ITS CHARACTERS ROSE FROM THE DEAD, BUT WRITERS COULDN'T WRITE HIGHER RATINGS FOR GUIDING LIGHT AS THE SOAP ENDS AFTER 72 YEARS -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Actors, Writer and Producer Celebrate the Long Life of Broadcasting's Oldest Drama, Another Casualty in the Shrinking Soap Opera Category
Anything could happen and it usually did over the course of its 20,000 episodes. Characters would disappear and re-emerge after years, become entangled in the most outrageous plots writers could fathom - they could even die and come back to life. But "Guiding Light's" scribes ultimately couldn't write higher ratings for broadcasting's longest-running drama and the 72-year-old soap opera will not be back after next week. Morley Safer talks to the people who produced and appeared on "Guiding Light," some for decades, as they celebrate the life and now accept the breakup of what has for them become a family. Safer's story will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Sept. 13 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
First on the radio in 1937, "Guiding Light" made the transition to television in 1952 and rode the soap-opera success train to its peak in the 1970s, when the networks ran 16 of them. Its demise leaves just seven on the networks now.
"I'm 54 years old. I will never have a job like this again, ever in my life," says actress Kim Zimmer, who played Reva Shayne - a character who married nine times on the show. "Nothing this steady and this stable and this wonderful."
"Guiding Light" Executive producer Ellen Wheeler says it's more than a job. "We have to say goodbye to the characters and we have to say goodbye to the town, the whole town. We have to say goodbye to each other. Our working relationships are over," she says.
Beth Chamberlin, who went from a teenager to middle age on the broadcast as Beth Raines, is a little bit in denial. "I think it won't sink in for maybe a month later that we're actually not going back. We're not just light on story right now, there is no story to be told," she tells Safer.
In addition, Safer also speaks to "Guiding Light" writer Jill Lorie Hurst and longtime actors Ron Raines, Tina Sloan and Grant Aleksander.