AGGHH R.I.P. Guiding light. After 72 years and 20,000 episodes CBS has pulled one of the most historical shows in television. For those of you who don't know it started in 1937 as a 15 minute radio segment on NBC and moved to television on CBS in 1952. It leaves behind a legacy of over 5 dozen Emmy awards(Why it didn't with this year I can't understand) but in any case as I was watching the last episode it really made me feel as though someone had been buried. Now I know that most people would say that soap operas are boring, unrealistic and stupid, my husband the first time he visited America and I was watching one had to start throwing things at the television screaming at an actress to stop whining and kill herself already, so I know its not for everyone. But for me it wasn't about the stagnant story lines or the unrealistic so and so sleeping with so and so's brother's husband, getting pregnant, dying, coming back to life, kidnapping her kid and turning into an alien, but about escaping from my world into someone else's for a brief moment in time. When I watched it, as ridiculous as it was sometimes I would get out of whatever funk I was in realizing that my life wasn't half as bad as these peoples. When I was a baby and my mother was home with me she said it wasn't the story lines that drew her to the soaps it was the interaction with adult voices that kept her sane when she had to play tea party for the millionth time. And despite people thinking how depressing soap operas are they are also about love,joy, family and babies. I mean everyone is always having a baby weather it is their own or one they stole from Scandinavia only to find out it was really their cousins dead wife's mute child from a previous marriage. But none the less as much as soap's celebrate drama and conflict they do also put much value into love and family and there is so much making out on these darn shows that I surely want to pounce on my husband when he comes home from work after watching them(bet he didn't know that when he was screaming at the TV).
But in reading all of the fan comments about the ending of the show I notice a pattern in their lives as well as mine about the death of this show and that is the bonding it created in so many families nationwide. Stories I read about how a woman would get out of work at the post office and run home to watch the show with her daughters, referring to it as the light of their day. Or how so many people used to watch it with their mothers or grandmothers before they past. One woman even said the death of guiding light was just as bad as her mothers which is a bit much but in reading all of these stories I realize how important it was not just in my life but in so many others as well.
My grandmother got me watching soap operas with her when I was probably around 10. They were a comfort for me when I was at home sick and when she would babysit me we would turn on the soaps and then we would talk and argue for hours afterwards while playing crazy 8's about who these characters should be with and how this and that shouldn't have happened, and it became a bonding moment in our relationship. As I got older and went off to college I couldn't watch them during the day so my grandmother would write to me with the recaps of all of the story lines so that I could catch up. Now here is a proper woman of the 40's era writing me, " That Brooke is such a bitch, she slept with her daughters husband and is now having his baby." This is a woman I have never seen swear or raise her voice in her lifetime yet something about the soaps made her speak more freely.
It was my grandfather's 96th birthday yesterday and I had to be sure to watch the last guiding light episode on line at 3am the night before I went to visit so my grandmother and I could discuss it. And I realized that though not all soaps are ending it very soon will be the end of an era. Where once stood 16 now remain only 7. CBS says it was due to low ratings but what caused this? As I ask people they say:
- Bad time slot (because you watch Y&R, then think well I can watch B&B its only a half hour, then you watch as the world turns and decide you can't watch Guiding light because you have to do something with your day its already 2PM. So lord help whatever replaces it.
- Younger actors with less interesting story lines emerging which lead older fans astray(who were most of the viewing population as how many teenagers stay home from school to watch soaps)Though I did always admire soaps for not firing an older actor because they got a little heavy or were showing more lines than they used to. It was nice to see in a business and society so focused on youth and image that soap operas stayed true to the fans and the reality of aging and didn't can an actress for gaining 20 pounds, having some baby weight, or god for bid going on vacation and eating some cheesecake. Women are working more and not at home as much to watch soap operas which got their name from all of the detergent and dish soap commercials advertised during the segments.
- That most prime time evening shows have now developed the soap opera format only in a once a week segment.
- And then the big one that not many mention is reality TV, yes reality TV has yet again lost hundreds of people their jobs. It's cheaper to make a reality television show than to create a soap. With a soap you have way more actors to pay than you do in an evening drama, a script a day which means more writers, And though Guiding light tried(they even made the mini mart for the show out of the television studio's basement bless their hearts.) But with reality shows being able to not pay writers for scripts and not pay actors(but rather pray upon innocent people promising them fame but instead making fun of them and editing out what they really said) its the perfect situation for television studios to be in. Of course it doesn't help that while most actors are starving the cast of friends wanted 1 million per episode instead of their measly 100,000 they were getting. Now of course we know that soap opera stars make nowhere near that, but instead of worrying about money the whole cast of guiding light took part in building homes for under privileges families. As a straight male friend of mine said to me, "One of my fondest memories as a child was being home with my mom on a weekday, laundry going, a soap opera on TV. Don't know why, but it's a nice memory. I doubt that children nowadays are going to grow up saying their fondest memory is being at home with an only-parent, watching reality TV."
So as the light goes out on the family of guiding light and 55 year old actors trade in their TV family for standing in line at 6am with teenagers to compete for roles, just remember next time you sit down to watch TV that you might enjoy a well written well acted program that will assist you in relaxing and escaping your day than watching someone be tied upside down body painted in the blazing sun eat a live tarantula. Good night guiding light, sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite.