The sound you hear is the other shoe dropping, as Crystal Chappell confirms that she has signed on with Days of Our Lives. The first shoe, of course, fell on April 1st, when CBS announced the cancelation of Guiding Light.
From the very start, the possibility of GL finding a new home was slim. As I've written about in the past, there had been significant problems with GL for a while - a long, long while. Problems that didn't necessarily have anything to do with Ellen Wheeler or the new production model. In fact, the saving grace of GL during the past 18-24 months has been an Ellen Wheeler initiative: the Olivia/Natalia dynamic that has come to be known as Otalia. If GL had a bargaining chip, something to attract a new home on a cable network, it was Otalia. The story was (and is) fresh, original, engaging, thoughtfully written, and beautifully acted by two leads who share glorious chemistry. Otalia looked and felt like nothing else on television. It was (and is) tender, funny, sexy, and thought-provoking. If Lifetime or any other network were ever going to pick up GL, it would have taken take a hell of a lot more than Bizzie, or the stale Reva/Josh saga. Even the wonderful Gina Tognoni's Dinah wouldn't have been enough of a commodity to sell this show.
For GL, the ace-in-the-hole, the jewel in the crown is Otalia. Otalia is the outdoor kitchen that made my parents' home so easy to sell, the silk lining that made that jacket a must-have, the cheesecake that keeps New Yorkers going back to Junior's. Without Otalia, there is nothing to pitch, nothing to sell. Now that one half of Otalia has locked herself into contract with another program, there is no bargaining chip. No outdoor kitchen. No silk lining. No cheesecake. Quite simply - Otalia is Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia.
The writing is on the wall: Guiding Light will be no more.
Nothing New Under The Sun
Many of us who are long-time soap fans have been through this sad tango before: with Ryan's Hope, Edge of Night, and Another World, among other long-gone gems. Television shows come and go. It's nothing new. Sad, yes, but nothing new.
What is new, and what is so distressing to many of us, is that this is the end of an era. It is not just the end of a television show, but of an American icon and a significant piece of broadcasting and story-telling history. This is not Passions of Generations or even Loving or Santa Barbara....this is Guiding Light, the mother of all soaps. Irna Phillips' own baby. The show that has been so innovative and daring, in so many ways, for 72 years.
As I've written far too many times - I fear that the demise of GL is only the beginning. TPTB are interested in low-overhead programming, and there's a prevailing idea that people under 35 - the most attractive demographic - are not likely to become invested in a continuing drama in such a way that is needed for a soap's success. (TPTB obviously have no idea how invested people under 35 are in Heroes, Lost, Dexter, Mad Love, or Mad Men.) I hope I'm wrong, but I expect the end of GL to be only the beginning of a domino effect when it comes to soap opera. If GL is disposable, expect ATWT to follow....and we can expect the sad momentum to build.
What Could Have Been
There were so many different ways to save GL, or preserve its strongest aspects - one has to wonder why some of the obvious solutions weren't pursued by CBS. As The World Turns is a Proctor and Gamble show, just as Guiding Light is. A crossover would have been easy to set up: Natalia and Olivia Oakdale to open a second Beacon Hotel in Oakdale....Philip Spaulding carrying out a hostile take-over of both Springfield and Oakdale's television stations and merging them, leading to key characters moving to Oakdale to work with Kim Hughes. If both ATWT and GL had been stripped of their fat, and all the best elements of each merged into one show it would have featured something of a daytime dream cast: Crystal Chappell, Roger Howarth, Cady McClain, Jessica Leccia, Ellen Dolan, Gina Tognoni , Jon Lindstrom, Elizabeth Hubbard, Forbes March, Liz Keifer, Grant Aleksander, and Collen Zenk (please - someone make good use of Colleen Zenk!!) Now, that would have been impossible for die-hard soap fans to ignore. Sort of like soap's version of the Beatles reunion that never was. Too bad we'll never get to see it.
© 2009 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves