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Search for Tomorrow is a TV soap opera which started airing on Monday, September 3, 1951 on CBS. The show was moved from CBS, its original broadcaster, on Friday, March 26, 1982, with NBC picking it up on the following Monday, March 29, 1982. It continued on NBC until the final episode was aired on Friday, December 26, 1986. At the time of its final broadcast it was the longest-running, non-news program on television, lasting thirty-five years. However, this distinction was short-lived as these records were soon eclipsed by Guiding Light.

The show was created by Roy Winsor and was first written by Agnes Nixon (who was then known professionally as "Agnes Eckhardt") for thirteen weeks and, later, by Irving Vendig.

Transition to tape

Search aired as a fifteen-minute serial from its debut in 1951 until 1968. The show's first sponsors were "Joy dishwashing liquid" and Spic and Span household cleaner. As the show's ratings increased, more sponsors began buying commercial time. Both "Joy" and "Spic and Span" continued to be the primary sponsors of the show well into the 1960s.

The show switched from live broadcasts to recorded telecasts in March 1967, went to color on September 11, 1967, and expanded to a half-hour on September 9, 1968 [70801]. At the time, Search and its sister show Guiding Light, which had shared the same half-hour for sixteen years, were the last two fifteen-minute soap operas airing on television. (As a result of the expansion, Search gained the entire 12:30 pm ET timeslot and Guiding Light moved to 2:30 pm.)

In 1983, both the master copy and the backup of a Search episode were lost, and on August 4, the cast was forced to do a live show for the first time since the transition sixteen years before. After the event, NBC was accused of lying about the tape being misplaced in hopes that the noise generated by the accident would create a ratings jump for the show. It was thought that this situation mirrored a similar one in the 1982 movie Tootsie.

Title sequences

Search for Tomorrow title card, first used in black-and-white from 1951-1967.
Throughout its entire thirty-five year run, Search's opening titles featured of a shot of clouds floating through the sky. In fact, they consisted entirely of that until 1981. The only noticeable change was the slightly altered "S" in "Search" upon switching to color (note the first two title cards). In 1981 they switched to a glitzy new videotaped opening sequence beginning with a shot of a seagull flying over the ocean, followed by a helicopter shot of the clouds in the midday sky (see the third title card). In the show's final months, the titles featured a montage of cast clips, bookended with sky shots.

The theme music for the early years sounded a little like "Beyond the Blue Horizon" to some, which would have seemed quite appropriate for this show given the opening visuals. Upon switching to color, a theme titled "Interchange" by Bill Meeder was used for the opening, and later on in 1974, a short-lived theme titled "Signature for Search for Tomorrow" by Ashley Miller (by then, it was still using in-studio organ accompaniment).

From November 1974 to February 1986, Search used a pop ballad theme: "We'll Search for Tomorrow" by Jon Silbermann, Jack Cortner, and John Barranco. This followed a trend initiated by The Young and the Restless for using pop ballads for soap theme tunes. Several arrangements were used during its 12-year run: the original version, a more orchestral version, a Latin disco-flavored version, and a vocal version for closing credits.

The final months' title sequence was accompanied by a new "techno-rock" theme by Bill Chinnock called "Somewhere in the Night".


For much of the show's run on CBS, the announcer was Dwight Weist, who years earlier had narrated several short subjects for MGM. The common structure of his announcements went like this:

  • Black and white years and possibly early color years: "Search for Tomorrow"...Brought to you by (sponsor). The closing, on credit days, ran the credits (as flash credits) then Weist would say: "Search for Tomorrow is brought to you by (sponsor)." In two surviving 60's episodes available on video, a promo card for The Guiding Light was shown.

