NBC’s Days of our Lives has fired head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, Jr.; Former co-executive producer Gary Tomlin and former co-head writer Christopher Whitesell will take over as head writers.
Soap Opera Network’s Xavier Toups broke the news this afternoon, with Soap Opera Digest confirming the news soon after. According to their reports, it was executive producer Ken Corday who made the decision to fire his current team.
McPherson and Thomas were brought in last year to replace then-head writers Dena Higley and Christopher Whitesell. At the time, Corday said this of his new hires, “McPherson and Thomas will bring Days of Our Lives back to its core values by telling exciting stories with a fresh and contemporary approach.”
The departing scribe addressed her exit on Twitter, writing: “Thank you DOOL fans. U r the best and we love you! NBC never let us tell our stories. They kept stopping us and changing our direction. Sad.”
Tomlin was named co-executive producer of DAYS back in 2008 when he replaced Emmy winner Ed Scott. Tomlin would serve as co-EP until his termination in 2011. Prior to joining DAYS, Tomlin worked in various capacities — from director to head writer — on All My Children, Another World, One Life to Live, Passions, Santa Barbara, Search for Tomorrow, Sunset Beach and Texas. Whitesell returns to the soap after coming off a stint on The Young and the Restless as a breakdown writer. He previously served as co-head writer under Dena Higley from 2008-2011, and co-head writer of General Hospital, Sunset Beach, One Life to Live and As the World Turns.
Given DAYS lengthy advanced taping schedule, don’t expect to see any on-screen changes until late August.
My Take: Why would Days of our Lives change writers less than a year after firing the previous regime? Signs point to the recent record-low demos the series received a few weeks ago, but there’s definitely more to this than what was made public.
I really do not understand the rationale behind this decision. Marlene and Darrell revitalized DAYS in many ways, and while not perfect, it was certainly more entertaining than Tomlin/Whitesell’s work during the last year of Dena Higley’s tenure. Their stories were true-to-life — from John Black being set up for embezzlement, Sami’s professional aspirations, Bo and Hope re-committing themselves to each other, Will questioning his sexuality — these stories were ones fans could relate to. Stories that you could see on the news in real life were played out for entertainment 5 days a week.
I asked why DAYS would change writers so soon. Maybe the question I should have asked is, why re-hire two out of the three Corday fired less than a year ago? In an interview with SOD last year, Corday explained some of his reasoning behind his creative shuffle: “We need to make it [Days of our Lives] a more positive, romantic, intriguing show, driven by the power of heroic love as opposed to the power of revenge, drug addiction and prostitution. It needed to be pulled out of the darkness and into the light.” Tomlin and Whitesell contributed to those very storylines. Does that mean fans should expect a return to darkness?
Changing head writers every couple of years causes unrest with fans and with actors. How can fans adjust to any sense of normalcy when every other year (or two or three), there’s a change in executive producers and/or head writers? How can the cast settle in to their characters when 6 months from now they could be written with a completely different personality? DAYS last creative shuffling resulted in the exit of many actors from the show. What behind the scenes changes can we look forward to next?
I can’t say I’m looking forward to Corday’s semi-annual “This is what went wrong with the show and this is how I plan to fix it” interview. Given how many times he’s given such interviews, how can anyone take it seriously?