By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
When four of the actors from CBS’s “Guiding Light” won awards on ABC’s April 28 Daytime Emmys telecast, it put in the spotlight a show that is coming up on its 70th broadcast year.
“We’re happy. That’s all I can really say,” said Ellen Wheeler, the series’ executive producer. “I really credit our casting director, Rob Decina, with scouting the best talent, and we reap the rewards of being able to work with them.”
Two of the winners are longtime “Guiding Light” players. Kim Zimmer, who won her fourth Daytime Emmy as lead actress in a daytime drama, joined the series 20 years ago, with a break from the show in the late ’90s. Jordan Clarke, who was named outstanding supporting actor, is also a longtime cast member.
Gina Tognoni, nominated for her work in the supporting actress category, and Tom Pelphrey, the outstanding younger actor (awarded to performers under age 25), have not been with the show quite so long.
“We’re proud, but we were proud before the Emmys,” said Ms. Wheeler, who herself won two Daytime Emmys in acting categories before she moved behind the cameras as a director and then executive producer.
Ms. Wheeler was named outstanding ing%E9;nue in 1986 for her work on “Another World,” and in 1988 she took home an Emmy for best supporting actress in the role of Cindy Chandler on “All My Children.”
The near-sweep in the acting categories comes at a time when ratings for daytime dramas are sluggish and “Guiding Light” is near the bottom of the pack. For the week ended April 21, “Guiding Light” had a Nielsen Media Research rating of 2.2 and a 7 share among total viewers, good for eighth place out of nine daytime dramas.
New Platforms, Same Fans
CBS and Procter & Gamble Productions, which supplies the show to the network, have been trying to give the series some new technological energy, making it available as a podcast.
Podcasting is yet another platform for a series that dates to radio. “Guiding Light” premiered in 1938 and made the transition to television in 1952. It revolves around several families in mythical Springfield.
While this is the show’s 68th year on the air, there are fans who can trace their attachment back to its very beginning.
“We do have viewers who have been with us since radio,” said Ms. Wheeler. “What’s amazing is they e-mail and say they are now watching on their iPods.”
Despite the longevity, while the series has frequently seen its actors ascend the stage to receive Emmys, it has often been overlooked for show, writing and directing awards. It last won the Daytime Emmy for writing in 1993, and for outstanding drama in 1982.
Ms. Wheeler sweetly but firmly takes umbrage to any suggestion that there is consternation over one creative area being given kudos by Emmy voters, while others are ignored.
“To ask that is to be provocative,” she said. “We don’t look at it that way. We’re thrilled that our actors are given attention. That reflects on all of us.”