Requiem for a Daytime Drama, Part Three

The third in a highly personal, non-objective series highlighting various aspects of the last episodes of Guiding Light, which will end its 72 year run on September 18th.

The third from the last episode of Guiding Light was all about reactions and coming to grips with the demise of Alan Spaulding, mirroring the mixed emotions of the show's fans as the series takes its final bows.

As news of Alan Spaulding's (Ron Raines) death rippled through town, we were treated to one of the most honest portrayals of how people react in such circumstances as has ever been seen on daytime. Over the last 30 years, Alan had committed any number of heinous crimes against most of the citizens of Springfield and yet his passing left many stunned (Ashlee, Blake, Reva, Jonathan, Frank), some confused (grandson Rafe), and others shocked & saddened (Lillian, Buzz).

When all is said and done, today's episode was rocked by Grant Aleksander (Phillip), Zack Conroy (James), and Marj Dusay (Alexandra).

There were moments that made it almost impossible to look away: the way Lizzie (Marcy Rylan) took a step backward, clasped her hands to her mouth and fell into her fathers arms; Olivia (Crystal Chappell) rendered nearly speechless before relaying the news to those gathered at Company; Reva's (Kim Zimmer) almost haunted expression after Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey) went to see Sarah & Lizzie. For my money, the scene that simply killed was when Emma (the sensational Jacqueline Tsirkin) came into Company and said very simply, "My grandpa died."

It took the death of the larger-than-life Alan to bring the larger-than-life Spauldings down to the realm of mere mortals. There cannot be enough said about how simply awesome Aleksander was as the shattered but stoic Phillip, being strong for his family while inwardly falling apart.  One of the opening scenes where Phillip sat in disconsolation next to Alan's lifeless body and held his hand made me shake my head.

Conroy — who will go down in soap history as GL's last great young acting find — effortlessly conveyed James' crushing grief over the loss of his grandfather, to whom he was beginning to become as close as Elizabeth once had been when she was a little girl. The way James slumped over at the family meeting at the Spaulding mansion was a perfect counterpoint to how ramrod straight his father stood as Rick (Michael O'Leary) delivered the preliminary autopsy report. When James and Daisy (Bonnie Dennison) walked silently and he stopped and just put his head on the fence was a testament to profound anguish. However, it was James' shattered expression as he, like his sister, fell into his father's loving arms that caused tears to flow.

For her part, Dusay delivered the kind of performance that was untouchable. As one of daytime's most beloved character actresses, she has amassed a small arsenal of tics and affectations that are instantly recognizable and, sometimes, veer toward parody. During today's episode, Dusay's little acting mannerisms melted into Alexandra's gentle, halting unraveling and she was a sight to behold as she came to grips with Alan's death.

At first, Alex attempted to put up a good front and call the rest of the family, but once she was left alone, she threw the phone in anger & frustration. Later, she met with Hilda (Amy Bouril) and the chauffeur and tried to be all-business, but couldn't help but seek a little solace from them. Finally, at the hospital, alone with Alan's body, Alexandra tried to hold it together, but broke down, catching herself with each sob. For the first time in a long time, every one of Dusay's little odd hoots and coos served a larger purpose in accentuating Alexandra's sorrow at the loss of her beloved brother.


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Excellent review of today's episode ! I loved Lillian's reaction to the news...She just simply stormed out ...One thing that jumped out at me - When Olivia announced to everyone that Alan had died, I felt that she was being inconsiderate of Alan's family (namely James who had just entered Company)...That happened to my family in real life...Those closest to the deceased should be told first and privately - just my two cents..but it usually happens the way Olivia did it..Thats why these scenes are just SO REAL TO Me.
Also - I loved Alexandra looking at the very YOUNG picture of Alan in his prime..Wow that made so much sense...That's how we remember our loved ones at that their prime!

And lastly, it was a reminder to just how many lives Alan touched (good ways and bad ways) in Springfield..He has a ton of ex-wives and children, grandchildren, etc.
Let's hope the show remembers Victoria Spaulding and Amanda Spaulding in the coming days.

Great blog and great show.
You will be missed GL.

naughtytomato's picture
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Grant Alexander made me cry.

matealestlmo's picture
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Not only did Grant Aleksander (Phillip) make me cry, so did the rest of the cast. What a powerhouse performance from the entire cast today. Bernard, I'm going to basically come out and say this: ALL OF THIS WEEK'S SHOWS WILL GO DOWN AS GL'S BEST IN THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW!

troymcclure's picture
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Zac Conroy made me cry....and then Marj Dusay made me cry...and then Jessica Leccia made me cry.

I loved James and Alan's relationship that was developing these last few months. They really seemed to get each other and respect each other. I loved James putting his head on that fence as well.

I loved that we got to see Peyton all alone playing in a room. It really did feel like an inside joke and I started flashing towards the future when firecracker Sarah and a calm and forgotten Peyton would be teens. Oh how much story there is still to tell.

