In Part One of my interview with DAYS OF OUR LIVES Executive Producer, this daytime legend described his "mistakes" running DAYS, and his tentative relationship with new media, as well as his new revealing book "The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family's Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives." In Part Two he discusses the need to protect DAYS from network "sharks", as well as how he copes with the breadth of negative criticism he receives.
We Love Soaps: DAYS fans, more than other shows, are some of the most passionate, yet also the most forgiving viewers. However, I have seen them extremely negative at times as well.
Ken Corday: You put them in the right order. They are passionate. We have the diehard viewer, whether they are 55, 45, or 35, that puts up with our mistakes and watches a story that goes on for too long, or feels short shrifted, and forgives us for it. In these times it is difficult to get new viewers, especially new young viewers to watch the set unless they are indoctrinated as you and I were. You’re sitting in your mother’s living room and there’s the theme song, there’s the show, and before you know it you’re involved.
We Love Soaps: Why are DAYS fans so loyal?
Ken Corday: That’s a very good question, one that demands a bit of thought. I honestly believe the reason they are so loyal is because we are now in the forth generation of the Hortons, the third generation of the DiMeras and Kiriakises. This is a generational family show and we have never gotten away from these important pillars of the show. That is [reason] “A”. The second reason, and I don’t mean to be a bible thumper, and this is more to the taste of headwriters, especially Jim Reilly and Bill Bell, who involved the church and the deity in the show. Many other soaps shy away from that. I am non-secular when it comes to putting my foot down about that, and saying this has to be a Protestant-Catholic non-religious show. Those two writers, and Dena Higley now, dwell on the deity and the redemptive power of prayer. That rings true with a lot of people in this country.
We Love Soaps: There has always been an underlying spiritual faith on the show. There is faith these characters will survive and thrive. And recently, on the business side, there is an off-screen faith that the show will continue. This is the first soap ever to be alone on a network and still thrive.
Ken Corday: We are a show of firsts. My father worked with Helen Wagner on AS THE WORLD TURNS and borrowed from her Nancy with Alice Horton. The consummate truth teller, the one who always has faith that love conquers all. If you can’t work it out, give it up to faith.
We Love Soaps: As I was reading your book I was struck by your description early on at DAYS dealing with the “spiders, snakes, opportunistic wolves, and hungry sharks” who wanted to control the show at the network level. It made me think of other shows which started with a family focus and ended up being tarnished once its creators sold it or let it go to network “snakes.” RYAN’S HOPE comes to mind.
Ken Corday: I don’t think Agnes Nixon did. She bent, but never bowed, to the network. I know Bill Bell didn’t. Things are different unfortunately for the Bell family now without Bill there as far as YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS goes. Someone made a sign that I hung over my desk for years that said, “There are piles of dead soap operas on the street that were killed by network executives.” They know how I feel about them, I know how they feel about me. I don’t mean to be negative. Occasionally a real gem comes along like Brandon Tartikoff who really understood the forum, and Brian Frons who really understood the forum, and let us do our thing. Their input was brilliant. Most of the times you don’t get that from NBC.
We Love Soaps: What do these executives think about you?
Ken Corday: Deidre Hall once said to me, “What people think and say about you behind your back is not your business.” I’m sure the profile they present to me in negotiations is not the same as what goes on when I leave the room. But that’s what comes with being the show runner. Mom said, “The phone never rings when the show is doing well.”
We Love Soaps: What is the biggest misconception fans have about you?
Ken Corday: I think the biggest misconception is that I write all the stuff and everything that is bad on the show is my fault. And that I don’t like certain actors and that’s why they are off the show. That is probably the biggest misconception there. That I didn’t like Deidre Hall, that I didn’t like Drake Hogestyn, so I fired them. That is the furthest thing from the truth.
We Love Soaps: How do you not take it personally when you are getting criticism from the higher-ups at NBC and from the passionate fan base?
Ken Corday: It’s a soap opera. They are watching 20-30 characters. The network is looking at a much bigger picture. Yes, I’m the boss, the buck does stop here. It’s business. You can’t take business personally. So with the network it’s about the money. With the viewers it’s, “We want it now. We can’t get it fast enough,” or “You’re telling it too fast.” There’s always something that’s going to be a bit out of tune. To take it personally would be self-defeating thinking.
We Love Soaps: I also think that a lot of people are angry about uncontrollable things in their own lives, and haven’t been given the tools to handle them in productive ways. It’s easier for them to come home and type something mean on their computer then to take responsibility. The underlying thought is, “I can’t do anything about my nasty boss at work, but I can go online and say something mean about Ken Corday.”
Ken Corday: You’re right. They are projecting their ill feelings onto someone else that really belong to someone else directly.
We Love Soaps: Literally, it is the definition of projection. When people write cruel things about you, or any of the actors, or even me, they are simply exposing the parts of themselves they are unhappy with.
Ken Corday: The classic comeback I’ve had is when someone comes up to me and says, “I read your book...” and long beat. I just say to them, “Well, I’m glad you can read.” That pretty much puts an end to that conversation [laughs].
We Love Soaps: Hopefully the viewers who are still making judgments and assumptions about you will at least read your book and see for themselves that you have your heart in an authentic place. You have clearly made sacrifices in order to keep the show on the air and protected from the network “spiders, snakes, hungry sharks” you mentioned. Your commitment shines through.
Ken Corday: You are too kind.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please press here for Part Three in which Corday offers his explanation for why the ratings have gone up during the past year. And what has led to the resurgence of veterans on the show? Find out in Part Three! To learn more about Corday and his family secrets, pick up "The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family's Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives."
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve".