"As the World Turns”: Not Widely Known Facts About the Iconic Show and the Reason It Was Canceled

It was one of entertainment's pioneering, and longest-running daytime dramas, earning over forty Emmy Awards along its 54-year run, "As the World Turns" has gone down as one of the most iconic soap operas ever. While the show ultimately said goodbye in 2010, much of its legacy still lives on through the memories of its fans.

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The popular drama ranked as the no. 1 soap opera for 20 years in a row and launched the acting careers of Hollywood stars like Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and Amanda Seyfried. With nearly 14,000 episodes of history, here are some facts about the soap most fans don't know, plus the true reason why it was canceled.

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#1 THE SHOW HAD THE MOST LOYAL CAST MEMBERS

Because of the nature of soap operas, story arcs and characters tend to be on the show for decades. This means that either the actors stay in the role for as long as the show needs, or the characters continuously get re-cast after the actor playing the roles chooses to move on. This happens a lot in the soap opera business.

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We've seen both occur on As the World Turns. However, they also have the most loyal of cast members that have stayed in their roles for years. In fact, the top three longest-serving American soap opera actors are all from As the World Turns: Helen Wagner, 54 years, Don Hastings, 50 years, and Eileen Fulton 47 years.

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#2 PREMIERED ALONG WITH ITS SISTER SHOW

As the World Turns and The Edge of Night were the first two daytime soap operas to be 30 minutes long. Prior to their premieres, serials or television series with the same format as theirs were only 15 minutes in length. As a matter of fact, both the shows premiered on the same day in 1956.

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Irna Phillips, the creator of the show,  came up with As the World Turns as a sister show to her other soap opera Guiding Light. Running for 54 years, As the World Turns holds the third-longest continuous run of any daytime network soap opera on American television, surpassed only by General Hospital and Guiding Light.

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#3 IT WAS NUMBER 1 FOR A LONG TIME

Part of the reason why CBS and Proctor & Gamble kept As the World Turns for such a long time is that it had amazing ratings. The program ranked as the top-rated U.S. daytime drama or tied for first from 1958 to 1978. The Young and the Restless broke that record in 2008 with its 21st season of being No. 1.

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#4 THE SHOW'S LONGEST SERVING ACTRESS SPOKE THE FIRST WORDS

Helen Wagner who plays Nancy Hughes on the show, and who was the longest-serving American soap opera actor, was actually the same actor to say the show's first line: “Good morning, dear.” Over time, the character of Nancy Hughes served as the core family and, by extension, the town's matriarch.

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Over the course of the program, Nancy had appeared in some 19,700 scenes and has been described as a straitlaced, proper, and unassuming woman who stood for "old-fashioned values". Wagner was acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the longest-running character portrayed by one actor on television and held the title until her death. 

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#5 HOW THE SHOW DEALT WITH WAGNER'S PASSING

Unfortunately, Wagner died on May 1, 2010, less than two months before her costars filmed the series’ final episode. The show dedicated two episodes to deal with Wagner's passing. On the episode broadcast on Monday, August 30, 2010, it was revealed that Nancy, Wagner's long-time character, had died in her sleep; the next day's episode dealt with Nancy's memorial service.

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Before joining the cast of As the World Turns, Helen Wagner had been an up and coming soap opera star. She appeared in Guiding Light and Mister Peepers. The actress also had a regular role in The World of Mr. Sweeney before landing the role of Nancy. Wagner doesn't have any other credit after As the World Turns.

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#6 NANCY HUGHES' SON SPOKE THE LAST WORDS

As the World Turns' second-longest-serving actor is Don Hastings. Hastings joined the cast in 1960, making him a cast member for 50 years. Don Hastings plays Bob Hughes, Nancy's son. As a young actor, he rose to popularity thanks to The Secret Files of Captain Video and Captain Video and His Video Rangers.

