Ken Corday discusses the future of DAYS in "Soap Opera Digest"...
With the recent firing of UBERmoron, Dena Higley, who many argue has turned DAYS into a boring, uninspiring MESS, and the announcement of new writers taking helm at DAYS, it appears that this soap opera is about to become upwardly mobile. Can it return to the glory days that it enjoyed in the 80s and 90s? Of course, time will tell. Ken Corday discusses the show's future in a new "Soap Opera Digest" interview. Judge for yourselves.
SOD: What prompted you to make [the writing] change?
KC: Everyone points fingers at the head writer - especially in this case - because DAYS seems to have been off track for a while, I would say. But I'm the one who has to raise my hand and say, "Full responsibility." 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 email, on the blogs and websites, and what I was seeing in the ratings. That said, the change was not arbitrary. I had thought about this for a long time. Dena and I go way back. I am not going to say anything bad about her. She did some amazing things on the show. I was always her staunchest ally, but when I came to this decision, it had to be done pretty swiftly, so it was done swiftly.
SOD: When will we start seeing the reset on screen?
KC: Unfortunately, because we're so far ahead, these changes won't air until mid-August. But the reason I did it now is because we're approaching a time in September when we have a lot of things potentially to work in our favor. First of all, traditionally, viewership goes up in September when life gets back to normal and kids go back to school. Second, AMC is going off the air in September and there's an additional audience to be garnered from those who still want to watch a soap.
SOD: Why these two writers?
KC: They're the right writers to make these changes. MMP and DRT both know the show; Darrell interned on the show way back when and Marlene wrote for [former Head Writer] Gene Palumbo and JER, and then they both went and co-head wrote Passions for Jim. These writers know the history of the show and we seemed to be very much in sync about what the show needed and what the show didn't have and what the show had too much of that needed to be cut out, including characters.
SOD: Should viewers be concerned the show will be more PASSIONS-like?
KC: No. They were writing Jim's show, they weren't writing their show. I almost hate to use this expression, but we're going back to the "golden days" of DAYS OF OUR LIVES and at the same time, moving forward. It's not going to be a lot of retro, "Oh, remember this," "flashback that." It's going to be very forward moving and very fast moving. That's why the reset will take place in a short amount of time - four weeks.
SOD: How did the cancellations of AMC and OLTL affect your decision?
KC: Well, as of January, there will be four soaps left on the air. A lot of eyes will be watching to see if they're able to survive. Will GH get another year? Is ABC going to get away from all of their soaps? Knowing those viewers on ABC will have a loss of two hours of soap, I said to the staff, "Here's your chance to pick up some viewers who haven't watched the show, but we need to give them something to watch." 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 would have done it sooner, but we've taped into mid-August and those were the first shows the new writers were able to address and start rewriting. The viewers will see, between mid-August and mid-September, a major reset in the characters on the show, who's getting the airtime, who isn't. Who's coming, who's going.
SOD: Who would you like to see get more airtime?
KC: I would like to see Bo and Hope get more story. I would like to see the Hortons and the Bradys have more story and pull back from an obvious imbalance of the bad guys getting their way and the good guys not. In the last year or so, except for Maggie, Jennifer and Hope, there really hasn't been a strong Horton presence or Brady presence. I want to see more story for Jennifer. She's in a good story with Daniel now, but a happy couple can be boring, so there needs to be a third party in that story. 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. Its been disproportionate. So that is the first thing that has to be fixed. The fact that Roman did 9 shows in the period of about 4 months is wrong. The fact that Abe and Lexie don't have any story is somewhat embarrassing. Those are the tips of the iceberg. You will see, in the course of a month, in the neighborhood of six characters leaving Salem and five or six characters return or come to Salem, leading to a huge September.
SOD: Can you be more specific?
KC: It's too soon, but you will see the return of very popular characters from the past. I can't say more than that. It's the exit of quite a few characters who haven't panned out, for lack of a better term.
SOD: What other problems did you see on the show?
KC: There's also an absence of romance. Who are we rooting for? Clear rooting interests need to be redefined. To do that, you need to recenter the show on characters who have been extremely popular for a long time.
SOD: Were any stories changed? Will you still tell the gay story with Will?
KC: We didn't have to re-shoot anything, but we had to re-write three weeks of shows yet to air and chart a new course. We are telling a story dealing with the first gay character on the show and that had to have another look and the take on that had to be changed. It will be written much more slowly and carefully. It's a story about one of our characters coming to grips with who he is.
SOD: Are you excited by what you've seen from MMP and DRT so far?
KC: I'm thrilled. I'm more excited by what I know is coming in story and who will be there to deliver that story. The fans will be thrilled too. The formula we're going to go back to had worked in the past. The formula that we're currently using is not working. When the show drops in ratings from a 1.3 to a .9 or 1.0, you lose 30 or so percent of your audience in the course of 3 or 4 weeks, the audience is telling you something and I couldn't ignore it anymore. I'm hoping we're able to improve in ratings to a place where we were a year ago or a year and a half ago, as opposed to turning up our hands and saying, "All of daytime is going off the air." It's just not in my mindset.
SOD: Do you think you can get viewers back?
KC: I would certainly hope so, especially with the promo push we'll be doing to let viewers and lapsed viewers know that they have to come back and take a look at the show. It won't be the show that has been airing for the last year or so. Totally, very different. So if you watch it in August and turn it on again in mid-September, you're going to see a very different DAYS OF OUR LIVES, much to the better.
SOD: Are you hopeful about the future of Days?
KC: Yes, much more so now than I've been in awhile. The show had to be much more competitive. It had to come of age visually, as well as in story. We'll be opening up the look off 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.
SOD: What do you say to the fans who have stuck by you?
KC: I say, first of all, thank you, thank you, thank you. Hang with us through the summer, please, and wait to see what happens in September. Exciting, good time 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.
Edit: I was just looking at the article again in SOD, and I see that there was a quote I missed next to a picture. The picture is of James Scott, and there is a quote that wasn't included in the article. "He is one of the leading men on the show and he is the leading villain on the show," notes Corday of James Scott's EJ. (The other pictures all have quotes or statements that are mentioned in the article.)