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August 30, 2015

A Fond Farewell to 'As the World Turns'

by Michael Maloney, posted Sep 17th 2010 1:40PM
As the World TurnsThe world is no longer turning. At least that's how it feels for the countless fans of 'As the World Turns.'

The historic soap opera ends its 54-year run today. Legendary serial queen Irna Phillips created the ground-breaking drama, which debuted on April 2, 1956, on CBS. As times changed, so did the show, but the family unit was always at the core of the beloved series.

"'ATWT' was a trailblazer," reflected Emmy-winning writer-producer Jonathan Reiner, who spent seven years at Soap Opera Weekly. "It was one of the first half-hour shows and used hallmarks and techniques that the genre became famous for, such as the lingering close-up, exposition over coffee, a greater depth of character so that we knew motivations. This was all thanks to Irna Phillips, writer Bill Bell and director Ted Corday."

In the show's early days, young heroines like Penny Hughes and Ellen Lowell struggled to find love and fulfillment. Penny and Jeff fought against their parents to get to the altar, becoming the genre's first "supercouple" in the process. Fans were devastated when soon after their wedding, Jeff died in a car accident that left Penny with amnesia.

While Penny was immensely popular, it was Eileen Fulton's willful Lisa who arguably emerged as the show's most dynamic character. She was spun off into her own primetime soap 'Our Private World' in 1965. It was short-lived and she returned to the show a year later.

Phillips passed away in 1973, but the show managed to hold onto its number one status until 1978. (The show went to an hour in 1975.)

'As the World Turns' Hughes family'ATWT' enjoyed a tremendous creative resurgence in the mid-'80s under the team of beloved head writer Douglas Marland and executive producer Robert Calhoun. A book could be written on Marland's stories alone, but his highlights include re-establishing the Hughes family as the show's core characters by giving newlyweds Bob and Kim front-burner tales; turning Barbara Ryan into the town bitch; and introducing the Snyder clan.

Kim's stalker turned out to be step-daughter Frannie's (Julianne Moore) murdering fiance Douglas Cummings, played by Emmy-winner John Wesley Shipp.

Don Hastings -- aka Dr. Bob Hughes from 1960 to the finale -- says CBS asked Marland to keep his popular character on the show and make someone else be the killer. "Doug said, 'No, if I do that then the story doesn't work.' Nobody told Doug how to write and he didn't tell them how to produce. [Doug's tenure] was probably the best time that I had on the show. There were also good times early on with Irna and Ted," Hastings said.

In 1986, Marland used the show's 30th anniversary as a tie-in with the on-air celebration of Chris and Nancy Hughes' 50th anniversary. He invited several past cast members back and upon seeing the dynamic Marie Masters' portrayal of Susan, he kept her around. Marland re-ignited the Kim/Susan feud (which dated back to the '70s) by having Bob have a one-night stand with Susan. In a rare instance, Marland sped up the inevitable Bob/Kim reconciliation at the request of Kathryn Hays (Kim.) "Doug told me that Kathy [Hays] was really upset," Hastings recalled. "It was supposed to be a much longer story."

Marland had an embarrassment of riches when it came to actors/characters, especially his leading ladies. The rivalry between Colleen Zenk's Barbara and Hillary B. Smith's Margo was rooted in character and history. Their confrontational scenes were classic Marland and shown as an example of his stellar work at the 1986 Daytime Emmys.

But the jewel in the crown was Elizabeth Hubbard's Lucinda Walsh, a dynamic, neurotic soul who gave new meaning to the phrase "helicopter mother." Hubbard plays every scene with gusto, passion and intelligence. Marland gave Lucinda a posse (lawyer Ambrose, secretary Jane, butler Matthew) to help establish her wealth and power. The scribe once said that he loved using Lucinda in a show's prologue because it guaranteed getting the episode off to a great start.

"Doug was very special," Hubbard said. "I knew him a bit personally. A lot of writers are afraid of actors, but Doug was very sociable with us. He invited me to his house in the country. His love for the kids and romance [on our show] was nice. He was very fond of actors."

