Guiding Light (known as The Guiding Light prior to 1975, or simply GL) is an Emmy award winning American television program credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as being the longest-running soap opera in production and the longest running drama in television and radio history. The 15,000th televised episode of Guiding Light aired on September 7, 2006. Due to this series run, it is not only considered to be the longest soap opera, but the longest-running scripted show in history. It has been announced that Guiding Light has been renewed into its 72nd season through September 2009, with an option for September 2010.
The show's title refers to a lamp in the study of Reverend Dr. John Ruthledge, a major character when Guiding Light debuted in 1937, that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed.
The fictional action has also been set in three different locales - it was based in the fictional towns of Five Points and Selby Flats before "moving" to its current day locale of Springfield.
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 on-air sermons of Preston Bradley, a very famous Chicago preacher and founder of the Peoples Church, a church which promoted the brotherhood of man. It was these sermons that formed the nucleus of the creation of The Guiding Light, which began as a radio show.
With the transition to television the main characters became the Bauers, a lower-middle class German immigrant family.
Agnes Nixon relinquished her role as head writer in 1966. On March 13, 1967, the show was first broadcast in color. A year later, the show expanded from 15 to 30 minutes.
The 1960s saw the introduction of African-American characters, and the main focus of the show shifted to Bill and Bert's children, Mike and Ed.
Feeling pressure from newer, more youth-oriented soap operas such as All My Children, Procter & Gamble hired headwriters Bridget and Jerome Dobson in 1975. The Dobsons introduced a more nuanced, psychologically layered writing style, and included timely storylines, 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 would propel much of the story for the remainder of the decade, and Alan Spaulding and Ross Marler, who would both remain central characters into the 2000s.
In the fall of 1975, the name was changed in 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 aired from 2:30-3:30 p. m. daily.
The show in the 1970s focused on the Bauers and the Spauldings. Several notable characters were introduced.
The decision was made to re-introduce the thought-dead character of Bill Bauer. Everyone had thought that he had died in an airplane crash in the early 1970s, but he was said to actually be alive. When he returned to Springfield, he brought his daughter Hillary with him.
Shocking to most viewers, Jerome and Bridget Dobson killed its young heroine, Leslie Jackson Bauer Norris Bauer, R. N. She was killed by a drunken driver, and many viewers stopped watching the show due to this death.
In 1980, the Dobsons began writing As the World Turns, and were replaced by writer and former actor Douglas Marland. He created some new characters like vixen Nola Reardon. In May 1980, Guiding Light won its first Daytime Emmy award for Outstanding Achievement in a Daytime Drama.
An ever more complicated storyline focused on the Bauers, the Spauldings, the Reardons and the Raines. Pam Long became head writer in 1983, and refocused the show on Freddy Bauer (now called Dr. Rick Bauer), Phillip Spaulding, Mindy Lewis and Beth Raines. She also introduced characters Alexandra Spaulding and Reva Shayne. Long would return for a second stint from 1987 to 1990.
The show suffered major cast losses mid-decade, including the loss of characters Maureen Bauer and Alexandra Spaulding. As the decade progressed, the show began a series of outlandish plot twists to compete with the serial Days of Our Lives, including a highly controversial story on cloning.
The 2000s began with the splitting of the show into two locales: Springfield and the 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 to deal with. In 2002, however, San Cristobel was written off the show and the mob's influence in the story was subsequently diminished and, with the departure of character Danny Santos in 2005, eliminated althogether.
In 2005, former director and actress Ellen Wheeler (Emmy Award winner as an actress for 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 dropped, mainly due to budget cuts. Due to the lack of veteran influence, Wheeler has refocused the show on the youth of Springfield, centering on the controversial pairing of cousins Jonathan and Tammy.
The show marked its seventieth broadcast anniversary in 2007. The show marked the anniversary with the launch of website FindYourLight.com and a program of outreach, reflecting Irna Phillips' original message. There was also a special episode in January 2007, with current cast members portraying Phillips and some of the earlier cast members.
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).
