Also known as
Guiding Light (known as The Guiding Light before 1975) is an American television soap opera listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running drama in television in American history, broadcast on CBS for 57 years from June 30, 1952, until September 18, 2009, preceded by a 15-year broadcast on radio. Guiding Light is the longest running soap opera and the fifth-longest running program in all of broadcast history; only the American country music radio program Grand Ole Opry (first broadcast in 1925), the BBC religious program The Daily Service (1928), the CBS religious program Music and the Spoken Word (1929), and the Norwegian children's radio program Lørdagsbarnetimen (first aired in 1924, cancelled in 2010) have been on the air longer.
- 1930s and 1940s
- Production and locales
- Final CBS seasons
- Production summary
- Broadcast history
- Broadcast history in Canada
- Other awards
- DVD release
Guiding Light was created by Irna Phillips, and began as an NBC Radio serial on January 25, 1937. On June 2, 1947, the series was transferred to CBS Radio, before starting on June 30, 1952, on CBS Television. It continued to be broadcast concomitantly on radio until June 29, 1956. The series was expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour during 1968 (and also switched from broadcasting live to pre-taping around this same time), and then to a full hour on November 7, 1977. The series broadcast its 15,000th CBS episode on September 6, 2006.
On April 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS had canceled Guiding Light after a 72-year run due to low ratings. The show taped its final Procter & Gamble scenes for CBS on August 11, 2009, and its final episode on the network aired on September 18, 2009. On October 5, 2009, CBS replaced Guiding Light with an hour-long revival of Let's Make a Deal, hosted by Wayne Brady.
On August 22, 2013, Grant Aleksander, who had portrayed Phillip Spaulding on Guiding Light from 1983 through the series finale in 2009, revealed in an interview with Carolyn Hinsey that former Guiding Light executive producer Paul Rauch had been working on a continuation of Guiding Light at the time of his death in December 2012.
Guiding Light has had a number of plot sequences during the series' long history, on both radio and television. These plot sequences include complex storylines, and different writers and casting.
1930s and 1940s
The series was created by Irna Phillips, who based it on personal experiences. After giving birth to a still-born baby at age 19, she found spiritual comfort listening to the radio sermons of Preston Bradley, a famous Chicago preacher and founder of the People's Church, a church which promoted the brotherhood of man. These sermons originated the idea of the creation of The Guiding Light, which began as a radio series. The original radio series was first broadcast as 15-minute episodes on NBC Radio, starting on January 25, 1937. The series was transferred to CBS Radio during 1947.
The Guiding Light was broadcast first by CBS Television on June 30, 1952. With the transition to television, the main characters became the Bauers, a lower-middle class German immigrant family. These episodes were also 15 minutes long. During the period from 1952 to 1956, The Guiding Light existed as both a radio and television serial, with actors recording their performances twice for each day that the shows were broadcast. The radio broadcast of The Guiding Light ceased production during 1956, ending this overlap.
The Guiding Light ranked as the number one-rated soap opera during both 1956 and 1957, before being replaced during 1958 by As the World Turns. After Irna Phillips was transferred to As the World Turns during 1958, her protege Agnes Nixon became head writer of The Guiding Light.
The first television producer of The Guiding Light was Luci Ferri Rittenberg, who produced the show over 20 years.
Agnes Nixon relinquished her role as chief writer during 1965 to work for the series Another World. On March 13, 1967, The Guiding Light was first broadcast in color. On September 9, 1968, the program was expanded from 15 to 30 minutes.
The 1960s featured the introduction of African American characters, and the main emphasis of the series shifted to Bill and Bert's children, Mike and Ed; the character of Bill Bauer was written out in July 1969, presumed dead after a plane crash. The show also became a bit more topical during the 1960s, with such storylines as Bert Bauer's diagnosis of uterine cancer in 1962.
A number of new characters were introduced during the mid- to late 1960s, including Dr. Sara McIntyre, who remained a major character through the early 1980s.
Much of the story during the first half of the 1970s was dominated by Stanley Norris' November 1971 murder and the ensuing trial, as well as the exploits of villainesses Charlotte Waring and Kit Vested. Charlotte (played by Victoria Wyndham and Melinda Fee) was murdered by Kit (Nancy Addison) on August 26, 1973, and then Kit herself was shot by Dr. Joe Werner (Anthony Call) in self-defense on April 24, 1974, after she had attempted to poison Dr. Sara McIntyre.
