The Final Plot to Save Days of Our Lives - Daytime Confidential

How to Save Days of Our Lives (and Make It Stick This Time)

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DAYS

We've all seen the various contradictory reports. People's "sources" claim Days of Our Lives is in danger of being cut for Megyn Kelly's upcoming talk show. Meanwhile, Broadcasting & Cable is hearing the Fox News escapee's new show is going to snatch up the time slot currently held by the third hour of Today. On Wednesday, Deadline reported DAYS is in talks for what could be its 52nd and last season. We soap lovers have been here before and we know what to do — fight like hell to save our suds.

DAYS is a much more enjoyable hour of daily television than it was during the soap's depressing 50th anniversary season, when macabre stories of rape and pointless violence took center stage. Beloved characters played by veteran actors are once again front and center in fun, action adventure stories that recall yesteryear. The show-eating, green-as-Kermit teen stars, who were on every day last season, have been mercifully scaled back and are being played more frequently with adult characters fans actually care about.

The show isn't perfect. Budget cuts mean "trips to Europe" to engage in espionage have to be done in the studio on re-purposed sets. There's still too much reliance on cliched plot lines involving baby switches and the like. However, all of that can change quicker than you can say "reboot". Okay, so in DAYS' case not quite that fast, since they tape five months in advance, but I digress. 

Disney-ABC had already made the decision to cancel General Hospital before hiring Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati as executive producer and head writer respectively. Good Afternoon America was all set to take the veteran soap's spot on the ABC dial. Two things happened to prevent that particular soap slaying: Good Afternoon America flopped like a cod at the bottom of a fisherman's dinghy and Cartini took GH to eight-year highs in the Nielsens. To do so, they relied heavily on nostalgia-driven umbrella arcs and a slew of big name returns. I'm convinced the same strategy can work even better for DAYS

The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging there is one. Days of Our Lives is doing poorly in the Nielsens. The Corday Productions/Sony Pictures TV serial is dead last in all major demos and is only being watched by 2.3 million people. 

Bob Greenblatt

Bob Greenblatt

NBC boss Bob Greenblatt acknowledged this to Deadline, saying:

"As they age, these shows diminish, there is a lot of delayed viewing and very little linear viewing anymore, you have to keep looking at that.”

Greenblatt is spot on. Broadcast television shows tend to erode viewers as they age. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. ABC's Grey's Anatomy was written off as past its prime only a few seasons ago. Now it's once again one of the hottest female-skewing serials on television. Need an example from daytime? Guiding Light shot back to the top of the Nielsens in the early 80's, courtesy of Reva Shayne (Kim Zimmer) and The Four Musketeers. That soap first premiered on radio in the 30's.

DAYS itself has proven time and time again that an aging soap can reinvent itself for a new generation. When the rest of the soap world was bemoaning the real-life saga of the OJ Simpson trial causing people to tune out of daytime, DAYS shot almost to the top of the Nielsens when a bold head writer decided to possess Deidre Hall's Dr. Marlena Evans with a demon. 

DAYS

Deidre Hall

If the brass at DAYS can once again tell stories that galvanize viewers and recapture the pop culture zeitgeist, it is very possible for this soap opera to once again be afforded a stay of execution. I know that's a tall order to fill, but it can be done. We at Daytime Confidential are prepared to do whatever we can to help.

I know, I know, all we do is bitch and moan about how great the soaps "used to be" and call head writers names when we hate their stories. Okay, that's a true enough assessment at times. We can be some real a**holes when we want to be, but we can also set off a righteous commotion for the good of the genre occasionally. It's time for the latter. 

I'm convinced if Sony/Corday, NBC, CBS, the Bells and Disney-ABC ever begin to see their daytime soap operas as billion dollar legacy brands, the way Disney views their Marvel and Star Wars franchises, daytime soaps could live on in perpetuity. 

Star Wars; The Force Awakens

Soap fans are just as rabid about the shows and characters we love as Star Wars lovers are about "The Force", Luke, Leia and Vadar. Much like Star Wars aficionados were outraged when the franchise got it wrong (those dreadful Anakin Skywalker prequels), DAYS lovers weren't happy when Bo Brady (Peter Reckell) was brought back only to share a handful of scenes with Hope (Kristian Alfonso) before dying in a park. 