CBS and the show's producers are wagering that the new look can help reinvent the show and raise ratings, making the longest-running program in daytime history a model for the future of daytime. Indeed this production style has spread, in limited fashion, to at least two other CBS soaps, as both The Bold and The Beautiful (e.g. Bikini Beach) and As The World Turns (e.g. the Snyder farm) are notably increasing their use of it in their daily production, where before these types of shoots were limited to special trips taken by the characters. For now, both shows still primarily use the traditional "soap opera look" with these sorts of scenes mixed in.
By 1968, though, changing viewership trends prompted CBS to expand its last two 15-minute daytime dramas, disrupting long-standing viewing habits. Search took over the entire 12:30-1/11:30-Noon period, with GL returning to its first timeslot, 2:30/1:30, albeit in the now-standard half-hour format, on September 9. This 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. It would not be the last time, though, as the next 12 years would bring several shifts around CBS' lineup.
The 1970s saw GL's popularity dip somewhat, largely from the competition posed by younger-leaning serials such as The Doctors on NBC, but it still garnered decent ratings. After four years, CBS bumped it up a half-hour to accommodate P&G's demand that 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, GL stayed steadily on course against NBC's Days of Our Lives, another soap favored by younger women, and ABC's The Newlywed Game. In late 1974, ABC replaced Newlywed with The $10,000 Pyramid, which went on to garner strong ratings, but not greatly at GL's expense. Meanwhile, by fall 1975 (at this point, the show dropped the word "The" officially from its title), the impending departure of Edge and CBS' planned expansion of ATWT affected GL by pushing it back to 2:30/1:30 in December, where NBC still ran The Doctors and ABC had a short-lived hit the next year with an updated Break the Bank. To complicate the picture further, ABC opted to make its first expansions, that of One Life to Live and General Hospital, in July 1976, each occupying one-half of a 90-minute block.
With this in mind, CBS acted to give its veteran serial a contending chance by expanding it to an hour in length on November 7, 1977, strategically keeping its start time put in order to dissuade viewers from turning to the other networks. This gained particular importance when ABC finally added 15 minutes to both OLTL and GH by January 1978, so that GL straddled those two programs, as well as the first half of sister P&G show Another World on NBC. Despite GH surprising all observers by skyrocketing from near-cancellation to the top place in the ratings with the "Luke and Laura" storyline, GL, holding its own while in direct competition with GH, still hit an upswing as the decade ended.
On February 4, 1980, CBS bumped GL down again, to 3/2, in the midst of a major scheduling shuffle intended to give The Young and the Restless a shot at beating ABC's All My Children. It has remained in this timeslot since, facing GH (General Hospital) and NBC entries such as Texas, The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour and Santa Barbara. none of which made significant impacts upon GL. Furthermore, GH eventually petered out by the mid-1980s as well. The series achieved a 7.9 rating — its highest ever — during the week of November 16 1981. 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, for a brief period, it even managed to dethrone then-powerhouse General Hospital from the #1 ratings spot. As the decade progressed, however, the ratings slipped a bit, although it was still performing solidly. In 1993, GL began with one of the eight CBS-owned stations airing it at 10 a.m. Eastern time, New York City's WCBS-TV. Solid performance remained the case until the mid-1990s, when the show's ratings sunk as low as eighth out of 11. However, during the controversial clone storyline in 1998, ratings experienced a brief resurgence. In March 2008, CBS renewed Guiding Light through September 2009 or 2010, with an option to pick it up for an additional year after that.
As of January 2007, stations in a number of markets air GL in the morning either at 9 or 10 a.m. Eastern: 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.
In fact Guiding Light still has strong ratings in Pittsburgh, despite being moved to 10:00 AM in 2006. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Dr. Phil hasn't been able to pull in the same numbers that GL did in that time slot a year prior, while GL has maintained its audience share.
