It's no secret Days of Our Lives is my heart. Like Tara to Scarlett, Llanfair to Viki and the Promises Treatment Center in Malibu to Lindsay Lohan, DAYS is home to me, which is why it pains me to find the land of my childhood, fanboy dreams war-ravaged, and overrun with some strange cow wandering about chewing cud.
I wrote last week how the show was actually watchable again, well, watchable won't keep DAYS on the air past 2010. In years past I never worried about whether NBC-U-Later-Soaps would kill Days of Our Lives, because I knew CBS or ABC would readily fight to the death grab up the most buzzed about soap in the last 20 years of daytime television. Thanks to the woeful state of the U.S. economy, coupled with DAYS being written by someone who would make the top brass at AIG shake their heads and go "tsk, tsk, tsk", I no longer have the quiet comfort that Frons or Bloom will pick up DAYS once it's cut by NBC. Hell, Mickey Mouse and Tiffany are having a hard enough times keeping the soaps already on their network lineups afloat, why would they consider bringing DAYS to the table in the shape its in?
Horton Hears a Higley
It's time for DAYS to re-establish its core, and sorry folks, that ain't the Kiriakis family vs. The DiMeras— it's the Hortons. The DiMera and the Kiriakis families respectively were two of DAYS great, villainous dynasties of the 80's and 90's, but they are basically interchangeable. There is no long term drama or inherent conflict to be derived from focusing a soap opera around two mustache-twirling Euro trash crime dynasties.
The saving grace of this disastrous set up has been the Nicole/EJ/Sami dynamic, however, this aspect of the show isn't interesting or far-reaching enough to anchor a soap opera. The best soap triangles, i.e. Rachel/Steve/Alice on Another World, Erica/Phil/Tara on All My Children, etc. worked because they had two unique female archetypes— one principled and noble, the other methodical, scheming and on the make— vying for the man of every housewife and future Broadway season ticket holder's dreams. How exactly does DAYS plan to build long term story out of two bitches fighting for a rapist?
When Days of Our Lives premiered, it was considered highly-unique for its time, because it combined the tried and true tenets of serial dramas like Guiding Light and As The World Turns— which focused on family— with that of General Hospital, which focused on the workplace. Fans were able to see good Doctor Tom Horton (the late MacDonald Carey) head home after a hard day at the hospital to face a myriad of familial dramas, brought on by one or more of his five children and grandchildren, meanwhile his doting wife Alice (Frances Reid) offered sage counsel and one bitchin' donut recipe!
Now before we go any further, I am not suggesting DAYS pull a Guiding Light circa 2007and try to recreate some faux-wholesome yesteryear feel for the show. I don't want EJ to suddenly become a doctor—or worse, a preacher— and move himself, Sami, Nicole and their Springer Show kids fest into Horton House, however I am suggesting DAYS take drastic and calculated steps to recreate the Horton family for a new generation.
As it stands now, the members of Salem's first family have no cohesive unit. Because of the advanced age and rumored failing health of Frances Reid, Alice is understandably no longer a presence; one bad Mickey recast too many has left that character irrelevant; meanwhile the soap's first supercouple, Doug and Julie (Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes) are only trumpeted out for under five work.
The few Hortons with viable presences in Salem are Hope (Kristian Alfonso), who let's face it, is more identifiable with the Bradys after almost 30 years of loving and leaving Bo (Peter Reckell); Lucas (Bryan Datillo), the illegitimate offspring of a long-absent Horton son, who is more associated with the Robert-Kiriakis family; and Maggie (Suzanne Rogers), Lucas and Hope's aunt-by-marriage.
DC's Mike pointed out recently that Emmy-winner Rogers is managing to provide some semblance of familiarity and comfort as DAYS brutally slashes through its veteran cast, as well as much of its storied history. Rogers somehow figures out how to sell even the most forced and contrived of connections. Her chemistry with Blake Berris (ex-Nick) and Datillo have been notable highlights over the past few trying years for the Horton clan and DAYS as a whole, but having this character be used to invoke sympathy for Melanie (Molly Burnett) is beyond disrespectful to Rogers' legacy and fans' patience.
The Death of Uncle Mickey
The best way to revamp the Hortons, and give Rogers and the show an Emmy-worthy storyline is to kill off the character of Mickey Horton. It's time to send Mickey to the Great Courthouse in the Sky. I love John Ingle to pieces, and adore his Edward Quartermaine on GeneralHospital. In the same vein, Kevin Dobson was the best husband Seaview Circle ever saw as Mac on Knots Landing, but neither of these men were my Uncle Mickey!
