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The Edge of Night (or known informally as Edge or EON, by fans) was a long-running American television mystery series/soap opera produced by Procter & Gamble. It debuted on CBS on April 2, 1956, and ran on that network until November 28, 1975; the series then moved to ABC, where it aired from December 1, 1975, until December 28, 1984. There were 7,420 episodes, with some 1,800 available for syndication.

Format

The Edge of Night (the working title of the show was The Edge of Darkness) premiered on April 2, 1956 as one of the first two half-hour soaps on television—the other being As The World Turns (fifteen-minute-long shows had been the standard to that point). Both shows were aired on CBS and sponsored by Procter and Gamble.

The show was originally conceived as the daytime version of Perry Mason, which was popular in novel and radio formats at the time. Mason's creator Erle Stanley Gardner was to create and write the show, but a last-minute tiff between him and the CBS network caused Gardner to pull his support from the idea. CBS insisted that Mason be given a love interest to placate daytime soap opera audiences, but Gardner flatly refused to take Mason in that direction. Gardner would eventually patch up his differences with CBS and Perry Mason would debut in prime time in 1957.

It was in 1956, however, that a writer from the Perry Mason radio show, Irving Vendig, created a retooled idea for daytime—and The Edge of Night was born. "John Larkin, radio's best identified Perry Mason, was cast as the protagonist-star, initially as a detective, eventually as an attorney, in a thinly veiled copy of (Perry Mason)."

Unlike Perry Mason, which took place in Southern California, the daytime series was set in the fictional Midwestern city of Monticello. This setting was presumably modeled after Cincinnatimarker, home base of sponsor Procter and Gamble, whose skyline served as the show's logo until 1980. A frequent backdrop for the show's early scenes was a restaurant called the Ho-Hi-Ho. The state capital, however, was known generically as "Capital City."

In later years, the jazzier Los Angeles skyline replaced that of Cincinnatimarker. (according to the website, The Edge of Night Homepage, the city of Monticello had grown from an average sized city to the size of a major metropolitan area) The skyline was eventually eliminated in the final two years of the show, as was the word, "the". The title was then called "Edge of Night" for the final years of the show.

During most of the show's run, the show's fans were treated to an announcer enthusiastically and energetically announcing the show's title, "Theee Eeeeeeeedge...of Night!". Bob Dixon was the first announcer in 1956, followed by Herbert Duncan. The two voices most synonymous with the show, however, were those of Harry Kramer (1957-'72) and Hal Simms who announced the show until the series ended in 1984.

The Edge of Night played on more artistic levels than probably any other soap of its time. It was unique among daytime soap operas in that it focused on crime, rather than domestic and romantic matters. The police, district attorneys and medical examiners of fictional Monticello, USA, dealt with a steady onslaught of gangsters, drug dealers, blackmailers, cultists, international spies, corrupt politicians, psychopaths and murderous debutantes while coping with more usual soap opera problems such as courtship, marriage, divorce, child custody battles and amnesia. The show's particular focus on crime was recognized in 1980, when, in honor of its 25 years on the air, The Edge of Night was given a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. It also must be stated that Edge had stronger and more believable male characters than most soaps, and included genuine humor in its scripts to balance the heaviness of the storylines.

Finally, while most soaps centered on extended families or large hospitals that tended to be insular in their scope, Edge was probably the only daytime serial to truly capture the dynamics of a medium-sized city. Indeed, the city of Monticello—for all of its longtime friendships, age-old family vendettas, and insidiously cut-throat DA's and bad cops in the proverbial pockets of white-collar mobsters—was as vital a "character" as any human being depicted on the show.

Cast

The show's protagonist was Mike Karr. A tireless crime-fighter, Karr was introduced as a cop who was finishing law school. This character evolved from the earlier Perry Mason character on radio. He then progressed to the District Attorney's office as an ADA, hung his own shingle as a defense attorney for several years, then became DA of Monticello. Karr was played by three stellar actors: John Larkin, (radio's Perry Mason), from 1956 to 1962, Laurence Hugo from 1962 to 1970, then Forrest Compton from 1971 to the end of the series.

