Guiding Light, CBS
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I'd have to say this is my favorite soap opera ever. It's also the longest-running drama ever. "The Guiding Light" started as a radio show in 1937, and moved to television in 1952, where it continued until 2009. (It dropped the "The" from its title in 1975, the same year I was born.) I watched it for a few years, in the early to mid 90s, I think. There was a character named Roger Thorpe (played to perfection by Michael Zaslow), who I thought was pretty cool, if rather evil. Now a businessman, he was like a former CIA agent or whatever. However, long before I started watching the show, he had raped his wife, Holly (who we liked; played by Maureen Garrett). I never liked thinking about that, when I found out about it, because if I'd known when I started watching, I don't suppose I could have ever forgiven him. But eventually Roger and Holly got to a place where they could accept each other, or whatever. But... when I started watching, they were divorced, of course, and Roger was married to Alexandra Spaulding (who I believe was still played by Beverlee McKinsey when I first started watching, though for most of my viewing, she was played by Marj Dusay, whom I much preferred). The Spauldings were probably the richest, most powerful family in the city of Springfield, where the show was set. Alex had a brother named Alan, but I think he was in jail when I started watching, so it would be quite awhile before I ever saw him. Alan had a couple of sons, Phillip and Alan-Michael. Phillip was married to a woman named Beth (whom I don't remember well), and Alan-Michael married a young woman named Lucy Cooper (who we quite liked; played by Sonia Satra). Alex had a long-lost son named Nick McHenry, who I think was like identical to a son of hers named Lujack, who I never saw. I think he was dead or something.

There were lots of great characters. Holly married a guy named Fletcher Reade. They worked at a newspaper, and there may have been some other characters involved in that, I forget. Maybe one of them was Tangie Hill (who we quite liked; played by Marcy Walker); I know she worked for some paper. Anyway, a lot of those newspaper scenes reminded me of one of those old screwball comedy movies, it was great. Let's see, who else should I mention? Lucy was the daughter of Buzz Cooper, who was pretty cool (played by Justin Deas, who I always wished I could see acting in something else someday). I also think it was cool that Buzz became friends with Alexandra Spaulding (who was from a far higher social class than he), and I think they even dated a bit (though I have no idea what happened after I stopped watching). For awhile, Buzz was married to a former jewel thief named Jenna Bradshaw (who we quite liked; played by Fiona Hutchison). He also had a couple of other, adult children, named Harley Davidson Cooper (who we kinda liked), and Frank. Their mom was Nadine (who we liked). Frank and Harley were both cops, as I recall, but they also had a family diner. And Frank married a woman named Eleni Andros (who we quite liked; played by Melina Kanakaredes, who went on to do other things, though unfortunately not much that I was actually into). Frank and Eleni had a daughter named Marina (who changed actresses and had a major jump in age, sometime after I stopped watching). Oh, Roger and Holly had a daughter named Blake (played by Sherry Stringfield when I started watching, and later by Elizabeth Keifer; both of whom we quite liked, and in a rarity for me, both of whom I managed to appreciate for their portrayals of the same character, rather than my usual tendency to resent a cast change and never get used to the new actor). Blake married a lawyer named Ross Marler. Who had a daughter named Dinah (who we liked). Phillip had a best friend named Dr. Rick Bauer, who was the son of Dr. Ed Bauer and Maureen. They also had a younger daughter named Michelle (played at the time by Rachel Miner, who I always thought was awesome in the role, and who I'd also like, many years later, in several episodes of Supernatural- perhaps ironically, she wasn't the first person to play her character on that show). Also, the Bauers always have an annual Fourth of July barbecue, which is awesome.

I need to split up paragraphs here, damn, trying to list all the characters on a soap is like one of them "begat" chapters of the Bible. Anyway, when I first started watching, there was Reva Shayne Lewis (who we liked; played by Kim Zimmer); she was going through post-partum depression (after giving birth to Shayne Lewis), when I first started watching. She was married to Josh Lewis at the time (they also had a daughter named Marah, played by Ashley Peldon when I started watching, who I'd later see in The Pretender; later played by Kimberly J. Brown, who I later saw in the Halloweentown TV movies; and another actress after I stopped watching). But Reva had also been married before to both Josh's brother Billy, and their father, H.B. Josh was later married to a woman named Annie Dutton for awhile (who we liked; played by Cynthia Watros, who I'd later see on Titus and Lost), though after that I think he eventually got back together with Reva. And Billy had a daughter named Mindy Lewis (who we liked; played by Kimberley Simms when I started watching, and later Barbara Crampton; I preferred Simms). I vaguely recall her being married to Nick McHenry for awhile. And... there was someone named Vanessa Chamberlain (who we kinda liked, played by Maeve Kinkead), whose father's name was Henry. And she'd been married to Billy at some point. Oh, and she was Dinah Marler's mother, and Billy Lewis III's mother. But she eventually married a younger man named Matt Reardon, who was I think the brother of Bridget Reardon (who I believe we liked), who was herself like the niece or something of Maureen Bauer. Um... there was a guy named A.C. Mallett, who married Harley Cooper for awhile. (He was played by Mark Derwin, who I'd later see in a couple different shows with Bonnie Hunt.) He had a sister named Julie Camaletti (who we kinda liked). She pissed me off big time when she tried to break up Frank and Eleni. Oh, I also vaguely recall a DA named Lisa Dravecky (who we liked), but I don't think she was on the show long. There was a guy named Hampton Speakes, who ran a nightclub, and seemed to be friends with a lot of people in Springfield. He had a daughter named Kat (who we liked; played by Nia Long, who I later saw on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air).

I am forgetting so damn many characters, and relationships changed so much I can't keep track, and I don't remember enough of what all went on plotwise. But for the few years or so that I watched off and on, I thought it was all pretty cool, and interesting, and I really liked a lot of the characters. And for years after I stopped watching, I at least always thought of the show on the Fourth of July, and made some effort to catch the show, to see if the Bauers were having their barbecue. And I did watch the series finale, in 2009, which was decent. I gotta say, it's hard with a show like this, to occasionally tune in after years of absence, and see not only completely new characters, but also old characters played by actors you've never seen, and characters in relationships that make no sense (um, wasn't your current wife a baby when I last tuned in a few years ago, and you were married to her aunt?), characters being the wrong age (part of this can be a trick played by the passage of time, but a lot of it is because of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome), characters not acting at all like themselves, characters who were alive being dead (and possibly the reverse), and... and... I dunno, so many damn changes. But at the same time, it can be nice to see a few familiar faces, old friends you haven't seen in years, who are still pretty much the way you remember them....

Sigh. And now it's all over. Forever.


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