Friday, September 18, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

At 3pm today, I will watch the very last episode of one of my all-time favorite TV shows--Guiding Light.

I'm not exactly what you would call a soap opera fan, and as Ainsley has gotten older and both she and my job have kept me busier between the hours of 3 and 4, I haven't even kept up with the Light as much as I used to. But it's a family institution, and I am very sad to see it go.

Guiding Light was always my family's daytime show. Doesn't every family of girls have one they all watch? My sister used to turn it on as soon as she walked home from high school and the three of us, my mom, sister, and me, would watch it together (bear in mind that this started when I was three, and I really had no idea what was going on half the time.)

When my sister graduated, got a real job, and got married and moved away, I still kept watching. Other kids raced home from elementary school to catch Scooby or Mr. Rodgers or 3-2-1 Contact; I watched those, but until after I had seen what the residents of Springfield were up to.

The year we moved to Barbourville was a bad year for me, but it was a great year for Guiding Light. That was the year of the whole Beth/Phillip/Rick/Mindy love quadrangle, which was a great teenage love story that pitted poor-but-lovely Beth against rich-bitch Mindy for the affection of Spaulding heir Phillip. I believe that was also the year that another low-class but high-pride character, the one and only Reva Shane, gave her famous "slut of Springfield" speech to a paralyzed Josh in a hot tub. My school days were miserable that year, as I felt like Beth struggling as a socioeconomic outcast in a town that seemed to value wealth. But when the bus dropped me off in the afternoon and I walked to my mamaw's trailer, I could make it all better by drinking a big glass of my aunt's awesome sweet tea, making myself a bologna sandwich, and watching what my mamaw called "my story."

"Is your story on yet?" Mamaw would say as I was searching the kitchen for my snack. And for that one hour every day, I felt at home.

I stuck with Guiding Light the rest of the time I was in school. I saw Beth and Phillip get together, and grow apart, and get together again (after it was thought Beth died but made a dramatic reappearnce, of course.) I fell in love with Lou Jack (and named a pet parrakeet after him). I cheered for Harley Davidson Cooper and mourned when Reva supposedly died (for the first time) and rejoiced when she was found alive and well. I tried to get my hair to look like Eleni's (played at the time by the still-gorgeous Melina Kanakaredes from CSI: New York.)

I didn't have time for such trivial things in college (Brisco and Party of Five were way cooler) but I snuck in a few episodes during the summer when I had afternoons off work. It was these summer afternoons that saw me watching "the story" with Jason's mom and grandma, also life-long fans. Just like my mamaw, Jason's grandma called soaps "stories" and it was made clear to me that Guiding Light was their family's story of choice and all who were in the house between 3 and 4 needed to be quiet and watch or else. I personally did not have a problem with that. During those years of college and the year of mine and Jason's engagement and first year teaching, I watched with my new extended family as Lucy Cooper was abducted by a psycho serial killer in drag, Reva got cloned, and the Santos crime family tried to take over Springfield.

It was high drama.

I feel the quality of the show has dwindled since those heady days. Since Ainsley was born, the show moved off the sound stage and into more realistic set locations in the small town outside of New York. They also switched to a hand-held camera to make it appear more realistic and documentary-like, but besides being a little too precious for my tastes it also has effectively kept Jason from being able to watch a single episode since the switch (and I used to occasionally watch with him on days off, in honor of his late grandma and the good times we had watching The Story with her when we getting ready for our wedding.)

So this goodbye will be bittersweet. I don't know that daytime soaps have much of a future, and Guiding Light's inconsistency put my favorite deservedly on the chopping block. It's time for it to go. But I will miss the history. And I can't help but think, sadly, of how I'm saying goodbye to the Light just a few months after saying goodbye to Kathie. It's fitting, I suppose, that GL didn't stick around very long after the death of one of its biggest fans.

It's the end of an era.

Are any of you fans of Guiding Light? Are you sad to see it go? And what in the world will Kim Zimmer do when she can no longer be Reva Shane and reign as daytime TV's best cryer?

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