Saturday, April 4, 2009 1:37 AM EDT | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — The cancellation of “Guiding Light” has sent shockwaves throughout the soap world, and Llanview is no exception.
It has been said that time flies when you’re having fun. However, it also seems to fly (albeit not as fast) when you are busy as well. Every time I have set down to write my column this week, something has come up. Whether it was waiting out tornado warnings, working around power outages, babysitting my aunt’s dog (whom I love like a baby), taking grandma to the grocery store, mowing the lawn while dodging raindrops, writing casting reports for “OLTL” and somehow becoming a pseudo reporter for a soap I have never each watched, it was a very hectic week. It’s amazing. Some weeks, I have to dig like a dog with a bone to find “OLTL” related news to write about, while other weeks I barely have time to complete one article before another one needs to be written. This has been one of those weeks. I have had little time to actually set down and think out what to write about in this column. And when I did, I found myself glued to the television and Internet sports message boards, swept up in the drama surrounding Memphis basketball coach John Calipari becoming the next head coach of the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team. Being a true blue UK fan (and bleeding blue), I honestly could not be happier that top coach in the nation is now at the winningest program in college basketball. Pardon me for gushing, however, I haven’t found myself this excited about Kentucky basketball in several years. But I digress.
However, all the news was not good this week, at least not in soap land anyway. Unless you’ve been stranded on a remote deserted island or trapped under a rock or in a cave this week, you know what I am referring to. After more than 72 years on television and radio, “Guiding Light,” was cancelled earlier this week. While I never watched the soap (aside from twenty or thirty second intervals while channel surfing), I found the news sad and disturbing nonetheless. Even though I am not a regular viewer of “GL,” I feel for the show’s fans, cast, and crew. It is never easy when a soap gets cancelled, especially in an era when the daytime genre appears near extinction. Soaps are a dying breed, and once they’re gone, that’s it. Daytime television will become a vast wasteland of trashy talk shows and copycat game shows. Much like variety shows and weekday afternoon network cartoons, soaps will become an experiment only discussed in textbooks, museums, and people’s memories. It’s a rather grim picture, isn’t it? Now that I’ve brought everyone down, how about a little pick me up? Here goes…
In the midst of “OLTL” casting reports and everything else that has consumed my life this past week, I found myself in the unfamiliar situation of writing articles for something which I knew very little about. That something was “Guiding Light.” While not being a fan or regular viewer of a particular show does not automatically disqualify you from being able to adequately cover that show as a reporter, it does tend to make it rather difficult. So on Wednesday, when news broke of “Guiding Light’s” imminent demise, I immediately brought the news to the attention of my fellow staff members at Soap Opera Network, informing them that an article needed to be written ASAP. However, everyone was tied up with other projects. So, not wanting such a big story to develop without so much as a ounce of coverage by SON, I felt compelled to tackle the news myself. For hours that afternoon, I poured and scoured over countless press releases and “Guiding Light” related websites. While composing the first article (dealing with the cancellation of “GL”), I realized just what a rich legacy and history the show had doing its record breaking run. A few facts about “GL” I was aware of (such as that it was the brainchild of Irna Phillips, who once employed “OLTL” Agnes Nixon on Head Writer on “Another World,” another of Phillip’s creations), but mostly I was writing about a show I knew next to nothing about. “GL” has such an impressive history, one that I had never realized until working on that report. I find myself in awe of the show and amazed by its long run both on radio and television. It is disheartening that such a once mighty and powerful show, has fizzled out in recent years. It makes me regret that I didn’t grow up watching the show as did countless other fans.
It also made me realize how very easily that article could have been about “One Life to Live,” a show I have grown up watching since childhood. “OLTL” hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire lately. In fact, it regularly finishes only a few spots ahead of “GL” in the ratings each week. What if “OLTL” were the soap that had gotten cancelled? How would I react? How would I want the show remembered? What could I say to honor ‘my’ show? Those were just some of the questions I asked myself while writing the “GL” article. I wanted to pay homage to the long-running daytime drama, while at the same time showing to the show’s loyal viewers that, as a fellow soap fan, I could feel their pain and sorrow. We should all be in mourning over the loss of “GL.” No matter what soap(s) you root for, pledge allegiance to, or watch faithfully and religiously, you should still feel bad about the fate of “GL,” because if it could happen to daytime’s oldest soap, it could very easily be your favorite show next time. I like to compare “Guiding Light” to Kentucky Wildcat basketball. Those of you who may be at least somewhat familiar with UK b-ball, might get the comparison. UK is the winningest program in college basketball with 1,988 wins and seven NCAA Championships over 105 season, where as “Guiding Light” has earned 63 Daytime Emmy Awards during its 72 year run. UK has a long and distinguished history that is full of colorful characters and firgures. The same is true with “GL.” And both have struggled in the past few years to live up to that history and to the overwhelming expectations of their fans. Those are just a few of the many parallels that can be drawn between the two; but there are many others.
