Television pioneer Irna Phillips created the show in 1956. Viewers immediately responded to the quarter-hour serial. (The show expanded to an hour in the 1970s.) As the World Turns was the most-watched daytime drama for more than 20 years.
One of Phillips's innovations was to introduce a sort of Greek chorus to the stories. The primary purpose of characters such as Nancy Hughes (played by Helen Wagner) was to comment on the crises faced and decisions made by the town's more dynamic residents. This technique contributed to the popularity of the show and continues to be widely used in other soap operas.