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Soap Reaction: ‘Days of our Lives’ is a Test of One’s Patience

Photo Credit: © Howard Wise/JPI Studios
Photo Credit: © Howard Wise/JPI Studios

Watching Days of our Lives on a daily basis is a test of one’s patience. It’s difficult to find a single story that’s “must watch”, even passable at best; then there’s a crop of stories that need to make a swift exit to the cutting room floor and deleted forever. Better yet, delete the entire show as it exists currently and air repeats until August because, just as last year, nothing matters until the creative change. But even then will it truly matter, or will we be back in the same place come summer 2017?

I don’t presume to speak for the mass audience; I only express my feelings as a critic and viewer. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I operate under the belief that my views hold more weight than anyone else simply because I have a platform. I don’t comment on DAYS a lot, in part because there’s only so many ways to express, “Wow, this show is not good” before I cross the line from criticism to bashing. One can only watch a series out of habit for so long before the habit becomes a chore. Right now, Days of our Lives is a chore. A dark, inconsistently written, reductive, clichéd riddled chore with awful tropes, antiquated creative visions and a falsely sustained belief that its current model is the way to go despite history proving otherwise.

Days of our Lives’ biggest enemy has been and will continue to be its ridiculous production schedule. From a business standpoint it makes sense because they’re able to keep costs down. Creatively, it’s an ongoing disaster (or should I say DAYSaster). Soaps are a continuing medium; one must be able to adjust to the audience’s reaction – positively or negatively – to what is airing. Here’s a tidbit — scenes in episodes airing the week of June 27-July 1 were filmed between January 6 – 13, 2016.

In filming six months in advance of air date and writing further, there is no way to adequately gauge and affect change in a story that’s receiving negative reactions, featuring dull, uninspiring characters that the viewers loathe. With a shorter production schedule, there would be the ability to rework stories and characters, rest them a bit – do something to fix the obvious (and not-so-obvious) problems. Instead, we’re forced to watch these tales play out for months on end with no change in sight.

Photo Credit: © Jill Johnson/JPI Studios
Photo Credit: © Jill Johnson/JPI Studios

Ciara, the daughter of legendary super couple Bo and Hope, gets brutally raped by her stepbrother Chase. Though initially the story appeared to be striking the right tones, Ciara’s recovery has since taken a back seat to her lusting after her best friend’s uncle. Rather than using this as an opportunity to bring the Brady family together and rallying around Ciara, it’s a fractured plot that would rather focus on making excuses for her rapist than devote on-screen time to her recovery with a therapist like Marlena. There always has to be redemption in soaps because it “worked” for rapists Luke Spencer and Jack Deveraux in the 80s and Todd Manning in the 90s, right?

Meanwhile, Hope — who murdered Stefano DiMera and covered up her crime with Rafe — is running around with the not-so-deceased Aiden, who planned to murder her the night of their wedding for insurance money to pay back debts owned by the DiMeras; only he didn’t do it because he changed his mind at the last minute, and was replaced with a doppelgänger who was killed instead. This, even though executive producer Ken Corday said, “From September 1 on, when someone dies, they are dead,” in the “Plan to Save DAYS: 2015 Edition” of Soap Opera Digest last July. A statement made knowing Daniel Cosgrove already wrapped his final episode, only for the show to reverse course and bring Aiden back.

There’s a lot to be said about the damage done to the once promising Aiden character, which I will address at a later time, but how are we supposed to root for Hope and Aiden knowing he was willing to murder her? Oh, he changed his mind, so no harm no foul? Even if one could get past that, the fact that Hope would pal around with the father of her daughter’s rapist is inherently disturbing. Not to mention Hope is once again waffling between men when she’s capable of so much more.

Then there’s Summer aka Cindy, a vapid con-artist that was “psychically” linked to Brady as a result of him receiving Daniel’s heart and is supposedly the retconned biological daughter of Maggie’s given up for adoption, who’s in “love” with Brady, but conned him out of $50K. Okay. Supporting her storyline is Dario, a character with no purpose before the hunky recast that aged him 20 years, and still has no purpose after. There’s more I could bring up: the non-existent storyline for Paul; John and Marlena being backburnered; Lucas and Adrienne being trotted out once every 6-8 weeks or so; breaking up Steve and Kayla, and so much more.

