Guiding Light Producer Dishes on Changes

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Ellen Wheeler, Executive Producer of Guiding Light, recently spoke with CBS.com about the much-hyped changes that show has undergone:

dt_gl_act_large_ewheeler.jpgCBS.com: How did you come up with the idea to take Guiding Light in this direction?
Ellen Wheeler: We've been looking for a while, trying to find what our audience wanted. And, Procter and Gamble Productions did a really good research project on talking to soap opera fans asking them what they love and what they want to see differently. Soap opera fans are so intelligent. They are also very vocal and willing to share with us all the things they love and the things they don't love.

I was lucky because they loved all the things that I loved. They love the fact that we tell serial stories that go on from one day to the next, and they love the characters and their relationships and the history of these stories and they love how the stories interconnect.

They didn't love that because we were limited to a budget sometimes things didn't make sense. You didn't see people go to work or in their house, it took place in the hospital or the restaurant because those were the sets that were up this week. The other day I shot Cassie filling up her car with gasoline. We've never shot someone filling up their car with gas.

Now we are able to tell stories that are much more real life. People wanted to see the realness and that's what we are giving them. At the same time this survey was going on Barbara Bloom [Senior Vice President, Daytime Programs, CBS Entertainment], brilliant Barbara Bloom, came to me and said, "I really want you to think about the show differently.

If you were starting a new show and could do anything, what would you do?" She said that to me at the same time Procter and Gamble was showing me this research and we were just finishing our special 70th anniversary episode in Biloxi, New Orleans and the experience was so wonderful.

We had over 100 hours of our actors interacting with each other in this really real space, and as I watched it, I thought this is a feeling I wish that I could capture everyday. I felt watching the tapes that I was really with them, and I wanted to hold on to this. All of this was going through my head and those three things came together and I thought why can't I shoot the show the way it was done in Biloxi When Cyrus tells Marina he loves her.

I want the audience to be there with them, or when someone is rushed into Cedars, I want the audience right there having the same experience. We spent the year from the time we came back from Biloxi to now ironing out all the details to make this work. In September we made the announcement to our cast and crew.

Read the full interview now.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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I am going to have to disagree and say that I like the format change for 2 main reasons: 1. I DO think that it seems much more realistic now, it seems like your right there with the actors. The "shaky" camera doesn't bother me and i also think that it has gotten much better/steadier recently.. As for the close ups, I like seeing the actors the way they really looked and not caked in makeup and retouched...plus, they are still beautiful people! 2. I think that Guiding Light (as well as soaps in general) was in need of a change. With everyone having Tivo these days, soaps have the opportunity to gain lots more viewers that couldn't watch before cause of school and work.. While its not about losing older fans, it is smart to try to appeal to younger ones and with "reality tv" being as popular as it is these days, i think a more realistic look for GL, and soaps in general, is a great idea.

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I have been watching Guiding Light for years and DO NOT like the new format at all. The hand held cameras make my equilibrium go off. If I wanted to puke I will stick my finger down my throat. Please get rid of the strange camera views and the horrible sound quality. Watching my soaps after a hard days work is something I really look forward to. Dont wreck that for me! Go back to our old Guiding Light PLEASE!!

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I have been watching your show for years, but now I may just turn the tv off. It is horrible. The actors seem to be reading their lines instead of acting. You are also losing some great actors. The new format is the worst I have seen. Go back to the old one and get some great writers again.

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I too have been a long time watcher. I really do not like the new format and, on my own, (before reading others comments) have considered (and may still do so) not watching GL any longer. The camera work from below a person is very hard to watch and the close-ups that show all the pimples and other bumps is going too far. The actors deserve more respect - we all know they have acne like the rest of us! As for plot, losing me there too, although I do like the Will storyline (different for soaps and reminds me of the old movie "The Bad Seed") and can understand Cassie's love for him. Thank you for letting me vent.

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As a GL fan for over 40 years, I can honestly say that I don't mind the changes in production. I think a lot of bugs need to be worked out and the quality is NOT good yet, but I see that it could be. The real problem that I have with the past several years is the writing. Character histories have been ignored resulting in the destruction of those characters. You would have better served the GL community - both the story lines and the fanbase - had you created and added new characters rather than debasing and ruining on-going characters. Cassie is a case in point. It's obvious that your fans don't like the new direction this character took when you replaced the original actress. She'd have been better served to come in as a different character. You also do not use your veterans enough. I understand that you're cutting production costs, but a week of veteran story lines beats several months of watching some of your less talented crew. I suggest you read the message board on the GL page, if you have not already done so. You might find yourself surprised at the vehemence of your fans' disapproval.

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I have been watching since the days of 15 minute episodes. Before you discount me as an "old" and therefore undesirable demographic, please remember that I am still a consumer, and household viewer that does pay attention to sponsors, and sponsor loyalty. I am intelligent, and modern and am able to discern levels of quality and artistic integrity.
I believe the new format and production values of the Guiding Light are insufferably devaluing the property. The entire program has been debased. Whether in sound quality, visual quality, plot, dialogue, et al. I can continue in all avenues. The best thing that could happen to this show is a reversion to standard production. The next best thing would be immediate cancellation, so that I don't have to be taunted by the continued existence of a show I once loved and followed. I hope to be able to "self-cancel" the program from my personal viewing habit. This was a bad choice by all of the producers, and does not reflect well on the CBS committment to daytime programming. Sincerely,
Jean Wilson
Sharon, PA

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I have been watching Guiding Light since it began. I listened on the radio before that. With your 70th Anniversary, I was looking forward to seeing a week of long clips from old shows, perhaps showing the link to characters from the modern show. You disappointed me with no clips at all. I don't count the less than two minutes of seeing Bert and Bill and Pappa Bauer for a moment. This was a big moment and could have been done like a real anniversary. You ignored the past 70years completely. Did I miss something, or am I right?
I also am getting a headache with your hand held camera work. It's like BlairWitch Project now. Your camera work is very bad for a soap. Low angle, extreme close ups, birds eye view, etc., makes it too stylized for me.
You also have a character in the woods, hearing noises and suddenly it cuts to that same character at the Spalding mansion, with Allen overlooking the room from his new high perch, where I am sure you set it up, so Will can puch him off. The new look can be outside, but at least don't have so many jump cuts and extreme close ups that ignore the mise en scene that is so important. How does an eight year old boy show up all over the place all the time. He doesn't get stopped, ever. It is too unrealistic. You have gone to less realism, not more.
Thank you.

Guiding Light Quotes

Harley: Did you buy or seel any small countries today?
Gus: No, that's tomorrow at 4.

Thank you. My favorite kind of food - the kind that sweats in the bag before you open it.

Gus
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