August 11, 2009…72 Year Run Of “The Guiding Light” Ends
The Guiding Light is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running drama in television history, running from 1952 until 2009, preceded by a 15-year broadcast on the radio.
First broadcast five days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration, the title “The Guiding Light”, refers to a lamp in the study of Reverend Dr. John Ruthledge (a major character when the show debuted) that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed.
June 30, 1952 is the day “The Guiding Light” came to television. It’s first TV home was in CBS Studio 56 at Liederkranz Hall on East 58th street, where two of the four studios there had Dumont cameras. After the consolidation of production into the CBS Broadcast Center and colorizing in the mid 60s, Liederkrantz was closed, but ‘TGL’ was a big show so CBS moved it to a facility of it’s own…Studio 65, The High Brown Theater on 26th Street, which had upstairs and downstairs studio floors.
The black and white photo is from September of ’52 in Studio 56. The two color photos are from Studio 65. The studio shot was taken in the basement, while the control room and bigger studio were on the first floor. Occasionally, actors would have to race from one floor to the other to make appearances in the same scene.
‘The Guiding Light’ was created by Irma Phillips, and began as an NBC Radio serial on January 25, 1937. On June 2, 1947, the series was moved to CBS Radio. Even after it’s television debut, the show would continue to be broadcast concomitantly on radio until June 29, 1956.
The series was expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour in early 1968, which is probably when the move from 56 to 65 occurred. The show expanded to a full hour on November 7, 1977.
The series broadcast its 15,000th televised episode on September 6, 2006.On April 1, 2009, it was announced that CBS had cancelled the show due to low ratings.
The show taped its final scenes for CBS on August 11, 2009, and its final episode on the network aired on September 18, 2009. On October 5, 2009, CBS replaced “TGL” with an hour-long revival of “Let’s Make a Deal”, hosted by Wayne Brady.
With a 72 year run, TGL stands as the fourth longest-running program in all of broadcast history.
At the link is a full 15 minute episode from March 4, 1953 when the show as just 9 months old. The Duz commercial is live, and the pitch man is the show’s announcer Hal Simms. The Ivory commercial appears to be on film. Thanks to Gady Reinhold for the color photos. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee