By Steve Ungrey
It has been almost two months since the much-anticipated reboot of DAYS OF OUR LIVES, otherwise known as Days 2.0, debuted to great fanfare.
Two months later, I’m still trying to make heads or tails of what I think of this new version.
The appointment of head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas Jr. heralded a new era in the direction of DAYS: An era where the writers promised they would listen to the fans, bring back old favorites, and write compelling stories.
So far they have accomplished two of the three. The writers definitely interact with the fans. Old favorites are back. The stories? Well, let’s just say their hearts are in the right place, but the stories are all over the map.
Since late September the reboot of DAYS has heavily focused on only a few characters:
* Matthew Ashford has returned as Jack, wanting to win back his wife Jennifer from the clutches of another man.
* Carrie and Austin are back in the guise of Christie Clark and Patrick Muldoon, originally as special guests of Bo and Hope to help open up the new Horton Town Square.
* John and Marlena are back (and welcome back, Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall!) to great fanfare on and off screen. The big story broke at the end of the first week when John was led away in handcuffs by the FBI for stealing from Basic Black’s pension accounts.
This has been an uneven period for the show because the drama factor didn't appear to be there at first. It has picked up as of late, but it was hard to get excited about much of the intrigue going on simply because there wasn’t a lot of it.
It also appeared as if McPherson and Thomas listened to the rantings of a few fans who wanted the focus to be solely on these legacy characters, at the expense of everyone else on the show. This is the big mistake DAYS has made. You can’t balance the show simply on the backs of five or six characters, not with a cast of 25-30 contract players. More on this later.
The stories so far have been served like warmed-over leftovers to the viewers. Once again, Sami is at odds with John. When will the audience realize Sami vs. John played out a long time ago? It was bad enough when James Reilly rewrote history to put Sami against John once again, but it just takes the character growth of Sami away. Don’t get me wrong; Alison Sweeney has been great as of late, if only because she’s finally getting something she can sink her teeth into after a few years. It just seems like I’ve seen this before.
Matt Ashford is and always will be one of my all-time favorites on D,AYS but so far his return has met with mixed reviews from me. It seems like he’s playing out the same story. Jennifer falls in love with someone else only to have Jack return to win back his wife. Why can’t Jack go out and have a little fun and make Jen realize she really does love the buffoon?
Listen, I’m always going to be a Jack/Jennifer supporter because of my roots watching the show during the supercouple years, but my motto is give me a good story. If it breaks up Jack and Jennifer for a while then so be it! That’s what good soap is all about.
Also: Why are we sitting through a story where EJ and Stefano appear to be controlling John? Why are we heading down a road where we know Carrie and Sami are going to be at each other’s throats? Are we watching 1996 DAYS? I better check the TV Guide and see what SEINFELD is about tonight.
The return of the veterans has thrown the cast chemistry in the air, in my opinion. The firings of Nadia Bjorlin, Louise Sorel and Crystal Chappell appear to have affected the ratings more than the powers that be let on. Chappell’s dismissal, in particular, was one of the biggest mistakes this show has made in recent memory. Bjorlin and Sorel deserved much better as well.
I’ve noticed over the reboot that many characters are being underused. How can we care about the show’s younger set when we don’t see them at least two or three times a week? With Casey Deidrick, Kate Mansi, Chandler Massey, Freddie Smith, Camilla Banus, etc., the show finally has a younger set that is stable and worth watching. It may be the best younger set the show’s had since Bjorlin, Jay Johnson, Jason Cook, Kirsten Storms and Farah Fath.
The show’s also decided, for whatever reason, to stick Melanie in this age group without a real story to play (as of yet, because it looks like that’s about to change). This is good news to me, because I’ve always liked Molly Burnett’s spunk and energy she brings to the role. She’s done a great job when given the right material to play, which hasn’t always happened. I feel the “egg” story wasn’t really necessary because Burnett and Suzanne Rogers already share a wonderful family-style chemistry, but the die is cast and I welcome Daniel, Maggie and Mel’s new-found closeness. I do wish, even though Eric Martsolf’s Brady is now engaged in what promises to be good storyline with Madison (the delightful Sarah Brown), that the show would revive the big brother/little sister camaraderie Brady and Mel shared. It’s almost like they don’t know each other anymore, and that’s too bad.
Right now, there really isn’t much for some actors to play on DAYS. Where is Lauren Koslow? Ari Zucker? Joe Mascolo? I realize these people are on, but lately their appearances have been fewer. It seems like actors disappear for long stretches at a time. Is it just me? Look, I’m not saying certain characters have to be on five days a week. Just find a way to get the vets three days a week or so, and give the newer characters a good chunk of airtime, and you might have a happier fanbase all around. Then again, this is DAYS, who am I kidding?
I’ve saved my biggest rant for last. Why, why, why does the show have to go down the road of EJ and Sami once again? After everything EJ has done to harm Sami (and don’t get me wrong… I cannot stand EJ but I LOVE James Scott’s marvelous performances) the two of them somehow end up together. Of course we now know Will saw it, just like Sami saw John and Marlena all those years ago.
I love the reference to history, but to me the “leftovers” comment comes to mind here.
I do have a couple actors on my wish list if the show does invite returns in the future (paging Bryan Dattilo, your on-screen son needs you! Mark Hapka, report back to DAYS stat!), but for now it looks like this is the hand we’re being dealt.
It will take an awful lot for me to give up my daily habit of DAYS. This is the last remaining soap I’ve watched for a long time, and even on its worst days the show still feels like home.
If DAYS can build the home a little bigger and make everyone feel welcome, this reboot just might work. Until then, I have the feeling something is missing.
The editorial above is a guest column by Steve Ungrey, the co-editor over at Soap Dish Board, a message board designed for people to interact and talk about their favorite shows without the nastiness toward actors found on other boards. This column appears at Soap Dish. Check it out at http://s4.zetaboards.com/Soap_Dish (Registration is required, but it is FREE.)
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