Monday, September 14, 2009

Guiding Light fades to black

After 72 years and 15,672 episodes they are turning off the lights in the mythical town of Springfield (actually Pea Pack, NJ). I learned the last episode of the soap opera Guiding Light would air next Friday while watching CBS This Morning yesterday.

Since, like too much of its audience, I had both aged out of the advertiser’s target market and returned to the workplace, this wasn’t exactly a shock. I can’t recall when I’ve seen the an episode of the show, which began in 1937. That’s 10 years before I whaled my welcome to this world. That’s when TV was considered a passing fad. Both had remarkable staying power.

Ok, so this isn’t exactly an earth stopping event. Except it is, in a way. Because the news stopped time for me, throwing me back to my Long Island childhood. Yup, another one of those. It was one of my mom’s soaps (along with As the World Turns). I flashed on laying across my parent’s bed on those days when I was home from school with some ailment, and watching alongside my mom—all comfy. Back then, the shows lasted only 15 minutes.

So I guess it’s only natural that I fell into following the convoluted storylines. As the shows grew in length to 30 and then 60 minutes, they shifted the time so I watched after school—or so I recall.

Soaps became something of a fashion for a while, very hip. When I was in college, there was actually a course called “Psychology of the Soap Opera.” And students would gather to watch together.

Then my own daughter, now 40, took to Guiding Light. And it served as a touchstone for us both. At times, when we found it hard to share our own lives, we had common ground. I was so grateful for that. There was always those folks in Springfield. Any problem you could imagine, they had. And they survived—until now.

So although I no longer watched, I guess it gave me comfort to know the world of Springfield still turned. What to make of a world without the ultimate star-crossed soul mates Reva and Josh, without the unending diabolical plots of Allen Spaulding and the rest of the population. What indeed?

Of course, I will be working when the last show airs, so I’ll have to check it out on the web after the fact. And that, my friends, is how the world now turns.

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