A pivotal character, off-and-on, until the spring of 1998, Roger Thorpe, was introduced on April 1, 1971. The role of Roger was originally proposed to be blonde, fair-skinned preppy type, a man who was dating his boss's daughter Holly. Ultimately, Michael Zaslow, a dark haired actor with a more ethnic appearance, was hired for the role instead by long-time casting director, Betty Rea. Zaslow's portrayed Roger as a complicated and multifaceted villain,
Pressured by newer, more youth-oriented soap operas such as All My Children, Procter & Gamble hired head writers Bridget and Jerome Dobson during 1975, who started writing in November 1975. The Dobsons introduced a more nuanced, psychologically layered writing style, and included timely story lines, including a complex love/hate relationship between estranged spouses/step-siblings Roger and Holly. They also created a number of well-remembered characters, including Rita Stapleton, whose complex relationships with Roger and Ed propelled much of the story for the remainder of the decade, Alan Spaulding, and Ross Marler, both of whom remained major characters into the 2000s.
The decision was made during the fall of 1977 to reintroduce the thought-dead character of Bill Bauer, in a major retcon. The other characters thought that he had died in an airplane crash in July 1969, but he was said to actually be alive. (Many viewers who had also paid attention to the show and story line back in September 1968, remembered that Bill was told he would only have nine more years to live.) One of the problems with this return is that the Dobsons seemed not quite sure what to do with his return. Although it was shocking, at first, to many of the characters, Bill himself ended up being charged for a murder of a man in Vancouver (Mike got his father off for the crime, proving that it was an accident, rather quickly and by April 1978 Bill had left town, again. Although Bill returned briefly in November 1978, April 1980, and then again in July 1983 and in flashbacks in November 1983.) Bill's return introduced the audience and the Bauers to another character that stayed on the show until September 1984, Hillary Kincaid, R. N. (Bauer), Bill's daughter (and thus Ed and Mike's half-sister; Bill had accidentally killed the man that Hillary originally thought was her father, but was actually her step-father) and she becomes a nurse at Cedars and a major character.
Surprising many viewers, Jerome and Bridget Dobson killed the show's young heroine, Leslie Jackson Bauer Norris Bauer, in June 1976. Lynne Adams was reported at the time to want to leave the role, and the Dobsons decided against recasting the part. Leslie was killed by a drunk driver. Her father, Dr. Steve Jackson, remained on the show for the remainder of the '70s, serving as a senior physician at Cedars, and as a friend and companion to Bert Bauer.
In November 1975, the name was changed in the show's opening and closing visuals from The Guiding Light to Guiding Light. On November 7, 1977, the show expanded to a full hour and was broadcast from 2:30 to 3:30 pm daily.
The series during the 1970s emphasized the Bauers and the Spauldings. Several notable characters were introduced.
Bridget and Jerome Dobson assumed the head writing duties of As the World Turns in late 1979. Former actor Douglas Marland, assumed the head writing reins of Guiding Light in 1979. He introduced many new characters, including the Reardon family. During May 1980, Guiding Light won its first Outstanding Drama Series Daytime Emmy. One of Marland’s most remembered stories featured the character of Carrie Todd Marler, played by Jane Elliot. Carrie was diagnosed with multiple personalities. Marland had barely delved into her psychosis when Elliot's contract was abruptly terminated by Executive Producer Allen M. Potter in 1982. As a result, Marland resigned in protest.
During the early 1980s, the show began to emphasize younger characters more, as an attempt to compete with the younger-skewing ABC serials. A number of longtime characters were eliminated during this time, including Ben and Eve McFarren, Diane Ballard, Dr. Sara McIntyre, Adam Thorpe, Barbara Norris Thorpe, Justin Marler and Steve Jackson. Actress Lenore Kasdorf quit the show in 1981, and producers decided not to recast the role of Rita Stapleton Bauer, given how popular Kasdorf had been. The Bauer family matriarch, Bertha 'Bert' Bauer, died in March 1986, following the real-life death of Charita Bauer in 1985. The character was said initially to be visiting Meta Bauer for several months, until a tribute episode could be constructed where the characters could mourn Bert's passing on screen.
