Wishful Storytelling: What if Susan Hunter Martin was Carly Manning’s Mother on DAYS?

Inspired by all the rich flashbacks, and poignant usage of history on display in Salem this week on Days of Our Lives (in bittersweet courtesy to the end of the lives of Frances Reid and Alice Horton), I began once again thinking about how my favorite soap could better utilize its history to refocus the sudser around it’s central mythology—the trials and tribulations of the Horton family, their lovers, rivals and friends.

As I was driving home in rush hour traffic on Wednesday, readying myself for the eppy where everyone learned dear, darling "Gran" had taken a turn for the worst, I started thinking about how DAYS executive producer Ken Corday has been consistently mentioning, during his press tour for his memoir, that it was DAYS’ "story" which keeps fans glued to the show. And while I readily agree with Corday, in recent months, I am beginning to feel said story is leaving much to be desired again. Don’t get me wrong, DAYS is still an enjoyable soap opera, for the most part, and vastly improved over recent, disastrous years. I am loving Victor and Maggie’s (John Aniston and Suzanne Rogers) twilght years romance, with twisted Vivian (Louise Sorel) as the spoiler.

Arianne Zucker is still a schemingly-delicious treat as bitch goddess Nicole Walker (so glad she’s stopped crying over all the town’s babies!), and the never-ending multiple choice test of "Which Man Should Sami Choose?" has yet to grow old. That brings me to what I thought would be one of the best triangles in daytime history, the one between Carly (Crystal Chappell), Bo (Peter Reckell) and Hope (Kristian Alfonso). It saddens me to say, that a triangle that could have been lifted from my fanboy dreams, has turned into an unwatchable, plot-driven farce, and considering this is one of DAYS’ biggest, frontburner stories, I fell they really need to take strides to fix it— before it’s too late.

For starters, branding Carly a Scarlet Woman for taking back up with Bo all these years later, when Hope had already moved out on her husband was just plain silly from the get go. Soap fans— contrary to popular opinion and focus group data— are not that slow. We spied Bo and Hope’s contrived break up a mile away. Having Carly kill Lawrence Alamain (Michael Sabatino), the dashing, eurotrash villain, who worshipped her to the point of erotic obsession and coming up with some cockamamie story about abuse brought on by insanity, didn’t do my Katerina any favors either. Now let’s discuss Carly’s other defining story point since returning to Salem— the revelation that town twit, Melanie Layton (Molly Burnett) is her long-lost daughter.

While Burnett and Chappell have managed an organic chemistry, seeing Carly blustering all about town for months over some stray we never knew about, when Nicky— the child she loved and lost, thanks to a maniacal Vivian’s machinations— was somewhere out there mourning his father’s death alone was, again, contrived. 

Flash forward to recent weeks and months, when during Peter Reckell’s absence from the show, whoever was in charge of keeping Dena Higley occupied with the shiny ball in the writers’ room allowed her to pen this shiteous storyline where Hope begins mugging people and carrying on, while wearing her hair like Snooki from the doggone Jersey Shore and doped up on…sleeping pills. It says mouthfuls that this is the storyline Higley came out of hiding to take credit for. I bet every other scribe on that staff breathed a sigh of career-saving relief when Higley stood up to claim this stinker. Who would want on their Wikipedia page, "created Nightime, Snifling, Sneezing, Coughing, Mugging Hope? Not I says the cat!

Seeing Hope Williams Brady, my all-time favorite soap heroine (Anne Heche‘s Vicky was an antiheroine on Another World, thank you very much!) acting out a poor scribe’s version of former DAYS leading lady, Deidre Hall‘s Greatest Reilly Hits (Marlena Possessed, The Salem Stalker) just breaks my heart. I’m also none-too-thrilled at watching Carly Manning, the haunting, gothic romance novel character brought to life I fell in love with almost 20 years ago, being turned into a one-note busy body/victim.

