Passions Creator James E. Reilly Dead

Prolific daytime scribe James E. Reilly passed away over the weekend, according to Soap Opera He was 60. Reilly was most known for his much talked about stints as head writer for NBC’s Days of Our Lives (92-97; 03-06) and for creating the zany cult fave Passions. He also served for a time as head writer of Guiding Light on CBS and Sunset Beach on NBC. As a big fan of Reilly’s work on Days of Our Lives, this news hits hard. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family and former co-workers.

24 Responses

  1. Profile photo of kidizdcchick

    My thought and prayer are with his friends and family, it is a very sad new.
    Jamie for hearing you on the podcast, I know that you are a big fan of him, so am sorry for your loss too.

  2. Profile photo of season1217

    This is a sad day. Here’s to a man who was an incredible writer and whose imagination took Guiding Light, DAYS and Passions fans to wonderful places. You are and will always be missed, Mr. Reilly!


    //**It’s the writing, stupid!**\\

  3. Profile photo of snowi

    This is really sad. I was hoping he would return to Days as well. He seemed to be one of the few writers that truely got the show and it’s characters.

    RIP JER.

  4. Profile photo of Beth

    I’m very sorry to hear this. While never a fan of his brand of storytelling, I always had to give him kudos for being creative, something a lot of other soap writers would do well to emulate. My condolences go out to his loved ones and friends.

  5. Profile photo of DaytimeFan0001

    He is a truly a daytime giant no matter how you feel about it. How many other headwriters got an opportunity to write their own soap opera in the past 10 years. Through his creation of Passions, I myself learned that I want to work in the daytime industry. God Bless him.

  6. Profile photo of THEBEST

    I wonder what would have happened to Passions if it would have still been on…
    AllistairCrane is about to keel over.

    R.I.P. Mr. Reilly…

    They die in 3s. First, it was the actress from AW, then Eileen, now James…

    ***///The Hunt 4 Dixie Martin Is On!\\\***

  7. Profile photo of KingTV

    I am speechless. Here we all were just last week speculating on whether or not he was on his way to save “Days Of Our Lives” from the bottomless pit of story convolution and plot-driven drivel and today one of the all-time master storytellers in daytime is gone. I will never forget Carly Manning, the Alamaines, Vivian burying Carly alive, Marlena’s satanic possession. These are classic story lines that while totally far-fetched and outrageous were organic and rooted in human behavior. He also knew the art of the genre. He planned long-term stories that had an everlasting effect on the characters that resonate today. He took DOOL from almost the bottom of the ratings barrel and increased it’s viewers when other shows were starting to lose their fan base. Because of that success, he was and will be probably the last writer given the green-light to create a brand new afternoon network soap opera. “Passions” may not have been for everyone but you must respect that he was trying to change the genre and make it accessible to a new generation who did not like their grandma’s stories. James E. Reilly is in heaven right now watching “Dark Shadows,” Edge of Night,” “Ryan’s Hope,” “Another World” and “Loving/The City” with Douglas Marland and Bill Bell having a good chuckle about the entertainment they brought to millions and millions of people. All my condolences to James’ family, friends, colleagues and loved ones. He touched my life immensely. He will be missed.

  8. Profile photo of SusieQ

    This is a sad day. I owe him for bringing me and my best friend through out most of elementary and high school together. One day we bonded on the school bus talking about Vivian burying Carly alive and we were inseperable after that. I thank him for that and for continuing to entertain us for many years afterwards. He will be missed.

  9. Profile photo of

    Oh my God. Jim Reilly was a genius. He brought us almost two decades work of amazing soap opera, between Passions and his two stints at Days.

    My God. I wonder what would’ve happened if Passions were on the air. I bet the sadness and stress of losing Passions killed Jim. Damn NBC!

    I guess, as part of the mourning process, we need to accept that Days will never be good again because Jim will never return. So sad. :-(

  10. Profile photo of J Bernard Jones
    J Bernard Jones

    A slightly different view:

    I never liked Reilly’s work. I watched the possession of Marlena story for a while and checked in on Reilley’s plots here and there, but in my opinion his over the top stories on Days and later Passions were cartoonish to the point of absurdity. They often lurched far past self-parody to realms of garishness and grotesquerie. Reilly’s earlier work is justly hailed by fans and critics alike, trained as he was by some of the industry masters. In his later career when left to his own devices, Reilly often created many classic stories that were certainly entertaining to many fans but other stories that just as often as not sent dangerous messages, particularly to young women in the 12-17 demographic which NBC so desperately wanted when it greenlit the goings on in Harmony. And before people protest about this observation, I caution them to remember that Passions was justifiably criticized by critics and fans alike for its casual obsession with rape and with women often blaming themselves for their attacks to the point where it was nicknamed a “rape-a-thon.” The most heinous of these stories was the pregnancy via turkey baster of a woman by her rival while she was unconscious.


    There is no denying that James Reilly absolutely loved soap opera as genre and entertainment. Most importantly Reilly loved soaps as an art form. For all of its faults, Reilly’s Passions was the first and perhaps last “meta-soap.” Both a serious soap opera and a parody of the genre, Reilly must be credited with using Passions to attempt ushering daytime drama not simply into the 21st century but comment on that century with all of its navel gazing dysfunction, snark and ironic impulses, and emotional excess. Even his stories of rape and other forms of extreme violence or shock could be seen as a commentary about how desensitized we’ve become as a society.

    Reilly’s plots may have been cartoonish in a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote way, but they were also underscored by the basic human motivations that drive the best of drama regardless of genre: jealousy, greed, envy, loyalty, betrayal, lust, and love. The good guys were good, the bad guys were bad and the people caught in the middle often got burned by one or the other ends of the candle. Before anything else Reilly was an entertainer who played to the back of the house without much regard to the front seats.

    I was not a fan of James Reilly’s writing but I respected his unadulterated devotion to daytime drama. He knew the form. He stuck to his guns and played stories for years despite the impatience of many in the audience, just like Marland and Nixon did in the old days. He wrote for people of color characters as characters first and often equally as deep or absurd as anyone else on his canvasses. No matter his missteps he loved his audience as much as the characters he wrote for or created. Finally, depending on one’s taste, he brought a “world” to life and populated that world with its own history and unique style.

    I wasn’t a particular fan of James E. Reilly the writer.
    I was a fan of James E. Reilly, one of the last great champions of daytime drama.

  11. Profile photo of

    There are no words. He did the impossible for me, he made me watch DAYS! I have to say that although Passions is ridiculed and lambasted by most it tickled me. It was a post OJ concoction that rivaled any soap for humor and romance. I truly think he was one of the greats. It probably wasn’t easy penning Days and Passions at the same time. I’ll always have the memories of great stories like the Martin’s Syndrome, the cursed jewels storyline, the turkey baster impregnation and Ben and Meg’s romance on Sunset Beach. The Devil and Marlena Evans. Timmy and Tabitha, Julian and little Julian, I still laugh to know that JER had a penis surgically reattached backwards. It’s moments that soap fans keep and thanks to James Reilly I have some great out there stories to keep.

    Rest In Peace

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