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Hastings was also on The Edge of Night before landing the role that he would be most known for. In the last episode of the iconic soap opera, Hastings had the honor of speaking the last line of the show, “Good night,” which mirrors the first words of the show which were spoken by his on-screen mother, Wagner.

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#7 MAKING HISTORY YET AGAIN 

In 1975, CBS had a huge decision to make, its other popular daytime drama, The Edge of Night had moved over to their competition, ABC. This left the slot immediately after As the World Turns, that the show occupied, empty. This prompted CBS to expand to an hour-long format in 1975, the first CBS soap to do so. 

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The Edge of Night would go on to run for 9 more years on their new network. As the World Turns, on the other hand, would continue to be the most-watched daytime drama from on tv up until 1978. The show's popularity would turn it's core stars, Helen Wagner, Don MacLaughlin, Don Hastings, and Eileen Fulton into household names.

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#8 11.22.63

November 22, 1963, has gone down as one of the most infamous days in American history. Of Course, it was the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Moreover, As the World Turns, was broadcasting live when the sad events took place, and news broke out at what had happened.

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Ten minutes into that day's broadcast of As the World Turns, while the Hughes family was discussing their Thanksgiving plans, Walter Cronkite cut in to report the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. The cast, performing the episode live, only found out about the news about the president after filming had wrapped.

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#9 ANOTHER STORY FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

As the World Turns made history yet again in 2007 for introducing to the world of daytime soap operas its first gay couple. Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer are the characters in question, and they made headlines in August of that year when the show "featured the first-ever" gay male kiss in American daytime.

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Van Hansis played Luke Snyder and Jake Silbermann played Noah Mayer. Fans of the show call them 'Nuke', as an abbreviation of their super couple status in the soap opera mythos. Their kiss was even viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, an impressive record back then. It also featured daytime television’s first out gay character Brian Starcher’s Hank Elliot. 

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#10 WINNING A PLACE ON THE SHOW

In 2006, CBS launched the digital reality competition InTurn. On the reality show, aspiring actors and actresses would share a living space while going on auditions for roles on CBS programs. The grand prize of the reality competition would get the winners an As the World Turns acting contract, jump-starting their careers.

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In 2007, Ryan Serhant won the competition. He appeared in 19 episodes of the soap as Evan Walsh IV. Serharnt has gone on to be the star of Million Dollar Listing. Nell Mooney won the role of Spencer McKay, featuring foo 15 episodes. Mooney, in turn, has been on DBA in Space and the host of The Top Ten Show.

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#11 SO POPULAR IT GOT PARODIED

When tv shows and films become so popular they end up being parodied. They reach a level of fame and recognition that makes them household names, recognized by everyone. Legendary comedy The Carol Burnett Show, another CBS series, featured a recurring sketch parodying As the World Turns, titled “As the Stomach Turns.”

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Nickelodeon once featured a series of shorts entitled As Our School Bus Turns, with the episodes taking place aboard a school bus. Each episode would end with a stereotypical soap opera cliffhanger. On All In the Family, Edith Bunker would occasionally mention wanting to watch As the World Turns as a viewing preference.

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#12 WHY IT WAS CANCELED

The reason the show was canceled was unfortunately because of viewership numbers. CBS announced the show's cancelation on the day the show's 13,661st episode was aired. As it turns out, the viewership numbers have dropped to about 2.5 million viewers from 6.5 million in 1993.

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While it's true that 2.5 million people is a pretty high number, in terms of viewership ratings, that's pretty low. Procter & Gamble, the company that invented the soap opera and gave the genre its name, is no longer in the soap opera business. The New York Times also shares that younger viewers no longer have an interest in soap operas.

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Did the cancelation of As the World Turns mark the end of the soap opera era? What do you think? Are you still watching daytime dramas that are still on the air? Let us know in the comment section and make sure to follow Amomama for more great content on your favorite tv shows and celebrities. 

Source: The New York Times, BBC News, TV Insider, The Atlantic

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