02 April 2009

The Light extinguished

What you are about to read is not an April Fools' joke.

News of a sad but not unexpected nature has rocked the soap world (for once) as CBS announces it is at long last cancelling 72-year daytime veteran Guiding Light. GL will end its long run in September when its contract runs out, unless Procter and Gamble can find a new home for the serial (which, even if they could, would not likely prolong the program's life much).

Can't say I didn't see this coming a mile away, though even the suddenness of the announcement shocked me. It is very disenheartening to read "CBS cancels Guiding Light" even if you aren't a fan or follower of daytime drama. Like many longtime serials, GL was a constant staple in our lives.

I can't say I was a follower of the program, such as I have been with TPiR and other daytime offerings. I can't say that in my daytime research that I found the program particularly appealing to my sensibilities or especially entertaining. I can't even say that it played a major role in my youthful memories, though somewhere in the crevasses of my mind there is a place where a small sliver of the 1980s version of GL resides. But it was a constant, an unchanging presence in our lives, and a record holder of major import. A 72 year run, on radio and teevee, is nothing to sneer at, even if the program itself offered much to sneer at in its dying death throes.

marks a continuous lineage from the birth of daytime drama itself, all the way to the present day. Most radio soaps which made it to teevee died eons ago, and are now long forgotten. But whether due to luck or persistance, GL remained with us all these years.

Like watching a famed personage die after many years of service to society, it is not without sadness that we remark on the passing of this staple of daytime broadcasting. Yet perhaps it was best in the end for it to die of old age. Like most things that grow old, the program in its latter years had grown puerile and senile, even by soap opera standards, having devolved to a level of quality that would suit a high school TV production well, its storylines growing increasingly half-baked, delusional, and outright embarrassing.

But let us not forget the quality that it harbored in its prime. Created by Irna Phillips, it was the last of the true daytime mohicans.

The light has now been extinguished, and it joins its former rivals for the daytime audience in soap opera heaven.

Guiding Light, 1937-2009. So long, friend.


In related news, speculation now commences on what CBS actually intends to do with the hour of daytime real estate it has vacated by pulling up the stakes on Guiding Light. CBS, for now, intends to continue programming the hour.

Rumours abound of new game shows, talk shows, maybe even moving TPiR to the afternoon (again). But the likelihood of CBS installing new original programming in this slot, which will endure, is hard to believe. A game show would be cheaper and could likely pull in GL's ratings, thereby making it more cost effective than a soap opera, but I can't see any program lasting more than a year or two in such a situation.

The most likely scenario is that the time will return to the affiliates. If not now, eventually - even if CBS wants to try its hand with cheaper programming alternatives for the time being. Somewhat less likely, but possible, is that daytime's last 30 minute drama, The Bold and the Beautiful, could expand to an hour and move to 2 PM Central, with its old 12:30 slot returned to local affiliates for expanded newscasts or other syndicated junk. But the retooling to bring a half hour daytime drama to a full hour is something which I have heard the producers of B&B are rather hesitant to undertake.

Of course, it would be nice to see a revival of, say, The Edge of Night on daytime, or barring that a brand new soap opera, this time done right. But ya know that just ain't gonna happen.

No comments: