Mid-century housewifery and soap operas go hand-in-hand. So many of us got off the school bus and came home to find our moms glued to the TV every day, at the same time, five days a week, saying, “Hush! My stories are on!”
There are only four daytime soap operas still on-air today: The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital, and Days of Our Lives. Countless others were retired after decades of production. Here are the classic soap operas you may have forgotten about.
Guiding Light (1952-2009)
In 1952, a 15-minute radio spot called The Guiding Light made its TV debut on CBS Television. The TV show went on for 72 years, marking it the longest-running scripted drama in history. That is 15,700 episodes of love, deception, plot twists and cliffhangers, spanning generations of viewers who watched it with their moms. Famous stars who got their start on Guiding Light include Kevin Bacon, James Earl Jones, Calista Flockhart, Ruby Dee, and Christopher Walken. The last episode of Guiding Light aired on September 18th, 2009.
As the World Turns (1956-2010)
On September 19, 2009, As the World Turns became the last Proctor & Gamble-produced soap opera on television. Across almost 14,000 episodes spanning 54 years, As the World Turns aired daytime’s first same-sex kiss and filmed would-be stars like Julianne Moore, Martin Sheen, Lauryn Hill, and Meg Ryan.
Irna Phillips is credited as the creator of modern soap operas, producing Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Another World. The last episode of As the World Turns aired on September 17, 2010.
Peyton Place (1964-1969)
Compared to the others on this list, Peyton Place had an infinitesimal TV run of only four and a half years. But its place was earned for its racy storylines, tamed down from the novel published in the same name a decade earlier by Grace Metalious. The book was first adapted for television in 1960 in the U.K. as Coronation Street and produced for American television in 1964.
Irma Phillips was consulted about Peyton Place and made changes to the story and removed an incest plotline she knew viewers would not accept. Coronation Street is still airing new episodes as the U.K.’s longest-running soap opera.
The Doctors (1963-1982)
On April 1st, 1963, ABC and NBC aired rival medical dramas, General Hospital and The Doctors. The clear winner, General Hospital is still running as the the longest-running program in ABC history. The Doctors aired until 1982, stopping just shy of its 30th anniversary. Alec Baldwin is among the most notable actors.
Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
From 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows aired as a Gothic American drama that still has a hardcore fandom today. This cult classic aired 1,225 episodes, 374 more episodes than Doctor Who and 456 more than all the episodes in 32 seasons of Star Trek.
Adaptations of the series have been produced as recently as 2012 by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp. In 1991, Dark Shadows got a television reboot on Friday nights and devastated a certain 11-year-old (clears throat) with its cancellation after only 12 episodes.