Tuesday, May 25, 2010

REVIEW: Ken Corday's Untold History Of "Days"

It’s not easy being Ken Corday.  On one hand you have the pride and burden of carrying a family legacy for over two decades.  On the other, you are constantly living in fear of a cancellation ax being wielded upon said legacy, as well as the knowledge that you sacrificed your own artistic hopes and dreams in order to make your parents’ creation thrive. 

These are just some of the challenges shared in the new book “The Days Of Our Lives: The True Story Of One Family’s Dream And The Untold History of Days Of Our Lives”.  This is an illuminating and powerful must-read for anyone who has ever watched DAYS, or for that matter, anyone who has ever put a family business in front of their own aspirations.  Say what you will about Ken Corday (as dozens of critics have).  But after reading this book one cannot deny the integrity, determination, and strength demanded of him to keep DAYS on the air, and keep network interference to a minimum.

 In the first half of the book, he traces the fascinating love story of Ted and Betty Corday, a star-crossed supercouple in their own right, who overcame great obstacles to marry. They embraced their relationship in a time when it was unpopular and challenging for two people from different religious backgrounds (Judaism and Christianity) to be together.  Together they lived through a world war, financial struggles, and external pressures in order for Ted to succeed as producer of THE GUIDING LIGHT and director of AS THE WORLD TURNS. 

What they could not overcome was the Hodgkin's lymphoma that tragically overtook Ted’s life shortly after producing two new shows for NBC in 1965 (MORNING STAR and DAYS).  After his death, Betty took over the role of executive producer for DAYS, which was near cancellation by that point.  Raising two teenage boys and an infant soap was no easy feat, but Betty heroically and resiliently rose to the task. 

Meanwhile, Corday writes about his own burgeoning career in music as a member of a band called  “Lucky Mud,” which ascended to become an opening act for Jimmy Hendrix in 1970.  For the first time ever, he reveals how his spiritual revelations and a near-death experience guided him away from a gratifying musical career, and into the world of Salem’s trials and tribulations.  These insightful and surprising experiences will fascinate DAYS viewers, as they offer a contextual backdrop for the passion and devotion that has fueled the series through good times and bad these past 20 years. 

In the second half of the book, Corday traces his beginnings on DAYS, and his ambivalence and insecurities about assuming the role of Executive Producer.  He reveals the details behind the show’s near-cancellation at the end of 1979 which led to firing a slew of popular actors in early 1980 (and which fans still refer to as the “Valentine’s Day Massacre”).  He shares how numerous network “sharks” were invested in taking over DAYS once his mother stepped down, and makes a strong argument explaining how the show would have unlikely survived if NBC had taken over. One can’t help but root for the young executive underdog who is trying desperately to keep his family’s dream afloat.

As a lifelong DAYS viewer, I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the familial and spiritual backdrop of the show’s legacy.   This book helped me understand the reasoning behind some of the blatantly poor decision making process that appeared on-screen in recent years.  Corday specifically spends an entire chapter discussing the disastrous Salem Serial Killer storyline that played out between 2003-04, and freely acknowledges how it did irreparable damage to viewer loyalty and trust.  He shares details about the impact of  market crash of 2008 and how GE’s loss of 60% of the value of their stock resulted in the firing of Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, and many other fan favorites. DAYS fans may still be upset about these judgment calls, but at least they will have a better understanding of why they took place.

So if you have ever enjoyed DAYS, have any interest in learning more about the complexities of running a soap in the 21st century, or simply enjoy a enduring and triumphant family story, then this book is highly recommended.  It certainly adds an emotional layer to this beloved soap, and will increase your viewing experience tenfold.

Be sure to pick up your copy of “The Days Of Our Lives: The True Story Of One Family’s Dream And The Untold History of Days Of Our Lives" here.  

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.


  1. I enjoyed the book, but was more fascinated by the chapters on the days budget cuts and the Salem Stalker storyline than how hard it was taking over from his mom.

    However, his brother's mental illnesses had me hooked - from the first page, I wanted to know more about the guy and what had happened to him.

  2. I've skimmed over chapters in this book but do intend to purchase it. Damon, you were spot on about the Salem Stalker story. I thought this story was a disaster from day one even when it was proposed by James Reilly; it just amazed me the number of people that fell for this story and went off on its critics. Suffice to say the soap boards were polarized for many months while this plot played out. In the end, bringing Reilly back was the worst thing Days could have done.

  3. Steve U, Corday writes that he was basically forced to bring Reilly back as a condition of renewal by NBC. You get the impression he wasn't at all happy with the idea, even before the Salem Stalker story.

    I enjoyed the book, particularly the historical aspects of the show, but I think Corday was too circumspect about many aspects of the show. And naming Josh Taylor as the third most important actor in DAYS history? Give me a break.

  4. Hey Eplin... yeah, I knew NBC basically foisted Reilly back on the show, even after he and Corday had a supposed falling out when he left the first time. I guess this just goes under the heading of network interference. In any case, it showed on screen. I guess I'm still bitter; I'm one of those who detested the story and I got blasted for my comments until people woke up and realized who was being written off the show.

    NBC did the same thing to Days back in 1980 (killing prominent cast members and sending others out of town) and the end result was Days largely stunk for a year after that. It wasn't until the arrival of Tony and Stefano and the Salem Strangler story kicked in that Days began getting its audience back.

  5. I love Days of our Lives. It's a great show Roger. I was thinking about entering this sweepstakes I heard of where the winner can get to meet Joe Mascolo and James Scott from Days of Our Lives. Hopefully I win. :]

    Bob J

  6. I heard about that sweepstakes too, Bob! You're talking about this one, right? http://www.classwish.org/days/fame
    Looks pretty good to me!

  7. I ALSO heard about this sweepstakes, Bob. What an opportunity to see EJ and Stefano!!