Photo Credit: © Howard Wise/JPI Studios
Photo Credit: © Howard Wise/JPI Studios

It’s 2016, yet the creative brain trusts writing these shows (because believe me, this isn’t a DAYS-only problem) believe doppelgängers, rapist redemption and ignoring history for the sake of retcons is what the audience wants? There’s no semblance of direction or desire to address anything topical or relevant in today’s society. No wonder the ratings are a disaster. Why be bold, fresh and exciting when you can go back to the same stale well that’s been tapped for the last 30 plus years?

The blocks for a great show exist within the framework at DAYS, but there’s no one who seems to able to put the pieces together for a consistent amount of time. I don’t know if that’s a Corday problem or a Sony/NBC problem, but it’s definitely a creative problem. I believed Josh Griffith was the solution to Days of our Lives‘ creative issues. Maybe a solo Griffith tenure as head writer would have been, but we’ll never know. What I do know is the Griffith-Higley era that began in late August 2015 with so much promise was quickly derailed by January 2016, and never truly recovered.

It doesn’t help that the same writers are cycled in, cycled out and recycled all over again a few years later, meanwhile the show sells the changes to the press as, “No, really, they know what they’re doing this time. Trust me. It’ll be good. I’m sure of it.” We’ll find out what happens at the end of August when presumably the material of current co-head writer Dena Higley and new co-head writer Ryan Quan’s material begins. Maybe it will be different this time. But given the repeated disappointments of the last five creative changes , I won’t get my hopes up. Call me a cynic, but Days of our Lives is the abusive ex who says he’ll change and never does.

What are your thoughts on Days of our Lives? Is there any storyline you’re liking or dislike? Tell me in the comment box below. Maybe I’m watching it wrong ™.

About the author

Ryan White-Nobles

Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TVSource Magazine. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.

  • Carol Rowland

    The entire problem is the taping in advance. When the writers see the story line is not working, they can’t change for about 6 months. During that time you have people leaving and watching other soaps. And they don’t come back. Question is, Why do we see it but they can’t??

  • Kelly

    Damn!! You hit the nail on the head w/this!! Now could somebody please see that Corday sees it? I’ve watched this show for 40+ years & w/the exception of the TomSell era, have never seen it this bad! I FF so much of this show, it’s ridiculous! They bring on new characters that have no ties to the history of the show and get rid of legacy characters like Eric, Belle and Shawn. They need to actually start listening to what fans want to see and then maybe the show can survive. Otherwise, the handwriting is definitely on the wall.

  • cjsmaq

    This show hasn’t been watchable since EJ/James and Sami/Ali left the show.

  • Arrt

    What the show did to Eric and Will was criminal, just plain disgusting and some of the worst decision making in the history of soaps. The current storylines are either boring and awful or borderline offensive. Characters being sacrificed for the Hernandez family has to stop. The show needs new writers and EP’s who actually care about fans and the show and cut down on the production schedule.

  • Heather

    Ryan, thank you for writing this. My biggest issue with Josh Griffith is that he writes as a fan and not as an objective head writer. He’s made no secret of who his favorite couples were back when he watched the show and that’s who was heavily featured under his regime. So, he’s not very different from Dena Higley in that respect. This show desperately lacks balance across the board. When I tune in, I want to see a variety of characters and storylines featured everyday. Not the same subset of characters in repetitive scenes simply to honor their contract guarantees or because a head writer or someone higher up has decided to arbitrarily feature them.

    Enough with Kate, Hope, Summer, Dario and Deimos. Where are Shelle, JJabi, Steve/Kayla, John/Marlena, Jennifer, and Lucas? They need to listen to the audience and give us couples that have chemistry and that are rootable. Shelle should be one of the core couples on this show. Let’s see Hope involved with her son for once instead of her daughter. JJ and Gabi have tons of potential yet we never see them. Bring back Sheryl for Lucas. Keep Blanca around for Rafe. I agree with Steve Ungrey that Bo should be back. Give Peter Reckell whatever flexibility he needs to binge tape once or twice a month. If you’re keeping Aiden around, redeem him once and for all and put him with Jennifer if Jack isn’t returning. Put Chloe in a triangle with Brady and Philip. Bring Eric back for Nicole. Hire back Shawn and Belle immediately too. Ciara was raped and we haven’t seen her in a scene with her brother once. Missed opportunity here. But Rafe can offer her a shoulder to cry on when she has tons of family around her. Your favorites can’t solve everything Dena Higley. I like Rafe but not romantically with Hope. This heavy focus on forcing this couple on us is going to be one of the show’s ultimate downfalls.

