Guiding Light (1952–2009)
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I started watching in the early 1980's, switching channels from "General Hospital" during commercials to see if Jane Elliott (Carrie, "GH's" Tracy) was on, her split personality storyline extremely well acted and mesmerizing. When Beverlee McKinsey came on as Alexandra Spaulding in 1984 (at the same time I couldn't really bear "GH" all that much anymore), I became a full time viewer, and that year had one of my all time favorite camp story lines, the Barbados location shoot that featured the wonderful Carrie Nye as the sinister Susan Piper. Even in her second role as Caroline Caruthers, Nye made a bad storyline tolerable, even using the same gun she had used 20 years before as Susan.
During this time, of course, "GL" gradually became the Reva Shayne show, with Kim Zimmer on the front burner and on daily for years. Her supposed demise in 1990 allowed other actors to get some airtime, but that dwindled once she returned in 1995. Certainly, Zimmer is a great actress, and it was the producer's decision to showcase her, but other actors seemed to slide off the back-burner thanks to the dominating story lines Reva was given. But when these characters did get time in the spotlight, they shined, particularly Tina Sloan's kind but troubled nurse Lillian Raines, Peter Simon's melancholy Ed Bauer, and Ellen Parker's naive Maureen Reardon Bauer, culminating in a tear-jerking conclusion when Maureen was killed off after discovering Lillian and Ed's affair. The re-cast of Alexandra Spaulding with the magnetic Marj Dusay started off hopeful, but she was majorly wasted after the casting of Ron Raines as the third Alan Spaulding wrapped up the story of his attempts to take over Spaulding Enterprises. Fortunately, she would return on several occasions and was present for the final episode.
Being taped in New York meant that "Guiding Light" had access to some of the theater's best talent, and such distinguished actors as William Roerick, Maeve Kinkhead, Larry Gates and Chris Bernau (the original Alan) were cast. Sometimes story lines were wrapped up neatly, but like real life, the ramifications of those plot lines lead to new stories. This was very evident with the character of Roger Thorpe (Emmy Winner Michael Zaslow) whose actions affected practically every major family on the show. His "demise" in 1980 remains one of the show's highlights, and his return from the dead in 1989 opened up a whole new can of worms.
Forced by changing trends to keep with the times, "Guiding Light" became somewhat predictable in the late 1980's with the emphasis on youth. Early 1980's teen stories were planned out realistically with outstanding young actors cast as such characters as Tim Werner (Kevin Bacon, no less!), Morgan Richards, and later on, Philip Spaulding, Beth Raines, Rick Bauer and Mindy Lewis. While not all the young actors were blonde, bland and bad, it seemed for a while that the show had taken on an L.A. look. But "GL" had some pride in its past, continuously bringing back fan favorites from the past (Nola, Claire, Barbara, Josh, Billy, Holly, etc.) and for the most part providing memorable send-offs for actors on the show who had passed away. One poor exception was the death of Bert Bauer in 1986 who didn't manage to get an on-screen funeral with visits of family members and friends. Original cast member Charita Bauer deserved much better. But the deaths of the actors playing Henry and H.B. in real life were written in for their characters, and they made up for what the Bauer matriarch had not gotten. "GL" ended its 50+ T.V. run by bringing back many old favorites from the past for a send-off to the longest running program in broadcast history.
There have been times when the plot got weird (they cloned Reva at one point! Noooo!)But there is such a diversity in plots that there is always something that keeps me glued to the screen!
I totally love this show and also love discussing it online with my fellow viewers over at Guiding Light Central (www.guidinglightcentral.com) There is always something interesting to discuss about the show with everyone. It adds a whole new dimension to the show! We discuss the show with each other and speculate about the motivations behind the character and try to predict what will happen next! It is so much fun that I would not miss a show! Thank goodness for our DVR!
And, while I'm at it........why ARE the Bauers talked about less and less??? I know Michelle is gone away to make a life with Danny and the two children. Maureen has been dead for a looooong time. Ed is out and about. Rick? Hardly ever see him. Allan Michael is the only "tie" left (Mikes's grandson).
And on a side note, I miss Danny and Marina... I hate that he got back with Michele.
The writers, trying to capitalize on a headline in late 1978, wrote themselves into a corner by having Roger commit a particularly heinous act against a beloved member of the cast, Holly, in March 1979. He couldn't just hang around town after that. Then, in a move so typical of soaps, after having you watch him fall off a very high cliff in April 1980, with several severe bumps with said cliff along the way and into the sea, the writers resurrect him in 1989 saying somehow he survived and has been palling around with the CIA all of these years! He'd have a better chance of growing a third arm!
Zaslow's Thorpe was a bit more complex character when he returned in 1989, but he was still up to no good. After he left, the show really only had Reva and Josh as the center of the action, and there are only so many times you can watch this couple divorce and remarry before you begin sympathizing with all of Josh and Reva's rebound spouses as they get promised the moon, gradually become ignored as the Reva/Josh romance rekindles, and then get blamed for being bitter after they are dumped. The last straw for me - cousin love in the form of Reva's son and her half-sister's daughter. Eeeeewww! I actually have cousins and this was just too much.