Speaking of ‘my’ show let me talk about “OLTL” for a moment. About time, I suppose, considering this is what this column is supposed to be about anyway (ha ha). Llanview has been anything but a happy place lately. With all the doom and gloom, the show needs a little comic relief (and no, I am not referring to the acting talents of Farah Fath). The show needs some levity, what with serial killers, dead babies, sick kids, and drugs becoming a part of the everyday life of nearly all Llanview residents. Where is the love, the romance, and the joy? When was the last time any character was actually happy on “OLTL?”
Furthermore, why does “OLTL” consistently showcase freshmen cast members in front burner storylines? Crystal Hunt wasn’t in Llanview a week before her character Stacy Morasco was scheming to break up Gigi and Rex by withholding needed bone marrow from her leukemia-stricken nephew. And how stupid is Gigi? Why not just tell Rex what her sister Stacy is up to, so that they could fake ending their relationship until Shane got the transplant, and then expose Stacy for the evil bitch that she is? Wouldn’t that have been the logical route to go with this story? But then again, why should we expect anything “OLTL” has done lately to seem sane and rational? That makes about as much sense as Shane’s highly visible skullcap (which looked as if it were about to fall off) and the shameless plug for Disney World recently. I half expected Shane to have one those cards that from the commercials that shoots out fireworks and Mickey Mouse eared balloons when you open it. Either that or Rex or Gigi asking Shane what he wanted to do after beating cancer, so he could reply, “I’m going to Disney World!” But at least the poor boy didn’t tell his parents how long a six-day, seven night (or was it the other way around?) Disney World vacation would cost. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Mouse has ruined ABC. Since Disney bought the network, they have made one bad decision after another…. including hiring Brian Frons to head up ABC Daytime. Oy vey!
And what is up with all the casting changes on “One Life to Live” lately? Camila Banus, Justis Bolding, BethAnn Bonner, Kathy Brier, Kamae de los Reyes, Jacqueline Hendy, A. Martinez, and Chris Stack have all either left or will soon be leaving Llanview. It must be like a bloodbath behind-the-scenes over there. While most on the list needed to disappear anyway, I think the firings of Kathy Brier and Chris Stack will prove to be the biggest losses for the show. The characters of Marcie and Michael still have a lot of potential and there are plenty of storyline possibilities for the couple, no matter what “OLTL” says. I had always thought the show should have had Marcie miraculously get pregnant after losing baby Tommy (Sam), resulting in Marcie and Michael finding their way back to one another as they raise their child. I even thought they were headed in that direction a few times, when they would randomly show them becoming intimate with one another. But instead, the separated Marcie and Michael, and even had Marcie go looking for another baby related to Todd Manning. Talk about screwing over Marcie and Michael fans, and treading down the path of no return. It was already bad enough that they turned them both into wallpaper for the past two years.
Much the same can be said of the veteran “OLTL” cast members. Viki has been turned into the Frances Reid of Llanview. She is never seen unless someone needs advice or a shoulder to cry on. Otherwise, Viki has no life and is like a classic old car you keep in the garage that you only take out to drive a few times a months. Viki should be a driving force of this show right now. They should have back at The Banner dealing with running a newspaper in a struggling economy, and trying to compete with The Sun. This would be a great storyline and would tie in nicely with the recession-type storylines ABC is forcing each of their soap’s to do in the coming months. It would also be relevant since several large newspapers across the country have either ceased or scaled back production already this year. Along the same lines, they could have Clint, Bo, and the rest of the Buchanan clan struggle to keep BE afloat, while having Renee do the same with The Palace. Or Bo could have to deal with budget cuts concerning the police department. Heck, even Carlotta could be given a storyline where she has to consider selling her diner to a corporate restaurant chain or going out of business. The possibilities are endless. Lastly, “OLTL” fans continue to amaze me…even more so in the last few weeks. After sifting through posts on several message boards, it seems as if most people either love or hate “OLTL” right now. There appears to be relatively little middle ground at the moment. You either like the show or not. For some reason, I just find that amusing. Not sure why….maybe it’s just because it’s late and I’m tired. Or maybe it’s just because I’m crazy. Who knows?
