out of character for them. ATWT seems to think that making all its young adults thugs and criminals is a way to make them hip and edgy, but it’s not relatable to many of us.

    I hope that Telenext finds a way to keep the show going – though at the same time, I would welcome having a FITTING ending to a soap (and enough time for a show to have one). Let us not forget how awful the ending to Another World is. Let’s hope for no dancing gorillas on this one.

    Marlena says: Thanks, dear Patrick, for checking in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they can hire some of their great writers from the past to write the last week? The Dobsons, or Nancy Curlee perhaps?

  6. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    I hope they can get Pam Long to write a nice ending for the show. As long as they don’t let Megan McTavish anywhere near the show.

  7. BL says:

    My feelings on all of this are so muddled, so mixed… I am tired of fighting too, and am struggling with how on earth to explain these feelings. Seriously, I’m glad for all the people I’ve met and become pals with over the years due to our shared interest in Guiding Light. The show coming to a close won’t change that or erase all of the memories.

    Marlena says: Of course not, Blossie! So glad we are old friends through GL.

  8. rick says:

    Sorry, but ATWT is NOT a good soap right now.

    How anyone can say the stories are exciting is beyond me. the NUKE storyline is pathetic — written as an after-school special filled with public service announcements. craig is on 5 days a week…way too much.

    The youthful storyline that you brag about? are you including Parker and Liberty?? because most ATWT watchers I know want them to get hit by a bus.

  9. collins says:

    I am a recent convert to Guiding Light and was deeply saddened by the news that CBS has chosen not to renew the shows contract. however, all hope is not lost. now, perhaps as a newbie to the medium of daytime television my optimism is misplaced, but greater things have happened due simply to a little misplaced optimism.

    A large and vocal group of GL followers at the Big Purple Dreams Otalia fan forum are making a concerted, directed effort to get GL placed on another network. Proctor & Gamble has expressed interest in shopping this soap around and on a cable channel its solid 1.7 million viewers would be a coup. We have great hope that the light has not gone out just yet on this matriarch of daytime.

    If you would like, come join our efforts at: http://z8.invisionfree.com/otaliafans/index.php?

    This is a marathon, not a sprint. Our big purple army is in it for the long haul, but we can use all the support we can get. Let’s all work together to keep the light shining!

    Cool! I looked at your site. It is very nice. Keep up the good fight!

  10. Blake says:

    I’m still in shock every time I see an article about Guiding Light being cancelled. A year ago I could understand, but now that the writing is better, the stories are better, the camera work and production is better so it doesn’t make sense.
    I hope another network picks it up, but only if they don’t bring it back down again. I could see it syndicated also and agree it should be with a downsized cast with the more important characters/actors.

  11. BBK says:

    In response to the news that Guiding Light has been cancelled, I offer several reasons to save the show:

    1. 70+ year fan base and history (saving this show might be a feather in someone’s cap!)
    2. Great actors!!!!
    3. streamlined budget
    4. improved writing
    5. lots of publicity right now

    and last but not least the brilliance of the Otalia storyline and the Otalia fan juggernaut!!!

    We are a huge demographically important fan base! there are many of us at Big Purple Dreams website that are 20-40 years old, with extra spending cash!! Advertisers~we are waiting to give you our support!

    Thanks for the article Marlena!! Appreciate it greatly!!

  12. SteveS says:

    I loved GL when I first discovered it in college back in the mid 1980s and watched it regularly until the show killed off Maureen in 1993. Imo, that was the beginning of the end. Maureen was the heart and soul of Springfield; heck, she was the only character who was genuinely friends with Roger Thorpe!

    I tuned back in to see how GL was doing over the years, taping it daily during Annie’s rampage against Reva due to the wonderful Cynthia Watros, but the show never felt the same to me.

    I stopped taping it around the time Clone Reva appeared, then came back when Millee Taggart took over as headwriter and shook up the couplings (it looked like Bill & Michelle would get together, Danny was flirting with Cassie and Olivia was torn between Alan & Phillip). That was the last time I enjoyed this show and I think it was 2002 or 2003.

    Since then, I’ve tuned in on occasion but the cast has changed too much, the show seemingly gave up on their one true supercouple, Josh & Reva, and the new production model turned me off.

    So, I have very mixed feelings about its cancellation because it seems to me that it has been slowly dying for about 15 years. In some ways, it would have been easier if the plug were pulled during the unwatchable San Cristobel/Santos mob clan era. I just hope TPTB bring back former characters who were connected to the Bauers, Reardons, Lewises and Spauldings to give GL a proper sendoff, but I don’t trust the current writing/producing regime to do this show justice.

  13. DR says:

    Since the initial punch in the gut driving home from work (I heard the announcement on a radio news break), I have to say I’m sad but also oddly numb. I’ve been a never-miss-a-day-curse-out-the-VCR-or-satellite-when-they-malfunction type of viewer of GL for 27 years, and I honestly am not sure how to react. How does one kick a 27-year habit?

    I would like to see GL survive (I don’t currently watch any other soaps), but an online platform is unappealing to me. Not only because I live in the sticks and have a dial-up connection, but because offline viewers like my 88-year old grandmother (I hooked her and my late grandfather on GL when they retired; I have fond memories of debating the stories and characters with them) would not be able to follow the show. I think the only hope is a cable network, but I wonder how many cable networks would divert limited financial resources from their prime-time lineups to daytime.

