There was a time when Procter & Gamble had about eight soap operas on the air. As of September 18, they will be down to one: “As the World Turns.” The company, working with CBS, has killed “Guiding Light” after 72 years on radio and TV.
The killing of “Guiding Light” began about a decade ago. That was when P&G—which now calls it production company Telenext to keep angry viewers from protesting Crest and Pampers—allowed the show to jump the shark. They performed the first human cloning ever in fiction or in real life. It was all downhill from there, and the show’s producers seemed to enjoy the chaos. As fans fled, the stories became more and more absurd.
And then last February 2008, the show left the studio and regular sets. P&G, the most successful corporation in the world, claimed it was too expensive to keep up permanent sets in a studio. This was patently wrong, and made as little sense as a soap story. They forced the actors out into the cold of Peapack, N.J., and turned everything into a location shoot. The lighting and sound were awful. Costumes, hair, makeup all went away. P&G wanted out of “Guiding Light” and there was only one way to do it—shoo off the remaining fans.
In order to pull off this disaster, P&G had to find complicit employees. They did in executive producer Ellen Wheeler and head writer David Kreizman. These two seemed to revel in the awfulness of the show they made. It was almost as if they were producing “Springtime for Hitler” and hoping for a failure. This time, it worked.
So P&G and CBS get their way. “Guiding Light” will be snuffed out in September. Kevin Bacon got his start there. So did a lot of other good actors including Alison Janney (West Wing), Melina Kanakaredes (CSI New York), Emmy winner Tammy Blanchard, Tony nominee Laura Bell Bundy, plus Billy Dee Williams, JoBeth Williams, Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills 90210), Nia Long, Taye Diggs, Victor Garber, and probably a lot more we don’t even know.
And a lot of good actors went there, and stayed. Kim Zimmer’s won a bunch of Emmy awards. Michael Zaslow was the best villain ever on soaps—Roger Thorpe—until the show’s producers fired him for having ALS after he’d played the part on and off for 25 years. That whole episode – he died about a year later—was actually the first sign that P&G and CBS simply didn’t care about the actors or the fans.
Guiding Light, R.I.P. I’m glad I switched to Colgate Total a long time ago.