Blogging From The Beacon.

On the Cancellation.

It has been a somber week for many of us since the official word came down that CBS would not be renewing Guiding Light for another season. I took some time to digest the news. Having also covered Passions, this is the second show I’ve lost in as many years. There have been other shows I’ve loved and lost over the years, but somehow it stings more when it’s a soap. No other kind of show asks so much involvement and no other show can reward as richly when it works.

It’s also different this time. Regardless of its ratings history, no series on Daytime has the same iconic status that Guiding Light has. When Irna Phillips created it, she invented the genre. Losing it feels like losing more than just a single show. It survived radio’s heyday and it’s decline. Now, as television declines, it departs and there have been murmurs all over the soap world about how truly ominous this may be.

Like many people, both in the industry and in the general audience, I have to admit that I wasn’t shocked by the news, but that hardly makes it less painful. Considering where the ratings have been for months, it wasn’t surprising. I’m not going to blame anyone for it. The problems with the series are deep and complicated and span back into the 1990’s. No single person or group of people should bear the brunt of the blame; that just wouldn’t be realistic. Television changes, the market changes, the audience changes, and as with any coupling that might have once seemed perfect, time and the greater world can eventually turn things sour.

I’ve adored things about the show that others couldn’t stand and profoundly disliked some things that other people loved. But a show can’t be all things to all people all the time and it probably shouldn’t try. One of the most fascinating things about the history of the series has been that, while it was the original soap, it’s also had one of the most profound and nearly perpetual identity crises of any Daytime series. Ever since the 1970’s, the show has lived in the shadow of the genre it birthed. This sometimes had fascinating results, sometimes wonderful ones and, at other times, rather negative ones. Over the past year, it carved out a new and challenging way to produce soap operas and became more unique and original than it had been in decades. In the last few months, the show has been stronger than it has been in years. When I spent time with the cast and crew recently, they seemed resilient, disciplined, hard-working and incredibly optimistic. That’s one of the things that makes the cancellation at this time so particularly sad.

Of course, the show won’t necessarily vanish. Procter and Gamble could keep it alive in some form, so one can still be optimistic (you can read more about how to help here). But even if the series doesn’t manage this final leap, several generations of viewers can be grateful for some wonderful memories. 72 years on the air is no small achievement. The show is older than most of the people who watch it and it has outlived most of the people who have watched it over its history. Everyone should remember that. It’s truly extraordinary and it’s doubtful that any other series will achieve that. So, this weekend, I encourage everyone to do something to celebrate. Have a drink and toast to it, have a cake, take a little trip, buy something extravagant, or do whatever else you do to celebrate. Be happy to have been part of history and take pleasure in the next few months.

– Matt Purvis