Thank you J. Bernnard for your articles, after each episode I look forward to reading your thoughts.

n0regrets28's picture
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Thank you so much J. Bernard for your articles. The past few months I expected more from Guiding Light but this week alone made up for it. I am even starting to like the production model, they should have been shooting scenes by that beautiful lake when the production model changed.

BTW, as much as I love Katherine and Michael from Y&R, I thought that it was ridiculous that they played different characters, it may have been a short scene but it still took time away from seeing characters I actually care about.

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16 September 2009
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I must be watching a different show. The editing is horrible and the time excuse is running thin. Kudos to the actresses and actors who followed through on what they were given and allowed to do.
Stand out today:
Emma (Jacqueline Tsirkin)
Alex (Marj Dusay)
Beth (Beth Chamberland)
Natalia (Jessica Leccia)
The WTF moments Characters not Actors:
Rick: "Are you sure?" (you are the damn doctor)
Peyton really was hidden in the attic
Blake's reaction to Alan's death (adore Liz Keifer) are long time viewers the only one who know who Blake is?

J Bernard Jones's picture
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9 September 2008
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 I must be watching a different show. The editing is horrible and the time excuse is running thin.

By my calculation, if yesterdays episode is included, Guiding Light had  — minus commercials — 111 MINUTES on the clock before time runs out. Today and tomorrow, the show has 74 MINUTES to go before it goes off the air this Friday. Forever.

Given all the territory that had to be covered involving roughly 30 characters and about a dozen storylines, I would love to know which show which completed all filming several weeks ago and is scheduled to go off the air at the end of this week you are watching where "the time excuse" isn't one.

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This week's shows have been great. Grant and Marj had in tears but there were great performances all around.
I could have lived without seeing James in bed with his "sister" Daisy. (A storyline I can't stand.)
I could have lived without them showing Beth with Peyton. (I hate being reminded of the Beth/Alan pairing-one of the things that kept me tuning out.)
Did they even mention Alan-Michael? That's a lot of storyline potential we will never see with no Alan Michael not on the canvas? I can just see him hating Philip for it.
I also loved a whole two days of Josh and Reva with no Jeffrey, unfortunately we won't get that today.

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I was a longtime GL viewer, having watched from 1993 until 2006. I'm sure that 13 years doesn't seem like much to many of the LONGTIME viewers, but considering that I'm only 26 (was 23 when I couldn't stand to keep watching what tiic had done to MY show), it's a pretty big deal that I'm saying goodbye to a show that I was (unusually for such a young kid) devoted to for half of my life. At any rate, I started watching again on Monday because I wanted to see how things would be brought to an end. This week's scenes have sent me all over the map. For one, it's reminded me of why I quit watching, when I see this horrible camera work, etc. But, more importantly, it's reminded me of why I was drawn to these characters/actors for so long.

After I watched my dvr last night, and was blown away by Marj Dusay's Alex, I was reminded of the intense relationship between Alex and Alan and the way that no one fought better with Alan, or loved him more, than Alexandra. Watching Reva's subtle, but SO POWERFUL, response, reminded me of how I have been privileged to watch Kim Zimmer give her all even through the most ridiculous of circumstances. I want to thank tiic for at least giving me a glimpse of the show that I loved for half of my life, but I just can't help but think that I (and many other viewers who turned off the light) would still be watching if tiic hadn't forgotten what the show was supposed to be about. Perhaps, had these powerful scenes remained at the core of the show, rather than being sacrificed for the likes of clones, time travel, incestuous couplings, and GRADY, the long time fans who were driven away would still be watching, and we would be able to turn to CBS on Monday, September 21st, and find the show that had brought us so much comfort, joy, and excitement for so many years.

I loved watching Alexandra, and Phillip, et al...but I just can't help but feel the greatest sorrow that MY show left the air years ago, and that this "shell" of Guiding Light is all that's left after 72 years. Bravo to the cast of GL for making the most of what they've been given to provide a send-off that's worthy of GL fans.

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If GL could have delivered this kind of material over the last year and a half, it may not have ended up being canceled this soon.

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Did Otalia have a kissing scene or what? At least give me and the Otalia fans some intimate moments before the show goes off the air.

Daniel St. John's picture
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I have to give Marj props just for how fragile Alexandra has seemed since she got the news of Alan's death. Its like she will shatter into a million pieces at any moment and that is not something that I am used to with her Alexandra.

CGat's picture
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I think I literally cried for almost the whole show. Literally. GL at it's best is the most powerful show on television. I just love this show.

Best of the best today: The Spauldings. All of them are just amazing actors. That's my dream t.v. family. Wow. And Emma, oh my that is the cutest little girl. I absolutely loved today. I just want to cry to no end thinking about the fact that there only remains two hours of Guiding Light Sad

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Did anyone else catch when Alex told the servants to direct press calls to the Spaulding publicist Mr. Locher? I found that funny and pretty ironic considering GL's publicist is Alan Locher. Direct questions regarding a death, wether a show or a person?