An ever more complicated storyline emphasized the Bauer, Spaulding, Reardon, and Raines families. Pam Long, actress and writer for NBC's Texas from 1981 to 1982, became head writer during 1983 and reemphasized the series on Freddy Bauer Phillip Spaulding, Mindy Lewis, and Beth Raines. She also introduced characters Alexandra Spaulding, performed by actress Beverlee McKinsey, of Another World and Texas fame; and Reva Shayne, played by Kim Zimmer. The ratings in the mid- to late 1980s were solid and healthy. Pamela K. Long returned for a second head writer stint from 1987 to 1990.
With the new decade, the series' storytelling transitioned from Long's homespun style to a more realistic style with a new group of chief writers. The Bauer, Spaulding, Lewis, and Cooper families had been established as core families, and most major plot developments concerned them. The show generally held on in the middle of the pack as far as ratings went throughout the decade.
The show suffered major character losses mid-decade, including the car accident death of Maureen Bauer and the exit of Alexandra Spaulding from the story. As the decade progressed, the program developed a series of outlandish plot twists seemingly to compete with the serials Passions and Days of Our Lives.
In an attempt to revive the series, the character Reva Shayne was brought back to Springfield during April 1995. She'd been presumed dead for the previous five years, after having driven her car off of a bridge and into the water off the Florida Keys. Later that July, antiheroine Tangie Hill (played by Marcy Walker, who declined to renew her contract) was eliminated after nearly two years with the show in favor of the full-time return of fan favorite Nola Chamberlain, played by Lisa Brown.
During January 1996, soap opera veteran Mary Stuart joined the cast as Meta Bauer (though referred to many times over the years, the long-running character originally played by Ellen Demming had not been seen onscreen since 1974); the character remained on the show until Stuart's death during 2002.
January 1998, Bethany Joy Lenz came to the show as "Teenage Reva Clone". Producers were so impressed with her acting and attitude during her three-week role as "Teenage Reva Clone" on the show that she was re-hired later that year in the contract role of "Michelle Bauer Santos" on the daytime serial. From 1999-2000.
The 2000s began with the division of the show into two locales: Springfield and the fictional island nation of San Cristobel. In Springfield, the Santos mob dynasty created much of the drama. Meanwhile, the royal Winslow family had their own series of intrigues with which to deal. During 2002, however, San Cristobel was eliminated from the series and the mob's influence in the story was subsequently diminished and, with the departure of character Danny Santos during 2005, eliminated altogether. Also, Guiding Light celebrated its 50th Anniversary as a television show on June 30, 2002.
During 2004, former director and actress Ellen Wheeler (Emmy Award winner as an actress for the series All My Children and Another World) took over as executive producer of Guiding Light. She and writer David Kreizman made numerous changes to the sets, stories, and the cast. Several veteran actors were eliminated, mainly because of budget decreases. Because of the lack of veteran influence, Wheeler reemphasized the youth of Springfield, especially the controversial pairing of cousins Jonathan and Tammy.
During 2006, an episode featured character Harley Cooper gaining heroic abilities. The episode was semi-continued in an 8-page story in select Marvel Comics productions.
The series had its 70th broadcast anniversary during 2007. The anniversary was commemorated with the initiation of website FindYourLight.net and a program of outreach, representing Irna Phillips' original message. There was also a special episode during January 2007, with current cast members playing Phillips and some of the earlier cast members. The series also introduced special beginning credits commemorating the anniversary.
Despite low ratings, the show won 2007 Daytime Emmy Awards for Best Writing and Best Show (sharing Best Show with The Young and the Restless).
On April 1, 2009, CBS announced that it would not renew Guiding Light, and the last broadcast date would be September 18, 2009. Procter & Gamble initially announced that they would attempt to find another outlet to distribute the series, but later admitted that they had been unsuccessful in doing so, and that on September 18, 2009, after 57 years on television (preceded by 15 years on radio for a total broadcast history of 72 years), Guiding Light would end its broadcast history on CBS.
