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Soap Opera History Lesson: Guiding Light’s Third Time Unlucky

Guiding LightGuiding Light

For many, April 1st is a day of fun and frivolity designed, it seems, especially for practical jokers and lovers of harmless mischief. But for many soap opera fans, the 1st day of April is forever tainted. On that day in 2009 the decision to cancel the CBS daytime drama Guiding Light (GL) was made.

But, what few fans probably realize is that this cancelation was actually the soaps third! In fact, if it was not for an intense letter-writing campaign six decades earlier the beloved series might not have made it to their television screens.

Created by Irna Phillips (The) Guiding Light debuted over NBC radio waves on January 25, 1937, and was sponsored by Procter & Gamble for their P&G White Naphtha bar of soap.

After four years of sponsorship, P&G chose to terminate their association with the series and the series departed from the listener’s homes on December 26, 1941.

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Not satisfied with the turn of events the show’s devoted fans set to work. In record time 75,000 letters of protest made their way to the NBC studios and on March 16, 1942 (11 weeks since the cancellation) Guiding Light triumphantly returned in partnership with a new sponsor, General Mills, who also sponsored underwrote two other Irna Phillips creations (Woman in White and Todays Children)

However, history repeated itself four years later. Amidst the FCCs forced split between NBC’s two radio networks (up till 1946 listeners could choose between NBC Blue and NBC Red) General Mills chose to cancel GL.

It took much longer (26 weeks) but the series was once again rescued. Ironically it was former sponsor P&G who stepped up and renewed the series and then transferred it to the CBS radio network on June 2, 1947.

It remained there until 1956, ceasing production only because it had made its much-heralded premiere on that new device called a television. P&G decided that seeing was much better than simply hearing.

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