Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 26, 2013
Search for Tomorrow

Search for Tomorrow

December 26, 1986: Search for Tomorrow goes off the air after this day’s program runs. The first episode was broadcast on September 3, 1951. The soap opera was aired live from 1951 to 1968 and the show ran for 15 minutes. The show’s original sponsors were Joy dishwashing liquid and Spic and Span – a household cleaner, hence the term “soap opera.” The show moved to a half-hour format in 1968 and was one of the first soaps to migrate from live to taped broadcasts. The August 4, 1983 show was done live after the master copy and backup mysteriously disappeared. NBC was accused of creating a publicity stunt.

Soap operas began as dramatic presentations aired on radio during daytime hours and sponsored by corporate giants marketing cleaning products to the “little woman” listening at home. The stories had “an emphasis on family life, personal relationships, sexual dramas, emotional and moral conflicts; some coverage of topical issues; set in familiar domestic interiors with only occasional excursions into new locations.” In the US, the core cast of characters is usually more up-scale, attractive, and glamorous than the typical viewer of such fare. In the UK and Australia, the focus is on everyday characters and social issues.

Search for Tomorrow was created by Roy Winsor. Roy wrote for radio before coming to daytime television. He usually worked with soap operas but also produced the Western Have Gun, Will Travel for radio. He also wrote several novels. For the first 13 weeks of production, Agnes Nixon wrote the screenplays and then Irving Vendig took over.

The show’s main character was Joanne (played by Mary Stuart for the entire 35 year run) who was a Midwestern housewife in a town called Henderson. Joanne or Jo was a widow and her in-laws caused her so much angst, she regularly discussed her problems with neighbors, Stu and Marge. Joanne eventually needed income and began to manage a hotel and the Mafia tried to take over. By the mid-1960s, ratings were stagnant. By the 1980s, with ratings falling, the show was cancelled. The last show was run and followed by a taped piece thanking the viewers for 35 years of loyalty.

“Stu: What are you searching for Jo?
Jo: Tomorrow. And I can’t wait.” – last episode of Search for Tomorrow

“No soap opera has so engrossingly captured the wondrous banality of the human condition.” – Harry F. Waters

“If you have to be in a soap opera try not to get the worst role.” – Judy Garland

“You know, a soap opera – you watch it every day, and nothing changes.” – Stephen Harper

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: At the time of cancellation, Search for Tomorrow was the longest running non-news show on television. Since that time, Hallmark Hall of Fame has taken over that distinction. There were 9,130 episodes of Search for Tomorrow which far oustrips the Hallmark show. Search for Tomorrow moved networks from CBS to NBC in 1982 but the new venue couldn’t help the ratings. Originally shown in black-and-white, the program moved to color in 1967. Proctor & Gamble was the original sponsor as the makers of both Joy and Spic and Span. The opening sequence showed the title of the show over a picture of clouds. The only change in 35 years was to a color picture with a slightly varied letter “S” in the title. Don Knotts, Larry Hagman, Morgan Fairchild, Kevin Bacon, Olympia Dukakis, and Lee Grant all played roles in the television show.

Also on this day: Kwanzaa – in 1966 the first Kwanzaa was celebrated.
Zounds! Sounds! – In 1933, a patent was granted for FM radio.
Storming Scandinavia – In 2011, Cyclone Dagmar made landfall.

3 Responses

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  1. hairballexpress said, on December 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I always wondered what the first Soap Opera was… I had assumed it was either “Days of our Lives” or “General Hospital”… And I always wondered why it seemed that all the people in the Soap Operas seem to be only young and beautiful and rich…(and I never saw a single kat)! Weirdos……


    • patriciahysell said, on December 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      One might be able to understand young, beautiful, and rich. But it is just perplexing that there are no kats.

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