Guiding Light to Go Dark After 57 Years on Television

CBS has announced that its long-running daytime soap opera, Guiding Light, will end after its Friday, September 18th, 2009 broadcast. Read about the cancellation at Variety.com or TVWeek. According to Guiness World Records, it is the world’s longest-running television drama.

After starting on radio on January 25th, 1937 the series moved to television on June 30th, 1952 (it would air on both mediums until 1956). Based on my hasty calculations, it will end with 15,763 episodes under its belt, shown over the course of 57 seasons. Originally 15 minutes in length, it expanded first to thirty minutes and later to one hour. I imagine that a good percentage of those 15,763 episodes no longer exist, especially those broadcast during the 1950s and 1960s. I’m not aware of any attempt to accurately list which episodes are still around. You can, however, watch two 15 minute episodes from 1953 thanks to the Internet Archive.

Here’s the March 4th, 1953 episode:

And here’s the April 9th, 1953 broadcast:

The Museum of Broadcast Communications has eight episodes from the 1950s in its collection; the earliest is the January 27th, 1953 broadcast. You can watch five of those early episodes as well as the 50th anniversary special from 1987 online through the museum’s digitized archives (requires free registration).


1 Comment

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    “GUIDING LIGHT” is going off the air because, for one reason, most CBS affiliates aren’t carying the series in its nationally scheduled time period [3:00-4:00pm(et)], preferring to schedule syndicated programming in its place- including the highly popular “DR. PHIL” {distributed by CBS Television Distribution}, which WCBS-TV in New York has been carrying for seven years locally at 3pm. Most of the affiliates (including WCBS) have tucked “GUIDING LIGHT” away at an “alternate” time, 10am(et), just before “THE PRICE IS RIGHT”. TV history has proven time and again that most viewers don’t have the interest to watch “daytime soaps” in the morning, so only “LIGHT”‘s most fervent fans either watch it then, or record it for viewing at their own leisure.

    Another reason is, of course, Procter & Gamble. Except for a short period when General Mills sustained the program during World War II, the soap company has sponsored, produced and packaged the series ever since it premiered on radio in January 1937. If it weren’t for P&G, “GUIDING LIGHT” would have ended years ago. However, the current economy, factored with a steady decline of viewers, forced them to come to the decision that it’s no longer “economically feasible” to continue producing the series.

    I would have liked “GUIDING LIGHT” to continue into its 100th anniversary…and beyond.

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