As the World Turns (ATWT) is the second longest-running American television soap opera, airing each weekday on CBS.
It debuted on Monday, April 2, 1956 at 1:30 in the afternoon. Before this show (and The Edge of Night, which premiered on the same day), all soaps were fifteen minutes in length; ATWT was the first half-hour serial.
At first, viewers did not respond to the new half-hour serial, but ratings picked up in its second year, eventually reaching the top spot in the daytime Nielsen ratings by the fall of 1958. In 1959, the show started a streak of weekly ratings wins that would not be interrupted for over twelve years. In the year-to-date ratings, As the World Turns was the most-watched daytime drama from 1958 until 1978, with ten million viewers tuning in each day. At its height, the show was spoofed on The Carol Burnett Show, in a skit called As the Stomach Turns.
The show transitioned from black-and-white to color in the mid-1960s, with the final black-and-white episode airing on February 17, 1967. The show moved from a half-hour in length to one hour starting on December 1, 1975.
The show has aired over 12,000 installments; the 10,000th episode aired on May 12, 1995.
As the World Turns was the creation of Irna Phillips who, beginning in the 1930s, had been one of the foremost creators and writers of radio soap operas. As a writer, Phillips favored character development and psychological realism over melodrama, and her previous creations (which included The Guiding Light) were especially notable for placing professionals - doctors, laywers, and clergypeople - at the center of their storylines.
And so it was with As the World Turns, with its slow-moving psychological character studies of families headed by legal and medical professionals. The personal and professional lives of doctors and lawyers would remain central to As the World Turns throughout its run, and would eventually become standard fare on all soap operas. Whereas the 15-minute radio soaps often focused on one central, heroic character (for example, Dr. Jim Brent in Phillips's Road of Life), the expanded 30-minute format of As the World Turns enabled Phillips to introduce a handful of professionals within the framework of a family saga.
One of Phillips's innovations was to introduce a sort of Greek chorus to the stories. The primary purpose of characters such as Nancy Hughes (played by Helen Wagner) was to comment on the crises faced and decisions made by the town's more dynamic residents. This technique contributed to the popularity of the show and continues to be widely used in other soap operas.
Phillips's style favored gradual evolution over radical change. Slow, conversational, and emotionally intense, the show moved at the pace of life itself - and sometimes even more slowly than that. Each new addition to the cast was done in a gradual manner, and was usually a key contact to one of the members of the Hughes family. As such, the show got a reputation as being quite conservative (though the show did showcase the first gay male character on American soap operas, in 1988). During the show's early decades, the content-related policies of its sponsor Procter & Gamble Productions may have contributed to the perception of conservatism. The soap manufacturing giant typically balked at storylines in which adultery and other immoral behavior would go unpunished, and as late as the 1980s characters from the primary families were still generally not allowed to go through with abortions.
Due to the 5-decade run of ATWT as well as the complexity of the storylines, the show's history has been split up into separate entries.
- The Fifties
- The Sixties
- The Seventies
- The Eighties
- The Nineties
- The Noughties
The show has only changed opening visuals from the original format four times: in 1981, 1993, 1999, and 2002, with a slight modification of the 2002 visuals redone in 2003.
As a testament to the show's unwillingness to change in the early years, the show had the same theme song (an organ tune which transitioned into a pre-recorded version in 1973) and opening visual (a globe spinning in the distance, with the globe moving toward the center to spin stationary) from 1956 to 1981. The visual was not markedly altered when the show transitioned to color in 1967.
The minor changes to the color opening had the globe at the center of the screen and the title zoomed out from the middle of the globe. The organ version of the main theme (by Charles Paul) was used over the color visual until 1973. The color update of the black-and-white visual stayed until October 30, 1981.
The sponsor tags during the black and white and up to the 1981 title changes were hand drawn pictures of the product, or the name of the product superimposed over the globe. On a 1965 closing sequence, the sponsor tag was an actual photo card of the product. This may have been the practice used on credit days. On non-credit days, the superimposure was used. After the 1981 title change, the sponsor tags were actual photos of the products. This continues to this day. There have been occasions, where a sponsor was to be plugged, that it would not occour until after the title sequence. A CBS announcer would plug the product. EX: AS THE WORLD TURNS is brought to you by (product).
On November 2, 1981, a theme song inspired, ostensibly, by science fiction soundtracks was first heard, with new computer-enhanced visuals. The globe had now been relegated to an O in the word WORLD, with three beams of light reflecting separate ways. The tune was modified in 1984 and again in 1988. The globe was on the center of the screen for the closing sequences.
