GL TAKES MANHATTAN
After more than 50 years of surrogate births, shotgun weddings, sordid divorces, steamy affairs, and myriad multiple-personality-disorder diagnoses, it seems the most unthinkable scenario is about to play out: TV soap operas are edging toward a dramatic death. Perhaps that’s why Ellen Wheeler is praying in church. Wheeler is the executive producer of Guiding Light, CBS’ long-running soap. In fact, it is the longest-running show in broadcast history. And this quiet former Episcopal church with a few remaining pews is actually part of her midtown office, which doubles as a television studio, with crosses and votive candles strategically positioned by production assistants....
Where other daytime producers are amping up the supernatural plots and onscreen text messaging to attract viewers, Wheeler has given her show an extreme makeover, reality-show style. For the first time, fans can see the actual streets of Springfield, a midwestern town in an undisclosed state—which look suspiciously like the streets in Peapack, New Jersey, where one-fifth of the scenes are being shot, all with handheld cameras. “We finally get to come into their world,” says Wheeler, who was inspired by shows like Laguna Beach and Friday Night Lights. The result is a film-schoolish mishmash of extreme close-ups and shaky, occasionally seasickness-inducing long shots filmed through window frames or the leaves of a houseplant.
Gone are the generic and cheap-looking sets, the static filming, the heavy makeup. Even that cheesy synthesizer music has been replaced by scruffier cheese: Matchbox Twenty–style rock.
“CBS has the oldest median age of a broadcast network, and reality shows draw a much younger target audience than daytime dramas,” says Brad Adgate, a New York media analyst who studies the women’s market for advertisers. “If there’s a magic bullet, this is probably going to be it.”
Read the entire New York Magazine piece, here.