As the World Turns is gone but it’ll never be forgotten. The CBS soap opera, which went off the air in September 2010, debuted on April 2, 1956, which means it is celebrating its 65th anniversary!
As The World Turns Milestone
The show was groundbreaking from the beginning in that it debuted as a half-hour soap. It had the best in the business working on it. Legendary Irna Phillips created the show. Ted Corday, who later went on to co-create Days of our Lives, was the show’s director. William J. Bell, who went on to create The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful, wrote the show alongside Phillips.
The show’s original cast members included Don McLaughlin as patriarch Chris Hughes and Helen Wagner was Chris’s wife Nancy. The couple had a few hiatuses from Oakdale, but McLaughlin remained with ATWT until his passing in 1986, shortly after the show’s 30th anniversary; Wagner died not too long before the show ended in 2010.
ATWT perfected many of the soap opera staples that remain in the genre today. Camera work that captured closeups and characters being introspective about their feelings. Eileen Fulton’s willful Lisa Miller set the stage for soap vixens to come. Although she married Bob (Don Hastings) and had his son Tom (played by many actors over the years), Lisa didn’t want to settle down and her impulsiveness created lots of drama and resulted in both her and Bob splitting up and Fulton receiving her own short-lived nighttime spinoff Our Private World.
Another prominent family in the show’s early years through the late 1980s was the Stewart brood. David Stewart (Henderson Forsythe) and his wife Ellen (Patricia Bruder) were grandparents to ATWT’s only quadruplets — Maria, Lowell, Nancy, and Gregory Ward.
While supercouples on soaps grew in the 1970s (Another World’s Steve and Alice and Days of our Lives Doug and Julie, for example) and exploded in the 1980s (too many to mention!), ATWT can lay claim to having daytime’s first supercouple — Jeff (Mark Rydell) and Penny (Rosemary Prinz).
ATWT was the No. 1 rated soap from 1958 to 1978. The soap genre shifted its emphasis towards younger characters, but ATWT was always multi-generational. In addition to Phillips and Bell, other writers on the show included Robert Soderberg and Edith Sommer; Cynthia Benjamin and Susan Bedsow Horgan; and Bridget and Jerome Dobson.
In the mid-1980s, ATWT got back to its roots and moved into the future simultaneously when Daytime Emmy-winning scribe Douglas Marland (AW; General Hospital; Guiding Light) came on board as the top scribe. The Hughes family, headed up by newlyweds Bob and Kim (Kathryn Hays), Oakdale’s most stable couple, was re-established as ATWT’s premiere clan.
Chris and Nancy moved back to Oakdale and into the garage apartment. Andy (Scott DeFreitas) and Frannie (Julianne Moore) represented the younger generation. Tom (Gregg Marx) and Margo (Hillary B. Smith) were torn apart after Marland transformed Barbara (Colleen Zenk) into a figurative and literal designing woman.
Marland introduced the unbalanced Douglas Cummings (John Wesley Shipp), who was fixated on Kim, who’d shown him kindness when he was a teenager. Viewers met the Snyder clan, headed by matriarch Emma (Kathleen Widdoes) and her six children! In a shocking twist, Iva Snyder (Lisa Brown) told Lucinda Walsh (Elizabeth Hubbard) that she was Lily’s (Martha Byrne) biological mom.
Viewers were riveted for over a year, waiting for the secret to explode. Snyder siblings Holden (Jon Hensley) and Meg (Jennifer Ashe) conspired to break up Lily and Dusty (Brian Bloom).
Ex-lovers and business rivals Craig (Scott Bryce) and Lucinda felt such passion towards each other it was difficult to tell if they loved or hated one another. Sierra (Finn Carter) wed Tonio (Peter Boynton) on the rebound, but eventually, she and Craig reunited and moved to Montega with their son Bryant.
James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) came back from the dead, many times, but none was as chilling as the first time he re-appeared to his ex-wife and spoke the famous words: “Hello, Barbara.”
Marland excelled at love stories and twists including the unlikely May/late October pairing of Casey (Bill Shanks) and Lyla (Anne Sward) and Frannie finding out that her doppelganger in London, named Sabrina, was, in reality, her half-sister/cousin. The scribe created memorable antagonists including Marsha Talbot (Guilia Pagano), Tad Channing (Larry Pine), and Lilith McKechnie (Sara Botsford).
Very few scribes drew on history as Marland did such as when he brought Dr. Susan Stewart (Marie Masters) back for the show’s 30th anniversary; she later returned to Oakdale on a more permanent basis. Despite Kim’s claim to Bob that Susan couldn’t hurt her anymore, she did just that when Susan fell in love with Bob and the two had a one-night stand while Kim and her ex, John (Larry Bryggman), dealt with their son Andy’s drinking problem.
It seemed as if nearly every major middle-aged character discovered that they had a long-lost child, but Marland spaced out the reveals over time, making each story different from the other.
Other memorable characters during this era included Shannon O’Hara AKA Erin Casey (Margaret Reed), Jessica Griffin (Tamara Tunie), Steve (Frank Runyon) and Betsy Andropoulos (Meg Ryan; Lindsay Frost), Hal Munson (Benjamin Hendrickson), Emily Stewart (Melanie Smith; Kelley Menighan), Duncan McKechnie (Michael Swan), and many, many more.
The show was forced to go on after Marland’s untimely death occurred in 1993. ATWT and the genre, for that matter, were never the same. A series of writers came and went. A post-Marland highlight, story-wise, was Lisa suing John Dixon for malpractice after her husband Eduardo (Nicolas Coster) was killed.
The show became energized when scribe Hogan Sheffer came to ATWT in 2000; like Marland, he drew on the show’s rich past, introduced new characters and focused on veterans. During his tenure, Craig (now Hunt Block) went back to his villainous ways and Barbara was horribly burned in a fire. Cady McClain took over the role of Rosanna Cabot from Yvonne Perry. Rosanna’s “have-not” cousin, Carly (Maura West) and Jack Snyder (Michael Park) became a popular duo.
In addition to Moore and Ryan, other famous alumni of the show include Parker Posey (Tess), Marisa Tomei (Marcy), Steven Weber (Kevin), Billy Magnussen (Casey), William Fichtner (Rod/Josh), and Jesse Lee Soffer (Will).
Over the decades, ATWT dealt with social issues including divorce, alcoholism, interracial romance and marriage, illiteracy, and the right to die. Ground-breaking till the end, ATWT introduced Reid Oliver, played by Eric Sheffer Stevens, a caustic surgeon, who was arrogant, overconfident, and who also just happened to be gay.
After GL was axed in 2009, ATWT had become Procter & Gamble’s lone soap opera. The show’s cancellation was announced in December 2009 and the finale aired on September 17, 2010. While GL opened the gates and invited several past veterans to come back for its finale, ATWT had fewer familiar faces drop by in its last months. Two standouts were now-A-Lister film star Moore reprising Frannie for one episode, Bob and Kim’s 25th wedding anniversary, and Bryggman bringing John Dixon back to help consult on Chris Hughes’ (Daniel Cosgrove) case after he developed a heart condition.
When the show ended, ATWT was executive produced by Chris Goutman and head written by Jean Passanante and Lloyd Gold. During its 54-year run, ATWT won four Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series and four Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team.
While ATWT is gone, it lives on in the hearts of its fans, in Locher Room reunions on YouTube, and actors from the show appear on some of the four remaining serials.