The following sequences were used in the 70's and possibly to the end of the series:

  • Opening titles: "This is Search for Tomorrow. This portion brought to you by (name and description of sponsor)".
  • Mid-program break #1: "This portion of Search for Tomorrow was brought to you by (name and description of sponsor). Our story will continue in just a moment."
  • Mid-program break #2: "And now, the second portion of Search for Tomorrow." On days when the second half was officially sponsored, the announcement continued, "...brought to you by (name and description of sponsor)."
  • Lead-in to next-to-last commercial break: "Our story will continue in just a moment!"
  • Closing titles: "This portion of Search for Tomorrow has been brought to you by (name and description of sponsor)", or on non-sponsored days, either "Join us each weekday for Search for Tomorrow", or, if no time remained, "This has been Search for Tomorrow, this program was recorded." Before the title change in 1981, Weist would tell viewers to stay tuned for the next program, either As The World Turns, The Young and the Restless or The Guiding Light. TGL had a title card shown, while YR did not. Credits at this time were flash style (one episode confirms this). They may have used a crawl for the full cast and crew. After 1981, credits were done in a crawl. The final episode had screen shots of the cast and the production credits were done flash style. Mary Stuart got top billing at the start of the credits throughout the show's run.

When Weist retired to found his own public relations/casting company, former rock disc jockey Alison Steele assumed the announcing duties with similar announcements as above. Her job carried over into the first few years of NBC's run until Hal Simms (former announcer for The Edge of Night) took over in 1985, after which Don Pardo (announcer for Saturday Night Live) assumed duties for the remainder of the series. Both Simms' and Pardo's announcements were limited.

Show History


For the show's duration, Search was centered on a midwestern housewife named Joanne Gardner (played for the entire run by Mary Stuart) who lived in a fictional town called Henderson. In the earlier years, Joanne's friends and next-door neighbors, Stuart and Marge Bergman (played by Larry Haines and Melba Rae) received much screen time as they commiserated with Joanne, usually over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. At the beginning of the series, Stu and Marge had a young daughter named Janet (originally played by Ellen Spencer).

Most of Joanne's dilemmas, in the early years, were due to her dead husband Keith Barron's overbearing parents – they (most especially her mother in-law, Irene,) never liked her and were quite content with seizing Joanne and Keith's daughter Patti (played longest by Lynn Loring) from the widow.

After Keith (played by John Sylvester White) died in 1952, Joanne started managing a hotel, The Motor Haven Inn. Local thugs in town saw Joanne as soft because she was a woman, and they attempted to take over the business as a front for Mafia dealings. Joanne's friend Rose Peabody (Lee Grant, Constance Ford, and Nita Talbot), who was selling information to the Mafia, tried to poison a pot of soup that Joanne made, so her credibility would be tarnished. In the end, the scheme did not work and it was Rose who perished. A man named Arthur Tate (Terry O'Sullivan) helped Joanne with financial backing for the Inn. Arthur's Aunt Cornelia gave him the inheritance money but insisted on meddling in his affairs as she hated Joanne. Eventually, Arthur and Jo fell in love and were married.


The show was one of the highest-rated soaps in the 1950s, but Search was losing out to newer soaps as the decade drew to a close. When the show was in a ratings slump in 1960, Western-themed drama writers Frank and Doris Hursley were hired to write the show. In 1963, with the ratings staying stagnant, the duo decided to write out Joanne's baby (written into the storyline a few years previous while she was pregnant with son Jeffrey) by having him run in front of a speeding truck and die upon impact. Miss Stuart was unhappy with the decision and, in the book All My Afternoons, Stuart was paraphrased as saying that she played the grief scenes with so much conviction that even the makeup lady could not bear to watch her to see if her makeup was right. In the end, the ratings did not rise, and Stuart threatened to quit the show unless the Hursleys were fired. The duo left the show and created the serial General Hospital for ABC the same year.

As the show progressed, Joanne's sister Eunice returned to town and seduced Joanne's second husband, Arthur Tate. When a woman named Marian Rand came to town and sued Arthur for paternity, the stress surrounding this dilemma, coupled with personal troubles and the guilt of sleeping with Eunice caused him to have a fatal heart attack.

Joanne's daughter Patti grew into a teenager and got involved with drug-dealing gang members (incorporating a scathing viewpoint regarding America's counter-culture of the day). Joanne's friend Sam Reynolds (who was, ironically, Arthur's archenemy) proved his worth to Joanne by saving Patti when she was held at knifepoint. They were going to be married, but alas, it was not to be. Actor Robert Mandan, who played Sam, did not renew his contract with the show.


