GUIDING LIGHT (1937-2009)
There are many who still crave their daily fix of Reva (Kim Zimmer, pictured with Robert Newman) and the rest of the Springfield characters. Seventy-two years after its start as a 15-minute radio serial, TV’s longest-running soap opera aired its last episode September 2009. Just the year before the Irna Phillips creation began a new production model, which featured permanent sets and a lot of outdoor filming. Too little, too late.
RYAN'S HOPE (1975-1989)
The close-knit Irish-American Ryan clan fascinated many with their working-class life in New York City. Who didn’t want to belly up to the bar at their tavern? After enjoying great popularity, it was the beginning of the end when the show had to change time slots to accommodate Loving and ratings began to plummet. But hey, we got folks like Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager), Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law, Psych), Marg Helgenberger (CSI), and Grant Show (Swingtown) out of the deal.
DARK SHADOWS (1966-1971)
This ABC soap delivered both camp and vamp. Barnabas Collins’ tortured vampire defined the show, along with the werewolves, zombies, and witches that existed in and around the old Collinwood Mansion. Given the fact that Dark Shadows was a soap, its stock and trade was doomed romance, but it also dabbled in time travel and parallel universes. See any similarities with a current show on the same network?
Speaking of the otherworldly, who could forget the ancient witch, Tabitha Lennox (Juliet Mills), over in the quaint New England town of Harmony? Or her right-hand man, er, doll-turned-boy, Timmy (Josh Ryan Evans)? James E. Reilly created this NBC show that ostensibly followed the intertwining lives and loves of local families, but it was the goofy paranormal adventures that helped spark the cult following. When ratings declined and the network dropped it, DirecTV stepped in and ran it for another year.
THE EDGE OF NIGHT (1956-1984)
This show, which followed intrepid lawyer Mike Karr (played by three actors over the course of the series: John Larkin, Laurence Hugo, and Forrest Compton) as he cracked cases all over the fictional city of Monticello, appealed to many because it was less a lovey-dovey baby-mama drama than a daytime serialized crime show. It even won an award from the Mystery Writers of America. Take that.
ANOTHER WORLD (1964-1999)
Another Irna Phillips creation, this soap, set in fictional Bay City, Ill., only won one Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama, but it had fans enthralled as it tackled tough subjects like abortion. In addition to folks like Douglas Watson and Victoria Wyndham (pictured), it also featured actresses such as Anne Heche and Jane Krakowski.
SUNSET BEACH (1997-1999)
It was on the air for a little less than three years, but the late-’90s show was an attempt to give the flailing soap opera industry a youthful shot in the arm. It was co-produced by prime-time soap maestro Aaron Spelling, and featured outrageous story lines like a surreptitious turkey-baster impregnation. The fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously and had winking pop-culture-reference guest stars like Jerry Springer served to endear it to, sadly, a happy few.
The Alden family ruled life in the Corinth, Pa., world of this ABC show, where soap staples like faked pregnancies, kidnappings, and murder played big. Despite the fact that it never scored in the ratings, the show lasted 12 years. And eventually they eliminated half the cast through a serial-killer story line that heralded the end of the show.
THE CITY (1995-1997)
This Loving spin-off followed the survivors of its predecessor’s final story line, the Corinth Serial Killer, as they moved from Pennsylvania to New York City and shared a loft in SoHo. Morgan Fairchild starred in the first year, and when her contract was up, soap powerhouse Jane Elliot (General Hospital) stepped in. But neither that nor the provocative transsexual story line (quel scandale!) could save it from cancellation.
It was the first network soap to feature an African-American family from day one, as it looked at the lives of two Chicago families — the black Marshalls and white Whitmores — across three generations. It never did well during its two-year run on NBC, but with the help of actors like Kelly Rutherford and Debbi Morgan, it found new life (and a cult following) in syndication on BET, where it aired until 1993.
By Reader Demand SANTA BARBARA (1984-1993)
The entire run of this NBC show was its own version of ”Who shot J.R.?” — Who murdered Channing Capwell, Jr.? Just about everyone was a suspect at one time or another. But it was popular characters like the soap’s supercouple, Eden and Cruz (Marcy Walker and A. Martinez, pictured), along with clever use of pop music, that brought in the viewers and garnered them numerous Emmys. Clever was often the name of the game on the show, like when a leading lady (Harley Jane Kozak’s Mary Duvall McCormick) was killed by a giant C that fell on her from a sign on top of a building. Ever since it was canceled due to declining ratings, fans have been waiting (not so) patiently for a network to rerun the show.
By Reader Demand PORT CHARLES (1997-2003)
What started off as a simple spin-off of General Hospital ended up venturing way out there, with vampires and werewolves stalking around Port Charles. Having GH folks like Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring) and Scottie Baldwin (Kin Shriner) leading the show made for an instant audience base. Some viewers couldn’t get behind all the supernatural happenings (a vampire/human baby conceived by a wish upon a ring?), but hey, we got Kelly Monaco out of the deal.