DAYS’ Producer Ken Corday: “The Show I Was Looking At Was No Longer ‘Days of our Lives’ To Me”

Ken Corday
Ken Corday

After reading Ken’s new interview with SOD, I thought back to the numerous times I read him make similar statements after making creative changes at the show. So, after digging through my archive, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at some of the post-regime change quotes from producers Corday and Greg Meng.

August 2010

Corday spoke about DAYS’ plummet in the ratings in the Aug. 17 issue of Soap Opera Digest. In the article “Crisis at Days”, Corday said the ratings prompted an emergency meeting in which he discussed future storylines with his team.

“Some things are going to be enhanced, some things will be tied up, as opposed to pulled back.” He acknowledged that stories need to be accelerated and though ratings were low, “I definitely feel there is light at the end of the tunnel…We are about to reinvent the storytelling pace on the show. I feel extremely good and positive. I feel very strongly about Dena’s [Higley, head writer] story, November sweeps into March of next year…I think we have great plan in place. I think we will give the viewers a much higher level of romance, which perhaps they have not been getting. The pieces of the puzzle are all still on the screen. It’s just a matter of rearranging them.”

Higley was fired nine months later.

May 2011

“[Marlene] McPherson and [Darrell Ray] Thomas will bring Days of our Lives back to its core values by telling exciting stories with a fresh and contemporary approach including beloved characters,” said Ken Corday in a press release officially announcing the behind the scenes change.

June 2011

Corday gave an in-depth interview with Soap Opera Digest in the June 14 edition, discussing the change in head writers from Dena Higley, whose firing was announced in April, to new head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas Jr.

Once again the executive producer accepted “full responsibility” for the state of the show. “I’m the boss, I’m the one who hires the head writer and producers. So I decided to make a change, to employ two new head writers to ‘reset’ the show. Most importantly, I couldn’t turn a deaf ear to what a plethora of our viewers were saying in mail, on the blogs and Web sites, and what I was seeing in the ratings.”

Other highlights:

  • “We need to make it 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.
  • “I feel that there have been a lot of characters on the show — new faces — who have been getting an inordinate amount of airtime, and the characters who the fans are familiar with and probably tune in to see more than any others have not been getting enough airtime. It’s been disproportionate.”
  • “There was also an absence of romance. Who are we rooting for? Clear rooting interests need to be redefined. To do that, you need to re-center the show on characters who have been extremely popular for a long time.”
  • “The formula we’re going back to has worked in the past. The formula that we’re currently using is not working.”
  • “We’ll be opening up the look of the show, as well. This is not a time where I’m going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I’m going to throw everything but the kitchen sink on-screen, but it’s not going to be spread among 30 cast members. It’s going to be centered on 15, and 15 who are loved and are dear to the audience.”
  • “Hang with us through the summer, please, and wait and see what happens in September. Exciting, good times are coming. Stories about adventure, intrigue and romance. I want them to know that as the custodian of the show that my mother and father started 45 years ago, I have a responsibility to the viewers, first and foremost. And I listen to what they say and I will be the first to raise my hand and say, ‘My fault. I let this go too long.’ But it will be fixed very quickly.”

September 2011

While on the publicity tour for the #GreatReboot of 2011, Corday opened up more about what went wrong during the end of Higley’s three-year run as DAYS head writer and his excitement with the work of new head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas in the Sept. 13 edition of Soap Opera Digest.

Highlights:

  • “I can’t remember a time where there was a big change of this magnitude…Facilitating it was never as difficult — that’s my job…I saw what was coming and I also saw the alternative and that was not a hard decision. Quite frankly, when I am having difficulty staying tuned, then I know the fans are having the problem ten-fold. That was a bad indication of how I let this go off and I was the first one to raise my hand and say, “My bad.”
  • “As the owner, sometimes I trust too much and let people who are right under me — the head writer and co-executive producer — do what they want to do and I give them full and complete trust. My mistake and I stepped up and said it: ‘I have to take the blame for where the show and the ratings are today, but I also have to take the credit for changing it.