In 1970, Joanne lost her eyesight, and Dr. Tony Vincente (Anthony George) helped her get it back. They fell in love and were married in 1972. In 1974, Mary-Ellis Bunim was appointed executive producer of Search for Tomorrow. As a result of Bunim wanting to take the show in a more youth-oriented direction, fewer stories involved Joanne. In 1975, Bunim was rumored to have the writers of Search for Tomorrow kill off Joanne (after the death of Tony), which ended up not happening after vocal dissent from Stuart in the press. While the ratings took a slight dip when the series focused on younger viewers, the impact wasn't as heavy as was expected. Despite the show moving in a more youth-oriented direction, the character of Joanne embarked on a long-running story when she earned a foe in the ambitious schemer Stephanie Wilkins (Maree Cheatham).

In 1971, Stu and Marge's daughter Janet returned to the series and served as a peer to which Joanne's daughter Patti can relate. Early in 1972, Marge's sudden death was written into the storyline (actress Melba Rae had died late the year before). Stu later married Ellie Harper (Billie Lou Watt) and helped Jo run the Hartford House, a modern incarnation of her old property, the Motor Haven Inn.

Examples of the "younger" stories included the maniacal Jennifer Pace (played by Morgan Fairchild); Jennifer shot and killed Joanne's sister Eunice after a vision of Eunice's husband John Wyatt (Val Dufour), whom Jennifer was having an affair with, told her to do the murderous deed. Another popular story on the show was the budding romance between the characters of Steve and Liza Kaslo (Michael Nouri and Meg Bennett).


The show was doing fine in the afternoon ratings (the show consistently ranked #4 in the soap ratings throughout most of the 1970s) until the decision was made to move the show to 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) in 1981 (the show had aired at 12:30 p.m. since its first episode thirty years before). Procter and Gamble considered expanding Search for Tomorrow and reducing As the World Turns to 45 minutes in length (as they had made the expansion to 60 minutes six years earlier) and eliminating the time that most local stations aired newscasts. The final decision was to not expand these two shows and to move Search for Tomorrow to a later timeslot despite P&G's lack of enthusiasm for the switch. The show still had many fans, but the ratings weren't near the level they had once been. Faced with the ratings drop and the insistence of Procter & Gamble to return Search to its early afternoon timeslot, CBS decided not to renew Search when it came up for renewal in 1982. Procter and Gamble was not willing to give up on the show yet, and began searching for another home for it.

Switch to NBC (1982-1986)

The final episode aired on CBS on March 26, 1982, with the show moving to NBC three days later. The move to NBC also saw a return to the 12:30 pm timeslot the show had grown accustomed to having. However, since Search was now going up against the hit The Young and the Restless on CBS instead of being part of a lineup that included it and that, while not as prone to preemptions as a 12 PM slot would've been, affiliates were airing other programming in the 12:30 slot, Search's ratings began to plummet even more so than they had when the show was moved to 2:30 PM a year earlier. When Search first moved to 2:30 in 1981 the show was still pulling in fair ratings, enough to rank eighth in the season's final totals. In fact, when CBS cancelled Search its ratings were at a 6.8, which was half a percentage point higher than they had been to end the previous season. The move to NBC, in turn due to the situations described above, caused a catastrophic drop in ratings that ended with the show becoming the second-lowest rated soap opera on television with a 3.4 rating. (A similar time slot switch plagued another former hit Procter and Gamble-produced serial, The Edge of Night, ten years earlier. Coincidentally, both shows were moved into the same 2:30 PM slot and both would end up leaving CBS for other networks; by this time Edge was airing on ABC in a late-afternoon slot.)

Even in markets where NBC affiliates did not preempt the noon timeslot for a newscast, Search's ratings were not helped due to NBC's particularly weak lineup of lead-in programs to the soap. In fact, the only somewhat successful program to air on NBC in that 12 PM slot was Super Password, which shared the hour with Search from its premiere on September 24, 1984 until Search's demise. Prior to that Search was paired with a seemingly revolving door of low-rated series, which included the low-rated veteran NBC soap The Doctors (which, coincidentally, had been moved to the noon slot so Search could join the NBC daytime lineup) and a string of low-rated game shows including The New Battlestars, Just Men!, and Hot Potato.