Mickey Horton died the day John Clarke announced his retirement from the show to watch his daughter Melinda scheme it up on The O.C., and enjoy his grandkids. It's high time this iconic character received a proper, history-rich burial. By having Maggie get a phone call telling her that Mickey has suffered a fatal heart attack while out of town on legal business, DAYS can quickly refocus the show around the Horton family. Bo and Hope, Lucas and Sami, Will, Doug and Julie can all come together, minus the ridiculous plot contrivances Dena has playing out for these characters, to help Maggie deal with the death of her soul mate, and how the family will break the news to Gran.
Think of all the mileage One Life to Live got out of Asa's touching memorial storyline. That character had only been on the show since the 80's, Mickey Horton has been a character on Days of Our Lives since episode one in 1965. Y&R showed in one fell-storyline swoop it remembered who it was, when they buried "Katherine Chancellor", causing fans and critics alike to log on and cheer. DAYS could accomplish a similar feat by killing off Mickey— for real this time.
I imagine DAYS thought killing Frank Parker's Shawn Brady would provide an effect similar to the one I am typing about. Yeah, not so much. Shawn was a great character, but he was never anything more than a Greek Chorus for the Brady kids and Caroline. He rarely drove story, whereas Mickey was one of DAYS most popular characters during its first two decades. Plus Parker was still in good health, and as a rule, soaps simply shouldn't kill off elderly veterans if they still have the ability and desire to come in to work everyday. It's cruel and unusual punishment to the fans who have stuck around for so much of the crap this industry has put us through.
For Mickey's funeral, old favorites like Lisa Trusel and Roark Critchlow could return as Mickey's older children, Melissa and Mike, while the show could take a great opportunity to re-introduce Mickey and Maggie's youngest daughter Sarah with a name actress in the role. Ready for the Wishful Casting? I would love to see All My Children's Eden Riegel as the daughter Maggie conceived via artificial insemination with family friend Dr. Neil Curtis!
Riegel just wrapped her stint on AMC and is back on the West Coast, so it's perfect timing for DAYS to snap her up, along with the hundreds of thousands of diehard soap fans who helped make her web series Imaginary Bitchessuch a smash hit, not to mention those same fans helping AMC receive notable ratings spikes over the past four months.
Blessed with killer acting chops, a ravenous fanbase and a husband-for-a-writer who could teach Judd Apatow a trick or three, Riegel isn't long for soaps. Some West Coast sudser better snag Riegel before daytime loses her to primetime, film and the web all together. I can't believe Fronsie didn't think about offering the role of Sarah Webber or Brooke Lynn Ashton on GH to Riegel before letting her get away. Oh well, ABC's loss could be DAYS gain!
Long before Sami found John making her mother meow on that Titan board room table like a horny, high-pitched, housecat, Sarah Horton lashed out at her mother after discovering Maggie was having her own steamy affair with Neil. Sarah was furious that her mother could do that to her beloved adopted dad. She didn't want to hear Maggie's excuses about how the workaholic Mickey had been neglecting her. Not long after that, Sarah and her sister Melissa left town, and while Melissa has popped up for a few visits, Sarah hasn't been heard from in years. In a twist of soapy irony, Riegel's sapphic AMC bride Tamara Braun was first rumored to re-create the role of Sarah, before joining the soap as Ava. Maybe Tams could put in a good word for Eden? Hook a sistah up!
Sarah's return, on the heels of her father's death, could be classic soap opera. It would be even sweeter if Sarah runs into her old flame, Rafe (Galen Gering) shortly after arriving in town. An attorney like her father, Sarah could have done an internship with the FBI, resulting in a brief, but steamy affair with Sami's new man—instant, character-driven conflict. Sarah could decide to remain in Salem— much to Sami's chagrin— to assume her father's law practice, and work on her issues with her mother. After almost a decade battling Erica Kane, no one does Mama Drama like Riegel.
Critchlow's Mike could also stay in town, reeling from the death of the man who raised him and continued to love him as his own, even after it was discovered that Mickey's own brother Bill was actually Mike's biological father, the product of Bill's rapemance of Laura. A two-day return stint from Jamie Lynn Bauer (ex-Laura Horton) for the funeral to share scenes with Mike would be icing on the soapy cake. Laura could once again apologize for keeping the truth from her son for the first 18 years of his life, providing a nod to DAYS first breakout storyline, penned by the late Bill Bell.
Mike's son Jeremy could also return to Salem a few months down the road, to hash out his issues with dear old dad. This time, instead of a Ken Doll-come-to-life, DAYS might wanna consider hiring a real actor, perhaps Karl Girolamo (Kevin, ATWT) or Dylan Bruce (ex-Chris, ATWT)? Maybe Jeremy's acting out is what broke up Mike and his true love Carrie (Christie Clark)? Clark could then return to play this storyline out and give DAYS a classic, 30-something romantic couple to root for, that doesn't involve the aforementioned bitches and rapists.