Alfonso, Reckell and Chappell deserve bettter than this, but more importantly, so do the DAYS fans, not to mention the Guiding Light viewers who followed Chappell over. Chappell was able to do more while freezing Kim Zimmer‘s balls off in Peapack, with handy cams following her around on a set made from old popsicle sticks, than she is able to achieve with this pisspoor storytelling, and can someone please tell me why she gives a rat’s stinky butthole about what Daniel (Shawn Christian) and Chloe (Nadia Bjorlin) are doing? This is Crystal Freaking Chappell! Put her in scenes with the shows other POWERHOUSES for Ted and Betty Corday‘s sake!

Why can’t Carly’s "B" story be with Alison Sweeney or James Scott? Dont get me wrong, I adore Chloe, and Bjorlin, but Chloe’s hatred of Carly is beyond manufactured. Also, Chloe is being written as if she’s a few bricks shy of Habitat for Humanity House these days. What happened to the self-righteous-but-heartfelt diva we all knew and loved? The Chloe Lane I once rooted for wouldn’t want to kill someone because they were going to out them as a cheater, nor would she be a puppet for a looney tune like Vivian. Paging Nancy Wesley (Patrika Darbo) to talk some sense into that gal!

A triangle is only as good as its inherent motivation and character-driven conflict and neither of the triangles featuring Carly Manning have that at this point. This is why I think DAYS should just go ahead and play the "destiny" card and make Carly the daughter of one Susan Hunter Martin, as played by Denise Alexander.

How awesome would it be for Carly’s mother to turn up in Salem after all these years, causing Julie Williams (Susan Seaforth Hayes), Hope’s sister-mother to spit fire at the very sight of her, just before Carly asks, "Mother?" Now I will admit, it’s 2 am, and right now I cannot for the life of me remember if Mama Von Leuschner is dead or alive—all I remember is Carly’s dad, Henri (?), and of course, her brother Francois (Billy Warlock)—but even if it was previously revealed that Carly was a motherless child, we can bring her madea back and reveal at a big, splashy engagement party for Bo and Carly, that Carly’s mom is none other than Julia’s onetime BFF-turned-mortal enema, er enemy!

For newer DAYS viewers who are like "Who the EFF is Susan Martin?" , don’t feel bad, the character hasn’t been in Salem since the 1970s, so I never saw her onscreen either, but boy did I hear about her from my late grandparents! Susan and Julie’s battles were the things of legend! Once best friends, Julie and Susan basically fought over every man in Salem from circa 1966 to the mid-1970’s, from David Martin, to Scott Banning, Sr. It was also Susan who hired a con by the name of Doug Williams (Bill Hayes) to romance Julie, the rest is soap operatic history. If you don’t believe me, ask the editor of Time magazine.

I have read the old story summaries of the Susan vs. Julie rivalry many, many times and they always leave me riveted, yet a bit sad that soaps stopped doing rich, psychological, character-driven triangles like that a looooong time ago. Nowadays we get Phick vs. Flick vs Shick vs. Oh suck my…

Wouldn’t it be the bee’s knees if DAYS took the Julie vs. Susan saga and made it a template for Hope vs. Carly moving forward? Fate and destiny have always played a huge part on the NBC soaps. How fated would it be to learn that after leaving Salem, Susan Martin moved to whatever country the Alamains and Von Leuschners hail from and fell in love with Carly’s father, then bore Carly? It could be a takeoff on Grace Kelly‘s romance with that Prince dude from Monaco!

A livid Julie would no doubt think none of it was a coincidence. Julie would rage that Susan sent her daughter to Salem to infiltrate  the Hortons’ lives, a charge Carly would have to vehemently defend herself against. Carly, heroine that she is, of course would have had no idea her mother had ties to Salem. Hope, wouldn’t be so sure. Then you’d finally have a real, viable conflict between these two women, rooted in one of Salem’s— and soaps in general’s— most epic, feline battles.

Susan Martin already has something in common with Carly Manning. She too killed her husband. Can’t you just see Julie spitting out, "Like mother, like daughter!" Then Susan’s granddaughter Melanie could begin to worry that their was some sort of generational curse handed down from mother to daughter, which meant she was destined to kill Phillip (Jay Kenneth Johnson), the same way Susan had killed David Martin, and Carly killed Lawrence.

