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August 21, 2009
Turning Out The Light
This is no revelation. I’ve already outed myself here in PopCult. I’ve been watching the soap opera, Guiding Light, for thirty years. On September 18, the final episode of GL, the longest-running show in broadcast history, will air on CBS. It looks like there will be no reprieve. No announcement has been made about moving the show to another broadcast or cable network, and production ended last week.
Guiding Light began as “The Guiding Light,” a fifteen-minute daily soap on the CBS radio network 72 years ago. It jumped to television in the early 1950s (co-existing on both radio and TV for a short time). The show expanded to half an hour, then later to a full hour, and it always stood head and shoulders above the other soaps on the air. Along the way, they dropped the “The.”
There are tons of name actors who appeared on the show early in their careers, like Kevin Bacon (right), Taye Diggs, James Earl Jones, Cicily Tyson, Cynthia Watros, Hayden Panettiere, Britney Snow, Alison Janney, Rachel Minor, Annabelle Gurwich and way too many others to mention.
A few years ago a veteran soap producer who had been out of the business for more than a decade, John Conboy, was brought in to helm the show, and under his watch the quality of the production skyrocketed. Suddenly the show was lit like a major motion picture. Storylines were tightened, and key elements of the mythology were established, inserting historical ties between characters that filled in gaps and tied the show together in a more cohesive manner.
Conboy also went way over budget, and left the show after a year-and-a-half. He was replaced by former soap actress-turned director Ellen Wheeler, and she continued his innovative approach, but tempered it with mission to reduce the budget of the show. Under Wheeler the creative renaissance of Guiding Light reached even higher peaks, and as the show winds down, it’s as good as it’s ever been. Guiding Light is going out with a several-months-long run of the best episodes in its long history.
In February 2008 Wheeler(right), taking advantage of the home studio for the show being moved (which required new sets to be built), revamped the production style and began shooting much of Guiding Light with lightweight hand held digital cameras, and much of that on location in a New Jersey town that they’d chosen to stand in for the fictional “Springfield.” Suddenly the show looked like an independent film–a really good independent film. The new sets were spectacular, and the location footage was unlike anything on daytime television.
And the ratings, already low, dropped.
Part of it is due to the changing times. Part of it is due to unbridled hostility toward Guiding Light by most of the soap opera press (yes, Virginia, there is a soap opera press). The editors of Soap Opera Weekly and Soap Opera Digest, the two top magazines devoted to soaps, were merciless in their attacks on the new style of the show. They dubbed it “shaky cam” and complained that the actors and actresses looked too real–not glamorous enough.
Another wonderful Art Walk took place in Charleston last night. I didn’t get to as many places as usual because for the first time I was a participant. I had a couple of pieces in the Dog Days show, put on by Marshhouse arts at The Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery. I did get to stop in at The Purple Moon and the RE: Premier show at Callum McJunkin Gallery. Here’s a quickie photo essay.
Purple Moonage Daydream
Cool new work by Sharon Lyn Stackpole
Karen catches me sneaking up behind Tofujitsu
The work of the late William Goebel, on display all this month
The Purple Moon has a new room upstairs, with vintage art. This piece by Curtis Jere is from 1965
Also in the new room, a 1974 piece by Greg Copeland
RE: Premier at Callen McJunkin Gallery
This is a great exhibit, but for some reason, it made me hungry. Check out the munchies, inspired by some of the works on display.
Since I’m working on a 120 Second Art Show video for this show (of which I was honored to be part) I’m just posting pictures of the people involved in the show here.
Amy Williams and Rob Hrezo “Necking” a live knitting installation that will take place at various venues through October
The Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery was packed for most of the night
The amazing Joe Bolyard
Writer Brian J. hatcher and artist Gracie Welch
Artist Keith Allen
Curator Chip Tantlinger snaps a picture of yours truly snapping a picture of Chip Tantlinger
Melanie Larch and Rob Cleland enjoying the holy hell out of the art
More of the steady crowd
Even more of the crowd
The PopCulteer’s kid sister, Diana, looks at some work by a guy with a funny name
Next Week In PopCult
Keep checking back at The Gazette’s best-hidden blog, as we bring you Sunday Evening Videos, Monday Morning Art, Radio Free Charleston episode 79, and the delayed debut of “Cool Comic Of The Week.” I had planned to start the cool comic this week, but I didn’t have time to read it.