One scenario that never came to pass, as reported by TV Guide in June 1979, was Search moving to 3:30 PM (then used by daytime reruns of M*A*S*H). The Young and the Restless was to originally expand to an hour in Fall 1979 from 12:30-1:30, with As the World Turns and Guiding Light still at their 1:30 and 2:30 start times, respectively. Despite these plans Search stayed put, Y&R simply expanded its 1:00 timeslot to 1:30 on East Coast stations, and the other two were bumped up to 2:00 and 3:00.

Although the soap had switched networks, it was still produced at the CBS Broadcast Center at 524 West 57th St. in Manhattan until August 1982. By September, NBC relocated the production to the Reeves/Teletape Studio on Broadway and West 81st St., the former home of Sesame Street (which themselves had relocated to the former WNET-TV studios at 9th Ave and 55th St.). It remained there until March 1985, when they moved to the former Edge of Night studios, the EUE/Screen Gems Studios at 222 East 44th St., where it remained for the rest of its run.

In an advertising campaign called "Follow the Search", the stars of the show wished for its loyal viewers to follow Search to NBC. However, CBS only allowed the advertisements if Procter & Gamble did not name the network to which the show was moving in their advertisements (also decreed when The Edge of Night moved to ABC in 1975). At the end of the final CBS episode, veteran actors Mary Stuart and Larry Haines told the audience to start watching the show as it moved to "another network", and asked the viewers to locate them in their television listings.

The ratings stayed 50% lower than they had been on CBS, even in the 2:30 slot. By this time, Joanne's final marriage to Martin Tourneur (John Aniston), which had taken place while the series still called CBS home, did not interest many viewers, and the show was chastised for preposterous storylines: in one heroine's case, she gave birth to a baby just three months after conception. Search finished second to last in the ratings again at the end of its first full season on NBC, finishing ahead of the struggling The Doctors and actually finishing in a tie with Texas, which failed to make it through the season.

By 1984, the show mainly focused on two new families: the Kendalls and the McClearys. The McCleary family was headed by Malcolm Mccleary (Patrick Tovatt), Kate McCleary (Jo Henderson, later Maeve McGuire), brothers Hogan McCleary (David Forsyth), Cagney McCleary (Matthew Ashford), Quinn McCleary (Jeffrey Meek), and sister Adair McCleary (Paige Hannah, later Susan Carey Lamn). The Kendall family was headed by Estelle Kendall (Domini Blythe), Lloyd Kendall (Peter Haskell, then by Joe Lambie, later Robert Reed), and Mike Kendall (Thomas Sullivan), brothers Alec Kendall (Robert Curtis Brown), Chase Kendall (Kevin Conroy, later Robert Wilson), Steven Kendall (Phillip Brown, Steve Lindquist), and sister Theresa Rebecca (T.R.) Kendall (Jane Krakowski).

In a newspaper interview during this period (The Videot) Mary Stuart complained, "They have created a new program and they're calling it Search for Tomorrow." She said she believed she was being eased out by the Kate McCleary character. Whatever the intentions of the writers were, they were not benefiting the show in the ratings. At the end of the 1983-84 season Search, which had been a solid top-five series for CBS just a decade before, hit bottom and finished last in the ratings with a 3.2. Search was able to climb out of the ratings cellar at the end of the following season, but this was largely due to the continuing struggles of The Edge of Night (which was canceled at midseason) and Search returned to the bottom of the ratings list with an anemic 2.9 rating for 1985-86.

The show was canceled in 1986, but only after a memorable attempt to bring up the ratings: The whole town of Henderson was washed away in a flood, and in a display of reverence the only buildings left standing afterward were Joanne's residence and business.

On December 26, 1986 the final episode ended with senior characters Stu Bergman and Joanne Tourneur talking about the future. Stu asked Joanne what she was searching for, and she answered "Tomorrow, and I can't wait." This was followed by a taped piece in which the cast thanked the show's viewers for their loyalty over the past 35 years, ending with a slightly-tearful Mary Stuart saying "Thank you...thank you all. They were wonderful years." and saluting the audience goodbye. The show also ended with the song We'll Be Together Again by Lou Rawls (Love of Life also closed out its run with the same song, but used a version by Tony Bennett).

