Days of Our Lives may be dying a slow death worthy of the best soap opera tragedies ever filmed. Can it be resuscitated?
This beloved soap opera has been a staple of daytime TV for over four decades. Finding itself in such troubled waters now is devastating for cast and fans alike.
Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn Lost in the Latest Negotiations
In November of 2008, NBC reached an agreement with Sony Pictures to keep Days of Our Lives on the air for another eighteen months. Longtime DAYS vets, Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans) and Drake Hogestyn (John Black) are out, as is co-executive producer, Ed Scott, fired last April. Such major changes can reinvigorate a flailing program or deal it a deathblow.
The Gutting of Salem Affects Loyal Fans
The loss of cherished characters leaves gaping holes in the population, and the remaining residents of the fictional Salem suddenly find themselves forced into conversations with people they have no reason to associate with. These interactions consume minutes but add nothing to the characters’ lives. Lesser characters now get more screen time but no material with which to make the most of it.
Loyal fans are flooding Internet message boards with their disappointment and distaste. The loss of Shawn and Belle, Jack and Jennifer, Marlena and John and other core Salemites, along with the reduction of screen time for Bo and Hope, Patch and Kayla, Roman, Abe, Caroline, Victor and other vets, has left DOOL littered with super-couple offspring and newcomers who have short contracts and no future. The characters that remain are routinely stripped of any hint of likeability via scripts that plunge them into unnatural situations and unbelievable pairings. If the viewers don’t care about the characters, a soap opera fails.
Writer’s Block Hurts Cast and Viewers
Days of Our Lives suffers from many concerns, but no issue looms larger than that of stale writing. The cast is the face of the show, but the writers are the heartbeat. If the writing flatlines, so does the soap. The best writing in recent memory aired during the writer’s strike that began in November 2007 and ended in February 2008. DAYS came alive. With the actors and actresses having meaty words and sharp action to hang their talents on, the storylines moved and upcoming episodes were eagerly anticipated. Then the strike ended and Days was soon back to the repetitive, uninspired material that keeps the characters one-dimensional and mired in soap opera quicksand.
Fumbles at the Top
Executive producer, Ken Corday, Sony Pictures and NBC have all fumbled the ball.
Agonizingly slow, sub-par writing is accepted as the norm, and even when an interesting new character is introduced, he or she is ultimately sacrificed. Nick and Morgan were two recent characters who brought something fresh and alive to their scenes. But both were given the boot while frivolous characters with few redeeming qualities, like Melanie, were given the green light. With each such misstep, the fans grow more disenchanted.
Saving a Once Great Soap
DAYS deserves to be rescued, but if the show is to be saved, the writers, producers, owners and network, must recognize important differences and act on them. There is a subtle but vital difference between slow and plodding. There is a glaring difference between bland and colorful. Failing to address those differences is what keeps DAYS clinging to life support.
The Danger Remains - Is the Sand in the Hourglass Running Out?
Recent rating upticks in the 18-34 and 18-49 women’s demographic may prove to be the final nail in the coffin if those successes are viewed as validation. Such an assumption may lead to even more complacency until all that is wrong with DAYS sneaks up on the unsuspecting powers-that-be and delivers the fatal blow once and for all.
If a blackjack player fails to hit a 16 when the dealer has a face card showing, then goes on to win the hand, it reinforces his instinct to hold on to that 16 the next time the same scenario presents itself. But in the long run, as any successful blackjack player knows, that’s just bad playing. A hand or two may be won, but the odds are deeply stacked against survival in the long run.
Such is the danger for Days of Our Lives. Those in charge have forgotten what really works and are making decisions that plant the seeds of demise. And just like the owner of the badly played blackjack hand, unless meaningful changes are made, Days of Our Lives may be just a few grains of sand away from finding itself flat broke and out of the game.