The Brighter Day was a CBS network soap opera that was originally created for NBC radio by Irna Phillips in 1948.
It aired on the CBS network from January 4, 1954 to September 28, 1962 (although the radio & television versions ran simultaneously from 1954–1956).
Set in New Hope, Wisconsin, "The Brighter Day" revolved around Reverend Richard Dennis and his four children, Althea, Patsy, Babby and Grayling.
"The Brighter Day" began in the radio soap opera Joyce Jordan, M.D.. Jim Cox, in his book The Great Radio Soap Operas, wrote: "The Brighter Day premiered on the NBC network on October 11, 1948, but it was actually rolled out on another drama some time before that."
Dr. Jordan lived near the Dennis family's hometown of Three Rivers, and listeners of the Jordan program became acquainted with the Dennises in 1948. In a seamless transition, Cox wrote, "By the time Dr. Jordan said 'good-by' on her final broadcast on Friday, October 8, 1948, the fans were already acquainted with the family that would replace her.
The following Monday listeners could easily connect with the new series growing out of the show they had been hearing for so long." Smoothing the transition even more, The Brighter Day's announcer, sponsor, network and time slot were the same as those of Joyce Jordan, M.D..
The original radio version took place in the town of Three Rivers, but in late 1953 the Dennis family was forced to move to New Hope as a result of a flood washing out Three Rivers. Later in the run, the Dennis family moved to Columbus, established as a college town. There were five children in the radio version, but the oldest daughter, Liz (played from 1949–1954 by actress Margaret Draper), married and left the family as the show began on television. Also living with Reverend Dennis was his widowed sister, Emily Potter.
The show had mid-range Nielsen ratings for most of its run. During the 1950s, it was in the middle of the pack typically landing between 5th and 7th place over all and in the middle of all the CBS soaps. The show's best season was 1955–1956, when it did not have any competition from ABC and weak offerings from NBC.
With the premiere of "American Bandstand" in 1957 and Bandstand's surge in popularity a year later, the CBS strip of "The Verdict is Yours" at 3:30, "The Brighter Day" at 4:00, "The Secret Storm" at 4:15 and "The Edge of Night" at 4:30 all took a hit of about one rating point.
Even though "The Secret Storm" and "The Edge of Night" rebounded, "The Brighter Day" and "The Verdict Is Yours" did not and by the 1960–61 season, both shows were holding their own, but had still taken a ratings hit.
In the summer of 1961, Procter & Gamble gave up production of the show to CBS and moved production of the series from New York City to Los Angeles, California in an effort to save money. Key characters and stories were dropped when their actors did not wish to relocate.
In the summer of 1962 with "The Secret Storm" and "The Edge of Night" proving formidable against "American Bandstand", CBS decided to expand "The Secret Storm", creating a powerful hour-long soap block to counterprogram against "American Bandstand."
This decision had both "The Brighter Day" and "The Verdict is Yours" moving from their mid/late afternoon slots to mid/late morning. The timeslot change was the final nail in the coffin, as both series lost almost half their audience with "The Brighter Day" falling from a 6.9 to 3.7. Mid-late morning had never been successful for serials and this instance was no different.
In August 1962, the show made history by creating the first daytime television contract role for an African American. The actor, Rex Ingram appeared as an ordained minister named Victor Graham beginning on September 17, 1962, but he had no time to make much of an impact as the show was cancelled two weeks later on September 28, 1962.
The network announced that the show would be cancelled with less than two weeks before the final episode aired.
In the final episode, actor Paul Langton addressed the viewers in character as Uncle Walter, wrapping up the storylines and explaining how the characters would resolve their problems. Langton ended the show with a final farewell: "The microphone can't pick up their voices and soon the picture will fade. If on occasion you think of us, we hope your memory will be a pleasant one."
Among the actors who appeared on the series, the most famous alumni are Hal Holbrook (Grayling Dennis), Lois Nettleton (Patsy Dennis Hamilton), and Patty Duke (Ellen Williams Dennis).