TLW's TV Soap Operascope™ (Soap Opera Historyscope)
By T.L. Winslow (TLW), the Historyscoper™
© Copyright by T.L. Winslow. All Rights Reserved.
Original Pub. Date: Oct. 30, 2015. Last Update: May 19, 2017.
Westerners are not only known as history ignoramuses, but double dumbass history ignoramuses when it comes to TV soap opera history. Since I'm the one-and-only Historyscoper (tm), let me quickly bring you up to speed before you dive into my Master Historyscope.
On June 30, 1952 the radio soap opera (since Jan. 25, 1937) The Guiding Light created by Irna Phillips (1901-73) debuts on CBS-TV for 15,762 episodes (until Sept. 18, 2009), about the lower middle class German immigrant Bauer family' in 1975 it becomes "Guiding Light"; it goes on to become the longest-running TV drama in U.S. history, the longest-running soap opera, and the 5th longest-running program in broadcast history.
On Apr. 2, 1956 the daytime soap opera The Edge of Night debuts on CBS-TV (until Nov. 28, 1975), switching to ABC-TV on Dec. 1, 1975 (until Dec. 28, 1984) for 7,420 episodes total, about Perry Mason clone Mike Karr (played by John Larkin until 1962, then Laurence Hugo until 1970, then Forrest Compton) of Monticello (really Cincinnati, Ohio, home of sponsor Proctor and Gamble); meanwhile on Apr. 2 the daytime soap opera As the World Turns debuts on CBS-TV for 13,858 episodes (until Dec. 8, 2009), set in fictional Oakdale, Ill.; Helen Wagner utters the words "Good morning, dear" on the first show, and "Goodbye, dear" on the last.
On Apr. 1, 1963 (Mon.) the daytime soap opera Ben Jerrod debuts on NBC-TV for 65 episodes (until June 28), becoming the first soap opera televised in color, about two R.I. attys. defending a socialite accused of murdering her husband.
On Apr. 1, 1963 (Mon.) the daytime soap opera The Doctors debuts on NBC-TV for 5,280 episodes (until Dec. 31, 1982), set in Hope Memorial Hospital in Madson, New England, starting out as an anthology series until Mar. 2, 1964, when it becomes a serial, starring James Turner Pritchett Jr. (1922-2011) as chief of staff Dr. Matthew "Matt" Powers, who stays with the show until the end.
On Apr. 1, 1963 (Mon.) the daytime soap opera General Hospital debuts on ABC-TV for ? episodes) (until ?), centered in the fictional town of Port Charles, N.Y. (first named in the 1970s)); it is about to be dropped in 1978 when it is taken over and turned around by producer Gloria Monty (1921-2006), who doubles the number of scenes per episode, causing the 1981 wedding of Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) and Laura Spencer (Genie Francis) to be viewed by a record 30M viewers.
On May 4, 1964 the daytime soap opera Another World debuts on NBC-TV (until June 25, 1999), created by "Guiding Light", "As the World Turns" creator Irna Phillips (1901-73) and William Joseph "Bill" Bell (1927-2005), sponsored by Procter & Gamble, and set in Bay City; announcer Bill Wolff opens it with the soundbyte: "We do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand other worlds"; it becomes the first soap opera to talk about an illegal abortion (by teenie Pat Matthews) this year, and the first to go from 30 min. to 1 hour on Jan. 6, 1975; the exec meeting to discuss the opening story met on Nov. 22, 1963.
On Nov. 8, 1965 (Mon.) the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives debuts on NBC-TV (until ?), about the Horton family of doctors in the town of Salem; the title screen features the voiceover "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives"; on Apr. 21, 1975 it expands from 30 min. to 60 min., going on to push the envelope with episodes on interracial romance, artificial insemination et al.; on Jan. 12, 1976 the cover of Time mag. features Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes, becoming the first daytime soap opera stars to appear on its cover (until ?).
On June 27, 1966 the campy daytime Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows debuts on ABC-TV for 1,225 episodes (until Apr. 2, 1971), starring Joan Geraldie Bennett (1910-90) as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and Canadian actor Jonathan Frid (1924-) as vampire hero Barnabas Collins.
