Procter & Gamble completed its corporate objective today. They got out of the soap opera business by killing off their remaining show, “As the World Turns.” The show has been cancelled by CBS, which is code for: “P&G pulled the plug.” The show has been on CBS since April 1956.
P&G’s second to last show, “Guiding Light,” left the air on September 18th. The writing was on the wall.
The killing of “As the World Turns” began 18 months ago when the company refused to negotiate the contract of its star, Martha Byrne. Byrne had been with the show for 25 years, was a mother in her late 30s, and the perfect demographic for the show. Losing her meant losing audience, and so the show did: tremendous drops in their numbers followed. But that, it seems, was the plan.
“As the World Turns” was always the Cadillac of soaps. Until the last couple of years it was always the best written, acted and produced show. It went through a huge Renaissance from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s under writer-producer Douglas Marland, who knew and respected the genre.
The shows boasts more than a dozen “vets” who’ve been with it for years including Don Hastings, Helen Wagner, Eileen Fulton, and Kathryn Hays. New York theater star Larry Bryggman played Dr. John Dixon for three decades until his character faded out several years ago. The show also launched lots of stars including Julianne Moore, Meg Ryan, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey, Steven Weber, and Dana Delany. Even hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill got her start on “World Turns.”
CBS replaced “Guiding Light” with a game show, which is cheaper to produce. They’ll probably do the same with “World Turns.” By doing so, they’ve helped P&G–which once boasted at least seven shows– destroy a genre. P&G certainly is vulnerable to the ire of fans against their products, but the downside is probably minimal. The sad thing is, after half a century in the business, they never took their legacy or the product seriously.