Fans are very forgiving, however. Introducing a new generation of characters closely connected to their iconic forerunners, while launching an engaging new adventure that sprung forth from events of the past, helped make The Force Awakens a smash hit for Disney. DAYS and its three remaining daytime soap peers can easily do the same. I'll be diving into this more in subsequent essays, but back to DAYS.

marlena, john, deirdre hall, drake hogestyn

deirdre hall, drake hogestyn

Many of the NBC soap's most iconic characters from across its five decades currently reside in fictional Salem U.S.A. International man of mystery John Black (Drake Hogestyn) and his courageous shrink lover Dr. Marlena Evans; plucky heroine Hope Williams Brady; gruff antihero Steve "Patch" Johnson (Stephen Nichols) and his true love Dr. Kayla "Sweetness" Brady Johnson (Mary Beth Evans); long-suffering reporter Jennifer Horton Deveraux (Melissa Reeves) and star-crossed exes Justin (Wally Kurth) and Adrienne Johnson Kiriakis (Judi Evans) are all currently on the canvas. Also in Salem are: ageless sexpot Kate Roberts (Lauren Koslow); wisecracking octogenarian Victor Kiriakis (John Aniston) and his wife Maggie Horton (Suzanne Rogers); dutiful Mayor Abe Carver (James Reynolds) and one of soap's first big supercouples, Doug and Julie Williams (Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes).

The 30 to 40 something generation is represented by fan favorites Lucas Horton (Bryan Dattilo), Brady Black (Eric Martsolf), Nicole Walker (Arianne Zucker), Chloe Lane (Nadia Bjorlin), Rafe Hernandez (Galen Gering) and a newly-returned Eric Brady (Greg Vaughan). Chad (Billy Flynn) and Abigail DiMera (Marci Miller), Gabi Hernandez (Camila Banus) and JJ Deveraux (Casey Moss) are there to rep for the 20-somethings. Where DAYS is hurting, is among its younger cast of characters.

Hope's daughter Ciara (Vivian Jovanni) and granddaughter Claire (Olivia Rose Keegan) were SORASed in 2015 with little thought given to these offspring of iconic characters recalling the famous archetypes of their parents or grandparents. Instead of a feisty Ciara falling for a boy her entire family disapproved of, as her mother had at the same age, the soap chose to have her raped by her stepbrother for shock value. All I know about Claire a year and a half later is she likes to sing.

Joey Johnson (James Lastovic) started off as a chip off the old Patch, but devolved into the murderous lead in a whiny after school play about teen pregnancy. The most promising of the younger bunch is Theo (Kyler Pettis), the highly-functioning autistic son of Abe and the late Lexie Carver (Renee Jones). His big storyline is he doesn't like his dad's new girlfriend. Not exactly worthy of an Entertainment Weekly spread. 

Ready For Some Wishful Storytelling?

None of the suggestions I'm about to make about ramping up DAYS' stories can happen any time soon, but since it all starts on the page, I'm going here any way. 

People watch soaps first and foremost because of the families that make up the fictional communities. This is true even for workplace soaps like Grey's where the "family" is the core group of doctors. Before so much as one more plot is constructed, DAYS has to get their family units in better shape.

Roark Critchlow

Roark Critchlow

Mike Horton's Return

Salem U.S.A.'s first family is represented well in terms of numbers. However, the Hortons haven't felt like a real family unit since they were getting high on donuts a few years back. It's a nice touch having Doug and Julie living at the family home with Jennifer and everyone continuing to hang ornaments at Christmas, but it's time to really re-cement the Hortons and their legacy of wholesome dysfunction as this soap's epicenter. 

I'd start by bringing home Dr. Mike Horton (Roark Critchtlow). The son of Drs. Bill (Wishful Casting: Jerry verDorn) and Laura Horton (Jaime Lyn Bauer) drove so much incredible story for DAYS from his birth in the late 60's all the way through the 90's.

If Mike comes home, there's no way keeper of the Horton flame, Julie, will be content with family friend Kayla staying on as chief of staff at University Hospital. Mike's grandfather, Dr. Tom Horton (MacDonald Carey), was the heart and soul of that hospital. Julie would insist on a reluctant Mike restoring the Hortons to power and prominence in the local medical community. 

This would cause major friction in the hamlet. Not only is Kayla a dear friend of the Hortons, she's Jennifer and Hope's sister-in-law! None of this would stop Julie from trying to use her position on the hospital board to push Kayla out and install Mike back in.

What if there's some merit to Julie's machinations? Maybe the hospital has been losing revenue, due to all the time Kayla's been spending dealing with her various family dramas with Patch and Joey? The Bradys and Hortons have been close for generations, but Mike coming home and possibly stealing Kayla's job would cause a juicy rift with Jennifer, Hope, Marlena, et al. having to take sides. 