On February 3, 1993, the theme song and opening visual was changed again. The theme song was composed by Barry DeVorzon , famous for composing the theme song of The Young and the Restless. This time the credits were done by computer specialist group Castle/Bryant/Johnsen. In the visuals, the letters of the title slowly passed by, with the seasons illustrated in picture form inside the letters themselves. When the visual finally got to the O in WORLD, a spinning globe fell into its place and the whole title was zoomed out of focus, to be seen by the audience. In 1995, the closing credits ran over original scenes related to events in that day's episode (for example, if a character was seen in an episode, the credits might show them cleaning a room or playing a piano—things too "boring" to be in the episode itself.) By 1997, however, the credits simply rolled over scenes from that day's episode. The globe was used for closing credits from 1993 until they changed to beauty shots. For a brief period, the globe was used to promote the viewer feedback line. Then they would use the beauty shots for the credit crawl.
The show changed its music and opening again on November 1, 1999. For the first time, cast shots (both solo and group) were seen, accompanied by music. At the end, the O in WORLD was shown to consist of different clips from the show's history, not unlike a process first seen in the movie The Truman Show. Internet fans complained that the sound effects in the theme song which accompanied these credits, which was written by David Nichtern and Kevin Bents , sounded too much like "toilet flushing noises."
A new sequence, featuring cast clips to a mellower music selection (written by Jamie Lawrence and, again, David Nichtern), debuted on July 8, 2002. The backdrop to complement the actor clips was colored in gold, and was changed to sky blue in November 2003. The music from 2002 remained intact. The globe appears in the upper right corner of the screen as an abstract. This farce of an opening is called the "globeless sellout opening."
History of show announcements
From the show's inception until October of 1981, the show's announcer (and the most remembered of all of ATWT's announcers) was Dan McCullough. His voice-overs were utilized as follows:
- Opening titles--"And now, for the next 30 minutes (or full hour), As The World Turns, brought to you today by..." (the extra words presented live were added after "and now..." when the show went to the color standard in 1967)
- Mid-program break--"The first part of this program has been brought to you today by..." (until at least the late 1960s); "This portion of As The World Turns has been brought to you today by..." (late 1960s until 1981), followed by "We'll continue with As The World Turns following station identification" (inception until at least the mid-1970s); "We'll continue with Part II of As The World Turns in just a moment" (mid-1970s until 1981)
- Lead-in to second half--"And now the second half of As The World Turns..., followed by "...brought to you today by..." on days where the second half is officially sponsored.
- Lead-in to next-to-last commercial break--"We'll continue with As The World Turns in just a moment."
- Closing titles--"This portion of As The World Turns has been brought to you today by..." (on days where the second half is officially sponsored; on days that are not, there would be either no announcement at all or McCullough would invite viewers to "stay tuned" to the next program "on most of these CBS stations").
In 1981, after 25 years with ATWT, McCullough retired from the program and was replaced by a much younger announcer, Dan Region. His annoucements were as follows:
- Opening titles--"As The World Turns. This portion brought to you today by..." (although beginning in the 1990s, Procter & Gamble began to decrease their sponsorship of the program for some days of the week, even though they themselves were the producers. So, on such days, Region would only announce the title of the program right before the first commercial break.)
- Mid-program break: "This portion of As The World Turns has been brought to you today by (name and description of sponsor). We'll continue with Part II of As The World Turns in just a moment."
- Lead-in to second half--either "And now Part II of As The World Turns!", or "And now we continue with Part II of As The World Turns!" (the second half from 1981 forward was, for the most part, not officially sponsored)
- Lead-in to next-to-last commercial break--"We'll continue with As The World Turns in just a moment!"
- Closing credits--"Stay tuned for Capitol (1982 to 1987, or) Guiding Light (1987 to 1999) next on most of these CBS stations."
After the titles were changed again in 1999, for the first time in the series history (for the most part), ATWT had no official announcer or show announcements, however Martin Bookspan (who had taken over as announcer of Guiding Light) still had to announce the sponsor tags on days where the show was sponsored.
Current Cast Members
Recurring Cast Members
- Michael Lowry (Les Sweeny)
- Marie Masters (Dr. Susan Stewart)
- Zach Roerig (Casey Hughes)
- Kin Shriner (Keith Morrissey)
- Ernest Waddell (Curtis Harris)
- Jake Weary (Luke Snyder)
- Kathleen Widdoes (Emma Snyder)
Child Guest Actors
- Giovani Cimmino (Parker Munson)
- Dylan Denton (J.J. Larrabee)
- Colleen Feehan & Bianca Pagano (Sage Snyder) (dual role)
- Cassidy Hinkle (Faith Snyder)
- Makayla Leigh (Natalie Snyder)
Coming and Going Cast Members
- Michael Cardelle (Rafael Ortega) (until spring 2005)
- Benjamin Hendrickson (Hal Munson) (returns summer 2005)
- Marie Wilson (Meg Snyder) (starting summer 2005)
The actors, musicians, and directors who have gotten their start on As the World Turns include: