DAYS OF OUR LIVES has been shining for over six months now, proving creatively and ratings-wise that daytime television can still thrive. For those who have missed out, or for the lapsed viewers who have tuned out, here are the Top 10 Reasons why these are the Best DAYS of the past 20 years:
10. Intelligent and sharp writing. Since 1993, DAYS has been guilty of treating both its characters and its audience like idiots. Now the characters are pensive, complex, and witty in their dialogue. What other soap uses the word "schadenfreude"?
9. Relationships between friends and family. This daytime staple went the way of Blondie's about 21 years ago. But every day on DAYS you will find simple conversations between two adults. This past week spotlighted the relationships between Sami and Brady, Caroline and Bo, Melanie and Arianna, Bo and Phillip, Brady and Daniel. There was not major plot development in these scenes, just moments of friendship, and this is what helps builds viewer loyalty and devotion.
8. New dimensions for old characters. Thanks to the attention and interest of the current writers, we are seeing new psychological dimensions to familiar characters. Hope is angry and vengeful. Justin is lonely and insecure. Sami is a heroine, Stefano is a saddened patriarch. And Carly is a klutz disliked by half the people in town. These are not drastic character departures, they are simply new layers to people we thought we knew well.
7. Salem feels like a cohesive community. The characters are all mixing with each other, as opposed to keeping 3-4 characters interacting in separate corners. When Mickey Horton died, everyone was affected. The whole community is impacted by Sydney's kidnapping. Carly manages to have a connection to nearly everyone in town. When one watches DAYS they feel a familiar sense of home and connection to the whole town, not just a few people.
6. Good balance of generations. In the past DAYS had an unfortunate habit of segregating the young 'uns and giving them an unbalanced amount of airtime. Now women and men of all ages are seen daily. Melanie interacts with Kate and Vivian, Mia and Nate interact with Maggie, Phillip fights with Victor. The teens-only scenes are kept to the minimum, as the vets are allowed to shine with the intelligent and witty dialogue mentioned in #10.
5. Consistent use of humor. Who knew John Aniston had it in him? After 25 years, Aniston has never been more adept and skilled at throwing out hysterical one-liners. Throw in comic relief by Louise Sorel and Molly Burnett and you have a show that can make you smile and cry at the same time.
4. Unexpected plot twists based in character. In a day and age where most soaps favor tornadoes, mobsters, and pile-up car crashes in order to throw their characters into chaos, DAYS has taken a more refreshingly subtle and rewarding stance. EJ and Anna kidnapping Sydney, Melanie as Carly (and Daniel's?) daughter, Sierra watching Bo and Carly get busy on the computer—these are plot based twists that are organic to the characters, not the other way around.
3. Excellent use of history. Details from past stories impact the conflicts and situations today. Vivian burying Carly alive, Maggie's alcoholism, Carly's marriage to Victor, Anna's thirst for money, Vivian stealing Kate's embryo, all significantly impact stories now playing out. As an added bonus, aspects of history are frequently acknowledged, such as Carly raising Shawn-Douglas when Hope was "dead," Kate trying to kill Victor, Caroline lying about Victor being Bo's father, Hope's expertise with puzzle boxes, even Addie Horton's death! The mentioning of these details reward long term viewers and add therefore increase loyalty to the show.
2. Character motivations remain consistent. On some shows, the character's emotions, goals, and love interests change so frequently that it remains hard to care one iota about whether they are happy or not. Not the case in Salem. Kate wants to win back the love of her sons. Vivian wants revenge. Carly wants to protect Melanie. Arianna wants her freedom. Sami wants her daughter. Rafe wants to make Sami happy. See what I mean? The characters may grow and evolve, but they do not wake up one day going "crazy" or madly declaring their love for someone different from yesterday. When the character's drives remain consistent, it deepens the viewer's emotional investment.
1. Maggie, Maggie, Maggie! It has been 26 years since Suzanne Rogers has been given the chance to demonstrate her Emmy winning acting skills as a lead in her own story. In the past month we have witnessed Maggie Horton process through grief, anger, sadness, regret, depression, and temptation to break her 30-year-sobriety, often all in the same scene! She is one of the most compelling talents currently working on daytime, or anytime for that matter. Thank God Gary Tomlin and company have finally seen fit to give her a platform deserving of her range and mastery.
Damon's Top 5 suggestions for improvement:
5. More use of history. Remember Kate slept with Carly's son, and Carly competed with Kate's daughter for Bo's affection. Sami herself was kidnapped by Stefano when she was around Sydney's age. Hope's sister Julie was in competition with Carly for Victor's affection for a short time in 1991. These are more details that can enrich the current stories.
4. Bring back the Carvers. With Faye coming in and out of town, wouldn't it be reasonable for her to pay her ex-lover Abe a visit?
3. Where is Marlena? I know Deidre Hall isn't coming back, but it doesn't make sense that Marlena isn't even mentioned in the midst of Sami's crisis and Maggie's grief.
2. Clarify Stefano's purpose. Does he still hate the Brady's? Is he still angry at Victor? He's more reactive than active now, and the character of Stefano is much more plausible with a plan of action.
1. Give Maggie a new love interest. Couldn't Victor help her through some of these tough times? Don't Rafe and Arianna have a hot father somewhere? Did Don Craig ever return from the post office? Giving Maggie a new man could breathe even more life to this rediscovered treasure.
What do YOU think? Comments welcome below!
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.