linda dano john aprea stephen schnetzer alice barrett victoria wyndham john keating nbc ec aw another world mashup
Credit: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection (4)

On June 25, 1999, an entire world was snuffed out.

Once upon a time, NBC didn’t have just one soap, but a whole daytime lineup. Though the exact shows shifted over the years, for decades they were anchored by both Days of Our Lives and Another World. In fact, it may be tough to remember over two decades after its gone, but Another World was, at one time, a cultural touchstone.

And how could it not be? Created by the legendary Irna Phillips, the Procter & Gamble-run show burst onto the scene in 1964 as the first soap to tackle abortion. This was at a time when just mentioning the subject was virtually taboo. That’s something unheard of in today’s world, where soaps run away screaming from difficult subject matters.

More: Is it past time for soaps to tackle abortion again?

But by its cancellation in 1999, Another World was little more than a shadow of its former self with plot lines that viewers and critics were happy to pan. The horrible thing is it didn’t have to go. It was just so mismanaged for years that by the time NBC axed it, it was like they’d wrapped up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All the more infuriating? The network jettisoned the beloved show but kept the absolute lowest rated soap on television, Sunset Beach ­— only to give up on it, too, just six months later. It was like Another World failed because they seemed to do everything in their power to make it fail. And when it didn’t die fast enough, they pretty much just yanked the plug out and said, “Oh, there it goes, it’s dead now. See? We were right, it was dying.”

Take, for instance, the fact that in its last decade, it went through twelve headwriters and seven executive producers. How in the world could they have told decent stories with that kind of turnover? Worse, NBC, at the time, had a stunning obsession with tapping into a youthful audience.

To be fair, it’s something soaps have almost always struggled with. And it’s valid to a point. Shows that run for decades as soaps do, do have to figure out how to get younger folks invested so that the show can survive long-term.

ANOTHER WORLD, from left: Stephen Schnetzer, Alice Barrett, cass frankie ec aw

Killing off Cass’ beloved Frankie was just one of many mistakes the show made. 

Credit: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

But they have to figure out how to do that while honoring the longtime cast, characters and, through them, fans. Starting over fresh and obsessed with youth didn’t work when ABC tried squeezing more life out of Loving with The City. And it didn’t work with the pretty mess that was NBC’s Sunset Beach.

In 1995, they brought in Santa Barbara’s Jill Farren Phelps to helm Another World with the mandate that they focus on younger people. The show’s two stars over 60, Barbara Berjer and David Hedison, were almost immediately let go.

Then there were the budget cuts in 1996 that led to a serial killer offing the show’s beloved Frankie Frame. Thanks to all the turnover, no one could figure out how to write her, so it seemed like a no-brainer to get rid of Cass’ love. The suits figured no one would mind much. They were grossly mistaken.

There were just so many mistakes made, it was mindboggling. Worse, by the end of Another World‘s life, the vitriol happening behind the scenes was harsh. At the time of its cancellation, the Los Angeles Times spoke to a few higher ups and some of the show’s current and former stars. And, well, very few had much good to say about what was happening.

Victoria Wyndham’s Rachel and Charles Keating’s Carl had been a surprise success in later years as a steamy, “older” pairing. (They were both in their 50s when the show was cancelled.) Keating, though, had been sacked in 1998, and Wyndham had been trying to leave ever after.

ANOTHER WORLD, from left: Victoria Wyndham, Charles Keating, rachel carl aw ec

Wyndham and Keating didn’t hold anything back.

Credit: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

She was ticked, and didn’t mince words when talking to the Times, saying about the show’s cancellation that, “In this medium, if they’re going to insist on only writing for children who don’t know how to act yet, and they don’t want to write for those who are beyond 45, then fine. Goodbye!”

Keating came back for the end of the show, joking bitterly to the Times that he “was delighted that the bastards hired me back.” But he only did it for the fans, something the network seems to have forgotten about in its push to lure in new folks.

“I didn’t return to please either Mr. P&G; or NBC,” he noted, “but rather it was appropriate to be there. Even if it is not going to be terribly satisfying storywise, the fans need to see this wrapped up.”

And if it seems like those are the words of actors bitter over losing their jobs, well, maybe… but that doesn’t mean they were wrong. NBC truly went to bizarre lengths at the end of the show’s life. Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin, executive in charge of production of P&G at the time, told the Times that “NBC decided they wanted to target the 12- to 18-year-old audience.”

She didn’t agree with the decision (Who in the world would?) but said, “we truly had pruned the cast, and youthened the cast as they had asked us to do.”

Not everyone was as harsh, of course. NBC, naturally, defended themselves, but Tom Eplin, who’d played Jake McKinnon since the ‘80s, thought Wyndham and Keating were overreacting. Linda Dano, whose beloved Felicia Gallant was synonymous with the show right up until the end, just noted to the New York Times that it was tragic whenever we lose a soap as long-running as Another World.

ANOTHER WORLD, Linda Dano felicia aw ec

It was, as Dano put it, a sad affair all around. 

Credit: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

It seems that the folks at P&G, at least, had some idea that the whole thing was a mistake, as they shifted a few Another World characters over to As the World Turns’ Oakdale in the hopes of giving the CBS sudser a ratings bump. The two shows (along with Guiding Light) had, more or less, been sister soaps, with all three having been created by Phillips and run by Procter & Gamble.

Since they were on separate networks, though, the angle wasn’t really played up that much. (Though Another World did see some character crossovers from the CBS sudsers in its early years.)The crossover didn’t last long, and by 2002, the remaining characters from the defunct NBC sudser all pretty much been killed off or let go from As the World Turns.

With that, the last vestiges of Another World were gone forever.

Look back at one of NBC’s greatest daytime soaps with our photo gallery of Another World through the years