When it was previously announced by NBC's Jeff Zucker that the show was unlikely to continue past 2009 fans revolted. DAYS was the last remaining soap on the network and it appeared that NBC finally wanted out of the suds business. Against all odds, DAYS was renewed; with a 40% reduced fee (per executive producer Ken Corday). Shortly thereafter, soap icon Deidre Hall (Marlena), Drake Hogestyn (John), Stephen Nichols (Steve), Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and Thaoo Penghlis (Tony) were all let go; Hall's firing the most shocking. The ostensible star of the show for the past 33 years, Hall's deparure seemed to signal the death knell for the show. How could DAYS survive without Dr. Marlena Evans? As painful as it was, the rationale fans were told was that in order for the show to survive, cuts had to be made. It was also a switch from the DAYS strategy of bringing back fan favorites to try and up the ratings.
To the surprise of many, the axing of the popular actors didn't have a negative impact on the ratings and they are actually up year to date (the only soap with more viewers year-over-year in the June 1-5, 2009 ratings). With a combination of featuring longtime veterans (and presumbly lesser paid) like Emmy winner Suzanne Rogers (Maggie), Peggy McKay (Caroline), John Aniston (Victor), and Joseph Mascolo (Stefano), the focus on the new generation of Salem, and some solidarity behind the scenes, the show has experienced a renaissance. With the focus on using lower paid actors and the ratings improving, their new strategy seemed to be working. The show had finally hit upon the right "plan to save DAYS" after many attempts.
Now comes word that popular Emmy winner Crystal Chappell is returning as Dr. Carly Manning and Wally Kurth is returning as Justin Kiriakis. There is no denying that Chappell and Kurth are great actors and that their characters were popular in their heydey on DAYS. I can't say enough about Chappell and her work on GUIDING LIGHT as Olivia. It has been a masterclass in acting. We Love Soaps would follow Chappell to any soap she landed on. But just what is going on here? DAYS' new vision was finally working with ratings up, and costs down. The show had seemingly proved you could move on from the past and move into the future without losing viewers. Why bring on Chappell and Kurth when you have just let go five actors who meant a great deal to fans and who played characters that still had story to tell? Are we now going back to the 2007 plan to save the show?
Even Alison Sweeney was taken aback by the news in an interview with former soap writer turned blogger Sara Bibel.
It’s amazing. I admired [Chappell's] work when she was on [GUIDING LIGHT]. I think she’s such a talented actress. I’m thrilled to have her back. I used to be a fan of the show [before joining it] and she was one of my favorite characters.
I have no idea [if other former cast members will return]. It sort of seems sad and odd to me that they would let go of some wonderful cast members and then bring in new people in the same situation. I don’t know what the thought behind that is.
I feel the same way Alison. I love Chappell and Kurth and hope a great story is planned for them, but what exactly is going on in Burbank? Has the DAYS strategy changed again? Did DAYS just not want to write for John, Marlena, Steve, Kayla and Tony?
I haven't enjoyed DAYS OF OUR LIVES this much in years. I see so many positive changes that give me hope for the show's long-term survival. But for fans who were hurt by the departures of their Salem favorites earlier this year, it would be nice to know if the show is switching gears yet again. What do you think? Are these casting choices good for the show? Is it fair to exchange Chappell and Kurth for the other axed veterans? Has the strategy worked so well DAYS can now afford a couple of veteran returns? As always, the behind the scenes action is never boring at DAYS.