World's longest-running soap opera ends

In the end, the characters on television’s longest-running soap opera lived happily ever after.

The US show ‘Guiding Light’ aired its final episode on Saturday, 72 years and more than 15,000 episodes after its first broadcast as a CBS radio programme in 1937. The show, the story of three families in fictional Springfield, US, moved to television in 1952 and first broadcast in colour in 1967.

In the typically sudsy finale, the main characters, Josh Lewis and Reva Shayne, decided to marry “again”, then drive off in Josh’s vintage pickup truck on an unspecified adventure. “You ready?” Josh asked Reva. “Always,” she replied.

“It really is hard for someone who does not watch a soap opera to understand the effect it has,” said Lynn Leahey, editor of the magazine Soap Opera Digest. “It becomes like a neighbour that you have coffee with every day.” Lynn Rydzik, 36, started watching the show in 1979 with her grandmother. “They were more consistent than pretty much anything else in my life,” she said. It has been a long and rocky run for the show’s main characters who have married, divorced and remarried one another. Reva drove off a Florida bridge, washed ashore on a Caribbean island and married a prince there. The prince’s evil brother dumped her into the ocean and she was swept back to the US.

The character, played since 1983 by Kim Zimmer, was also presumed dead three times and did die once. “I flatlined on a Friday, woke up on a Monday and walked out of the hospital on a Tuesday, yes,” Zimmer told CBS news. The show’s core audience, and that of most daytime television, was women, who have entered the workforce in droves and are no longer at home during the day in large numbers to watch television, Leahey said. Only seven daytime television soap operas remain on the air in the US, down from as many as 17 in the 1960s and 1970s, she said.

According to a tally by Entertainment Weekly magazine, over the years, 15 characters returned after being killed off, 10 became romantically involved with both a father and a son or a mother and a daughter, and seven were paralysed and confined to wheelchairs before miraculously recovering.

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