It would be nice to see Joe Gallison (ex-Neil) return to Salem for a couple of episodes for Mickey's funeral. I'm sure DAYS fans would much rather see a vet from their show return as opposed to old faves from All My Children or Another World, no offense to John Callahan or Sandra Ferguson. I loved me some Edmund Grey and Amanda Cory, but I wasn't trying to feel y'all coming to Salem the same week Doc and John were told to get to steppin'!
Imagine the explosive outburst from Sarah as her biological father shows up at her adopted father's funeral! It would be enough to make Maggie fall off the wagon. Neil could even bring his ex-wife Liz (Gloria Loring), who would sing "Amazing Grace" at the service, as the congregation flashes back to over four decades of memories with Uncle Mickey. Was anyone at DAYS paying attention to the fan reaction when news broke that Tricia Cast was reprising her role as Nina on Y&R for Kay's faux-neral? Road weary soap fans eat that kind of stuff up. Maria, Paul and Hogan get that. Frank and Ron get that. Hell, finally even Ellen, Jill and the rest of the 12 disciples, er head writers finally get that. When are Ken, Gary and Dena gonna get it?
DAYS could cast Ben Masters (ex-Julian, Passions) for a short-run as DAYS first antihero Bill Horton. Bill's troubled relationship with his sons Lucas and Mike— neither of whom he actually raised— would provide good, classic, melodrama. Imagine Masters opposite Bill's one-time mistress Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow). What if Laura confronts Kate at Mickey's wake, saying her husband's mistress has no right to be there, only for a grieving Maggie to inform her sister-in-law that since Laura's been away, Maggie and Kate have become friends, bonded over mutual affection for Lucas, and Kate is welcome to stay? It would be Brothers and Sisters for daytime!
DAYS has barely touched on how Lucas feels about being the illegitimate son of one of Salem's most prestigious families. Is that what drives him to drink? Psychologically, how does one go from believing their father was a distinguished military leader who died in service to his country, to finding out his mother was a common whore? Could this explain the penchant Lucas has for sluts, tramps and psychos? I know Dena is busy penning those groovy scenes where Phillip ( the deserving of better Jay Kenneth Johnson) screams STELLA, I mean Tony, at the top of his lungs, but I'd sure like to find out the answer to some of these questions!
How would Laura treat the constant, living reminder of her husband's infidelity? How would she react to Bill bonding with Kate, and their grandson Will? Laura's mistreatment of Will could bring about a (temporary) truce for Kate and Sami as both women vow to protect Will from the unstable Laura's wrath.
Perhaps even big name DAYS vets like Melissa Reeves (ex-Jennifer) and Matt Ashford (ex-Jack) would consider returning for a week to honor Mickey's passing, and by extension a recommitment to the essence of the soap? It would be the perfect opportunity to bring Abby Deveraux back to the canvas permanently. Abby could return with Jack and Jen for Uncle Mickey's funeral and decide to stay in town when the budding journalista is offered an internship at The Spectator.com or Bella Magazine.
My dream Wishful Casting for Abby is Danica Stewart (ex-Maxie, GH; ex-Jessica, Passions). I absolutely fell in love with this girl on NBC's short-lived, addictive web sudser Coastal Dreams and have been clamoring to see her on my screen ever since. If Stewart isn't available, maybe Julie Marie Berman (Lulu, GH) could be lured away from Port Chuck? We hear she's not happy with the way Shrew-Lu is being written these days...
Since Darin Brooks has said he would like to juggle his new sitcom gig with his DAYS job, the show should at least reward the talented young hunk with a decent storyline that doesn't involve Max committing near-incest with one of his adopted nieces— Abby is the perfect solution.
Fans would love a fun, sexy Max/Abby/Phillip/Stephanie front burner summer storyline that relied more on character and history than contrived plots. Max and Abby dated in the past, and Abby's parents Jack and Jennifer, were constant thorns in the side of Phillip's dad Victor, forever investigating his illegal business dealings. What if Abby picked up where her parents left of, much to Phillip's dismay and fascination? Max, could finally morph into Brady hero mode, by forever trying to keep Abby out of trouble.
You might have noticed I didn't mention Melanie when talking about my dream Horton/Brady-anchored DAYS young adult storyline. That's because in my scenario, Melanie's death would be what keeps Abby in town. After alienating everyone in Salem, Melanie would be killed off in a big summer Whodunit. Abby would stay in town to help her old flame Max find out who killed his sister. Was it EJ? Stefano? Victor? Phillip? Maggie (She got tired of sharing scenes with her)?