I’m sure Alexander would relish the thought of reprising the role that made her so famous General Hospital snapped her up as Dr. Lesley Webber the moment her contract negotiations with DAYS hit a snafu (Brian Frons barks orders to his lowly assistant, Hecuba to get Alexander’s agent on the phone. "Tell her we have a huge summer story planned for Lesley!). What a treat it would be to see one of daytime’s first, big mega stars of the late 70’s/80’s "glory years" mixing it up with the Hayes again. If not, well don’t mind me, it’s time for me to go to bed anyway!

29 Responses

  1. Profile photo of babyc

     Hey, that would be very interesting, so of course there is no chance in hell it would happen. At this point I would be happy if Carly’s dialog wasn’t the exact damn thing every single week. Just tell Daniel already!! God, I hate Chloe and Daniel so damn much right now.

  2. Profile photo of SoapFan75

    OMG Preach Jamey, Preach!  This is Crystal Freakin’ Chappell, you do not waste Carly Manning on a storyline with Daniel and Chloe or most importantly turn a beloved character into the town pariah or make her someone who is in other peoples business.   I am sooo glad you wrote this and I hope the idiots in charge over there see it.  Why would Carly or even the audience for that matter give a damn about what the hell Chloe and Daniel do.  And yes, they totally rushed the triangle we had all been waiting for and we fans returned to DOOL for.  Thank you for saying that Carly being branded the Scarlet Woman is just wrong.  Why is it that everyone is forgetting that poor Hope moved out and went to live with the Daddy Bo hates?  Wow, just seeing the five minutes yesterday between Carly and Jennifer made me sigh at all the blown opportunities so far.  Hey at least we get one scene where Jennifer doesn’t hate Carly like everybody else.  Thanks for tossin’ us that bone Days.  What the hell is Days thinking?  They only got a one year renewal, are they content to play out this garbage until renewal time again?  Thank you for verbalizing the stupidity of the Hope Celtic Warrior on sleeping pills storyline.  I do not know what is dumber, the storyline or the fact that Dena is bragging about coming up with it.  Arghhhh!!!  I do not know how this bodes well for the inevitable Bo and Hope reunion.  You think Bo is gonna sleep with both eyes open knowing that his Fancy Face wants to take him out?  In the beginning I was okay with killing Lawrence but now, I think I want him back and still obsessed with Carly.  I go back and forth on liking or hating the Melanie is Carly’s daughter thing.  It’s lazy storytelling for sure but I always come back to your quote on one of the podcasts where you said "Melanie (long sigh) is a Van Lueschner."  I sighed out loud too at that and laughed at your delivery.  You so verbalized the audiences feelings, it was hilarious and to the point.  Days writers please read Jamey’s column and get your STUFF together. 

    I had no idea that Denise Alexander was on DOOL.  This is brilliant.  Days is ultimately about family connections and it would be a rich story for Carly seeing the parallels between her own history of giving up her daughter.  When are you going to get your big break and start writing for either the soaps (before they go away) or some primetime soap on ABC Family or Lifetime.  I would love for someone like you to get a show like a Pretty Little Liars or Brothers and Sisters.  I can only imagine what you would do with that.

    Bravo Jamey, bravo and thank you!

  3. Profile photo of Linny

    From your lips to their ears Jamey. I doubt they are listening though.

    It’s Crystal Chappell ! Crystal ‘Freaking’ Chappell…  Being used as a prop for a snooze fest that is Daniel & Chloe. 

    Wake up DOOL! It’s about time Dr.Carly Manning was handed that Emmy worthy storyline. While you are at it, make sure the good people of Salem are all treated for amnesia ’cause none of them seem to remember what a good person Carly was, the first time round in Salem.

  4. Profile photo of SoapFan75

    I forgot to thank you Jamey for mentioning Nicholas, since the writers have given Carly maybe two mentions of her son.  The only explanation from Carly was that their relationship is strained because he is upset that she killed his Father.  But has Vivian mentioned him?  You would think if she really wanted to get back at Carly she would try to get Nicholas on her side.  That would have been more interesting than watching her try to kill the little twit with a poisoned comb.  I would love for Carly to have more scenes with Kate, Nicole and would love some interaction with EJ.  No more scenes with Chloe or Daniel for the rest of the year, please Days enough.  This forced Chloe hate of Carly is just weak and still makes no sense to me.  It is doing no favors to the character of Chloe because she is now the craziest woman on soaps. 