On July 15, 1968 (Mon.) the half-hour daytime soap opera One Life to Live, created by Chicago-born veteran soap opera writer ("As the World Turns", "Search for Tomorrow", "Guiding Light", "Another World") Agnes Nixon (nee Eckhardt) (1927-) ("the queen of contemporary soap opera") debuts on ABC-TV for 11,136 episodes (until Jan. 13, 2012), about the wealthy WASP Lord family, the working-class Polish-Am. Wolek family, the African-Am. Gray family, and the middle-class Irish-Am. Riley family in Llanview (near Philadelphia), Penn.; pushing the envelope with an ethnically, socially, and racially mixed cast, incl. Erika Alma Hermina Slezak (1946-) as Victoria "Viki" Lord, Jacquie Courtney, Amy Levitt, Anthony Ponzini, Michael Storm, Ernest Graves, Gillian Spencer et al., going on to explore teenage homosexuality, rape, S&M sex, drug abuse, breast cancer, and multiple personality disorder, expanding to 45 min. on July 26, 1976 and 1 hour on Jan. 16, 1978, becoming the #1 reason that U.S. offices make TVs available for the lunch hour?
On Jan. 5, 1970 the daytime soap opera All My Children, created by "One Life to Live" creator (1968) Agnes Nixon (nee Eckhardt) (1927-) debuts on ABC-TV Ountil Sept. 23, 2011; then again in Apr. 29-Sept. 2, 2013), set in Pine Valley (near Philly), Penn., and starring 5' 2" Susan Victoria Lucci (1946-) as Erica Kane; in 1983 villain David Hoyt Canary (1938-) begins appearing on the show as self-made billionaire Adam Chandler Sr., marrying, divorcing, and kidnapping Erica while having mucho affairs and progeny; "The great and the least, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, in joy and sorrow, in tragedy and triumph, you are all my children."
On Mar. 30, 1970 (Mon.) the daytime soap opera Somerset (Another World in Somerset) debuts on NBC-TV for 1,710 episodes (until Dec. 31, 1976) as a spinoff of "Another World", starring Carol Roux as Missy Palmer Matthews, Elizabeth Ann Wedgeworth (1934-) as Lahoma Vane Lucas, and Jordan Charney (1937-) as convict-turned-atty. Sam Lucas, who move to Somerset near Detroit, Mich. and begin new lives with the Davis family, Buchanan family, Grant family, and Delaney family, ownersof Delaney Brands, the town's #1 employer.
On Apr. 3, 1972 the daytime soap opera Return to Peyton Place debuts on NBC-TV for 425 episodes (until Jan. 4, 1 974), based on the prime-time TV series and the 1959 novel by Grace Metallious.
On July 7, 1975 Claire Labine's and Paula Avila Mayer's TV soap opera Ryan's Hope debuts on ABC-TV for 3,515 episodes (until Jan. 13, 1989), about a large Irish-Am. family in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, N.Y. near the George Washington Bridge, starring Bernard Elliott "Bernie" Barrow (1927-93) as Johnny Ryan, owner of Ryan's Bar across from Riverside Hospital, and Helen Gallagher (1926-) as his wife Maeve Ryan, who ends the final episode singing her favorite tune "Danny Boy" at the family bar; also stars Kate Mulgrew (1955-) as Mary Ryan Renelli, and Ilene Kristen (Schatz) (1952-) as Delia Reid Ryan.
On Jan. 5, 1976 Norman Lear's late night soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman debuts in syndication for 325 episodes (until May 10, 1977); set in fictional Fernwood, Ohio, it covers the same crap as other soap operas but uses the correct names, causing TV stations to move it to after 11 p.m.; Louise Lasser (1939-) (Woody Allen's wife) plays pigtailed Mary Hartman, Greg Mullavey (1939-) plays her hubby Tom, Dody Goodman (1914-2008) plays her mother Mrs. Martha Shumway, and Mary Kay Place (1947-) plays her best friend and neighbor Loretta Haggers, who has older husband Charlie "Baby Boy" Haggers, played by Graham Jarvis (1930-2003); at the end of the first season Mary has a televised nervous breakdown on the David Susskind Show, and the show is renamed Forever Fernwood, portraying her as running off with a policeman; on July 24 Lasser is banned from performing on Saturday Night Live after messing up as host.
On July 30, 1984 (Mon.) the TV soap opera Santa Barbara debuts on NBC-TV for 2,137 episodes (until Jan. 15, 1993), about the wealthy Capwell and Lockridge families in Santa Barbara, Calif. five years after the murder of Channing Capwell Jr., when convicted murderer Joe Perkins is released on parole and returns determined to prove his innocence and hook up again with the victim's sister Kelly Capwell, after which almost every char. on the show becomes a suspect; in 1992-2002 it becomes the longest-running TV series in Russia.