Starting in March, 2004 CBS started a same-day morning feed of GL to stations at 10:00 AM.. Stations who were previously a day behind caught up with the rest during the first day of the NCAA 'March Madness' basketball tournament. Starting in 2006, CBS also began offering a same-day feed to stations at 9:00 AM, in addition to the 10:00 AM feed. KGMB-TV of Honolulu, Hawaii currently airs GL at 12 Noon local time. Only two CBS affiliates do not air GL. One is KOVR-TV in Sacramento, California, even though it is now a network-owned-and-operated station. KOVR had been acquired by CBS in the early Summer of 2005 but was a CBS affiliate since 1995. It never aired Guiding Light as a CBS affiliate on a regular basis. Before CBS affiliated with KOVR it had been affiliated with KXTV. Back in 1992, KXTV Channel 10 as a CBS affiliate dropped Guiding Light. When KOVR became the CBS affiliate, KXTV became the ABC affiliate. Guiding Light has not therefore aired in the Sacramento market since 1992.
WNEM-TV in Flint/Saginaw/Bay City, Michigan also does not air Guiding Light. They had also become a CBS affiliate in the mid 1990's. Initially they ran the soap but dropped it in 1996 due to underperforming ratings. In the Fall of 2006 WNEM began running Guiding Light on its digital channel, "My 5", which is a My Network TV Affiliate.
Record Low Telecasts
|Head writer(s)||Years||Executive producer(s)|
|Irna Phillips||1937 – 1958|| David Lesan, Joe Ainley,|
Carl Waster (1937 – 1956) (radio)
Lucy Ferri Rittenberg (1952-1958; television)
|Agnes Nixon||1958 – 1966||Lucy Ferri Rittenberg|
| David Lesan, Julian Funt,|
Theordore Ferro, Mathilde Ferro,
John Boruff, James Lipton and
|1966 – 1968||Lucy Ferri Rittenberg|
|Irna Phillips||1968 – 1969||Lucy Ferri Rittenberg|
|Robert Soderberg and Edith Sommer||1969 – 1973||Lucy Ferri Rittenberg|
| James Gentile, Robert Cenedella and|
|1973 – 1975||Lucy Ferri Rittenberg, Allen M. Potter|
|Bridget and Jerome Dobson||1975 – 1979||Allen Potter|
|Douglas Marland||1979 – 1982||Allen Potter|
|Pat Falken Smith||1982 – 1983||Allen M. Potter, Gail Kobe|
|L. Virginia Browne, Gene Palumbo||1983||Gail Kobe|
|Richard Culliton and Pamela K. Long||1983 – 1984||Gail Kobe|
|Pamela K. Long||1984 – 1986||Gail Kobe|
| Mary Ryan Munisteri, Ellen Barrett, and|
|1986||G. Kobe, Joe Willmore|
|Joseph D. Manetta and Sheri Anderson||1986 – 1987||Joe Willmore|
|Pamela K. Long||1987 – 1990||Joe Willmore and Robert Calhoun|
|Nancy Curlee, Stephen Demorest, and James E. Reilly||1990 – 1991||Robert Calhoun|
|Nancy Curlee, Stephen Demorest, James E. Reilly, and Lorraine Broderick||1991 – 1993||Robert Calhoun and Jill Farren Phelps|
| Stephen Demorest, Patrick Mulcahey, Nancy Williams Watt, Millee Taggert, and &|
|1993 – 1995||Jill Farren Phelps|
|Sheri Anderson||1995||Jill Farren Phelps|
|Douglas Anderson||1995||Jill Farren Phelps and Michael Laibson|
|Megan McTavish||1995 – 1996||Michael Laibson|
|Michael Conforti and Victor Miller||1996||Michael Laibson|
|James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten||1996 – 2000||Michael Laibson and Paul Rauch|
|Claire Labine||2000 – 2001||Paul Rauch|
|Lloyd Gold||2001 – 2002||Paul Rauch|
|Millee Taggert and Carolyn Culliton||2002 – 2003||Paul Rauch and John Conboy|
|Ellen Weston||2003 – 2004||John Conboy and Ellen Wheeler|
|David Kreizman||2004 – 2008||Ellen Wheeler|
|Christopher Dunn, Lloyd Gold, Jill Lorie Hurst, and David Kreizman||2008 – present||Ellen Wheeler|