Now for a few random thoughts…. ABC MediaNet seems to love to annoy “OLTL” fans by waiting until after scenes have already aired before uploading them to the website. In the past, they often posted spoiler pictures for upcoming episodes on a regular basis. However, now they mostly wait until it is too late…. although they did put up a few images of Chloe’s upcoming christening at St. James Church. Secondly, I just hate it when a character casually mentions another rarely seen character while in a conversation with someone else. This happened the other day when Jessica told Natalie that she had talked to Andrew about having Chloe baptized. But why didn’t we get to see her talking to the good Reverend? That would have been a treat for all us long time fans. But instead, we will have to watch as some dayplayer priest performs the ritual with Andrew no where in sight. Which reminds me. Where the hell is Dr. Larry Wolek? Llanview Hospital badly needs another doctor, especially with Michael about to leave town. Next, is “OLTL” cursed, or just its time slot? Breaking news always seems to happen during the 2:00 pm et hour, interrupting “OLTL.” Such was the case this past Thursday when ABC News pre-empted the first thirty-five minutes of “OLTL” with President Obama answering questions from foreign reporters while taking a break from the G-20 Summit in the United Kingdom. The President didn’t say anything earth shattering, and ABC was the only one, outside the cable news outlets, covering the Q & A session in London. Meanwhile, it was business as usual for CBS and NBC soap fans, who got to watch their soaps with no interruptions. Leave it up to ABC News…. which I think would break in for two or three hours for almost anything. Honestly, I think the President could just say hello to one of their reporters, and they would be on air discussing it for hours. And, as if that wasn’t a big enough slap in the fans to “OLTL” fans, after the special report the network squeezed in about four or five minutes of commercials before returning to the show. After all that, we only got to see about ten or twelve minutes of the episode, since ABC chose not to re-broadcast it on Friday. What a rip-off. While I’m on the subject….did anyone else notice the logo displayed on the screen following Thursday’s ABC News Special Report (and again on Friday, during the brief cut-in at the beginning of the episode)? Typically, the announcer guy says “We now return to (whatever show was interrupted),” while the show’s logo is on the screen. However, this time they showed an ABC network logo while the announcer guy was talking. They did it to “OLTL” both days, and the same was done to “GH” on Friday when the extended ABC News Brief ran about thirty seconds (ironically) into “GH’s” time slot. I thought that was interesting. And, last but most certainly not least, I would like to send a belated congratulations to veteran “OLTL” Director Larry Carpenter and his team, who picked up a third Director’s Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Daytime Serial. Carpenter’s submitted episode, number 10,281 (which aired last October), and was entitled “So You Think You Can Be Shane Morasco’s Father?” Way to go!
For those of you unable to figure out the answers to the trivia questions from my last column, here they are (correct answers are bolded): Question #1: Llanview Police lieutenant Ed Hall was introduced in 1972 to investigate someone’s murder. But whose? Was it a) Marcy Wade, b) Dr. Mark Toland, c) Rachel Wilson, or d) Victor Lord. Question #2: During his many years at Llanview Hospital, Dr. Larry Wolek’s treated everything from the common cold to performing major surgery. But what was his field of medical specialty when the show began in 1968? a) pediatrics, b) proctology, c) plastic surgery, or d) psychiatry. Question #3: In 1992, Sloan Carpenter wrote a biography of Victor Lord’s life. What was its title? a) Dark Victor, b) Victorious, c) Citizen Lord, or d) Lord of The Banner. And Question #4: In 1999, Viki tried her hand at karaoke by performing this song in a contest at the Crosswords Bar. Was it a) “Ben,” b) “I Will Survive,” c) “Crazy,” or d) “It’s Raining Men.”
I hope those questions weren’t too difficult for you. Now, time for this week’s trivia challenge: Question #1: What seasonally named soap actress was Megan Gordon’s main competitor for the fictional Daisy Award for Best Actress in 1989? Was it a) Autumn Days, b) Spring Skye, c) Summer Shade, or d) Silver Winters. Question #2: On Christmas Eve in 1993, Cassie Callison found a newborn baby, which she would later adopt and name River. But where did she first discover the little bundle of joy? Was it: a) at the mall, b) under her tree, c) in the church manger scene, or d) in the backseat of her car. Question #3: In 1978, what type of show did Pat Ashley host on WVLE? Was it: a) advice to the lovelorn, b) beauty makeovers, c) cooking, or d) talk show. And Question #4: In 1981, what was the ominous name of the Llanivew estate where Asa Buchanan had imprisoned his first wife, Olympia? Was it: a) Widow’s Peak, b) Timberdark, c) Ravenwood, or d) Moor Cliffe. I’ll have the answers in the April 15th edition of the column. But if you are stumped and can’t wait, you may want to consult a copy of The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book by Gerry Waggett. Just a suggestion…. but one you might find useful.
Well that does it for yet another installment of “My View of Llanview.” I hope you have enjoyed reading this column as much as I did writing it. Celebrate the spring season and stay safe. Also, please do your part to help save our fellow soap “Guiding Light.” Sign a petition, write a letter, send an e-mail, or call CBS to voice your opinion on the matter. Your actions could make a difference, and also help save “OLTL” and other soaps in the process. After all, as Viki told Rae Cummings at the end of the 2001 special ‘Trading Places” episode, “There’s no place like Llanview.” So let’s try and keep it that way.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…
“One Life to Live airs weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Check local listings.
Discussion: My View of Llanview: March 30 Edition