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No More Light to Guide Us

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 18, 2009

It’s the biggest TV story going around today, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t post about it. Guiding Light, after 57 years on television — and 72 on the air — was seen for the last time today on CBS. It’s the last of the original four soap operas, with As the World Turns now being the oldest at 53 years. But, honestly, I can’t say much about Guiding Light itself since I never watched it. I’ve always been a Days of Our Lives kind of guy. No, I’m not kidding.

The numbers haven’t looked good for Guiding Light for a while, as they’ve continued to slip in the ratings, leading to their cancellation. But you can’t deny the impact they had on television and the soap opera genre itself. Guiding Light began as a radio show (set in Illinois, by the way), sponsored by a soap company, in 1937. They moved to television in 1952 leading to a fantastic run.

When they started, they were naturally the 4th ranked of four soaps in the ratings. But it only took 5 seasons for Guiding Light to surpass Search for Tomorrow. It stayed atop the ratings only from 1957 to 1958, which were the first two seasons of As the World Turns. ATWT went on to claim the top spot for two decades, with Guiding Light staying in the top five for most of the 60s. It suffered a big drop in viewership in the 70s, but regained it in the 80s, getting back into the top five. But the 90s were unkind, as GL consistently fell to the bottom four. And in this past decade, only the terrible Passions (which I saw only because of DAYS) kept it from the worst ratings.  Last season, it was getting a 1.8. In 1964 — its best year despite finishing second — it notched a 14.2. But do take into account how much the viewership of soap operas itself has fallen. When Guiding Light was tops in the 50s, they had an 11.1. The Young and the Restless won last year at 4.0…with The Bold and the Beautiful getting a 2.8. So its fall really wasn’t that different from any other show’s. It just couldn’t get back up to the top. And, they were still winning acting Emmys nearly every year. But that’s because they’re a CBS soap. Don’t get me started on the anti-DAYS bias at the Daytime Emmys.

Since I can’t speak much about the show…and you have no need for more numbers…how about the actors and acresses who claim it on their resume…and not in guest appearances.

  • James Lipton
    James Lipton
    James Earl Jones
    James Earl Jones

    Kevin Bacon (name a movie, he’s connected to it)

  • Angela Bassett (ER)
  • Ed Begley (Twelve Angry Men)
  • Laura Bell Bundy (Broadway)
  • Taye Diggs (Broadway, Private Practice)
  • Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal, Brothers & Sisters)
  • Michelle Forbes (True Blood)
  • Peter Gallagher (The OC)
  • Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg, Criminal Minds)
  • Allison Janney (The West Wing)
  • James Earl Jones (Star Wars, Field of Dreams)
  • Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: NY)
  • James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio)
  • Matthew Morrison (Glee)
  • Becki Newton (Ugly Betty)
  • Hayden Panettiere (Heroes)
  • Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes)
  • Christy Carlson Romano (Even Stevens)
  • Jimmy Smits (NYPD Blue, The West Wing)
  • Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite)
  • Brittany Snow (Hairpsray)
  • Sherry Stringfield (ER)
  • Christopher Walken (no credit needed)
  • Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars)

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