April 2012

Co-executive producer Greg Meng spoke with TV Guide regarding the latest behind the scenes change in the creative team. In April 2012, McPherson and Thomas were ousted due to sagging ratings. Execs opted to hire former executive producer Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell to steer the ship.

  • “We spoke with the network and collectively felt we needed to take a pause, make a change with the writing and the style of the show for a while and see if that will redirect things. The ratings situation is very complex and difficult, and we have a tremendous challenge with that right now. Everybody on the Days team, and that includes NBC and Sony, our distributor, wants this show to succeed and we’re doing everything we can to make it work. We all have different visions as to how to achieve that success but the good news is that we’re all in synch on the future. No one wants cancellation. Even though we brought in Darrell and Marlene to reset Days last September, it was always our feeling that the show needed to constantly be nurtured with smaller resets. This isn’t the end of the world. We’re just resetting it again in an effort to get it right.”
  • “Marlene and Darrell brought such a fresh energy to Days and really honored the tradition and values of the show. They had an impossible job turning everything around on a dime. And they left us in a very good place”

October 2014

Ken Corday spoke with Daytime Royalty about a myriad of topics, including the inner workings of the show, production schedules and viewer feedback, among others. Note this time frame falls just months after he reached out to Higley and Griffith about changing head writers, and his own admission that he was still thinking about changes in September 2014.

Here some highlights from that interview

  • On the power structure of the show: “Creative control of the show really lies in the hands of about six people: myself, the two co-executive producers, Bruce Evans as the head programmer of the network, and the two head writers. That’s the creative force. I’m not ever going to the head writers to say ‘No, you can’t do that; and nor would Bruce. We work together every Monday and go through seven shows and try to make them better. And if they’re not bad, we leave them alone!”
  • On rumors he steps in to demand changes: “It’s really a committee decision. I never say, ‘I don’t want to see any more of this person.’ And the writers never say, ‘We don’t want to see any more of this person.’ It’s a committee decision when it comes to how much screen time a character gets. It’s cyclical, so a character will be on for a while, then we won’t see them for a while. No, the time has never come when I’ve said, ‘Absolutely not. This character has to go.’ There have been discussions similar to that among myself, the network, and the writers where we’ve come to the decision that this character has to have more air time, less air time, depart the show, or we need a new character.”
  • If that decision is based on fan feedback: “There’s another trap question. We are writing the show right now to air in April. If we listen to the fans, they’re responding to what’s airing now and what was filmed five months ago. We have to kind of go by our own gut and hope and pray that the fans adore what we’re doing.”
  • His comments to the fans: “The most important thing is for the viewers to trust us and stick with us. In the next few months, there will be new faces on the show. Try to invest in the new faces. Give us a break because Days of Our Lives has to change to stay fresh and alive. And if we don’t do that, then we’re not going to be on after the 50th year. I would say to the viewer, ‘Try to stay patient with us, and try to enjoy these stories as they come up even if they’re new and involve new characters.'”

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2 comments

  1. Currently, there seems to be three types of characters. Screw-up, Passive-aggressive judger and Villain. Abigail gets to be both passive aggressive and a screw up. And the same thing happens over and over again. The same thing happens over and over – as though the current writers just keep repeating what they thought worked before. Will admits to cheating again (ruining scenes that straight up said it was the first time with Paul), Nicole and Eric get trapped in a room together (but this time they are near naked instead of tied up) and Abigail once again thinks she’s pregnant with the wrong guy (but this time it’s the other DiMera brother). The show is going in circles.

  2. The changes being made at DAYS — starting with the change of regime of head-writers — was the beginning of knowing that a positive change is coming. I only wish he’d been able to secure Josh and Dena last summer, or even hired part-time head-writers like AMC did before Lorraine Broderick came back in a full-time capacity. And now they’re clearing house by outsting some new characters to pave way for familiar faces and names, so I cannot wait for this fall when the *new* DAYS takes place.

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