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Guiding Light
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Guiding Light

The Guiding Light (or simply Guiding Light as it's known today) is the longest-running American television soap opera. The program began as an NBC radio serial on January 25, 1937 before moving to CBS on June 30, 1952, as a televised serial.

The series was created by Irna Phillips, who based it on personal experiences in her life. After giving birth to a still-born baby at age 19, she found spiritual comfort listening to sermons by a preacher of a church centered on the brotherhood of man. It was these sermons that formed the nucleus of the creation of The Guiding Light.

The show's original storyline centered around a preacher named Rev. John Ruthledge, and all the people of a fictional suburb in Chicago called Five Points. The townspeople's lives had revolved around him. The show's title comes from a lamp in his study that family and residents could see as a sign for them to find help when needed.

During the radio years, succeeding preachers would carry on the work Rev. Ruthledge had started (and thus they became keepers of "the guiding light"). In turn, the show's setting moved to another fictional suburb, Selby Flats (supposedly in the Los Angeles area).

In 1952, "The Guiding Light" began airing on CBS television where it has been ever since. With the slow transition to television, the main characters had become a mid-town family called the Bauers. For the first few years of its television run, the show was produced (in separate sessions) via both radio and television, but eventually the show would become exclusively a television production.

Warning: Plot details follow.

The television family was headed by wise patriarch Theo "Papa" Bauer, who had three children, Bill, Meta, and Trudy. Bill's headstrong wife Bert (played by Charita Bauer) and her conflicts with the Bauer clan set the stage for much of the drama in the television show's first decade. In the 1960s and 1970s, the focus of the show slowly moved to Bill and Bert's children, Mike, Ed, and Hillary. Their lives and loves provided high drama for many years.

In 1977, the "the" in the show's title was officially dropped, and thus has become known as simply Guiding Light (although some fans still consider the "the" part of the series title).

The show as we know today follows the Bauers, Spauldings, Reardons, Lewises and Coopers of the fictional midwestern city of Springfield. The central character since the mid-1980s has been the self-described "Slut of Springfield," Reva Shayne (played by Kim Zimmer). During her nearly 20 years on the show, Zimmer's character has been a business executive, a television host, a princess, a psychic, an Amish woman and a ghost. Also, in a hotly debated storyline, Reva, who was believed to be dead a second time (the first time, she drove off a bridge, only to be resurrected later as said Amish woman, Rebecca), was cloned at grieving husband Josh's request. When Reva was found alive, Josh rapidly aged the clone (who, ironically, was named Dolly, like the sheep) and she died.

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"Guiding Light" is a track from Television's 1977 release Marquee Moon.