  5. Profile photo of marknsprmo

    This is scary cause I have been thinking of Susan Martin since yesterday! Funny you bring up a way of getting her back to Salem. And a wonderful way indeed. She and Julie have a great history that could easily affect the shows canvas if Carly were Susan’s daughter!
     BTW it might be easier to swallow this triangle between Bo Carly and Hope, if Bo were a little more interesting these days. Carly does and always did strike me as someone who needs a little excitement in her life. Perhaps a little attention dissorder. So how is it this lump of bordom Bo could attract her AND Hope? Put the varoom back into Bo and ya might have a little better story. Where the heck is his motor cycle and leather jacket? And he has a desk job now? 
     And why not just get Carly and Daniel together and they can be Drs. Freaky with their freaky daughter. Does strange and weird run in families? Well it apparrently does this one.
    Cloe let him go. You can do better.

  6. Profile photo of othell

     GENIOUS!  Days should listen to you and take this idea and run with it.  I watched religiously when Julie and Susan were enemies, and your idea is so perfect that it should get to Ken Corday immediately!  What a treasure chest of rich story-telling this would allow to transpire!  Quick, someone get this idea to DAYS pronto!

  7. Profile photo of engradypind

    From your lips to God’s ears.  DAYS has hit a slow patch that is threatening to bring it to a deadly end.  Absolutely nothing is happening on DAYS; absolutely nothing has been happening on DAYS for weeks and weeks now.  I am looking forward to the return of heritage characters to memorialize Alice Horton.  At least they are something different from the boring norm we have been subjected to. 

    Writers:  we need some resolution and FORWARD movement of stories.  Please don’t confuse reiteration and redundancy with development. 

  8. Profile photo of Rockiesoul

    Thank You So Much for Writing this…

    Thousands of Crystal Chappell fans have tuned into Days to watch our favorite actress be given a supporting actress role to a really BAD storyline.

    Jamie this is a GREAT idea.  I hope TPTB are reading this.

    Emmy Award winning Crystal Chappell should have a storyline worthy of her talents.

  9. Profile photo of samxart
    Your description of the show as it is right now is spot on. I had tears in my eyes as you depicted the pathetic ill use of Carly Manning and her portrayer, the awesome Crystal Chappell. I am one of those GL diehards that followed Crystal over, and frankly I have been disappointed and frustrated from day one. The writing sucks and the stories are pathetic, plot driven drivel.

    However, I have issues with your solution. If they want to tell a love triangle, which it seems clear to me that they do not or they would have done it already, they need to focus on the three characters involved. The already inherent history of Carly’s last stay in Salem, and her and Bo’s insanely romantic, luscious love story then, should have been more than enough to inspire the most classic, romantic, angsty, complex love triangle story in soap opera history upon her return.

    Shame on TPTB for not giving the fans what they want. Step up writers! Focus on character and write for who they are and have been. Don’t manipulate them into two dimensional tools to suite your silly plots that have no bearing on who the characters are and the relationships they have.

    Bo and Carly are the sexiest couple on the show and yet they’ve been reduced to talking heads on the phone to one another (though they even make a phone conversation loving and sexy!) Give them a real story together that makes sense and is worthy of Peter and Crystal’s talents.
  10. Profile photo of Jamey Giddens
    Jamey Giddens

    Samxart, I also believe they to bring back Shawn Douglas and Nicky to make Carly/Bo/Hope viable. Shawn Douglas would be outraged that Bo "left" his mother for Carly. Sure, we all know that isn’t how it happened, but that’s what he has no doubt been hearing from relatives. Shawn needs to come back to town to defend his mother’s honor. He no doubt has years of abandonment issues, stemming from Carly’s decision to leave Bo and him to go off and make a family with Lawrence and Nicky. The pain Shawn must feel towards the woman who almost replaced his mother would be palpable. Nicky is also sorely needed. I’m sorry, but the enmity between Carly and Vivian should not be Melanie Layton, it should be Nicholas Alamain. I would love for Jason Cook to return as Shawn D, since they aren’t using him on GH. Bring on Tom Pelphrey as an angry, violent Nikolas, and have him become obsessed with Belle, once again played by Martha Madison. I know DAYS is budget crunching, so they could get rid of three to make room. Shawn Christian for starters.

