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 Guiding Light) were especially notable for placing professionals - doctors, lawyers, and clergy people - at the center of their storylines. Phillips wrote: "As the world turns, we know the bleakness of winter, the promise of spring, the fullness of summer and the harvest of autumn--the cycle of life is complete."
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' 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' innovations was to introduce a sort of Greek chorus to the stories. The primary purpose of characters such as Nancy Hughes (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' 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.
As the World Turns premiered on April 2, 1956. It was the first television daytime drama with a 30-minute running time; all daytime dramas until then had had 15-minute running times. By 1958, the program was the number one daytime drama in the United States. As the World Turns continues to run to this day on CBS, and has won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Daytime Drama Series four times (in 1987, 1991, 2001, and 2003.)
Creator Irna Phillips
Senior cast member(s)
Colleen Zenk Pinter
Kelley Menighan Hensley
No. of episodes 13,651 (as of November 20, 2009)
Executive producer(s) Christopher Goutman
Head writer(s) Jean Passanante
Distributor Procter & Gamble Productions, Inc. (1986-2008)
TeleNext Media, Inc. for Procter & Gamble Productions (2008-present)
30 minutes (1956-1975)
60 minutes (1975-present)