During the final weeks of the series, numerous characters from the series' past passed through Springfield one last time, culminating with Ed and Holly, who impulsively embarked on an unspecified journey together. Alan Spaulding suffered fatal heart failure during the final week, but not before resolving conflicts with many former adversaries, including Jonathan. Alan's death brought the characters together in a way that could not have happened while he was still alive. Alexandra is especially distraught about Alan's death, but was pleased when Fletcher Reade came to the Spaulding Mansion after Alan's service, and convinced her to accompany him to Europe. Beth and Phillip have grown closer and decided to remarry; Mindy Lewis returned to Springfield for good, and she and Rick also became fonder of each other. Reva and Josh had a discussion, and agreed that they each had their respective problems that they need to solve. Josh told Reva that he was leaving Springfield for a job for the next year, but proposes that he return one year from that date and, if by that time, she wants to reunite with him, she should meet him at the lighthouse and, if she is not there, he will assume she is not interested.
The final episode is pleasant, featuring many of the characters gathering in the park for a large picnic. Toward the end of the episode, it jumps forward one year, by which time, Phillip and Beth have reunited, as have Rick and Mindy. Olivia and Natalia, happy with their new baby, pick Raphael up, as he returns from the army. The episode concludes with Josh arriving at the lighthouse, as promised, and finding Reva there. They declare their undying love. James, Ashlee, and Daisy leave Springfield and relocate to Santa Barbara, California. Josh asks if Reva is packed, to go on an adventure. The two grab the luggage, and with Reva's young son, they climb into Josh's pick-up truck. Josh says to Reva, "You ready?" She replies "Always." As the truck drives away with the lighthouse in the background, "The End" appears on the screen before a final fadeout. The song heard playing in the background during the final scene is "Together" by Michelle Branch.
The final episode also included the original tag line, with some revision, printed on the screen with the words "There is a destiny that makes us FAMILY" (replacing the word 'brothers'), as well as quick film clips of each of the show's title cards and announcers during the six decades it was on television, leading to the show's former long-time beginning announcement: "And now, The Guiding Light".
Production and locales
Guiding Light was broadcast from three locations: Chicago (where creator Irna Phillips resided), from 1937 until 1946; Hollywood, from 1947 until 1949; and New York City starting during 1949. It was relocated from Chicago to Hollywood (despite objections of both Phillips and Arthur Peterson) to take advantage of the talent pool. Production was subsequently relocated to New York City, where the majority of soap operas were produced during the 1950s, 1960s and much of the 1970s; it remained based in New York City until the show's conclusion. Its final taping location was the CBS studios in midtown Manhattan. From the 1970s to the 1990s it was filmed at the Chelsea Studios. From soon before February 29, 2008, outdoor scenes were filmed on location in Peapack, New Jersey. The location filming coincided with another significant production change, as the series became the first American weekday soap opera to be recorded digitally. The production team chose to film with Canon XH-G1 HDV camcorders. Unlike the old production model with pedestal-style cameras and traditional three-sided sets, handheld cameras allowed producers to choose as many locations as they wished.
Final CBS seasons
During the daytime drama's 57th season on television and 72nd overall season, the series had changed its look to a more realistic experience in an attempt to compete with the growing popularity of reality television. On February 29, 2008, a new beginning replaced the 70th anniversary opening. The new look of Guiding Light included free-hand camera work and less action shown on traditional studio sets. Producer Ellen Wheeler introduced a "shaky-cam" style, present in a number of movies, featuring extreme-closeups and frequent cuts, including those that "broke the axis" (which proved disorienting to viewers accustomed to shows with the traditional "soap opera look"). Also new was the filming of outdoor scenes in actual outdoor settings. Even many indoor scenes had more of an "on location" feel, repurposing real locations, such as Guiding Light's production offices, to be motel rooms, nail salons, quick-mart and other businesses or locations. Thereby, the series had numerous sets without the cost of numerous separate locations. CBS and the show's producers had hoped that the new look would increase ratings, but the plan was ultimately unsuccessful.
The action has also been set in three different locales – it was based in the fictional towns of Five Points and Selby Flats before its final locale of Springfield.
Unlike most popular radio serials transitioning to television, The Guiding Light had no difficulty holding onto its old listening audience and simultaneously earning a new television fanbase. For at the time The Guiding Light made its television debut, neither ABC nor NBC had broadcast programs on their respective networks at 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 Central, where CBS first placed The Guiding Light. However, six months into the run, the network moved the serial to a timeslot that gave it great popularity with its housewife audience: 12:45 p.m./11:45 a.m. It kept the new timeslot for the next 15 years and eight months, sharing the half-hour with its sister Procter & Gamble-packaged soap opera, Search for Tomorrow.
The Guiding Light handled the competition breezily, even against otherwise-legendary shows such as Queen for a Day on ABC (briefly in 1960) and NBC's Truth or Consequences. Usually, The Guiding Light ranked second in the Nielsen ratings behind another serial, As the World Turns. 1968, however, saw changing viewership trends that prompted CBS to expand its last two 15-minute daytime dramas, disrupting long-standing viewing habits. Search for Tomorrow took over the entire 12:30–1/11:30–Noon period, with The Guiding Light returning to its first timeslot, 2:30/1:30, albeit in the now-standard half-hour format, on September 9. This twin bill of expansions also caused the dislocation of The Secret Storm and the beloved Art Linkletter's House Party, as well as the cancellation of the daytime To Tell the Truth. The next 12 years brought several similar shifts around CBS' lineup.
The 1970s saw the popularity of The Guiding Light dip somewhat. The competition imposed upon The Guiding Light during this decade was from other serials such as The Doctors on NBC, but it still garnered decent ratings. After four years, CBS bumped its timeslot up by a half-hour to accommodate Procter & Gamble's demand that The Edge of Night move to 2:30/1:30, a move that led to the end of that show on CBS three years later. In the meantime, The Guiding Light stayed steadily on course against NBC's Days of Our Lives and ABC's The Newlywed Game. In late 1974, ABC replaced The Newlywed Game with The $10,000 Pyramid, which went on to garner strong ratings, but not greatly at The Guiding Light's expense. Meanwhile, by fall 1975 (at which point the show had officially dropped the word "The" from its title, although it was still referred to as The Guiding Light on air for several years after), the impending departure of The Edge of Night for ABC - to say nothing of CBS' planned expansion of some serials - affected Guiding Light by pushing it back to 2:30/1:30 once more in December. At that time, NBC still ran The Doctors in the 2:30 slot, and ABC had a short-lived hit the next year with an updated version of the game show Break the Bank. To complicate the picture further, ABC opted to make its first show expansions, that of One Life to Live and General Hospital, in July 1976; each of those shows occupied one-half of a 90-minute block until November 4, 1977.
With this in mind, ABC and CBS acted to give a contending chance to both General Hospital and Guiding Light by expanding them to an hour in length. CBS did so first by expanding Guiding Light on November 7, 1977. This gained particular importance when ABC finally added 15 minutes to both One Life to Live and General Hospital on January 16, 1978, so that Guiding Light straddled those two programs, as well as the first half of sister P&G show Another World on NBC. Despite that General Hospital surprising all observers by skyrocketing from near-cancellation to the top place in the ratings with the various storylines, Guiding Light held its own while in direct competition with General Hospital, still hit an upswing as the decade ended.
On February 4, 1980, CBS bumped Guiding Light down again, to 3pm/2c, and its sister P&G soap As The World Turns to 2pm/1c, in the midst of a major scheduling shuffle intended to give The Young and the Restless (itself now expanding to an hour length) a shot at beating ABC's All My Children. NBC did the same with its soap operas as well with all three networks now going head-head in every time slot. It remained in this time slot for the rest of its run in some markets, facing General Hospital and NBC entries such as Texas a spin off of Another World, The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and Santa Barbara. None of these shows - not even General Hospital - had any significant impact on the ratings of Guiding Light at 3:00 pm during this period.
Overall, the first half of the 1980s saw a revival in Guiding Light's popularity, with a top-five placing achieved in most years and even a brief dethroning of then-powerhouse General Hospital from the #1 ratings spot for three consecutive weeks. However, as the decade progressed, the ratings slipped a bit, although it was still performing solidly. In 1995, beginning with CBS flagship station WCBS-TV in New York, Guiding Light began airing at 10 a.m. Eastern time in several markets. Its once-solid performance began to crumble by the mid-1990s, when its ratings sunk as low as ninth place out of ten. However, during the controversial clone storyline in 1998, the ratings experienced a brief resurgence, moving up to fifth for many weeks that summer. Nielsen reported Guiding Light had 5 million viewers in 1999.
