For Days of our Lives, 2015 could best be described as eventful. It’s a fitting word to use considering the show show is celebrating 50 years on air. As the longest running scripted show in NBC’s history, one would think that after decades on air, it would be a well-oiled machine by now, but alas, the year proved to be yet another unsteady one for a soap that’s become better known for it’s near yearly “Plan to Save the Show” than quality storytelling.
Ahead of TVSource Magazine’s Best of Worst of 2015, I take a trip down memory lane in Salem highlighting the year in review, as well as some of my own picks for standouts of the year.
The year began with stories playing out that seemed as if they were on the way to becoming interesting, but in February both Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell were once again fired as the series’ head writers. Controversial scribe and Emmy winning writer Dena Higley would return to head creative with former One Life to Live writer, Emmy winner Josh Griffith. Fans were unhappy with the state of the show, as was executive producer Ken Corday, who took notice and cleaned house. For many, this was good news for the show that was steadily shedding viewers as a result of the lackluster plots. Unfortunately, it was going to be a long, long wait for the new material to make it to air, as it would take nearly six months for changes to materialize due to the production schedule.
On August 19th, the new material hit the air and the differences were apparent. Many of the stories from TomSell’s tenure were cut short and thanks to newly appointed co-executive producer Albert Alarr, the show was beginning to look better too; scenes were longer, characters interacted outside of what the plot necessitated and the lighting brought a more realistic tone to the show. The show was unrecognizable in a good way, as outlined in an opinion piece by our Editor-in-Chief, ‘Days of our Lives’ Creative Course Correction is off to a Great Start‘.
With the show now recommitted to its characters, it was inevitable for there to be cast shake ups. After nearly a year away from Salem, Wally Kurth returned as Justin Kiriakis in February and was put on contract along with Judi Evans in the role of Adrienne Kiriakis. As announced in late 2014, All My Children alum Chrishell Stause vacated the role of Jordan Ridgeway on March 9th while fan favorite Nadia Bjorlin was revealed to return to the role of Chloe Lane for a few episodes (later her permanent return for 2016 was announced). That very same month, DAYS fans went into frenzy when the returns of Peter Reckell’s Bo and Stephen Nichols’ Steve hit the news. Bo had left his family back in 2012 and had earned a reputation of being a deadbeat, much like Steve who hadn’t been seen since 2009. Alison Sweeney returned as Sami Brady in time for the show’s 50th anniversary, just a year after vacating her famous role. Eileen Davidson returned as popular villianess Kristen Dimera while Patsy Pease’s Kimberly Brady arrived to help transition Theresa into sudden motherhood. Molly Burnett left the show again at the end of her six month contract, soon followed by Freddie Smith’s Sonny. After inking a new deal, Mary Beth Evans’ Kayla began a more prominent on screen role alongside James Lastovic as her teenage son Joey.
Melissa Archer’s Serena was killed off and her former cohort Paul Telfer’s Xander was escorted off canvas as well. Camila Banus returned to Salem when Gabi was set free from prison in September. Also joining the show in September was All My Children’s Sal Stowers as Lani, Santa Barbara alum and Emmy award winning actor A Martinez as Eduardo and Emmy award winner Thaao Penglis as Andre Dimera. Jonathon McClendon and Vivian Jovani arrive in Salem as newly SORASed Chase Jennings and Ciara Brady in October, replacing fan favorite Lauren Boles and Connor Kalopsis. The teen scene in Salem expands again when Kyler Pettis makes his daytime debut as Theo Carver, replacing longtime portrayer Terrell Ransom Jr. Daniel Cosgrove wrapped up his two year gig as Aiden Jennings. Jason Cook also came and went as Shawn Douglas Brady (look for the character to return next week with Brandon Beemer in the role). Olivia Rose Keegan rounded out the new teens as Claire Brady, the daughter of Shawn and Martha Madison’s Belle who also showed up in town. Tamara Braun’s Ava Vitali resurfaced in Salem in December with a motive. Former One Life to Live star John-Paul Lavoisier debuted as Philip Kiriakis, four years after the character was last seen in Salem. All in all, the comings and goings for Days of our Lives in 2015 were all over the place but some were necessary for the reboot of the show.
November 8th was the show’s 50th anniversary and they celebrated with a big ’60s themed gala celebrating Salem’s bicentennial. Although the gala wasn’t the best affair, seeing the majority of the cast interact and mingle was the best part of it all. There were great nods to DAYS history, like the return of the Martin mansion, belonging to one of Salem’s original families which was now owned by Julie Olson (the mother of David Banning, son of David Martin whose family once lived there). DAYS is also taking filming out of the normal studio sets again. Location shots returned when Hope took Dr. Malcom hostage and again when Nicole, Theresa and Kate had their Basic Black fashion show. Next to the Bicentennial, the Basic Black fashion show was done much better as far as hair and makeup, wardrobe and setting were concerned. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a trend for DAYS events to come