Christie Clark

Christie Clark/PR Photos

Carrie'd Away

Around the time of Mike's return to town, a divorced Carrie Brady Reed (Christie Clark) moves home to Salem. When asked what happened with Austin (Austin Peck), Carrie replies, "What else, Sami (Alison Sweeney)!" 

Carrie reveals her hot mess of a half-sister roped Austin into one of her high stakes schemes in Europe. When Austin agreed (off screen) to fly to Alamainia to bail Sami out with Interpol, after a botched takeover attempt of Nicholas Alamain's company (using pilfered DiMera funds!), Carrie said enough was enough.

Lucas is thrilled to have his ex-wife and childhood crush back in Salem. So is his half-brother, Mike. Bill Horton's sons begin an intense competition for Carrie's affections, with both of their mothers weighing in. Laura believes Carrie belongs with Mike and is much too good for her ex-husband's bastard son. Kate, however, thinks its time Lucas found some lasting happiness. 

Carrie's renewed connection to Mike will be tested when Julie concocts her scheme to oust Kayla from the hospital in favor of Mike. Will Carrie's loyalty be to her aunt or the man she loves?

Trevor Donovan

Trevor Donovan

Abigail/Chad/Stephanie/Jeremy

Mike's son Jeremy (Trevor Donovan) also returns to Salem and promises he's cleaned up his bad boy ways. Jeremy has adopted his mother's faith, Judaism, and is in med school. His volatile relationship with Mike recalls Mike's own issues with Bill after Mike learned he, not Mickey, was his biological father. 

Jeremy wants nothing more than to prove to ex-girlfriend Stephanie Johnson (Wishful Casting: Brittany Underwood) he's a changed man. Steph is back in Salem and working as a marketing executive/brand ambassador for Salem Motor Ways. The former race car driver wants Salem to rival Daytona Beach, FL and Charlotte, NC as the go-to hot spot for NASCAR (Branded content sponsor, yo!) entertainment.

Jeremy is more than a little jealous when billionaire Chad DiMera invests a sizable chunk of cash in Salem Motor Ways and wants to work closely with Stephanie to ensure ROI. Jeremy teams up with his jealous and slightly unstable cousin Abigail to prevent Chad and Stephanie from becoming more than business partners. 

Billy Flynn

Billy Flynn

Chad DiMera, Like a Boss

Having permanently vanquished half-brother Andre (Thaao Penghlis), Chad is determined to revamp the DiMera image. Securing a seat on the hospital board (where he gets the deciding vote between Kayla and Mike as chief of staff) and investing in Salem Motor Ways are just the first steps in Chad's long-range plan for getting Salem to view the DiMeras in a different light. 

On a personal note, Chad has grown bored with needy, neurotic wife Abigail. There's is a marriage in name only. He's all set to divorce Abby when she tells him she's pregnant again.

Jennifer tries to coax troubled Abigail to come back to work as a reporter for The Spectator. She reasons Abigail needs something of her own to focus on, plus it would honor Abigail's father. 

Chad is intrigued by Abigail's beguiling cousin Stephanie, setting off an intense rivalry between the two young women. Kayla warns her daughter to steer clear of Chad. Not only is he Abigail's husband but he's also a DiMera, which means trouble. Stephanie isn't convinced. 

Matt Ashford

Matt Ashford

Why Did Jack Deveraux Really Die?

Hoping to put Kayla's mind at ease where Chad is concerned, Patch begins investigating the DiMera scion. He wants to make sure Chad is on the level about taking the DiMera family legit. 

Patch and Hope ( the latter of whom buys John's half of the PI business) begin investigating DiMera Enterprises. JJ is sent a mysterious package containing research his father was working on for his next book at the time of his death. The late Jack Deveraux (Matthew Ashford) wasn't simply reporting on PTSD among soldiers in Afghanistan. He was investigating Afghanistan's opioid market and the terror cells that profit off of them. JJ's secret informant warns him not to tell anyone about the dossier, or his loved ones will pay the price.

Meanwhile, Rafe, Shawn (Brandon Beemer) and Lani (Sal Stowers) are tracking an uptick of heroin being sold in the area for Salem PD. JJ, Patch, Hope, Rafe and Shawn are all unknowingly hunting the same dog — linking the DiMeras to an international smack ring being used to fund terrorism across the globe. 

Could this be why Salem really blew up all those years ago? Was the "gas leak" just a ruse to take out Jack Deveraux before he published his most explosive story yet? if so, just how much does Chad know about the dirty billions he's inherited?

When Jennifer learns the truth, she vows to stop at nothing to find out why her husband was really killed. The journalist tails her son, the cops and private dicks to the Middle East determined to finish what Jack started. Can Eric, her trusty photographer and no-strings-attached lover, keep her safe? 

