Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guiding Light: 1937-2009...Part Eight

A couple of days ago, September 18 to be specific, fans of the long-running daytime drama Guiding Light watched the final episode. The end of the show, which ran 72 years as noted in the blogs title, has left a void in the lives of millions. I for one thought that the show could possibly go on forever and the reason why I say that is because the show was on for 72 years...so I assumed that it would just coast along and hit 75, then 80...etc.

The soap as you can tell has obtained several milestones in longevity. As far as soap operas are concerned...American soap operas...Guiding Light is hands down the longest running daily entertainment program. It's origins go back to 1937 where it debuted on radio. It moved to TV in 1952 and ran on both TV and radio until 1956...and then TV exclusively from that point forward. It's television run, 1952-2009, gives it a 57 year life-span. The only other soap to come close to matching or beating that longevity is As The World Turns, which debuted on TV in 1956 and it received a contract extension through 2010 which will bring that soap to 54 years guaranteed. So, that soap may in fact tie or beat Guiding Light but that's looking too far ahead...and that brings me to this...

The daytime drama climate as far as ratings go isn't exactly what it used to be and the highest rated show among the daytime dramas is pulling in an average of 1.5 to 2 million viewers where as in the mid 1990's and earlier the top rated soap was grabbing close to 3.5 million. In the 1960's and 1970's the top rated soap was grabbing over 5 million and close to 10 million viewers easily.

A lot of the morning news programs did their farewell segments on the soap and you can find those farewells on You Tube. One of the things that I wasn't too happy about was learning that the Soap Opera world, during their annual awards show, did a tribute of sorts that was terribly short. That salute to the longest running drama in broadcast history is also on You Tube. I would've expected that kind of rushed recognition from a national news outlet or something but not at a show promoting daytime television. On September 16, two days before the last episode, one of my favorite characters from the show died. Alan Spaulding died unexpectedly...while sitting on a park bench.

The character had been a part of the show since 1977 and had just two breaks: 1984-1986 and 1989-1994. The character was presumed dead from the latter half of 1984 through early 1986 when news started to surface that Alan could still be alive. The character was sent to prison in 1989...for shooting Roger Thorpe...at Phillip and Blake's wedding. Roger survived the shot...Phillip had been shot as well...and he, too, survived. Alan on the other hand was convicted of attempted murder in 1989 and remained off the show until 1994. The character returned in 1994 and remained an integral part of the show for the next 15 years.

Chris Bernau portrayed the Alan Spaulding character originally. He remains the definitive Alan Spaulding for a lot of people even though Ron Raines, the last actor to portray the character, played the role the longest. In between these two stints, Daniel Pilon played the character.

Chris Bernau: 1977-1984; 1986-1988
Daniel Pilon: 1988-1989
Ron Raines: 1994-2009

Here's a very brief look at the Josh and Reva factor during 1983-1990...

The final scene of the last episode involved the shows super-couple, Josh and Reva. The two characters had a wild on-again/off-again relationship that led to many attempts of marriage and several marriages and divorces. Their story was always portrayed as a kind of tragic melodrama where the man and woman are always this close to being happy and something comes along to drive them apart. The couple, in the final scene, drove down the road together with a lighthouse in the background and the words "The End" came up on the screen. I was a bit surprised that there was no cast farewell...usually you'd expect some sort of "thanks" or "thank you for tuning in all these years" on a final episode and see the cast hug and cry but there wasn't anything like that.

Josh and Reva were played by the same people from start to finish. Robert Newman originated the role of Josh Lewis in 1981 and was a completely different character from what most viewers would recognize. The character of Reva came along in 1983, played by Kim Zimmer, and originally the viewers only knew that she was Billy's ex-wife who Alan Spaulding paid to come to town in an attempt to break up Billy's relationship with Vanessa Chamberlain. Billy was Josh's brother...and Billy was prone to calling Josh "little brother". The viewers then learn that Reva and Josh were childhood lovers...that the two dated as teenagers and it was Josh's choice of putting college above Reva that drove her into his brother's arms. So now the back-story of Josh and Reva was playing out amidst Billy's war against both Reva and Alan. Josh left town when he learned the real reason Reva arrived...and afterward Reva found herself the object of H.B's affections. This is important because H.B was the father of Billy and Josh...when Josh returned and learned that Reva had married his father he drove off wildly and slammed into a tree and was paralyzed. Reva later became pregnant with H.B.'s child but she miscarried. H.B and Reva divorced...but just as Josh and Reva were growing closer again she started having feelings for Kyle Sampson who at the time was believed to be H.B.'s son with another woman and therefore Josh and Billy's half-brother.

