Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Guiding Light

My brother and I were latch-key kids. (It was ok though as our aunts and grandparents lived next door to us.) Once we got off the school bus, we would grab a box of Fruit Loops, plop down on the floor in front of the TV, and wait for 4:00. That's when our shows (all reruns, of course) would come on - Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Six Million Dollar Man, Charlie's Angels, Eight is Enough, and of course The Andy Griffith Show. The show line-ups would change with the season. And we were only disappointed when the After School Special would pre-empt our 4:00 - 6:00 time slot. We suffered the same disappointment on Saturdays when Wrestling would interrupt our cartoons. Afterall, the only time you got to see cartoons back then was on Saturdays.

The one thing that stayed constant about our afterschool television viewing, was that the Guiding Light was on from 3:00 - 4:00. Because we lived out in the country, had no "cable", and CBS was the only channel we could pick up without fuzz or speckles or wavy lines, we really had no other choice. On most days we could get ABC. NBC, however, was a trickier beast and was dependent on the weather. And just forget about anything on the UHF dial.

Like most people 30 years ago, we had a "console" TV, which was more like a piece of furniture. On top of the TV you would find a lamp, a candy dish, a plant, and this plastic box with a big round dial that resembled a compass in the middle. For those of you who were too young to remember or too city-fied to know (because you had cable), that big round dial helped you get your picture less fuzzy. You would turn the dial to the correct direction - NNW, or maybe SE, or maybe just to E, and wait for the Chi-clunk, chi-clunk, chi-clunk as the lightning rod antenna on top of your house turned to just the right spot. Bringing back memories?

Anyway, I got a little distracted. Back to the Guiding Light. My brother and I would sit and watch these characters day by day. A lot went on with their stories, but not a lot changed. People loved, they lost, they died and came back, they were born on a Tuesday, went to boarding school three weeks later, then returned in another month to run their daddy's corporation or perform brain surgery at Springfield General. My affection for the show carried over to college when I watched it along with the other soap favorites - The Young & The Restless, The Bold & The Beautiful, and As The World Turns.

So, I was very disappointed to learn that after 72 years of story-telling, the Guiding Light would end this coming Friday. "Ohhh, that's so sad!" I thought, "What a shame." So, for nostalgia purposes, I decided to use modern day technology and DVR this entire week of the show. Last night (after the kids were finally in the bed) I turned it on. I was pleasantly surprised to recognize 75% of the characters. And honestly, the story hasn't changed much. Vanessa and Billy are getting married again. Alan Spaulding is in the hospital - don't worry, I don't think it's anything serious. He didn't have an IV, or an oxygen tube, and was wearing Ralph Lauren navy pajamas. He was also sitting up in bed talking to some lady that I didn't recognize while she introduced her, er, life partner, to Alan. OK, so the story lines have changed a little bit in 20 years.

The character recognition, however, is where my pleasure ended. The show looked as if it was filmed in the producers backyard, and in a local grocery store parking lot, and in front of a run-down country club. All the while being recorded with a hand-held video camera. The actors weren't wearing the glamourous Lillie Rubin costumes from days of old. They all seemed to be sporting their own "duds." And what about the other 25% of the characters that I didn't recognize? I believe they were all high school students that had just been picked up at a nearby bus stop. Seriously. It was that bad.

As bad as it was, I will still be watching on Friday to see how this one ends.

Look everybody. It's Phillip Spaulding. He's still there, looks exactly the same, and I believe Princess is developing a quick crush on him just as her mommy did back in the 80's.

Look closely in this photo. The woman pictured is Jeanne Cooper, aka, Mrs. Chancellor from the Young and the Restless. She is 90+ years old. You should remember her, she (and her character) had an actual face lift on the Y&R. Apparently, she is making a guest appearance for Guiding Light. She's still going strong after all these years! Bless her heart!


  1. The love of a good ol' soap! I too have been addicted since the 7th grade (also a latch key kid)... though my addiction is Y&R still DVR it to this day! Gotta love me some Mrs. C.

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  3. Update on the ending... Alan made it to the wedding of Vanessa and Billy only to later die on a park bench sitting up. (Handsome Phillip was the one who found him.) Mindy Lewis came back to Springfield and she and Rick plan on getting married. Reva and Josh met up at the light house and drove off in an old timey pickup to go get married (finally after 30 years.)