  11. Profile photo of kcgeban

    I’ve always been a true blue Days fan, though it’s mostly for sentimental reasons (the fact that Days is the last remaining one of the holy NBC trio that was Another World, Days and Santa Barbara during my high school years).

    All soaps have core families and talk about how important family is…When it’s at its best, Days shows how blood ties create character. That is why Alice Horton is/was so hugely important; she made Julie, Hope, Jennifer, Melissa and even Maggie into the women they are…

    The show is not living up to its fans’ expectations. I actually feel a little ashamed of it now. The fact that Vivian and Maggie have the only interesting storyline right now speaks volumes about what is going on over there.

    BTW, whoever is writing the dialogue for the Carly/Chloe scenes needs to go back to Writing 101. This storyline could work if the two characters weren’t constantly repeating themselves, with the same exact words.

    p.s. ..Love your idea Jamey!  I actually fell in love with Denise when she was Mary Mckinnon on Another World. It’s hard to explain but I always felt I was watching somebody with integrity when she was onscreen..And this went beyond her characterization of Mary.

  12. Profile photo of rockermom58

    Briliant! I watched DOOL briefly back in the ’70s and just came back to it when I followed Crystal Chappell from Guiding Light. I agree that there’s so much more they could do with her, so many possibilities for good stories here. Why not dig into the long-term effects of the abuse she suffered with Lawrence? And why there’s barely been a mention of Nicholas makes no sense at all. I love the idea of bringing him and Sean Douglas back! And can we please get off the whole "Bo left Hope for Carly" thing? Granted I haven’t been watching that long (this time around) but all I saw was Bo groveling, trying to get Hope back and Hope not giving him the time of day! They were more than done long before Bo & Carly got back together. And it was so fun seeing them both so happy, I wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more of that!

    But your idea of reaching even further back into DOOL history to bring Carly’s mother back to town is just brilliant! These generational stories are what’s missing in soaps (along with more romance & fewer mobsters) and what the viewers want to see. Let’s hope the writers get busy and write a stories that are worthy of the show and likely to get it renewed, because the sands in that proverbial hourglass could very well be running out!

  13. Profile photo of AlteredStates

    Perfection! I’m not at all optimistic that the storytelling will improve, but thanks for voicing the frustrations of so many fans.

    At this point my expectations are so low that I will be pathetically grateful if Carly is ever freed from the Chloe/Daniel storyline from hell.

  14. Profile photo of kimishell74


    Ok- now THAT is a story!  How about we get YOU to take over the job as head writer over at DOOL!  

    Can someone print this and mail it to Ken Corday?  Hey!  Are you listening Ken?  THIS IS WHAT A SOAP SHOULD BE LIKE!  THIS IS WHAT THE VIEWERS WANT!!!

    I am a Crystal Chappell fan to the core!  I watched her and fell in love with her in the 90’s as Carly- and I eventually made my way over to Guiding Light!  I followed her back to DOOL with a vision of MY Favorite SuperCouple Bo and Carly coming back to life!  And While Crystal and Peter do some amazing work with the craptastic writing…I can only yearn for the Days of old- where the writing matching the acting and we had MAGIC!

  15. Profile photo of supermanfan85

    I applaude you right now! Have you ever thought of writing for the show? :D

    I am a new fan and I feel head over heels for Bo and Carly and I do agree that the wonderful triangle that came forth has fizzled out so quickly The fire didn’t even fully burn! I want angst I want twists I want a good story! Truly I am biased and I wish for Bo and Carly to be together… but having Hope in the picture won’t be easy! But this mother/daughter thing going… very great Idea!!! BRAVO!

