Credit: (Matt Purvis/

Welcome to the second part of my trip to visit the set of Guiding Light. (You can catch the first part here.) Throughout the first day in Peapack, where we visited the cast and crew on their location shoots, we had numerous people tell us what an adventure they’ve been having since the show embarked on its new production model. However mad it may seem, and as maddening as it has been for some, everyone involved finally had to make the choice to ‘jump off’ into the new way of doing things. This has meant both hectic work days and the opportunity to create something new and original which, arguably, comes close to the manic excitement that the early days of the show, when it was still on radio, must have felt like.

At the end of the day’s shooting in Peapack, the bus arrived to shuttle away much of the crew. As everyone quickly filed off and the grey sky began to darken, my fellow bloggers and I sat in the canteen around a table. Daniel Cosgrove (Bill) puttered in and out as he prepared to go and Executive Producer Ellen Wheeler sat down beside me, her face flush from the cool weather and antic pace of the afternoon.

With her hair pulled back tightly, a wisp dangling along the side of her face, her eyes suddenly lit up, a bolt of energy running through her again as she told us, with a disarming mix of giddiness and grace, that the new adventure, the ‘jump off’ that everyone had spoken of that day, was something which had surpassed her expectations. “Something we had hoped would happen, did happen,” she empathically declared with a sense of profound thankfulness. The new way of doing things had changed not only the look of the show, or the way that they can tell stories, but had transformed the entire creative process into something challenging, perhaps dangerous, and generally exhilarating.

Some of this may not be news to the ears of anyone who has been following the show’s attempted re-invention. I expected to hear the talk about budget once again and about all of the limitations it imposes, but I didn’t expect to hear someone lay out an entire artistic ideal that the budget is meant to support. Wheeler made the concerted argument that the show’s changes were not simply a question of budgetary necessity, a point which has often been hammered on by the soap and mainstream press. Instead, she made the argument, one which would be echoed by others on the show, that what was involved was also a very conscious and deliberate series of creative choices intended to revolutionize the genre and change the way that television is made. After all, Wheeler reminded us, the way people watch TV has certainly changed since Guiding Light first went on the air, a fact that one may forget if one observed the way it was shot until about a year ago.

Now that the half century old production techniques have vanished, much of what made the show, both visually and in its way of telling stories, is gone. This would seem to prove that story and style are intimately connected, almost to the point of being indiscernible. This also means that the way of creating stories is as new as the way they look, a fact which makes the show even more challenging to audiences and critics. She admitted that sometimes this means that the show’s plots are ‘sucky’. There have been many disappointments, but it’s not as though any of them have been intentional. No one sits around trying to come up with a few plots that will work and a bunch that won’t, she explained; you want them all to work, but sometimes things go wrong. The past year has seen moments that were perfect, moments that were middling and moments that were downright bad, but everyone tries to get as many perfect moments as possible.