Martha Madison

Martha Madison

Back In Black

John Black offers Kate and Chad double fair market value to reclaim Basic Black for his kids. Brady, Belle (Martha Madison) and Paul (Christopher Sean) share a strong vision geared toward making the fashion house one of the most formidable luxury goods empires in the world, and doing so as a family.

Belle is especially determined to make a success out of Basic Black, even if it means having to work side-by-side with an old frenemy.

After leaving Salem, Mimi Lockhart (Farah Fath) managed to build a multi-million dollar fashion e-commerce business, MerchByMimi.com. Brady acquires the company to merge with Basic Black and brings Mimi on as a board member and executive. 

Shawn is stunned to see Mimi again after all these years, causing old insecurities to arise in Belle. Brady decides to make a play for Mimi to keep her out of Belle and Shawn's hair. 

Farah Fath

Farah Fath

Belle is furious when Mimi offers Claire a brand ambassadorship with Basic Black. She wants her daughter focused on her studies, not modeling and taking selfies in Basic Black gear. 

Mimi reasons as John Black's granddaughter, Claire is the perfect person to pitch Basic Black to millennials. Belle is on to Mimi. She sees how she's worming her way into Belle's life, her company, befriending her daughter, flirting with her husband and brother. Belle isn't going to stand for it. 

In a moment of weakness, Belle calls Patch and tells him she has a new assignment for his PI firm — she wants him to find the baby Mimi shares with Phillip (Wishful Casting: Jeff Branson). 

John and Marlena will be thrilled to have so many of their offspring in Salem at the same time. John declares they need a bigger place if they're going to have all the kids, grandkids and great-grandkids over for the holidays. He surprises Marlena with a sprawling mansion and the wedding of the lifetime. Look for Sami to arrive just in time to catch the bouquet.  

Kyle Lowder

Kyle Lowder

Take Me To The Opera

While her fellow Last Blast Gang members are waging war at a fashion house, Chloe wants to purchase the Salem Opera and make it a premiere venue. When the badly-in-need of renovations opera house is auctioned off, Chloe is stunned to be outbid by Justin's developer son, Alexander Kiriakis (Wishful Casting: Kyle Lowder)!

I can hear you calling me a hypocrite through my laptop. Yes, I generally hate it when people return to soaps playing different characters than the ones they originated, but ya can't fight city hall! 

It's been 12 years since Lowder played Alexander's cousin Brady Black, and Eric Martsolf has more than made that role his own. That shouldn't stop sexy Lowder from working opposite Nadia Bjorlin again. I can't be the only one who remembers how insanely hot "Broe" was? Besides, if Michael Easton can play four or five characters on General Hospital in the span of five years, surely Lowder can play two on DAYS a decade apart.

Promotion! Promotion! Promotion!

While telling more character driven stories for fan favorites is essential, it's only a piece of the puzzle. DAYS is going to have to step up its public relations and marketing game in a major way. I'll go more in depth on this in future essays (oh and they're a' comin'). For now, I will reiterate what I said on a recent podcast. It's time to get the soap's cast and crew out their in front of influential media brands. I'm talking beyond the soap press because we're gonna cover 'em any way. 

Mary Beth Evans should be talking Patch and Kayla's family woes and her love for making baked goods in Good Housekeeping and Better Homes and Gardens. Camila Banus should be profiled as a starlet on the rise in Latina and Siempre Mujer magazines, where she also plugs her muy caliente DAYS arcs. Vanessa Williams should be on Oprah's Where Are They Now? tracking her timeline from The Cosby Show to Melrose Place to Soul Food to DAYS. Christopher Sean and Paul Narita should be featured in a special "Hot TV Bros" segment for Men's Health or another fitness zine. Sal Stowers should be featured in Essence and Upscale. Sean and Freddie Smith should be in every gay magazine from Out and The Advocate to Instinct. Hell, reach out to Broadcasting & Cable to have executive producers Corday and Greg Meng talk about how they managed to streamline production costs to keep the show on the air! Tell you story and tell it now.

Take a page from how ABC promotes Shondaland's shows and how Fox pimps Empire on social media. Create memes. Come up with plot points that direct fans to DAYS' social channels to unlock spoilers or surprises. In other words, promote the hell out of this show via a 360-degree digital and traditional media strategy. It is possible to save DAYS and now is the time to do so.

For The Fans

It's time to make your voices heard. Let NBC know how much you love Days of Our Lives and want it to stay in on its airwaves.  

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