The series hired many revered stage performers. Among those who appeared on the show in the 1960s and early 1970s were Kay Campbell, Tony Roberts, Keith Charles, Millette Alexander (who was unique in that she played three different characters; that of Gail Armstrong; Laura Hillyer and Julie Jamison), Larry Hagman, Bill Macy, Lester Rawlins, Irene Dailey, Alice Hirson, Anne Revere, John Cullum, Scott Glenn, Richard Thomas, James Mitchell, Barbara Berjer, Bernard Barrow, Mari Gorman; Dan Resin, Ernest Graves, Jane White and Kate Wilkinson.

Among its stars on ABC were Tony Craig, Terry Davis, Frances Fisher, Joel Crothers, Dennis Parker, Charles Flohe, Lori Loughlin, Leah Ayres, Irving Allen Lee, Denny Albee, Lori Cardille, Stephanie Braxton, Mariann Aalda, David Froman, Lee Godart, Holland Taylor, Marcia Cross, and Kiel Martin — who were helped by guest stars Kim Hunter, Farley Granger, Alfred Drake, Frank Gorshin, Amanda Blake and stage director Jerry Zaks. Schuyler Whitney (Larkin Malloy) and his indefatigable wife Raven (Sharon Gabet) became private detectives and were the new hero and heroine of the show. The Edge of Night also provided Dixie Carter with one of her first significant TV roles, playing strong-willed assistant district attorney Brandy Henderson from 1974-1976. (She was with the show when it moved from CBS to ABC) Also, actress Dorothy Lyman played the memorably evil Elly Jo Jamison in the early 1970s.

Storylines

For the show's entire duration, the stories either revolved around or had much to do with Monticello lawyer (and former Monticello police officer) Mike Karr. As the show began, Mike Karr's relationship with Sara Lane (Teal Ames) essentially reproduced the radio serial's Perry Mason/Della Street relationship. The added complication for Mike Karr was that Sara's family was involved in organized crime; her younger brother (Don Hastings) slowly being drawn into the criminal world in the early years of the show through corrupt uncle Harry Lane (Lauren Gilbert). Nevertheless, Mike and Sara eventually married. Their happiness was short-lived, however, when Sara was written out of the show as being killed as she saved the life of their daughter Laurie Ann, who had run into the street into the path of an automobile. By the 1960s, Laurie Ann was a teenager, supplying many plots for the show, and a young wife and mother by the 1970s.

Mike later married Nancy Pollock (Ann Flood) who was a journalist and helped in many of his cases. Other important characters were Police Chief Bill Marceau (Mandel Kramer), who was one of Karr's best friends and with whom was shared a tremendous mutual respect, rare between a defense attorney and a chief of police (perhaps due to the fact that Mike had once been a police officer himself), Marceau's secretary (and later on wife) Martha (Teri Keane), fellow lawyer Adam Drake (Donald May), his client (and later on, his wife) television personality Nicole Travis (Maeve McGuire; Jayne Bentzen; Lisa Sloan), and wealthy socialite Geraldine Whitney (Lois Kibbee), whose fall down a flight of stairs (which put her into a coma for several months) provided one of the show's more memorable mysteries. Nancy had two siblings: Lee, who eventually married Geri McGrath, and Elaine nicknamed "Cookie."

Nicole Travis Drake has had a most interesting and bizarre history. An early storyline had her victimized by two different women who wanted her dead. She romanced and later married Adam Drake, who was later feared dead in a boating accident but came back to life. Her subsequent marriage to Adam was finished for good after Adam was murdered. And in one of the foremost startling moments in this television serial's history, the character was replaced with a new actress and was subsequently de-aged a decade, a rarity for an adult character in the genre. Now younger and more vibrant, Nicole was suitable for a relationship with young doctor Miles Cavanaugh. She was eventually killed off when her makeup powder was poisoned.