  16. Profile photo of KyraB

  17. Profile photo of daysfan1990

     Great idea.  Love Crystal Chappell and am so disappointed with how Days is wasting her.  She deserves her own storyline rather than being the Danloe prop. Her and Peter Reckell have undeniable chemistry and would love to see that continue to be explored.

  18. Profile photo of xamanthe

    Hi Jamey,
    Thanks for this. I’ve been wondering how you’ve felt about DOOL’s use of Crystal since the Bo-iatus. I’ve thought that you might even want to be watching her as Olivia on *gasp* Guiding Light, instead of this trainwreck of a s/l she’s been given on Days. You have to admit that GL certainly wrote much better s/l’s for CC than Days has done. After the meaty and three-dimensional characters of GL, Days feels like a cartoon. How did this show get renewed?

    I love Crystal Chappell. I hate seeing her used like this.

  19. Profile photo of scarlett78

    Oh, thank you, thank you, for this article!

    As a longtime Crystal Chappell fan, I returned to Days only for her.  It is painful to watch the way CC’s talent and the character of Carly are being mistreated.  Please, DOOL PTB, wake up and realize what you have on your hands.  Don’t blow it.  Tell a story worthy of Reckell and Chappell.  Make me believe in fairy tales again. 

  20. Profile photo of giftofamber

    Jamey, why can’t you write for DAYS instead of Dena Higley?? One thing though: keep Nicky far far away. That was one of the most CONTRIVED storylines of the old DOOL. Almost as bad as the buried alive bit. Can you tell I didn’t like O’Reilly?

    Carly=Gothic Heroine. The heiress who went missing to avoid a prearranged marriage and become a doctor to show that women weren’t just objects to be bought and sold.  We met her father, when her father tried to pass Jennifer off as Katerina so that the wedding would go as planned, but we never met Katerina’s mother, and I’m sure her mother was a force to be reckoned with. My wishful casting for Katerina’s mother would be Tina Sloan though…she looks more like Melanie, and Katerina had blond hair when she was little.

    Only thing this "Nighttime Hope" has done for me is think "wow, she’d be kind of cute w/Carly", but it’s not the gothic romance that would be Carly and Jennifer, and I LOVE my gothic romance.  Crystal Chappell, Peter Reckell, and even Kristian Alfonso deserve better than the drivel they have been given.  Why have they ignored the fact that Melanie is a Princess/Heiress in her own right?

  21. Profile photo of tylerbo20

    hmmm this could be a great way to steal a gh actress who is not being used…i like this idea alot…fyi just finished reading Ken’s book it didnt make sense half the time it was like he was sucking up to actors/actresses and made it seem like he was forced to get rid of popular stars for shitty actresses that were cheaper but then he hires many stars from the past but the ones he got rid of??? this guy aint gonna bring back anyone from the 70s…very doubtful.

  22. Profile photo of zurge

    Sweet Jesus, Jamie Giddens! Now that IS a storyline. It harkens back to the mid 1990’s, when they finally brought back Laura (a character who hadn’t been on since the late 1970’s) and tied her to Kate, to Lucas, etc. This could be brilliant if done right…

  23. Profile photo of Suz4th

    Amen, sounds like we’re all pretty much on the same page. I’ve been thinking all along they need to not only bring back Shawn D., but bring in the Von Leushners! Imagine all that family dynamic! Denise A. would be fantastic. How about Ron Raines as Henri? Whatever they do, they’ve got to get Carly out of this rut she’s been in ever since Bo went out of town. I can only pray that now that he’s back, Carly can extricate herself from her new role as town busybody (with only two lines of dialogue over the course of a month) and be given more substantial material to play. And don’t even get me started about how they’ve made Carly the town pariah. That’s insulting considering the character’s history.

    I’m yet another one who was a Guiding Light fan who moved to Days when Crystal signed on to return as Carly (used to watch Days mid-80s through mid-90s), and this actress is being so underutilized it’s frustrating when you know how much she could do if given the opportunity. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed Carly (except the past few weeks) but that doesn’t mean I think they’re making good use of her. However Days is squandering CC’s talent, I’m much more disappointed in what OLTL is doing with Gina Tognoni. Lordy, 2 of the best actresses in daytime, and look at what they’re given to do. What a shame.

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