NEW YORK — The love affair between two young men on the venerable CBS soap opera As the World Turns has triggered a protest campaign by angry viewers.
It's just not the sort of protest you'd expect.
Fans of the fictional romance between Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer are baffled about why the characters haven't kissed since September, wondering whether it's squeamishness by CBS or show sponsor Procter & Gamble.
They have started a letter-writing campaign, posted an online petition and even have a Web site that counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds since Luke and Noah last locked lips (www.lukeandnoahfans.com).
"We totally support this show and applaud (it) for doing this story line," said Roger Newcomb, a computer worker from suburban New York and the campaign organizer. "We just don't understand why they have to be censored or treated differently."
As the World Turns, which premiered in 1956, had in 1988 the first gay male character in daytime drama. Last August was another milestone: When Luke surprised Noah with a kiss, it was thought to be the first between two gay men on a soap.
They kissed again in September, at a time Noah was still coming to grips with being gay. But since officially becoming a couple, they've been kissless.
Fans first became suspicious around Christmas, during a tender scene where the men proclaimed their love. It was clear they were about to kiss, but the camera instead panned up and focused on some mistletoe.
Valentine's Day featured fantasy sequences involving several of the show's couples. All ended in a kiss except for Luke and Noah's. They hugged. That's when the campaign started.
Some fans want to see Luke and Noah have sex, said soap watcher Theresa Webber, 34, who lives near Boston. "They're a teenage couple, so it's not going to happen . . . but for them to not kiss at all, it's a little extreme."
The soap is owned, produced and written by Procter & Gamble Productions Inc., a subsidiary of the consumer giant that makes Bounty, Crest, Pampers, Mr. Clean and Ivory soap. CBS executives consult on it, but P&G sets the creative direction.
There's no kissing ban, said Jeannie Tharrington, Procter & Gamble Productions spokeswoman, though she wouldn't say what will happen in future shows. She said the mistletoe shot was a "creative decision."
"It's always hard to please a diverse audience, and we have a diverse audience," she said.
Barbara Bloom, CBS senior vice president for daytime, said viewers have had minimal negative response to the story line in general, though she couldn't define what that meant. There is apparently no organized campaign by conservative or parent advocacy groups against it.