Monday, June 14, 2010

Ken Corday - The We Love Soaps Interview, Part Three

In Parts One and Two of my interview with Ken Corday, the DAYS Executive Producer, and writer of "The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family's Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives," discussed his "mistakes" as EP, his relationship to new media, and dealing with criticisms and insults.  In Part Three, he shares his reasoning behind DAYS rise in the ratings, as well as the history of back-burnering older characters. 

We Love Soaps: DAYS is the only show to gain in total viewers over the past year.
Ken Corday: Go figure.  It stymied NBC.  They thought in cutting us back so drastically as they did in 2009 with a 40% do you do a one hour show for half as much?  Yet  we figured out a way to do it.  Unfortunately, I had to let some very tried and true cast members go.  And the numbers go up.  They scratched their heads and said, “We didn’t expect this.”  Jeff Zucker came out and announced three years ago that the show would be off the air in April 2009.  He who laughs last!

We Love Soaps: How do you explain this rise in raising despite all these setbacks?
Ken Corday: A good head writer.  Period.  Wonderful cast.  It’s the formula, it’s the pyramid.  You have a good head writer, good actors, the characters are golden.  And you can keep playing those characters.  You look at the other successful shows, especially THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS and THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL.  There are 4-5 central characters that are still carrying a story after 30 years. 

We Love Soaps: I have said that when Gary Tomlin came on board as Producer all of the character’s IQ’s raised about ten points.
Ken Corday: Oh, yes.  Thank you for that.  The dialogue, the words we are putting in their mouths, make them seem they have raised ten points.  There is a crispness and humor now in the writing that wasn’t there.  Dena [Higley] came in about six months before Gary came in.  They are a wonderful combo.

We Love Soaps: It reminds me of the Sheri Anderson/Thom Racina regime of the show [1984-1986] which was such an electric and fascinating time in the show’s history. 
Ken Corday: It was.  Al Rabin was on the other side of the show producing, and he let them write!  He said, “You guys write, I’ll put it on the screen.”  Occasionally there would be a degree or two of difference.  But that’s the formula.  As the show runner I just have to sit back and let them be creative, but when I see they are walking into a trap, or driving over a cliff, I have to tell them to stop.  We had a meeting like that yesterday.  It’s a somber moment.  The last thing I want to do is say, “I’m the boss, do it this way, or too bad.”  You have to make a cogent point.  Or as my Dad said, “The pressing pawn wins the game.”  You continue to make the point, we might be missing something here.  You get a certain amount of chagrin.  But then you see a ratings correlation and point made.

 We Love Soaps: One of the things many of us feel has contributed to the ratings success is bringing Suzanne Rogers back front and center.
Ken Corday: I couldn’t agree more. 

We Love Soaps: Even the most negative online boards are thrilled to see her featured.
Ken Corday: There is no difference between the actress and the character.  Suzanne and I have known each other for a long time.  We are very close.  We go to church together.  As I say in the book, she is the sister I never had.  Therein lies the next matriarch of the show.  She is more like Alice than anyone else.  But at the same time, we’ve had the return of Vivian.  We’ve had the the front and center story of Vivian, Victor, Stefano, Kate, that group of people who are over 50 are now carrying a lot of story.  This was not the case before.

We Love Soaps: Why was that?
Ken Corday: Because the network didn’t want us to have a story for them.  They would just axe any story.  “Who wants to see Caroline and Victor in the same scene?” And then the message boards would light up.  Well, that’s NBC, or “Never Be Correct.”  Don’t get me going.  It was always the network’s opinion that stories should be about 18-34 year old characters. 

We Love Soaps: Even as a child watching the show, I was always more interested in Doug and Julie, or Don and Marlena, versus any of the younger characters.
Ken Corday: I agree.  I think younger viewers are still that way.  They want to watch a role model, someone they want to grow up and be like.  Look at Sami today.  She has been her own worst enemy for so long yet has grown and blossomed and turned into a different character learning from her mistakes.  However, does she ever fully get past that recessive gene that makes her do the odd thing every now and then? No.  That would take the fun away.

We Love Soaps: Sami is a great example of someone who makes the show compelling now.  I still remember the episode where she was born.  Seeing her grow and learn from her mistakes is so much more interesting than watching her do the same thing over and over.  You see her maturity in the dialogue now, and in the decisions she makes. 
Ken Corday: More than anyone.  And Kristian Alfonso too.  She came on the show when she was about 18 years old, as green as an apple.  You look at Kristian, what a different character!

We Love Soaps: Your chapters on the nine “Hourglass Ladies” and seven “Heroes” are wonderful tributes to the actors and actresses who have worked hard on the show.  But I noticed some suprising  omissions. 
Ken Corday: I knew that was coming. 

We Love Soaps: The first one that stuck out for me was that John Clarke [Mickey] was not mentioned.
Ken Corday: We’re talking about heroes on the show.  Mickey was never your classic leading man hero. Mickey had his demons to deal with.  And unfortunately, after dealing with those demons, the writers put him out to pasture.  John, God love him, is a dear friend, and a dear ally, but he never had that kind of character written for him.  Then you go down the road and you look at someone like Matt Ashford as Jack.  He had lots of airtime and was sometimes portrayed as a leading man, but was never the “hero.” Who else were you surprised wasn’t there?

We Love Soaps: Patsy Pease [Kimberly Brady].
Ken Corday: Yes. Shane and Kim, that was a tough one.  He certainly was superman, super spy.  And she had overcome a lot.  I think it’s a matter of longevity.  How much they had been on the show, and played lead characters and heroes and role models.  That was the boil down when I got down to seven heroes and nine heroines.  Who had the most staying power over a long period of time. 
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please press here for our final part in which Corday discusses keeping DAYS on the air beyond 2011, and what's next for "Viggie!"  To learn more about the Corday family and their struggles and triumphs, please 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".

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