During Josh's hiatus in Venezuela the Reva and Kyle relationship was underway. Kyle then learned that H.B. was not his father but he was still a brother to Billy. How? Well, Kyle and Billy shared the same mother: Sally Gleason. Josh and Trish's mother was Martha. Kyle and Reva grew apart.

Josh returned but then left again...but then returned...all in the span of several months. When he returned he brought with him a man named Will Jeffries...and what nobody knew was that when Josh was in Venezuela he had married a woman named Sonni Carrera who died after falling off of a suspension bridge. He kept this a secret...even from Reva...until Sonni turned up alive and he had to reveal the truth and play her husband even though he wanted to be with Reva.

The plot that unfolded started when Will tampered with the birth results of Reva's baby. Will made it appear that the father of Reva's baby was Kyle Sampson instead of Josh. In addition to that sub-plot, the main plot centered around Will and Sonni's plan to kill Josh and steal the Lewis fortune. Those story lines took up all of late 1987 through early 1989. Josh found himself pushed off of a bridge...Reva found herself in a coma, too. While Reva was semi-conscious Alan married her...she thought that she was marrying Josh. The marriage was annulled after Reva regained her right state of mind. Josh then learns that he's the father of Marah, the baby that most thought belonged to Kyle. It's revealed that Alan had paid Will to tamper with the birth certificate.

After the mayhem with Sonni, Will, and Alan climaxed in early 1989 Reva and Billy grew closer when it was revealed that years ago Reva gave up a baby she had with Billy for adoption and she became obsessed with locating her son. The son turned out to be a newcomer to town named Dylan. Josh and Reva grew closer once again and she became pregnant and later gave birth to Shayne. Josh was the father.

Josh and Reva finally marry...and it wasn't long afterward that Reva's grasp on reality started to suffer and in a memorable scene in 1990 she drove her car off an unfinished bridge in Florida with Josh watching in horror. She was presumed dead for the next five years.

What was to become known as Reva's missing years, 1990-1995, were spotlighted throughout mid to late 1999. It was revealed that Reva survived her car crash into the ocean but suffered from amnesia and took on the name of Katherine and was married to a prince...Richard Winslow...on the island of San Cristobel. Katherine's disappearance sent Richard into alcoholism...but it would be revealed that Katherine's disappearance was as a result of Edmund's treachery. Edmund was Richard's evil brother. On the sideline was Olivia, Richard's soon to be wife, who was annoyed by the re-appearance of Katherine. As the plot thickened and Reva's missing years were explored and explained, Josh and Reva grew apart...divorcing not long after Reva learned that she and Richard shared a son, Jonathan. Josh and Olivia were married...but later divorced when her affair with Alan Spaulding was revealed. Olivia and Alan then married...but she began having an affair with his son, Phillip, which led to a divorce. All of the drama between Josh, Reva, Olivia, and Alan played out during 1999-2002. Edmund rivaled Alan in the bad-guy department...but strangely enough Edmund, to me at least, didn't seem likable or sympathetic compared to Alan. Olivia would go on and become half of the couple known on-line as Otalia. Olivia and Natalia became an item...two females...and the couple was nicknamed Otalia. This couple became the main focal point during the show's final months on the air. So, for those who caught the show very late in it's run, Olivia had a 9 and a half year history on the show prior to her pairing up with Natalia.

Thanks to You Tube videos the memories of the show will, I think, live on forever on-line. In my collection I have a couple of books about GL...one is the 50th Anniversary book published in 1987 and the other is the 60th Anniversary book published ten years later. I have some other items as well.

Guiding Light: 1937-2009

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