Soap History: The Edge Of Night
Daytime intrigue started during the opening sequence of The Edge of Night.
It’s been nearly 30 years since “The Edge of Night” was seen on television, and still there hasn’t been a soap quite like the daytime crime drama. Produced by Procter & Gamble, “The Edge of Night” premiered in April 1956 on CBS as a live broadcast. The show was meant to be a Daytime version of the radio crime show “Perry Mason,” and was even created by Irving Vendig, a writer from “Perry Mason.” That show transitioned to Primetime the next year.
(April 2, 1956 – December 28, 1984)
Adam Drake (Donald May) and Nicole Drake (Maeve McGuire)
Schuyler “Sky” Whitney (Larkin Malloy) and Raven Swift (Sharon Gabet)
When the show first began in the fictional Midwestern town of Monticello, the focus was on the crime-fighting Mike Karr (John Larkin), a cop just finishing up law school – just like Perry Mason. All daytime soaps up to that point had focused on dramatic family dynamics like cheating spouses and abortion, or centered around the hustle and bustle of a hospital. But almost throughout the course if its run, “The Edge of Night” kept its focus on bad cops, mobsters, drug dealers, blackmail, murder and international intrigue, all of which contributed to its high ratings among men.
Cast and characters:
The show’s central character on the show was crime-fighter Mike Karr, who was played by three different actors throughout the course of the show – John Larkin, who played Perry Mason on the radio, Laurence Hugo and Forrest Compton. His first marriage to Sara Lane (Teal Ames) produced a daughter, Laurie Ann, who provided many plots during her teens in the 60s, and when she got married and had kids of her own in the 70s. Sara died early on, and Mike later married journalist Nancy Pollack (Ann Flood).
Actors who appeared on “Edge of Night” at some point over the course of its run were Marcia Cross (“Desperate Housewives”), Julianne Moore (“Boogie Nights”), Barbara Berjer, Scott Glenn, Dixie Carter (“Designing Women”), Larry Hagman (“Dallas”), Mariann Aalda, Lori Loughlin, Kim Hunter, Eva Marie Saint, Farley Granger, James Coco, Celeste Holm and John Travolta (“Grease”).
After almost 30 years on the air, “Edge of Night” went all out and not only ended its run with a cliffhanger – it left viewers hooked on a whole new mysterious plot. This was because Proctor & Gamble had every confidence another network would pick up the show, or at the very least, a cable company would continue it on in syndication. Neither of those things happened.
In the final episode, and old enemy who was thought to be in prison returned to settle some scores. Meanwhile, Det. Chris Egan (Jennifer Taylor) followed Donald Hext (Ralph Byers) onto the previously unknown Wonderland Lane. There she saw Alicia Van Dine (Chris Weatherhead) stabbed in the back by her brother, her dying words “Off, off with her head.” Egan barely escaped and stumbled by a street sign with a stuffed white rabbit propped against it. Later, she recounted her tale to Mike Karr (Forrest Compton), whose response was masked by a narrator who implied the story would continue. It didn’t.
How it rated:
Unlike most soap operas that gradually built a strong audience over time, the ratings for “The Edge of Night” were strong right from the beginning with nine million viewers the first year. It maintained a position in the top six until 1972 when Proctor & Gamble insisted on moving the soap to a much earlier slot. After that, “The Edge of Night” dropped to near last in the ratings.
In 1975 CBS expanded the highly-rated “As The World Turns” to 60 minutes, but had no slot to offer “EON” because of local newscasts. So CBS cancelled it. At the time, ABC had been successful picking up other networks’ cancellations, like “Let’s Make A Deal.” They had never aired a P&G program before, so they were anxious to pick up “EON.” But there was a problem. The network didn’t have an available time slot for the show until three months after its end on CBS, which almost caused ABC to drop the whole thing. P&G intervened with CBS and was able to negotiate the delay of the expansion of “ATWT.”
“EON” premiered on ABC on December 1, 1975, with a 90-minute episode. The initial response was good, but because of its new time, some market affiliates couldn’t or wouldn’t carry it. Other markets tape-delayed the show anywhere from one day to two weeks, but in the markets it did air, it came in first or second in the ratings. But in 1982, more markets dropped the show and ABC decided to cancel it and move “All My Children” into its spot.
Edge of Night trivia:
* “Edge Of Night” premiered the exact same day as “As The World Turns.” They were each 30 minutes long, the first in the genre. Since “EON” premiered earlier in the day, it has the distinction of being the first 30-minute daytime soap opera ever. Before that, the format had only been 15 minutes.
* The show ran for 19 years on CBS, then switched to ABC for the last nine years of its run when CBS wanted to expand “As The World Turns” to one hour.
* At one point in 1978 the show’s audience was estimated to be 50 percent male, thanks to its crime focus and late air time.
* Most of the episodes produced by CBS no longer exist thanks to the network’s practice of wiping tapes clean in order to reuse them. In fact, the network had instituted a no-wiping policy in 1972, but the practice still continued for many years and there are 45 known episodes from the CBS era still in existence. ABC also wiped tapes until 1978, so the first two years of its run on the network are gone as well. Of the 7,420 total episodes made of the show, only 1,800 were available for syndication.
* “EON” was the first soap opera to switch networks. The only other one to do so was “Search For Tomorrow,” another P&G show, in 1982.
Photo courtesy: CBS
– Hollie Deese
Originally posted . Refreshed by Christine Fix September 14, 2017.