Sunday, September 13, 2009

Searching for the Guiding Light during Tomorrow's Secret Storm

Friday, September 18, 2009, will mark another nail in the coffin of real television soap operas. That's the last broadcast of "Guiding Light," which has lived on radio and TV for over 70 years. "As The World Turns" is the last of the old-time soaps still standing. Gone already are greats of the 50's and 60's like "Search for Tomorrow," "The Edge of Night," "Love of Life," and "The Secret Storm," all popular when I was growing up.

My definition of a real soap opera is a program that:
  • started as a radio show and/or began broadcasting on television before 1960.

  • started as a 15-minute program. ("As The World Turns" is the only exception, since it began as a ground-breaking 30-minute show. Big news in 1956.)

  • was recorded at a studio in New York City.

  • My mother was a big soap fan before she went back into the workplace in the late 50's. I remember she'd fix us our Campbell's Soup and Hi-C to keep us quiet while she watched "Search for Tomorrow" and "The Guiding Light," 15 minutes each. Then we'd go down for our naps, but if we didn't sleep too long, we could catch a bit of "As the World Turns" and "Love of Life." "Secret Storm" and "The Edge of Night" came on a little later in the afternoon, so we could keep up with those, too.

    Now, don't get the idea that we sat around watching TV all afternoon. Mother was ironing or sewing or in and out of the kitchen. We'd play inside and out - we were kids, after all, and our world didn't revolve around Mother's soap operas. But they were background noise. And the Tates and Bergmans and Bauers and Hughes, et. al., were like long-lost relatives that could only communicate through TV plots.

    As we grew up, went to school, and found other ways to spend our time, we only had to check in occasionally with our soap families to get up to speed with the action. And, alas, as teens we gravitated toward "American Bandstand" and "Dark Shadows," only stopping by Oakdale and Springfield and Henderson during Christmas break or in the summer.

    I can't remember the last time I watched "Guiding Light." Funny, but during a news story about its soon-to-be demise, I recognized a goodly portion of the cast - older, portlier, but still familiar. Just like a real family.

    I raise a plastic cup of Hi-C to the cast of "Guiding Light." Cheers, you rascals!


    Dewey said...

    Not surprising! In the age of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and the busy family schedule does anyone actually watch these sitcoms anymore?

    Liz said...

    The Archers, on radio 4, is my only soap these days.

    Anonymous said...

    Going back even further I remember Mother listening to these shows on radio. She always referred to these as, "my programs". The one I remember her listening to everyday was, "One Man's Family". I don't think that one ever made it to TV. All these radio shows had two things in common, wavy-organ music and cliff hanging endings every day.

    Joy Des Jardins said...

    I never watched Guiding Light, but I used to watch some of the other Soaps when my kids were General Hospital, One Life to Live, etc. I haven't watched a Soap for years....just don't have the time...or inclination at this point I guess. I know there's still a lot of people who do though...