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Final Flicker for "Guiding Light"

"Guiding Light" is not only daytime TV's longest running soap, it's the longest-running broadcast in history. On Friday, the soap airs its final episode, and ends a decades-long relationship between fans and the actors who have grown up with the show.

In an age when a hit TV show can last just a few years, "Guiding Light" bests them all -- on the air for 72 years.

Lynn Leahey, of Soap Opera Digest magazine, said, "This is a big loss for daytime television - 'Guiding Light' is really iconic."

The daytime drama was first televised in 1952, after a run on the radio, which began in 1937.

Daniel Cosgrove, who played Bill Lewis on "Guiding Light" said, "It's pretty sad for this 72 year-old gal to be put down. There's a lot of people who have played a part for years."

Several big-name stars count "Guiding Light" on their resume,
including Kevin Bacon, Calista Flockhart and Hayden Panettiere.

But it's the lesser known actors -- that have played their roles for decades -- that are fan favorites.

Kim Zimmer, who played Reva Shayne, said, "We all laugh when we say we agreed to a three-year contract 28 years ago."

Zimmer and Newman have played on-again, off-again couple, Reva and Josh since 1983.

Robert Newman said, "I'll miss Josh and Reva, but they are characters in a play. I'll miss the people. ... There have been so many monuments shared in people's lives over the years. Kim and I watched each other's kids grow up."

Forty years ago, with far fewer channels, there were 19 soaps. Now, just seven remain. "Guiding Light" is the most recent casualty of declining ratings.

Slideshow: "Guiding Light" Signs Off

Leahey said, "What's difficult for daytime television now is society has changed so much. Women aren't at home watching television, they're doing other things. So it's very difficult for daytime to have a business model that makes sense."

As for the actors of "Guiding Light," -- aside from the tears -- "Early Show" co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez remarked there is a genuine sense of optimism.

Newman said, "I'm looking forward to what's next and I'm looking forward to that point in my life."

Zimmer said she is excited about her next chapter as an actress.

She said, "I haven't had an agent for ten years. I'm having new pictures taken I'm doing all the things I did when I was 18 years old -- before I got the greatest gig in the world."

On "The Early Show" Friday, Ron Raines, who played the infamous Alan Spaulding and Tina Sloane who played nurse Lillian Raines, shared how they're dealing with the end of their long-running roles and what's next for their careers.

Sloane said, "This has been my life for 26 years. And all the fans, all the crew, all the producers, the kids who worked on the show, the hair, the makeup, these were all people we lived we have day. ... We're just so close to each other. We've really bonded, as you do, over 26 years."

Raines said he was surprised the show went another year.

"I thought we might get the ax last year," he said.

Raines said the show had a lot of positive things happening, such as new energy and advertising, this year.

"We were being noticed for this new model that we had defined, and it was working," he said. "So it did surprise me, and I think it surprised everyone this year, which was the way it always happens, isn't it?"

However, Sloane has already moved on to other projects, such as a play being staged in Atlanta she wrote called "Changing Shoes."

She said the title is very apropos for her life now.

Raines said, "A lot of people have already move order to other jobs and getting on with their lives, but it is very tough. I don't think it's really hit me yet -- the gravity of it."

Sloane added, "We'll miss CBS -- and they'll miss us."

Raines added he's seen the enduring power of the show on several generations of viewers.

He said, "This past weekend, I met a grandmother and her granddaughter, and she said she started (listening) when it was in radio with her grandmother and mother. (That's) six generations, seven generations."

The series finale of "Guiding Light" aired at 10 a.m. Friday on CBS.