The series was replaced by the Tom Kennedy game show Wordplay, which aired until September 4, 1987. As had been the case in two of the previous three season, Search ended its 35-year run last in ratings with a 2.5 at the time of its cancellation.

Location Shooting

Like many other soap operas, Search featured segments of location shooting in the 1980s. In 1981 the show went to Hong Kongmarker, and later that year, to Jamaicamarker, to showcase a romantic rendezvous between the characters of Garth and Kathy. In 1982 prior to the switch to NBC, a storyline involving Travis Sentell took the show on location in St. Kittsmarker. In 1984 the show did a lot of location shooting to show the wilds of Henderson. In the final months of the show in 1986, they went to Irelandmarker to film a storyline with the McCleary brothers, who by that time occupied most of the storylines.

Ratings history

Search for Tomorrow was among the highest-rated soaps of the 1950s and 1960s, but by the early 1970s it had slipped to the middle of the pack. However, during that decade the show gained renewed popularity and peaked at 4th in the ratings, a spot last reached in 1976. Starting then, the show's popularity began to slide, but the show was still a solid top-ten soap.

In 1981, CBS wanted its newer serial The Young and the Restless to lead off the afternoon soap lineup and moved Search For Tomorrow to 2:30 p.m. ET time between As the World Turns and Guiding Light. The show still got decent ratings- in fact, at the time it was cancelled Search 's ratings were half a point higher than where they were at the end of the previous season (6.8 vs. 6.3)- but Procter and Gamble, who owned the show, wanted the show back at 12:30 p.m. In March 1982, P&G moved the show to NBC at 12:30 (bumping the low rated soap The Doctors to Noon) with disastrous ratings results. When Search left CBS, the show was pulling in a 6.8 rating, which was good enough for eighth in daytime. By the end of the year, Search was fourteenth in the ratings, just .1 ahead of where The Doctors would finish the year. In fact, Search's ratings had dropped by half in the nine months it was on NBC, falling from the 6.8 that they had achieved at CBS to a 3.4 by the end of the year.

Part of the reason for the slip was that many NBC affiliates already pre-empted The Doctors that had been airing at 12:30, and continued to do so when Search moved into the slot-- meaning, in some instances, Search would disappear altogether from some markets when it left CBS for NBC.

Search's ratings continued to drop as the show went on. The following season the show finished with a 2.7 rating, tied with outgoing NBC soap Texas for twelfth in the ratings. In three out of its remaining four seasons, the show would finish dead last in the ratings, the only exception coming in 1984-85 when the equally ratings-challenged veteran The Edge of Night finished behind it in what would turn out to be its final season on ABC.

Search finally was cancelled halfway through the 1986-87 season, finishing with a 2.5 rating. Its last episode aired on December 26, 1986, putting an end to its then-record 35 year run on television. NBC would not give the 12:30 slot, or the 12:00 hour for that matter, back to the local affiliates until 1991, and would also take back the hour for five months in 1993. In that time, Wordplay, Scrabble, Generations, and Scattergories all aired in the same slot Search had, and three of the four series were eventually cancelled due to low ratings (Scrabble, the only one that wasn't, was moved from the 12:30 timeslot after nearly two years there and was eventually cancelled in 1990). Generations proved to be the most successful of the post-Search slot holders, airing for nearly two years.

Capitol, the show that replaced Search for Tomorrow on CBS, aired its last episode on March 20, 1987, lasting only a few months longer than Search for Tomorrow's run on NBC.

Before they were stars

Many well-known film and television actors appeared on Search during its 35 year run:


From 1987 until summer 1989, reruns aired in late night on the USA Network. The network aired episodes from the first three years of the NBC run.

In 2006, Procter & Gamble began making several of its soap operas available, a few episodes at a time, through America Online's AOL Video service, downloadable free of charge. Reruns of Search for Tomorrow episodes began with the October 5, 1984 show and ceased with the January 13th, 1986 episode after AOL discontinued the P&G Soaps Channel on December 31, 2008.

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