    Perhaps GL could evolve yet again, this time to a once-a-week primetime drama. Some shows, such as Friday Night Lights and Monk, have left the network environment and made a new life on cable. Sure,a daytime soap has never done that, but Guiding Light has always been different. Such a change would likely mean a cast reduction (though difficult for fans it would be a cost saver), but with the right time slot (8 or 9 p.m.), the right network (Hallmark), the right producer (Ed Scott) and writers (Pam Long, Nancy Curlee or Patrick Mulcahey), it might just work. Remember how we looked forward to our weekly dose of great nighttime soaps like Knots Landing?

    In the meantime, I ask again: How does one kick a 27-year habit? I hope I find out before the citizens of Springfield light Reverend Ruthledge’s lamp of friendship and recite Edwin Markham’s creed in the closing minutes of September 18th’s episode.

  14. NF says:

    First Another World, now Guiding Light…Who would have thought that these gems would one day be taken from us ? I never was a regular GL viewer but it really saddens me for the fans. And believe me when I say that it takes a long time to let go of a show that’s been in your life for decades. After all those years I still miss Felicia, Vicky and Rachel…You have wonderful memories to cherish GL fans. No one can take those away from you ! Shame on CBS…

  15. PK ( Kel ) says:

    Hope. Not just a GL character I so desperately wanted to see come back for ages.. but my 2 cents.

    With the rumors about other networks, there’s NOTHING I can say that hasn’t been said here- but here is why I have somewhat inverted hope…

    Can you imagine ( considering we are pairing ATWT in an eventual move as well ) 2 shows that together cover .. what .. 125 plus years of storytelling history.. NOT being screwed with by CBS? NOT being driven to the point of nutjobdom with San Cristobel, Clones, and half a dozen people getting the hearts of another half a dozen people they don’t know before rising like a phoenix lately only to be snuffed out– can you IMAGINE a show like that that Lifetime would just leave along to it’s experts to how to run correctly? AN ATWT without this insane Z couple? An ATWT where oh, maybe the stories actually seem like they exist in the same universe some time?

    Regarding, the two P&G soaps send them to somewhere that brings back chilling ( the GOOD chills ) Henry Slesar article where he said to the extent” Actually I just write all the long form and scripts of Edge and no one really bothers me”– I know we couldn’t go BACK to THAT per se, anyone picking up these shows is still going to want their say.. but can you just IMAGINE those shows being put in a context that is a hell of a lot closer to those pre-meddling days than the focus-group-youth-obsessed dreck we see now.

    Just IMAGINE it. :) It’s what I try to do instead of just being sad. :)

  16. Margie LaSala says:

    It is still difficult to believe that GL has been cancelled. It is more than a soap, it is a family made up of actors, crew, writers and fans. We have been with the show for many years and would love to see it appear on another network that is worthy of it. Please keep the light on for us. Thank you. A special thank you to P&G for trying to find a home for our family.

  17. Lori Freeman says:

    PLEASE SAVE THIS SOAP!!! IT IS THE BEST ONE ONE ON. I HAVE BEEN WATCHING SINCE I WAS 12 OR SO.
    AS FAR AS I AN CONCERED B&B NEEDS TO GO!! ALSO ATWT IS SCREWED UP LATELY.
    P;EASE DO NOT END THIS SOAP. IT IS THE ONLY ONE THAT I LOVE,LOVE!!
    I FEEL THAT IT IS A HUGE MISTAKE TO LET IT GO!!! MY HEART DROPPED AND I CRIED WHEN I HEARD THE NEWS IT WAS DROPPED!!!!

  18. Angie Keifer says:

    Please save this show. I have been watching this show since I was 11 years old and I would hate to see it go. I think an online version would be a great place for the show to end up. Or even on cable. This show is a legacy and it deserves to live!

  19. Juanita Willey says:

    If “The Guiding Light” comes to an end, so does my viewing of any programs offered on this channel. Get rid of some of your detective shows and sports programs.

  20. Douglas Wighton says:

    I am eighty nine years old and began listening to this program on radio. Have the T.V. powers that be lost their minds?

  21. Sharon Roeder says:

    How can you cancel this wonderful soap opera, Guiding Light. I have watched this with my grandmother, mother and now that I am finally retired from teaching can watch it everyday. What are you thinking? Don’t long time viewers mean anything? If you didn’t have so many commercial breaks, one could enjoy the characters much longer. I am indeed very disappointed with the replacement of the “Ellen Show”. Thay gay show with a lot of bad language surely doesn’t compare to Guiding Light’s clean and meaningful family life.

    Thankgoodness that I can still watch As The World Turn. Please don’t remove this soap opera too. I will not be watching much on CBS from now on. Please send this email to your top executives – they need to know our viewer side of the story.

    Disappointed Viewer.

  22. connie colvin says:

    Guiding Light has been apart of my life since the day i was born. This is like losing apart of my family. I think someone needs to explain to the whole Guiding Light family why they have done this. It makes no since. I will not be watching another soap on cbs.

Speak Your Mind