Days of our Lives is a Mess
What has happened to Days of Our Lives? Ever since Hogan Sheffer took the head writing reins from Jim Reilly, the show has been in a free fall, both creatively and ratings wise. When Sheffer was at the helm of As the World Turns, he led the show to four Outstanding Writing Daytime Emmy wins. Any chance he would work his magic on Days has disappeared during the eight months of his tenure.
Sheffer didn’t endear himself to many longtime Days fans when one of his first moves was to eliminate popular characters such as Jack and Jennifer, Carrie and Austin, Lexie and Mimi, as well as newer characters like Tek, Patrick and Stephanie. If Sheffer thinks he can replace these fan faves with dorky Nick and insipid Willow and her brother Jed, he is sadly mistaken. He has also recently introduced Duck and Gabby as foils for Shawn and Belle. All of these new characters are sacrificing screen time from the characters fans truly care about, like Bo and Hope and Marlena and John.
To his credit, Sheffer is writing material for the fabulous Mary Beth Evans and Stephen Nichols (Kayla and Steve) who were languishing on the back burner after their high profile return last summer under Reilly. To his detriment, Sheffer is making Steve into a crazy lunatic who rants about tarot cards and treats his beloved “Sweetness” like something he wiped off the bottom of his shoe. Kayla, who has always had a backbone, suddenly cuts out a comatose John’s kidney just because Steve asked her to? Kayla has worked too hard for her career as a doctor to jeopardize it in such a senseless way. And speaking of John, how many months has he been in a coma now? Not such a great way to treat an iconic character.
A character who could have been iconic if given a chance, was Steve and Kayla’s race-car driver daughter, Stephanie. Played by fiery newcomer Shayna Rose, Stephanie was an important part of both the Johnson and Brady families, and had great potential. The character’s potential was wasted in a crush on one-dimensional Max, while her past with the charismatic and conniving EJ was only hinted at, and never delved into. Sheffer squandered a perfect opportunity to flesh out a new key player in two of the central families in Salem. Instead, he wrote her out with nary a storyline to call her own, which was a true misuse of a good character and a compelling actress.
Not only did Sheffer miss an opportunity with the character of Stephanie, but he has completely assassinated the character of Philip. Poor Jay Kenneth Johnson, who returned to the role he originated after four years away. Instead of returning to the show to portray a strong yet loveable character, Johnson came back to a whiney brat who is trying to steal another man’s child. The plot point of Philip’s biological child with Mimi, which was carried by a surrogate, has vanished from the canvas. Why on earth would Philip chase Claire all over the world in order to have a Kiriakis heir, when she is not his biological child and he already has one out there somewhere? Days has never been a show that made sense all of the time, but to forget or ignore facts is downright lazy.
Days’ contract is up in 2009, and unless Sheffer can right this ship before then, I wouldn’t blame NBC for saying sayonara to Salem. In fact, the end may already be pre-determined. I hear from trusted industry sources the network has already decided to scuttle Days after the completion of the 2009 season. The move, following NBC’s already announced cancellation of Passions, would mark the network’s complete abandonment of daytime soaps. This should give all in daytime cause for concern.
AMC's Krystal Spills the Beans
All My Children has been in a similar situation to Days -- stuck in a rut with a lackluster headwriter who seemed hell-bent on destroying or forgetting the show and characters’ histories.
However, AMC is beginning to make a comeback based on an umbrella plot bringing together many beloved characters. Who knew Krystal’s one night stand with Tad would have such far reaching repercussions when it happened last fall?
Nine months pregnant Krystal has been passing off her unborn daughter as her husband Adam’s child, knowing all along it was the daughter of her ex-fiancee, Tad. Slowly but surely, the way secrets usually go on soaps, various characters -- except for Adam -- discovered the truth and tried to use it to their advantage. No one benefited more from the torrid truth than JR, who used the info to blackmail Babe.
The suspense built for weeks as more people learned Krystal’s secret, which culminated in Krystal deciding she had to tell Adam the truth so JR wouldn’t have anything to hold over Babe’s head. Even JR urged Krystal against it. Fearing Adam’s hurt and wrath, JR swore he would keep the secret from his former step-father, Tad.
Unfortunately for Krystal, but fortunately for viewers, as soon as Krystal told Adam she slept with Tad, his eyes honed in on her stomach as he realized the awful truth. David Canary (Adam) was never more powerful as Adam’s face registered shock, disbelief, horror, and sadness all at the same time. Later when Adam burned all of his unborn “daughter’s” clothes and toys in a bonfire, his rage was almost as searing as the fire. Canary played Adam’s overwhelming heartbreak beautifully, and never more so than when he collapsed in his twin brother Stuart’s (also played by Canary) arms.
Bobbie Eakes (Krystal) has done some of the finest work of her career as Krystal’s carefully crafted house of cards fell all around her. Michael E. Knight (Tad) also gave a tour de force performance as Tad reacted to the betrayals of those he loved. Jacob Young (JR) and Alexa Havins (Babe) rounded out the players drawn into this drama as they went through the figurative fire as well.
This is exactly the kind of story that can salvage a show from the ratings cellar and return it to the good graces of fans. Fans just want well written, believable stories that leverage and respect the histories of their favorite characters. If the story resonates with several characters at the same time, all the better. Nothing is more exciting than watching beloved characters utilized in engaging ways. Are you listening Days and -- for that matter -- the new head writer of AMC?
that goes behind the scenes of the soap opera industry. She was
previously a reporter for Soap Opera Weekly Magazine.
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