Normally for the month of April this column focuses on my ideas on how to fix one character. However, for the third anniversary of this column, I’ve decided to go bigger: talking about how to fix an entire soap. Days of Our Lives is in abysmal shape right now. A show that should be firing on all cylinders is a total chore to watch. Here are my thoughts on how to fix this mess.
Stop Being So Repetitive
The nature of soaps means storylines will be repeated. You’ll see people get married, cheat, die, have a baby get stolen, discover an unknown parent or sibling, and perhaps even die again. It is what it is. Though, head writers should know when a story is so distinct that it shouldn’t be repeated for a while. Head writer Ron Carlivati has had a problem with this for years.
Why do back to back stories about a deceased character returning brainwashed? That is so specific that it really should be about two or three years before you do it again. Yet they did it last year with Stefan being brainwashed to not love Gabi, and this year with this stupid Bo story. The only big difference is Stefan was conditioned to pop boners over Chloe and Bo was made into a henchman. It is still using the same plot device to keep a character who was dead from reuniting with loved ones.
Brainwashed undead men aren’t the only lather, rinse and repeat story going on. Salem has had a few months of people getting drugged. First it was Stefan and EJ’s drugging games to be CEO of DiMera Enterprises, and right after that we got drugged biscuits where multiple characters ate biscuits that made them horny while hallucinating. It is only April and we’ve had a truly absurd amount of characters drugged. It is like that meme about a writer’s barely disguised fetish. There should have been a network note about it being too much.
The drugged biscuits led Eric and Nicole to bang, and every soap fan knows where this is likely going. When two characters who are with other people bang, it is time for a pregnancy story. I do want Eric and Nicole to have a child, but there were other ways to get them to have sex. They didn’t need to bring out drugged biscuits for a sex plot device. They could have been trapped together and feelings took over. Then the sex could have been consensual and a choice they made. Now we’re going to have a baby that only exists because of rapey biscuits. Shameful.
Focus A Bit More On Character
Days has been a lot of meandering from plot point to plot point. That isn’t good soap. Plot is necessary because if nothing is happening fans will get bored quickly, but you need character moments. I know this team is capable of it. One of the most memorable scenes of Ron’s tenure was Abe telling Nicole not to confuse gratitude with love when she was with Brady. It played on the history of Abe being like a father to Nicole and serviced that story. It was lovely. I want more scenes like that and less of Rafe hallucinating a giant bear named Duke.
Don’t Waste Money On Someone Who Was Only Popular On One Soap
Soaps have often made the mistake of thinking that a big star from another soap will translate to more viewers for them. It doesn’t. Maybe that star will be good on another soap, but not a lot of fans are going to try it for them. Getting into a new soap is a whole ordeal. You have to learn who everyone is and the family trees. You have to learn about the current stories and at least some of the history. Some people relish in jumping into a show they’ve never seen and immersing themselves in it. Other people are put off by the hassle. And history has shown that ratings don’t go up because you hired someone from another soap.
Steve Burton has only ever been popular on GH. He got his start on Days playing Harris, but he’s popular from all that blinking and staring as Jason Morgan. GH fans still talk about the message board wars in the 2000’s where fans would argue about which lady should be blessed with Jason’s dong. He was a big deal, but only on that show.
When Steve left GH, his former boss Jill Farren Phelps hired him at Y&R. CBS seemed to think he was going to get all the CBS soap fans wet like the ABC gals. They even trotted him out on The Talk like he was the savior of Y&R and our new god. They were wrong. Fans didn’t give a fuck about Steve’s character Dylan. They made him the retcon son of Nikki and Paul, and they still didn’t care about him. They didn’t care about him with Avery or Chelsea. They had to put him with Sharon to get fans to halfway care about him. Sharon is the “Break in case of emergency!” character. Fans would ship her with a literal Ken doll.
I assume Ken Corday and Albert Alarr saw all of this happen with Y&R and they decided to make the same mistake they did. Days did not need another expensive middle-aged white man. Harris doesn’t have any family on the show. There isn’t any obvious story sphere to put him in. We know Steve is still filming so this isn’t a short stint. It is perplexing that this is how they want to spend that Peacock cash infusion. They could have brought back a fan favorite or used the money to recast another character. Instead we get Steve Burton playing a character from 1988 that no one gives a fuck about.
Don’t Do Things You Can’t Afford
The greenscreen of Bo and Hope on the cliffs was laughably bad. I know they were trying something new, but they could have just had those scenes on an existing set. Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso were acting their asses off, but those “effects” were distracting. It took me out of the scenes.