Matt Ashford could stick around all summer to help the audience get used to NuAbby. Jack could decide to stay and manage The Spectator.com, while Vern has hernia surgery. Jen, meanwhile heads back home after Uncle Mickey's funeral, because Jack Jr. has to finish out the school year and she's about to resume taping the next season of her talk show, Jennifer Rose.
Abby being back on the canvas would facilitate more short-term return stints for Ashford or Reeves, ala Finola Hughes on GH, where the witty reporters could pop up to help their daughter snoop around whenever the Kiriakis or DiMera's pull a scandal.
As for Jen's big brother, Mike should take Kayla's old job as Chief of Staff at Salem University, which would put him in quite the awkward position once it is revealed that Daniel Jonas, who just so happens to be a friend of Mike's from medical school, is bagging the wife of Mike's little brother Lucas. What if Mike fires Daniel on a morality clause? Daniel could file a discrimination suite, accusing the Horton's of targeting him unfairly. Sarah could defend Mike and the Horton name in court, opposite a new character, a cocky, ambulance chaser played by someone like Tom Pelphrey or Chad Brannon, who squares off with Riegel's Sarah ala Tracy and Hepburn.
The Bradys: Generation Next
DC regular reader THEBEST came up with an inspired idea for the young adult storyline on DAYS the other day when we were chatting on Facebook. He thinks JT, the child who was switched at birth with the late Zack Brady, should be SORASed and revealed to be the father of Mia's baby. I never thought of that! BRILLIANT! I would have actually gone the easy route, and made Will the baby-daddy, but JT would be an even better option. The Bradys never got over having to give up their son, and with Shawn Douglas God-Knows-Where and Chelsea leaving, it would be the perfect time for JT to return to the canvas.
What if John Thomas is a bitter 17-year-old with impulse control issues played by Degrassi The Next Generation's Shane Kippel? Maybe he resents his stepmom Barb for treating his younger sibling better than him? Glenn and Barb could be fighting constantly about JT, which sends the teen to Salem, where he turns up on Hope's doorstep. Imagine the moment where Hope opens the door and finds her "son" standing there. Kristian Alfonso did the best acting of her career during the denouement of the baby switch story. It killed me watching Hope and Shawn D (a then at his best Jason Cook) have to give JT up. Revisiting that realistic, powerful drama is what veterans like Alfonso and Peter Reckell deserve, not some GOD $*@!& psychic BULL %*&@. Grrr. Sorry, hackery makes me ill!
What kind of conflict would arise from a sullen JT returning to the fold? What if Hope and Glenn bonded over the troubled teen? How would Bo react to that? Hopefully sans any ridiculous visions thank you very much! Glenn could decide, against Barb's will, to move the family back to Salem so that JT could be closer to Hope. Would Barb and Bo forge a connection out of their joint status of being the only people involved who are able to see JT objectively?
JT could be the best young adult bastard since GL's Tom Pelphrey, as he plays on Hope's guilt for having to give him up. What if JT forges a bond with Ciara (SORASing to about 14), and starts to be a terrible influence on Bope's preteen daughter? Maybe Ciara has been living with a sense of survivor guilt, feeling like nothing more than a replacement for Zack? What if, under the influence of her new brother-figure, Ciara starts drinking, smoking pot, or shoplifting at Salem Place? As a furious Bo and Hope are berating her, Doug and Julie, Caroline, Roman and Victor could all take turns reminding Bo and Hope of their respective rebellious pasts. Julie, meanwhile could have her own special memory from DAYS' very first episode and premiere storyline, that saw a 16-year-old Julie arrested for shoplifting.
"I got out of that jam, thanks to Uncle Mickey, and Ciara will get out of this," Julie could chime in, whimsical as she remembers the good old DAYS.
Since every teen scene needs a schemer, DAYS could also SORAS Craig and Nancy's daughter Joy and have her return to Salem to live with her big sister Chloe (Nadia Bjorlin). Craig could take a position teaching at a medical school in England, while Joy doesn't want to go to the land of tea, crumpets, and— according to our Johnathon— much better soaps. A scheming Joy could set her sights on Will, and team up with JT to split up Will and Mia, much like Sami and Lucas teamed up so many years ago to bust up Carrie and Austin. Sami, will of course loathe Joy, much like Kate loathed her, and stop at nothing to keep the little wretch away from her precious son, pitting her against Chloe in a storyline that actually makes sense. See there Dena, it's not that hard. I did that in under two hours!
I'll post my thoughts on how to fix the rest of the show later in the weekend.