  • Paul

    Days has been crap ever since Ali and James left look at the ratings in 2013 and early 2014 they were great even if the 50th never got the ratings back in 2013 the demos were still very poor so no surprise that they sunk this low. Days need Ali and James back to give them a lift they should fire at least half the cast most are so boring to watch they need Ejami back along with ED and GV those actors were there back in 2013 when the show was flying in the ratings.

  • alistaircrane

    I stopped watching DAYS in 2012 when they fired Carrie,
    Austin, and Jack. I wish more people would tune out when the show does
    stupid things. The show will only listen when the ratings collapse. Some
    fans watch out of habit, and that’s not a good thing.

    I
    tuned in recently for the Jack appearances and was stunned by how awful
    the show has gotten. There is too much focus on new characters like
    Deimos and Summer, and too much focus on overplayed, tired, characters
    like Hope, Kate, and Maggie.

    If Quan and Higley bring Jack,
    Carrie, and Austin back, I’ll watch full time again. I just hope the
    writing is as good as those actors.

  • Mary Ann Carlquist

    I can’t say I disagree with most of your comments. Although I don’t think Dena Higley being brought back as head writer will help things. My main problem with her writing is she will only write for the characters she likes while everyone else gets shoved to the side. I half suspect that is why we are seeing so much Rafe and Hope. Dario and Summer can go I did not like him the first time around. Summer never should have been put on the canvas in the first place she serves no purpose.

    And I really do not think Hope and Rafe work as a couple friends yes a couple not so much. I wish they did not film so far in advance either I know they are trying to keep the shows production costs down but the drawback is it gives then no time or leway to change what isn’t working. I am sorry to say this but I almost wish NBC would opt to cancel it this show is on a downward creative spiral. The only couple I am even interested in right now is Chad and Abby.

  • lilspoiler

    thank you! An excellent article, Ryan, and one that that expresses the thoughts of many of the viewers. We all do not like the same characters, pairings, stories, etc, that is apparent visiting any message board. But while I, also, looked forward to Josh Griffith writing, his doom & gloom, misery & despair was not what Days needed, thus it all has been hard to take. And yes, the too far ahead filming, writing is what is sinking the Days ship, for all the reasons you cited.
    Contrary to some comments, not everyone was enamored of pairings no longer on the canvas, or do they resent or hate new family on the scene. Seems to me, once upon a time, the Bradys were the new family in town, & the DiMeras, too, Johnsons as well. Writers cannot be blamed for young actors wanting to try other things elsewhere, but they ARE to blame for actors being unhappy with changes to their characters, with the direction of any storylines. Thank you again, just hope the suits read your comments.

  • Elaine

    You took the words right out of my mouth!! This show is a disaster!! So many mixmatched couples and storylines that are boring and trite! I also can’t seem to get past the fact a former priest is in prison! What they did to Eric is sickening! Ericole were primed to be the next Ejami and should’ve been married! It was great they brought back Shelle, but then they fired them?? Frankly watching Kate, Nicole, and now Chloe all fighting over a man in his 50s in Deimos does nothing for me! Put Kate in a story with Roman, Nicole back with Eric, and Chloe in a triangle with Brady and Phillip! How hard is that? Deimos is a villan, let him be one.

    I will say that Griffith was OK, but he had his favorites such as Chabby and couldn’t balance more than a couple of stories at one time. He aliented lots of fans from other storylines during the fall, and his darkness was too much.

  • Laura

    Ken Corday is a liar. He stated that when the characters died, they would stay dead. I don’t mind a return of the characters in dream sequences, but to actually bring them back from the dead and create a story about what happened in the time missing is ludicrous. I understand that sometimes the actors and actresses want someone who left to come back, like Kristian Alphonso wanted Daniel Cosgrove to come back. That was a bad move, and especially for them to be back together. One, I could never trust a man for even thinking of killing me even though he didn’t go through with it, and two I could not see a man whose son had raped my daughter. Period. I know soaps are not real life, but even this is going out on a limb, especially when things were heating up between her and Rafe.