Another important relationship was that between Nancy and her younger sister Cookie, who was married first to Malcom Thomas and later to Ron Christopher, whose dealings with loan sharks affected Mike's good friends Louise and Philip Capice. In the show's later years, the Karrs' beautiful daughter Laurie Ann, by now a young adult, was an important character. Her relationship with Jonah Lockwood, a sociopath, almost cost her her life, but he was revealed to be an alternate persona of Keith Whitney, scion of the wealthy Whitney family, nemesis of the Karrs and Marceau! One of the later major story arcs was about a train wreck and a prisoner, Draper Scott, who had been unjustly convicted of murder, escaping from the train accident, much in the style of Richard Kimble of The Fugitive. Although in Draper's case, he also had amnesia, for quite a few months! There was also an interesting storyline in the mid-1970s involving a troubled woman (Adam's cousin, Serena Faraday) who would change her personality as she donned a frizzy, black wig in perhaps a nod to One Life to Live's popular Victoria Lord/Niki Smith storyline.

Near the end of the series run, came an unusual story where Mike and Nancy, after having slept in twin beds for nearly their whole married life, finally decided to "go all out, and buy a double bed", thereby retiring their twin beds for good and all. It was one of the more unusual moments of the show.

Broadcast history

See: Ratings: 1956-1984

Unlike most soap operas which build a solid audience slowly over many years, The Edge of Night was an instant hit with daytime viewers, amassing an audience of nine million its first year, in some respects because the public did in fact perceive it as a daytime Perry Mason, as the producers had intended. Through the 1960s, the show continued to flourish, consistently ranking as one of the top six rated soap operas, alongside the rest of CBS' daytime lineup. It peaked at #2 (behind As the World Turns) in the 1966–1967 season and came in at #2 between 1969 and 1971.

Due to the show's crime format, and its late start time of 4:30 PM (3:30 Central), Edge had an audience which was estimated, at one time, to be more than 50% male. In July 1963, the show was moved to the 3:30/2:30 time period (the 4:30/3:30 slot was given back to the affiliates), which it dominated, even over otherwise-hit programs like NBC's You Don't Say and ABC's Dark Shadows and One Life to Live. When the show moved to 2:30 PM (1:30 Central) in 1972 at Procter and Gamble's insistence, the show slid from a solid #2 in the Nielsen ratings to near the bottom of the pack, and it has been hypothesized that this drop was due to the exodus of many male viewers and teenagers who could not make it home from work or school earlier in the afternoon to watch. (This would also not be the only time that P&G's insistence on a certain timeslot for one of their soap operas would cause a catastrophic drop in ratings, with the same problem plaguing the long-running Search for Tomorrow a decade later.)

By Summer 1975, CBS prepared to make its first-ever expansion of a serial to 60 minutes daily, in response to NBC's lengthening of both Another World and Days of our Lives some months earlier. Not surprisingly, daytime executives chose the ratings-leading As the World Turns, which faced Days directly at 1:30/12:30. Since the network's affiliates would not cede the 1:00/Noon access slot (or allow it to be moved to an earlier time) because they usually aired newscasts there, and affiliates also would pre-empt Edge if it returned to 4:30/3:30, CBS had no vacant time slot to expand into, meaning the network had to cancel an existing show.

Switch to ABC (1975)

Edge's audience, meanwhile, had eroded so much that it became CBS' lowest-rated afternoon program; NBC's The Doctors had been easily defeating it in the Nielsens for some time. Because of this, CBS informed P&G that it would have to let Edge go. Meanwhile, ABC had experienced success with bringing other networks' daytime cancellations onto its schedule, namely Let's Make a Deal and the $10,000 Pyramid. It also was the only network to have never had a P&G-packaged program on its schedule. Thus, ABC responded positively when P&G approached it about moving the program there, but officials informed the company that contractual obligations to other programs would not permit the network to admit Edge onto the lineup until December.

This raised a serious problem because CBS wanted to begin an expanded ATWT in September, meaning that Edge would have to leave the air for at least two months. Had this happened, it is likely that ABC would have rescinded its decision to acquire Edge due to near-certain loss of viewer interest caused by the interruption. Fortunately, P&G negotiated with CBS to delay the ATWT expansion until ABC had an available slot for Edge. On December 1, Edge moved to ABC in a 90-minute one-day special and, on CBS, ATWT began occupying the 1:30-2:30 block with Guiding Light moving down one half-hour to Edge's old place.

The last CBS episode on November 28, 1975 ended with the discovery that Nicole Travis Drake was alive, after she had been presumed dead in an explosion eighteen months earlier while on a boating trip with her husband Adam Drake. On December 1, ABC aired a special 90-minute episode which picked up where CBS left off, with Geraldine Whitney still in a coma from an attempted murder by her daughter-in-law Tiffany's second husband Noel Douglas; Nicole, with the help of Geraldine's adopted "son" Kevin Jamison, remembered who she was after suffering from amnesia since the explosion; the final scene of that day's episode was an exciting climax in which Serena Faraday, in her "Josie" split-personality, shot her husband on the steps of the courthouse.

Initially, Edge showed promise when it changed networks, the first serial to do so (the only other one was the P&G-packaged Search for Tomorrow from CBS to NBC in 1982), in a late afternoon time slot of 4/3 p.m. for ABC affiliates in the Eastern and Central time zones, and 12 noon for ABC affiliates in the Pacific time zone because of a different scheduling pattern for ABC's West Coast feed. At first, Edge's overall ratings declined because fewer homes had access to it, a situation caused by ABC affiliates who had, for years, opted for local or syndicated programs at the 4/3 slot instead of the network feed and decided not to abandon the practice. Still others tape-delayed the program for broadcast in morning slots, anywhere from one day to two weeks later. Nevertheless, Edge was typically either first (or a close second) in its timeslot for markets that cleared it in its network feed of 4/3 p.m., due mainly to the weakness of competing programs on CBS and NBC. Also, Edge's demographics were significantly better on ABC; thus, the network was actually able to charge higher ad rates for it than several more popular series with higher audience ratings.

Although it never recovered the ground it lost from its CBS days (in fact, sliding into the lowest third in the ratings by 1977), as the 1980s began Edge's ratings improved slightly. While the numbers were not as solid, Edge still pulled in ratings in the 5.0 range and improved its position on the ratings list, peaking at 11th in both 1981 and 1982. However, from 1982 on, ratings would fall even further as even more affiliates dropped the show in favor of the aforementioned syndicated offerings. At the end of the 1981-1982 season Edge pulled in a 5.0 rating, but with the resulting pre-emptions was down to a 3.8 in 1983. This caused P&G to lose more money on the program with each passing year.

In May 1983, P&G replaced the show's headwriter Henry Slesar, whose 15-year stint with the soap was at that time the longest in daytime serial history. New headwriter Lee Sheldon accelerated the pace of the plot, focused on younger characters, and added humor in efforts to capture a new audience for the ailing serial. However, more and more ABC affiliates continued to drop the show.

By Fall 1984, Edge was airing on less than 62% of ABC's affiliates, and over two dozen more had announced their intention to drop the series in the first quarter of 1985. Although ABC was committed to continuing Edge, even offering to move it to a mid-morning timeslot, P&G could no longer afford to produce the show due to the continued loss of revenue from the preemptions. On October 26, 1984, ABC and P&G made a joint announcement that Edge's December 28 broadcast would be its finale. At this point Edge's ratings were less than half of what they had been at the beginning of the decade (Edge finished the 1984-85 season with a 2.6 rating in only four months of episodes). Edge was the last ABC program to air in the 4 PM timeslot as the network followed NBC in giving back the timeslot to its affiliates (NBC had done this in 1979). (CBS, which was still programming the 4 PM timeslot with Body Language at the time, joined the other two major networks in returning the slot to its stations in September 1986 following the cancellation of Press Your Luck.)

Episode status

Most CBS episodes no longer exist, despite the network ceasing its wiping practice in September 1972. Many monochrome and some color episodes were kinescoped (the color kinescopes survive in black-and-white). 45 episodes of the CBS era are known to exist, the best-known of which include the Christmas Day 1974 episode and a September 1975 episode depicting the attempted murder of Geraldine. The first two years of the ABC run also followed this practice, which ceased in 1978 for ABC and all Proctor & Gamble shows.

From August 5, 1985 to January 19, 1989, reruns aired in a daily late-night timeslot on cable's USA Network, transmitting episodes from June 1981 up to the series finale.

In August 2006, Procter & Gamble made several of its classic soap operas available, a few episodes at a time, through AOL Video Service, downloadable free of charge. AOL downloads of The Edge of Night commenced with episode #6051 from July 17, 1979.

See also



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