TV's first soap turns 50 on Sunday

We've all heard of soaps that never seem to end. But try this one for sheer longevity. Guiding Light, the broadcast industry's longest-running daily programme, is all set to mark its 50th anniversary on television on 30 June.

Guiding Light creator Irma Philips

By this weekend, the show will have aired 13,941 episodes on CBS, and 16,401 episodes if radio shows are included. A new opening sequence was unveiled on the show on 24 June to celebrate the milestone. 

Created by Irma Phillips, The Guiding Light debuted during the second world war on 25 Jan 1937 as a 15 minute series on radio. Guiding Light was, and continues to be, produced by Procter & Gamble Productions, the company who put the "soap" in the soap opera. 

For six decades, Guiding Light has led its counterparts in daytime and prime-time drama in exploring a range of topical and timeless issues, says an official release. Beginning in 1962, the TV series tackled the first social issue-driven storyline: the early detection of Bert Bauer's uterine cancer via a pap smear. Since then, subjects covered included organ transplant, Down's syndrome, substance abuse and domestic violence, apart, of course, from love, romance, family and community.

Guiding Light is the only daytime programme inducted into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame. Recipient of 55 Daytime Emmy Awards, it is a weekday daily on CBS Television Network. The series' creators attribute the show's longevity to the fact that while the complexity of storytelling and production has evolved considerably over time, the simple, life-affirming issues and values the show began exploring 65 years ago still lie at the heart of the show and continue resonating with a new generation of viewers.

A still from Guiding Light

Currently, the always adventurous, Reva Shayne (played by three-time Emmy winner Kim Zimmer) and her soulmate, Josh Lewis (Robert Newman), are embarking on marriage for the third time; Dr. Rick Bauer (Michael O'Leary), who suffers from a deteriorating heart condition, and former prince Richard Winslow (Bradley Cole), victim of a horrible car accident, fight for their lives; Beth Raines tries to rebuild her life by coming to terms with the past of her alternate personality, Lorelei Hills (both played by Beth Chamberlin); and the feisty Harley Cooper (Beth Ehlers) and the irksome Gus Aitoro (Ricky Paull Goldin) try to make a go of their new relationship despite the objections of everyone in town, including Harley's ex-husband, the wealthy Phillip Spaulding (Grant Aleksander). 

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