Search for Tomorrow

From Academic Kids

Search for Tomorrow was a soap opera which aired on the CBS television network from September 3, 1951 to March 26, 1982. The show was then moved to NBC, where it commenced telecasts on March 29, 1982. It continued on NBC until the final episode was aired on December 26, 1986.

The show was created by Roy Winsor and was first written by Agnes Nixon.


Transition to tape

Search aired as a live, 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 to a half hour in 1968 and became one of the first soaps to move from live broadcasts to tape.

In 1983, both the master copy and the backup of a Search episode were lost, and the cast was forced to do a live show for the first time since the transition fifteen years before. After the event, NBC was accused of lying about the tape being misplaced in hopes that the noise generated by the snafu would create a ratings jump for the show.

Title sequences

Missing image
Search for Tomorrow title card, first used in black-and-white from 1951 to 1967.
Missing image
Search for Tomorrow title card from 1967 to 1981.
Search for Tomorrow title card from 1981 to Spring 1986.
Search for Tomorrow title card from 1981 to Spring 1986.

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 1974 to spring 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 Billy Chinnock called "Somewhere in the Night".

The '50s

For the show's duration, Search was centered around a midwestern housewife named Joanne (played the entire time by Mary Stuart). In the earlier years, Joanne's friends, Stu 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. Most of Joanne's dilemmas, in the early years, were due to her dead husband Keith Barron's overbearing parents – they never liked her and were quite content with seizing Joanne and Keith's daughter Patti (played in the early years by Lynn Loring) from the widow.

After Keith died, 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, 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 Cordelia 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 '60s

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. They wrote a pregnancy into the storyline for Joanne, to coincide with Mary Stuart's real-life pregnancy. In 1963, with the ratings staying stagnant, the duo decided to write out Jo's baby 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 General Hospital for ABC the same year.

As the show progressed, Joanne's sister Eunice (Ann Williams) came 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 with the show, and was written out as dying in Africa.

The '70s

Mary Stuart as Joanne, in a publicity still from 1975.
Mary Stuart as Joanne, in a publicity still from 1975.

During the 1970s, Joanne married a third time to her doctor, Tony Vincente (she had been in an accident and needed Tony's help to regain her eyesight). It was at this time that Mary-Ellis Bunim was appointed executive producer of Search. As a result of Bunim wanting to take the show in a more youth-oriented direction, fewer stories involved Joanne; while the ratings took a slight dip, the impact wasn't as heavy as was expected.

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 '80s

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 PM (Eastern Time) in 1981 (the show had aired at 12:30 PM since its first episode thirty years before). The show still had many fans, but the ratings weren't near the level they had once been. CBS canceled the show in early 1982, replacing the show with a glitzy serial called Capitol (whose ratings would never reach Search's in its 5 year 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 and Gamble did not name the network to which the show was moving in their adverts (something CBS 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 show was moved back to its 12:30 slot, but 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) 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.

The show was canceled in 1986, but not after a memorable attempt to bring up the ratings: the whole town of Henderson was washed away in a flood. In a display of reverence, the only buildings that were left standing after the flood were Joanne's residence and business.

The final episode ended with senior characters Stu Bergman and Joanne Tourneur talking about the future. Joanne told Stu that she was searching for "tomorrow, and I can't wait."

Surviving episodes

Scattered episodes from the 1950s and 1960s were archived using the kinescope process. The World of Soap Themes, a website dedicated to letting the public view episodes that had long since been considered lost, uploaded a number of Search episodes, including the first episode from 1951.

The episodes seen on the site are from the early 1950s, the early 1960s, 1966, the final CBS and first NBC episodes from 1982, and the Henderson flood episodes from 1986. An explanation for the lack of 1970s episodes stems from the phasing-out of kinescope due to the new videotape standard. However, since videotape was expensive at that time, the tapes were erased to shoot more episodes. In many cases, the episodes in question are lost forever.

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