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GUIDING LIGHT, Soap Opera Digest's choice for best show of 1985, lost its direction and glow in 1986. It was a year of meandering plots, failed relationships, fizzled romances, dead ends and too many flase starts. The on-camera turmoil reflected the chaos behind the scenes where head writers were replaced and producers followed suit. Many favorite characters were left without story lines. The complications which were trumped up to disrupt Kyle and Reva's happiness were never developed beyond stalling tactics -- and demanded almost complete character reversals.

GL was already suffering when Vicent Irizarry (Lujack) decided not to renew his contract. So much time had been devoted to his star-crossed love affair with Beth that his departure left an enormous gap. At a loss, the writers used his death as the inspiration for Phillip's Prohibition-era novel. This became a soap-within-a-soap as viewers saw Springfield's population act out a parody of a campy '30s gangster flick. The novel also reunited Beth and Phillip, making her feelings for Lujack seem suspiciously shallow. While the show looked for someone to fill Lujack's leather jacket, viewers suffered through the search for the Sampson Girl -- the only nationwide contest with five finalists from the same town.

Jealousy was the driving factor in most relationships and conflicts: Kurt and Mindy; Rick and Roxie; Maeve and Kyle; Calla and Ross; Vanessa and Billy; and even Ed and Mo, who fought a long drawn-out custody battle for his baby daughter against a vindictive Claire. Claire's personality had been so transformed that sending her into a coma was the only way to halt this runaway plot twist. When Claire awoke, she became her old self again. Unfortunately, the audience was not as quick to recover.

Brawls between HB and Hawk over Lillian's honor became de riguer as did Jackson's mysterious evil doings which were based on some unexplained need for revenge. Loyal Fletcher Reade became Maeve's nursemaid and whipping boy in an extension of the baby Ben story line, but all of these plots were woven together with the thinnest of threads. Characters had to spot one another in compromising situations which were really innocent, misunderstand the letters they should never have read, give up what they really wanted to be noble, and generally behave in a fairly unimaginative, recycled manner. Even the touches of humor which had given the show strength on a day to day basis vanished in the serious problematic anti-romances which became the show's signature. Not everybody should be miserable all the time -- a lession GL's writers never learned, no matter how many times they were replaced.
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SOD Best & Worst -- 1986 · Soap Opera History & Discussion