All in all, among soaps I'd still give it a seven. If you ever find the specialty VHS tape about Roger Thorpe that Guiding Light put out in 1994 -"Roger Thorpe: The Scandal Years" - give it a look. I think that you'll see the charisma and complexity of the character that got so many of us hooked forty odd years ago.
Sadly, Guiding Light was so much apart of my formative years, that I feel I have more memories of these characters, than I do of my own life. I started watching ever so faithfully, when I was 12 years old and saw just about every episode for 25 years.
In the beginning, I would race home from school to catch it. My first paycheck from my after school job, went to the purchase of a VCR. It's pathetic to admit, but I actually remember crying if the electricity went out for some reason or my VCR didn't record an episode. Looking back, I'm sometimes ashamed of the amount of time I spent watching soaps, GL in particular. I still need the escapism found in movies, TV and books, most of us will admit that; but for me, the medium of telling stories through daytime serials brought with it a sense of satisfaction that I have yet to find again.
My earliest memories are of Kelly and Morgan (the red haired Morgan) falling in love at Laurel Falls. Annual Bauer BBQ's, A crazy Amanda Wexler, who retreated back into childhood complete with a big, silly bow in her hair and a ever present rag baby. Then, GL moved into it's heydays with focus on the teenage years of Phillip, Beth, Rick and Mindy's friendships and romances. Although, I think I may have loved the old movie quality of Nola and Quentin's Jane Eyer like storyline, even more.
Anyone even remotely acquainted with the show, will agree the most important moment was the day Reva Shane stormed in to Springfield and the whole Lewis/Shane clan saga was slowly revealed to us riveted viewers. To this day, their history seems like gospel, okay, maybe gospel is taking it too far, but if feels like a universal story, not unlike Gone With The Wind or Camelot.
The Men: I've always said (and I'm still looking for him) that my ideal man would have the humor and bigheartedness of Billy Lewis (Jordan Clarke), the sophistication of Alan Spaulding (Ron Raines), the adventuress spirit of Fletcher Read(Jay Hammer), the good looks and patience of Josh Lewis (Robert Newman), the earnestness of Ed Baurer (Peter Simon) and the solid sexiness of Ross Marler (Jerry Ver Dorn). In addition, throw in a little Rick Hearst, Micheal Tylo and Justin Deas for good measure!
The Women: Some stellar actresses have graced this sound stage. It's really the women that keep you glued to a Soap. It becomes vital that you see each one through crisis after crisis, through changes of love, hate, death, rebirth, births, careers, and most importantly wardrobe!
Reva (Kim Zimmer) is just Reva - no words can describe her, but I do wonder if she's counted how many thousand (perhaps millions) of tears she actually shed over the years.
Harley (Beth Ehlers) was tenacious and raw and adorable.
Cassie (Laura Wright) was a beauty with so much spunk and true grit.
Beth (Beth Chamberlain) took us for a roller coaster ride over the years; sometimes sympathetic and weak, then she'd be devious and self-centered, other times just a mess and sometimes powerful and maternal.
Holly (Maureen Garrett) was one of the most elegantly, naturally, sexy women I've ever seen.
Dinah (Wendy Moniz/Gina Tognoni) made you cheer her on through every self-destructive antic.
My sister will kill me if I leave out her favorite - Blake (Liz Keifer) who never stopped making mistake after mistake, yet we forgave her again and again.
I also really loved the first Alexandra Spaulding (Beverly McKenzie) and I still miss Nola Reardon-Chamberlain (Lisa Brown). Some young actresses like Melina Kanakaredes, Brittany Snow, Hayden Panettiere and Nia Long got started on Guiding Light and went on to be amazing prime time and movie actresses.
In the end, the show was a mere shell of itself, so little happening, such cheap production value. I felt glad that it was being given a final send off before its original magic completely disappeared.
To the viewers delight, Philip and Beth and Rick and Mindy all reunited with marriages for both couples. Billy and Vanessa also made one last trip down the aisle. Alan's double dealings were finally put to rest for eternity and most importantly Reva and Josh rode off together into the sunset.
The Black and White episodes of Guiding Light were from 1952 until 1967.
The Color Episodes of Guiding Light were from 1967 until 2009.
The 15-minute formats aired from June 30,1952 until September 6,1968.
The 30-minute formats aired from September 6,1968 until November 4, 1977.
The Hour Long episodes aired from November 7,1977 until September 18, 2009.
"Guiding Light" premiered on June 30, 1952 as an 15-minute soap opera. The format of this serial began as an 15-minute format,and it remained that way until September of 1968,when the show expanded to an half-hour and more changes came in November of 1977 when the show went from 30 minutes to an full hour. Produced by Proctor and Gamble Productions in association with the CBS Television Network. The show was produced in New York City and sometimes went to locations for extended scenes later on during it's run. The show itself remains one of the first to deal with the issues of the time,not to mention was the first soap opera to feature African-Americans in prominent roles(from James Earl Jones,to Cicely Tyson, Nia Long, Blair Underwood to name a few including Giancarlo Esposito),and other actors that got their start on this show. From Jobeth Williams,Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Sandy Dennis,Marj Dusay, Sherry Stringfield, Carl Evans, Gil Rogers and John Wesley Shipp,and Ed Bryce, Bernard Hughes,and not to mention an up and coming Kevin Bacon got his start on this show as well.