I started watching soap operas during middle school. We lived out in the country, and once I became older and it became uncool to be outside playing with my little brother, I started staying inside more, watching soaps. I remember watching All My Children, One Life To Life, Ryan’s Hope and even The Edge of Night but my all time favorite was Guiding Light.
Guiding Light started as a 15 minute radio show in 1937. My mom remembers coming home from lunch and being “sushed” by her mom who just wanted 15 minutes to listen to her story. Apparently, when it jumped to television, my mom and her siblings starting buying lunch at school instead of coming home to eat. I’m sure it had nothing to do with GL being on at that time.
When I got to high school, I had less time to follow all of my shows so eventually I settled on Guiding Light as the one I would watch. If I remember correctly, it aired at 3:00 and I could actually catch the last 20 minutes when I got off the bus each day. During my summer breaks I’d watch religiously and my mom would keep me posted during the school year. In college I’d catch my story between classes. Eventually after starting my first job, I got in the habit of taping my show each day and catching up in the evenings. I followed that routine until the late 1990’s. Once I had 2 kids, following a daily show just became too much.
This summer, when I heard that Guiding Light was going off the air I felt bad – like it was my fault because people like me didn’t take the time to watch anymore. Last week I was talking to my good friend Cindy, another Guiding Light junkie, and we decided that we were going to watch GL for the next 2 weeks to see how they wrapped up a show that had been in production for 72 years.
Honestly it’s been a blast. Past characters are coming out of the wood work. Old flames are reuniting, diseases are being cured, characters with perpetual flaws are finally seeing the error of their ways…and changing! Suddenly everyone is mature and no one mistakenly overhears something that sends their character into an inappropriate direction. No one’s being raped, abused, or cheated on. Alcoholics are still on the wagon. Paternity test results aren’t being switched at the hospital. In essence it’s a soap opera fan’s dream: All characters are exactly where they’re supposed to be, doing the things you’ve always wanted them to do, acting in ways you knew that they were capable of and are with the people that they’re supposed to be with.
Frankly, it’s very unsoap-opera-like. And perhaps thats the problem with soaps in general. You watch a show daily and the characters become like family to you. You love them so much that it’s hard to watch them perpetually self destruct, so you eventually turn them off. Maybe if soaps were on weekly like evening shows it would be easier to maintain a following, the characters wouldn’t drive you crazy and bonus, there would be enough room in daytime television for soaps, game and talk shows.
But hey, what do I know? I’m sure the revamped version of Let’s Make A Deal that’s taking the place of GL will be a huge hit with viewers.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this last week and my stroll down memory lane. If you too are a GL fan, head to the official finale portion of the web site and browse the video clips. There you’ll find highlights from past story lines, interviews, and behind the scenes stuff. Who knows how long the site will be up, so check it out while you can, before the light goes out forever.