Guiding Light by Robert Milazzo/PGP/CBS
Get ready for TV's newest reality show: 55-year-old Guiding Light! Starting Feb. 29, the CBS-Procter & Gamble program will abandon the timeworn way of making soaps for a radical, überauthentic approach that has much of the show shot on location in quaint little Peapack, New Jersey. The production is using the town's streets, homes, parks and businesses, as well as its outskirts. Case in point: The first episode with the new look finds heiress Lizzie Spaulding (the increasingly terrific Marcy Rylan) being dumped in the middle of the woods by her ex-lover Jonathan (Tom Pelphrey). She'll be rescued - soaked and frozen - by her current flame, Bill (Daniel Cosgrove).

GL's soundstage in Manhattan also got an overhaul. Gone are the three-walled sets soaps have used since the 1950s. Now each interior locale has four walls and a ceiling, requiring that all scenes be shot by a fleet-footed crew with minicams.

"We're bringing the viewers right into the experience in a very intimate way," says GL exec producer Ellen Wheeler. Credit the shake-up to a two-year research project P&G is conducting with the GL fans. "Our audience has been very clear with us," Wheeler says. "They don't like the nonreality of soaps - the fake grass, the fact that people in Springfield never seem to go to work or actually do their jobs or take care of their children. They want the stories and characters they love but with the same sense of reality they get from Grey's Anatomy and other nighttime shows."

Wheeler insists CBS wants low-rated GL to remain on the air. "This is not a desperate survival move," she says. "This is a creative, financially efficient way to move soap operas into the future. GL has always led the way." - Michael Logan

For much more on Guiding Light , visit GuidingLight.net.

Update: GL's Robert Bogue, John Driscoll, Nicole Forrester and Gina Tognoni will ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 9:30 am/ET, to celebrate the launch of the show's new production model. A live webcast of the ringing will be available that morning at this link.