Scott Bryce and Elizabeth Hubbard Hubbard shared a dynamic chemistry with two of her leading men: Larry Bryggman (Dr. John Dixon) and Scott Bryce (Craig Montgomery) ."I just love Scott and he loves me," Hubbard said. "We had so much fun playing together. Whenever anything would go dull Scotty would play that he was my therapist. It was wonderful. Nobody knew but us."

Hubbard, a multiple Daytime Emmy nominee for her role as Lucinda, was known for her ad-libs, which kept newcomers on their toes and always entertained the audience.

"They gave me a third butler, who was about 14 years old," the actress recalled. "They let me improvise during a party scene and I said, 'By the way, my new butler came with the pizza -- and he stays!'"

Marland wrote romance, mystery and tackled social issues with a passion. He added a gay male (Hank Elliot) to the canvas and told stories involving Alzheimer's, interracial romance, HIV and mercy killing. His stories won 'ATWT' two Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series (1987, 1991), but Marland himself never won the writing statue for his time at 'ATWT.' The scribe's sudden passing in 1993 dealt the cast and company an enormous blow, both personally and professionally.

Eileen Fulton stars as Lisa Mitichell Grimaldi The show struggled through the rest of the '90s with a series of head writers that failed to recapture the show's magic. However, one standout storyline during this era was Lisa suing John for malpractice and his subsequent humiliation of her at their fake engagement party.

In 2000, newcomer Hogan Sheffer joined as head writer and returned it to its former creative glory. "Doug was champagne at the Rainbow Room and Hogan's the guy you have a beer with, but they are similar in their passion for this medium," says Martha Byrne, who played Lily and her twin Rose.

Over the years, 'ATWT' launched the careers of many big name stars.

Julianne MooreIn a classy move, Oscar nominee Julianne Moore (Frannie/Sabrina) returned to the show last spring for a guest spot. "We're all so very proud of her," Hastings said. "She's got it all and has kept her sanity, too."

Cyndi Lauper'ATWT' often invited musical guests on the show as well, like Whitney Huston in the '80s and more recently, Cyndi Lauper.

But despite valiant efforts, ratings continued to decline. CBS announced last December that 'ATWT' would air for the final time in September 2010. Sadly, that day has come. Head writer Jean Passanante and executive producer Christopher Goutman were at the helm for the finale. They brought back some past favorites -- Gwen and Will, Rosanna and Sierra -- but fans hoped that Martha Byrne would return as Lily for the finale.

"That [possibility] came up," Passanante said. "The decision was made that the show would continue with [her successor, Noelle Beck]." Did not having Byrne as Lily affect how the scribe wrote the final scenes between star-crossed lovers Holden and Lily? "In subtle ways," she noted. "You're always writing to the actor to some extent."

The show's greatest gift to veteran viewers in its final weeks was the return of Bryggman's John at Hubbard's suggestion. "I'm glad that Lucinda won't go off being despicable," Hubbard said. "Lucinda came on [in 1984] to make John smile, and now he's come back to make her smile."

Other conclusions include Jack and Carly's remarriage; Dusty being revealed as the father of Janet's baby's; a memorial episode for Nancy (original cast member Helen Wagner passed away in May, just weeks before the show's finale was taped); and the shocking death of Dr. Reid Oliver (played by newcomer Eric Sheffer Stevens).

'ATWT' is the last of the Procter & Gamble soaps to leave the airwaves. The show made references to other axed suders 'Guiding Light' and 'Another World' by incorporating their respective locales, Springfield and Bay City, into some final scripts. But after today, all that viewers are going to have are memories.

"And Youtube.com," said Byrne. "Thank God for that."

Check out Holden and Lily's wedding:

"Society is changing," said Hubbard. "We're losing something that was really a cornerstone of American culture."

"It boiled down to generations of people who loved each other -- births, deaths, weddings, young love, all those fundamentals," Passanante said. "It was wonderful to be a part of something that had such a long run."

"The viewers will miss us," Hastings added. "And we're going to miss them."

Are you sad 'As The World Turns' is ending? Plus: Check out our top 20 memorable 'ATWT' moments.

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When they take shows off the air like AS the World Turns they are not thinking of how it effects the lives of it's viewers. We all have wonderful memories of watching this show with a cherised loved one who is no longer with us. For those in nursing homes or bed ridden that may be all they ahve to look forward to. So I say shame on you for taking away yet somethhing else that has meaning in our lives. Those people were like family to many of us and they will truly be missed. What will you take away from us next? Why doesn't our opinion matter. A faithful fan

September 21 2010 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved the Hughes family.Kim and Dr Bob. I loved Lucinda. I loved Emma and her family. Who can forget the hot scenes between Margo & Greg Marxx & the first Hal? They made my family seem so normal. I watched Lily grow up in the 1980's and early 90's. I saw the last 5 minutes of the show on Friday. A lot of talented people on tht show. I hope they all find other jobs soon.

September 20 2010 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is a very sad day when an institution like ATWT goes off the air. My mom has watched it for as long as I can remember. It was very sad to see Dr. Hughes turn to the camera and say "goodbye". And I agree with those who say they won't watch whatever inanity they find to replace it. This show was a class act. There is no replacement.

September 18 2010 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cindy's comment

i totally agree with what cindy said and i couldn't have said it better

September 18 2010 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In speaking for Jaelynn's grandmother - my own grandparents watched ATWT and a couple of others. They were GLUED to the TV when their "shows" were on and you knew better than to try to talk to them. But, they were lovely people - it was simply that they had developed lifelong relationships with the characters on these shows. They thought of them as real people almost. When someone on the show had a problem - they discussed it as if it was someone in the family. Yes, they knew the difference between reality and a tv show, it just brought them great enjoyment. I imagine Jaelynn's grandmother felt the same. When you have so little in life - when you're sick and cannot get out of the house (I've been there!!!)- then why deprive this sweet lady of a bit of enjoyment. I detest people who make quick, nasty judgements regarding situations about which they know nothing. I think Jaelynn did a great job of putting this person in her place!! Generations of families have enjoyed these daily visits with their TV "families". I see nothing wrong with that. Lighten up!!! To the lady who wanted another "channel" to pick up the show - it would require complete financial backing to bring the show back. And Proctor and Gamble probably owns the rights to it anyway. They lost their sponsors - so no more ATWT. Sad, isn't it??

September 17 2010 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Will they replace it with another phony reality show?

September 17 2010 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched the last episode today after I got in from work with the strangest feeling I was losing an old and dear friend. I am now 45 and have watched this show since I was 17. I also watched Guiding Light until it was taken off the air last year at this same time. I can honestly say I am going to miss As the World Turns as much as I did (and still do) Guiding Light. I wish all the cast members the best in the future!

September 17 2010 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Irene Renner

All we have are talk shows and judge shows. In my area we can watch judge shows from 9:AM to 5:PM>
These shows are cheap to make. Even some of the quiz shows are so cheap and no one hardly ever wins the big prize.

September 17 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know there are those who never watched a daytime soap such as As the World Turns or Guiding Light and could care less. There are those of us whose Moms watched and we watched and our daughters watch. We know of countless individuals who are home bound or in nursing homes who enjoyed each and every day. Today, I feel like I lost special families I got to know for over 50 years. The issues gave many of us insight into concerns we had never considered or had yet to deal with. I too am so sad to see these excellent programs go...for another talk or game show. I will miss each of the very talented actors and the entire staff who gave us such a special program. Thanks again for the memories.

September 17 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I started to watch ATWT in 1956 with my grandmother. I contined to watch it until today. Of all the cast members, I got to know one personally, Brian Bloom, who once played "Dusty". I will miss the soap.

September 17 2010 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am 73 and have watched ATWT for Y&R and GL, but gave them up decades ago. ATWT became my only soap.
However, I guess I will be back t Y&R because the wonderful actress who played Carly isoto Y&R. And here I thought I was going to be soap free. If Maura West doesn't have a big enough part, I'll drop it. I do not care for the rest of the characters, which is why I gave it up. Plus the fact they had just introduced so many new young people. At least ATWT keep A LOT of the old timers on. All the Hughes family, the Snyders, he Stenbecks. And Lisa.

September 17 2010 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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