Pass The Torch
It is time for the younger characters to be going on adventures. I love the vets, but they are too old to be the center of an action story. John is almost 70 and Steve is in his 70s. If you need to take several pills a day and you need a seat in the shower, you are probably too old to be the action heroes of the show. John can just stay home and eat Marlena out like fans like him to do. Let Shawn, Andrew and Jada do the bulk of action scenes with older veteran characters used in a supporting capacity.
Have A Satisfying Arc For Returning Characters
Bo and Hope returning should have been a slam dunk and other sports analogies straight people use in conversation. They are arguably the most popular Days couple. If you play “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” on the show, thousands of soap fans get hard nipples within seconds. This should have been an easy win. Yet the show shit the bed. Hard.
Who thought it would be a good idea for Bo and Hope to have 95% of their scenes with other people and then at the end he gets shot by his own son and is in a coma? That was not what fans had in mind for a reunion. People paid to watch this. Even if there’s another return story later this year, will fans want it? They feel bamboozled right now and might be reluctant to come back for another round of shenanigans. This show just made things harder than they needed to be.
Settle On A Love Interest For EJ
Dan Feuerriegel is talented and handsome. He is the perfect male lead package. Yet the show won’t settle on a love interest for EJ. They’ve tried him with multiple women, but won’t let one stick. EJ had great chemistry with Belle, but they put her right back with Shawn after Sami got to smell the sex scents of her sister and her ex. Nicole is probably going to have Eric’s baby. Just pick a woman for EJ and let it ride for a while. If you think Sami is the love of his life, just bite the bullet and recast Sami. Alison Sweeney is never going to come back permanently and there are a lot of actresses in that age range that could play Sami.
Bring Back Next Generation Characters
Why is Theo not on this show? Abe should have a child on the canvas and the show already has almost every living DiMera around. He could be romancing Chanel or Wendy. Yet instead of Theo, we have Tripp, who has been around off and on for six years and has never had a successful pairing. Tripp just exists for women to turn him to down to fuck a more interesting man. I would rather see Theo who was actually born on the show and could have a compelling story if they wanted to write him. Instead, Theo shows up for weddings like he’s someone’s friend from 1985 and not a young legacy character.
There are so many characters just existing offscreen that could be used instead of some of the dud characters around like Li and Alex. They could bring back Jeremy Horton since the show is lacking Hortons. It would make sense to bring back Theresa Donovan since she has a kid with Brady. They could bring Claire Brady back with Theo. I would rather watch a Claire and Theo return story than see Alex man-whore around Salem. He is a legacy character, but I’m willing to admit Alex is a flop despite my love and lust for Rob Scott Wilson.
Double Check That Dialogue
I realize Days of Our Lives has the most complicated family trees in soap history, but the people working on the show should know them. Hope telling Bo that he’s a grandfather now was stupid considering he’s been a grandfather since Transporter 2 starring Jason Statham was in theaters. Knowing the children and grandchildren of characters is important so fans don’t mock you using bald actors with limited acting range. Fans remember Claire, even if the script writer doesn’t.
Write Chad Off
What was the point of keeping Chad around and killing Abigail off? Chad isn’t the male lead of the show anymore like he was from 2014 to 2017. They could have just written them off. Chad and Stephanie suck as a pairing and add nothing of value to Days. Frankly the show could just do the soap trope of Abigail returning from the dead to interrupt his wedding with Stephanie and then they could ride off into the sunset. I’d be happy with that.
Days of our Lives is currently streaming on Peacock
Dispatches From Soap Land
*I’m so happy Sharon Case has been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress at the Daytime Emmys. She’s been snubbed for so many years that it is shocking that she got nominated. Y&R needs to recognize the asset they have and write for her.
*Brad Bell had better actually go there with Hope and Thomas on B&B. I’m tired of the bait and switch. Having Hope being horny for Thomas only works if she actually cheats or leaves Liam for him. Don’t waste my time.
*Having Tracy back on GH just feels right. And using her to shade Carly being allowed in the Quartermaine mansion makes me so happy.
*Thank you for being a reader of this column. I do appreciate you taking time out of your day to read my bitchy thoughts. When this column started three years ago, I didn’t know how it would go. The pandemic had shut everything down and only Days of Our Lives was about to have new episodes. Yet it has gone better than my wildest dreams and I love writing for The Pop Break. Here’s to more years of being overly critical and crass.