Up until its finale in 2009, stations in a number of markets aired Guiding Light in the morning either at 9 or 10 a.m. local time: Miami, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Orlando, Fort Wayne, Ind., South Bend, Ind., Portland, Me., Albany, N.Y., and Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pa.. Guiding Light aired at 12 noon local time in Honolulu, Hawaii. In Savannah, GA, it aired at 4:00 pm local time.
Before 2004, stations that aired Guiding Light in the morning were always one episode behind those that aired the program at its official timeslot of 3:00 pm (ET). This changed in March 2004, during the first day of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, in which stations airing the show at 10:00 am were able catch up with stations that televised it at 3:00 pm. Starting in 2006, stations that televised Guiding Light at 9:00 am were also offered a same-day feed to catch up with the rest of the network. As a result of this, daily episodes for the remaining years of GL were the same on all stations regardless of timeslot.
Guiding Light maintained strong ratings in Pittsburgh, despite being moved to 10:00 am in 2006. According to a 2006 article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Dr. Phil hadn't been able to pull in the same numbers that Guiding Light did in that time slot a year prior, while Guiding Light was maintaining its audience share.
One CBS affiliate that did not air the show was KOVR-TV in Sacramento, California, which had become a CBS affiliate in 1995. Before CBS affiliated with KOVR, it had been affiliated in Sacramento with KXTV, which had dropped Guiding Light from its schedule in 1992 and never aired it again. As such, the show was preempted in the Sacramento area from 1992 to the show's cancellation. WNEM-TV in Flint/Saginaw/Bay City, Michigan initially ran the soap before dropping it in 1996 because of disappointing ratings. In the fall of 2006, WNEM began running Guiding Light on its digital channel My 5 at 10 am, airing there for the remainder of its run.
Internationally, Guiding Light currently airs in Iceland, Italy, Hungary and Serbia. It also aired September 3, 2007 to August 26, 2011 in the UK on Zone Romantica /CBS Drama, and was pulled at the point where the outside location filming was due to begin. The last screened scene of the show in the UK was Cassie hiding out with troubled son Will – just as the rest of the family were discovering that he had actually killed his father Alonzo.
Since it ended its run on September 18, 2009, the classic reruns of Guiding Light currently air on Sky 1 since September 21, 2009.
Broadcast history in Canada
In Canada, Guiding Light was available to viewers directly through CBS-TV network affiliates from border cities or cable-TV feeds until the show's ending in 2009. In addition, Guiding Light also made it on several Canadian television networks through the 1980s up until its last air date.
Atlantic Satellite Network (ASN) - a supplementary service to its ATV system of CTV affiliates exclusively for Atlantic Canada - aired the soap simultaneously with the CBS feed from 1983 to 1984; then, the broadcast was moved at 12 noon until 1985.
The show also aired in French in the Canadian province of Quebec. TVA, a Quebec privately owned French-language television network, rebroadcast episodes in French translation 12 months behind for a short period in 1984.
In the early 1990s, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) briefly aired the P&G serial nationally at 3:00 p.m. in each specific local Canadian time zone. The CBC Television broadcast of Guiding Light was also on its scheduled during the latter part of the 1960s during the serial 15-minute format. On both occasions, the daytime drama was only aired for a few seasons.
After an hiatus on Canadian Television stations for many years, the series came back on CHCH-TV, exclusively for the province of Ontario market. In September 2007, Global picked up the show nationwide after CHCH-TV dropped it, claiming Passions’ former time slot. Guiding Light returned to CHCH for the rest of its run when Global decided to air The Doctors, the 2008 TV series.
In January 2012, SoapClassics released a four-disc DVD collection of 20 selected episodes. The oldest episode on the collection dates from April 1, 1980, while the latest episode is from September 14, 2009, during the show's final broadcast week.
The company has since released special collections celebrating Reva Shayne and Phillip Spaulding.
In May 2012, SoapClassics released the final ten Guiding Light episodes on a two-disc DVD set.
Also beginning in June 2012 the series was later released in DVD in Germany beginning with the 1979 episodes.