    Get rid of Summer and Dario. They bring nothing to the table, and are just fillers for time that could be spent better on main characters. Get Steve and Kayla back together. For good. This crap going on is tiring. The only excitement at all right now is Deimos. I love watching Vincent Irizarry. He is a great actor, but already the writers don’t know what to do with such great talent, and they waste it.

    I also agree that it is a chore watching Days. The writing on storylines is old and stale. No adventure and outright lust instead of love in scenes like what played out the other day between Chloe and Deimos. Ho-hum. I watch every day hoping that this is going to be the day that changes. Nope. I’m disappointed quite a bit.

    It’s going to be a LONG summer.

  • Steve Ungrey

    Is it bad that if you asked me who I preferred Hope with… Rafe or Aiden… my answer would have been “Neither! Give me old scenes between Hope and Bo!”

    This show could be so much better. As it is, it’s more watchable than the 2014-15 period, when there were a thousand newbies and all the vets were relegated to back burner hell. Still, the show takes the easy way out a lot of the time. The production schedule is too far out to make a difference. At this point, I don’t care that it saves money. Sony needs to invest some extra money in the show and bring the production schedule closer together between tape and air show.

    As for characters that need to return? Jack (on a more permanent basis). Mike Horton. Will (I don’t care that you killed him, you can undo the death). Bo (same thing… Peter Reckell’s absence is really harming this show). Laura and Bill need to establish more of a presence in Salem.

    Is it too much to ask for Sheri Anderson to come back and try to save the writing?

  • Annonymous

    The show is simply Doom and Gloom, Romance was replaced by Lust in 2014 which alienated yes a majority of EJami fans, according to KC he doesn’t have writers write for fans or the audience then who on this planet does is writing for? . What followed was they killed off a legacy character like Will (stupidity yet again). I swear there must have been something in the water in 2013, the show felt and looked like its former self, Romance with enough drama. You had #EJami #Ericole and #Wilson pairings that current viewers wanted to watch. FF to the crap that is 2016 Hope mourning Bo, killing a now helpless old man Stefano and covering up with her beau Rafe (No-one wants to watch the Hernandez, idiot). There is no balance on this show plus can some-one turn on the freakin lights or simply turn them off for good
    .

  • Kay Hansel

    I agree with you 100%. The show is terrible most of the time. The writing is abysmal. Storyline are boring and stale. It is torture watching the show right now. Chad/Abigail and Steve/Kayla are the only stories I liked and now Abigail is going to be off canvas until November when the recast starts airing. Sonny is returning in July so that is something to look forward to. Unfortunately TIIC thought killing Will Horton was a good idea last year so now we get to watch Paul and Sonny be a couple which is not what I wanted to see since I shipped WilSon and it annoyed me to see Paul stalking Sonny for a year while knowing he was a married man, trying to convince Sonny to leave Will, break up their little family, and be with Paul permanently. So of course the writers killed Will, so now Paul gets his wish to have Sonny all to himself.

  • SSunny

    Great article. I use to watch DAYS with my mom in the 90s and it was really must see tv. Friday cliffhangers that made you WANT to tune in on Monday. Storylines and characters you either loved or loved to hate. Now, im just indifferent. DAYS is background noise while im on my laptop. The storylines are atrocious. Some of the acting is cringe worthy. I just dont care about anything going on. I’ve seen this with GL and AMC and Passions. I hear the death rattle.

  • Dave

    I have to disagree Ryan. Josh Griffith’s dark, twisted and disgusting writing is not what Days ever needed. For the fans of characters like Eric, Will, Sonny, Daniel, Eve, Aiden, Chase and everyone else that was rewritten, besmirched, killed or just forgotten, Days failures go a lot deeper. Dena Higley’s writing will ensure nothing except more Rafe Hernandez.

  • Dave

    Rafe and Hope just as bad to watch, if not worse. Bo “gives” Hope to Rafe like she’s property which is followed by murder, a cover up and framing. Hope vows her love for Rafe only a few months later and now their star crossed almost lovers? Rafe and his family have been stealing screen time like thieves in the night and being lifted up by other characters like they are the second coming. Hope is a disgrace. Aiden and Chase should have been given roots in Salem, not tread marks on their backs.

  • whateverwillbewillbe13

    This was an excellent piece of the failures that DOOL refuses to acknowledge and accept are issues. I hope they take your and other viewers with similar complaints seriously and look to restore themselves to a soap viable to watch again.