'As the World Turns' Airs Final Episode, After 54 Years

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Daytime soap opera As The World Turns aired its final episode Friday afternoon after 54 years and nearly 14,000 episodes. Over the course of its half-century run, the soap launched the careers of some of Hollywood's biggest stars—Julianne Moore, Meg Ryan, Lauryn Hill, and Martin Sheen all started their acting careers on the soap.



Why has the show finally gone off the air? In the September issue of The Atlantic, James Parker's piece "As the World Turned" examined how the reality TV soap operas born of the classic daytime genre may be the very catalyst for its demise:

How to mark the passing of a universe that never existed? With invisible bells, and wreaths made of newspaper, and eulogies delivered from Styrofoam pulpits? Or with the slack jaws of 2 million viewers, a single thought in every brain: Okay ... So now what do I do?

Two million. That's a lot of people, but not very many viewers. As a viewership, in fact, it's almost negligible. Thus CBS's inevitable decision to terminate, this month, after decades on the air, its onetime flagship soap opera, As the World Turns. Can we be surprised? The mesmeric hold of the soap, the spell of its simmering close-ups and spiraling plotlines, has been broken. The deaths and births of these made-up communities no longer fill our hearts. Kim Kardashian, Brangelina, the kids from The Hills: these are the people we care about now. Meanwhile every man tweets his own serial narrative, from the line at Starbucks.


Still, As the World Turned has a long history of pushing boundaries in the landscape of television, most recently by airing daytime's first same-sex kiss. CBS News put together a retrospective of the show and its legacy:

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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