November sweeps played themselves out full-blast with weddings, weddings, weddings. But several good-guy mainstays have quietly announced their end-of-the-year departures.

Michael Knight (a double Daytime Emmy winner as Tad Martin on "All My Children") and Michael O'Leary (who plays Rick Bauer on "Guiding Light") are leaving their soaps after return stints.

These two are among the most talented and versatile soap graduates in years, so it's curious that both came up empty in Hollywood when they went out there for the first time two years ago.

Knight, whose debut movie, "A Date With an Angel" (1988), flopped, will be looking for roles in New York this time.

Rick is being recast, but "AMC" would never try to recast Tad, whom Knight has made so indelibly his own.

Also departing is Perry Stephens, who is one of the last original cast members of "Loving," which debuted in 1983. Stephens is newly married to actress Jenny Jones, and the pair is headed to California. Leaving the show at this time was probably a wise move, since Stephens' Jack Forbes is one of the bland characters whom "Loving" producer Jacqueline Babbin seems to disfavor.

A number of actresses are leaving, too. Melanie Smith, who has played sex-kitten Emily Stewart for three years on "As the World Turns," will be staying in New York. She has always downplayed her looks and tried to hype her seriousness as an actress. And indeed, her portrayal of Emily, a soap villainess who is more self-absorbed than evil, was intriguing.

Also leaving is Edie Lehmann, whose Katherine Delafield came within a hair's-breadth of winning the coveted title of Mrs. Robert Scorpio on "General Hospital." Katherine and her suitability to Scorpio (played by Tristan Rogers) was a hot topic in the letters columns of soap magazines throughout Lehmann's two-year soap stint. Viewers either loved her or hated her.

Lehmann came to "GH" with no acting experience, but she made up for it with her sunny personality, which shone through in her portrayal of Katherine. The oft-ornery Rogers (next to Susan Lucci, he is supposedly daytime's highest paid star) boasted of handpicking Lehmann for the role. Indeed, she was the first actress in years that he seemed to warm up to.