Is the hourglass half-full or half-empty? According to Deadline, NBC “hopes” to renew Days of Our Lives, the network’s sole surviving soap opera. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary, back in November of 2015, and is now in its 52nd year. John Aniston, Suzanne Rogers, Peggy McCay, Kristian Alfonso, Galen Gering, Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, Melissa Reeves, Eric Martsolf, Lauren Koslow, James Reynolds, Billy Flynn, Camila Banus, Casey Moss, Stephen Nichols, and Mary Beth Evans star.
The report quotes NBC Entertainment Chair Bob Greenblatt as saying, “We haven’t made decisions but we like that show. I think we will know more in couple of months. As they age, these shows diminish. There is a lot of delayed viewing and very little linear viewing anymore. You have to keep looking at that.” The 13,000th episode of Days of Our Lives just aired on January 10th of this year. Join us after the jump to analyze its presently precarious position.
According to reporter Nellie Andreeva, if the network once again picks up Days, it is possibly for a final season. On the bright side, she adds, “I hear the odds are about 60-40 at the moment in favor of renewal.”
Days of Our Lives: A Look at the Ratings
As of December 26th, Days of Our Lives is averaging a 0.61 rating in the 18-49 year old viewer demographic and drawing an average total audience of 2.276 million viewers, which is not good news. Those numbers mean the show has dropped by 11.30% in the demo and by 4.42% in terms of total audience size, compared to last year.
Days is one of only four daytime dramas left on U.S. broadcast networks. By comparison, The Young and the Restless on CBS is averaging a 0.91 in the demo and 4.626 million viewers. It’s followed by spin-off The Bold and the Beautiful, which currently averages a 0.77 and 3.766 million viewers. Even ABC‘s low-rated General Hospital is doing better than the last ranked DOOL. GH has a 0.71 in the demo and 2.663 million viewers.
Days of Our Lives: Head Writer Roulette
It seems the last couple of years of writer upheavals have done Days of Our Lives no favors. In February 2015, Dena Higley and Josh Griffith replaced Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell as head writers. While fans welcomed the change at first, the new duo crafted a dreary 50th anniversary storyline.
In August of that year, Higley took a leave of absence. Sony — which produces both Days and Y&R — sent Beth Milstein to help Griffith with the transition. Once Higley returned, and after NBC’s last renewal, fans learned Griffith was out. Former script writer Ryan Quan is now Higley’s co-head writer.
Days of Our Lives: Storyline Stagnation
Story-wise, there have been problems. The serial killer arc took out a legacy character, Will Horton (Guy Wilson), who was half of the drama’s first same-sex couple. The return and subsequent death of Bo Brady (Peter Reckell), was poorly paced and disheartening.
In addition, Bo’s death led to the writers turning his usually heroic soulmate, Hope (Kristian Alfonso), into a murderer. Similarly, Because Hope was guilty of killing Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo), the writing team crafted a cover-up plot that degraded other typically noble characters, like Rafe Hernandez (Galen Gering). Once Hope’s guilt was revealed, she was imprisoned, and Alfonso was stuck in yet another cop in prison trope, opposite Deidre Hall’s Hattie, the doppelgänger of Hall’s regular DOOL character, Dr. Marlena Evans.
Now the show has begun some “Is Stefano still alive?” shenanigans to whitewash Hope’s guilt. It seems the team has finally realized it is dumb to make your good guys go quite so bad. Unfortunately for the show, the story kicked off only after the real-life death of Mascolo on December 8, 2016, so it has felt a bit disconcerting to longtime viewers. I’m cringing just writing about it.
Days of Our Lives: Cast Kiss-Offs
On the casting side of things, Days lost popular actors James Scott and Alison Sweeney in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Together, they had driven much of the action for years, as E.J. DiMera and Samantha Brady. So far, the show has not managed to fill that void with another riveting couple.
Never seeming to know how to write for obvious leading man Greg Vaughan, who played defrocked priest Eric Brady, the Days team opted to turn him into an alcoholic who accidentally killed his best friend, Dr. Daniel Jonas (Shawn Christian). Fans were disappointed when Vaughan got the axe, but he’s recently returned to the series.
Kate Mansi, who played core character Abigail Deveraux, opted to leave early in 2016 (on screen). It took the production months and months to replace her with Marci Miller. She’s working out well in the role so far, but the love story between her and Chad DiMera (played by fan favorite Billy Flynn) lost momentum.
In addition, Aiden Jennings (Daniel Cosgrove) turned into a would-be murderer who tried to kill bride Hope on their wedding night — right after they consummated their union. The show then killed him off. In attempting to right that wrong, the Days writers employed a convoluted body-double device, and brought him back, only to have him remain a sleazy creep, rather than the upright (if uptight) attorney and single dad who first captured fans’ hearts.
More recently Jen Lilley, who played the latest Salem vixen — Theresa Donovan — bid farewell to Horton Square in the fall of 2016. Since Alison Sweeney is still off living her life, without either Theresa or Sami, Salem is currently suffering a sizzle deficit.
Days of Our Lives: Teen Scene Trauma
Although the Days of Our Lives writers wisely beefed up their younger set, they seem to have bungled the execution. After a super strain of S.O.R.A.S. (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) wiped out the kiddies, the soap recruited new talent.
DOOL cast James Lastovic as Joey Johnson, Vivian Jovanni as Ciara Brady, Jonathon McClendon as Chase Jennings, Kyler Pettis as Theo Carver, and Olivia Rose Keegan as Claire Brady. They immediately made Joey into a murderer, and Chase into a rapist — one who raped his potential love interest (and step-sister) on her great-grandmother Alice Horton’s living room couch! Are they reading How to Craft a Revolting Character for Dummies?
While Joey is redeemable (he killed the woman who had manipulated him and tormented his parents), nobody wanted to look at Chase, again. And thus, McClendon was soon written off. Meanwhile once a week — in between getting his girlfriend pregnant and then enduring her miscarriage — Joey moans about the guilt he feels over killing Ava (Tamara Braun). Really though, it was a mercy killing. Despite Braun’s talent, the return of Ava was nothing more than fan repellant.
Days of Our Lives: More Teen Scene Trouble
Although physically she is perfectly cast as Bo and Hope’s daughter, arguably it is newcomer Jovanni who has had the hardest time settling into her new role. Reportedly, she and Days made a “mutual decision” to part ways. As of yet, the soap has not announced if they are recasting the role or writing Ciara off the canvas.
Similarly, Paige Searcy chose to depart Salem. The soap has recast Gabrielle Haugh in the role of Jade Michaels, Joey’s girlfriend.
It seems Pettis and Keegan have fared the best out of DOOL‘s new crop of teens. As Theo Carver, a young man on the Autism spectrum, Pettis has consistently given a deft and respectful performance that honors the character’s history. Meanwhile Keegan’s Claire seems to be shifting into a vixen-in-training role, with some success.
Days of Our Lives: The Final Analysis
Although NBC’s Greenblatt is right — soaps and all TV shows seem to diminish with age — there’s still life in the old gal, yet. At least there’s potential. And yes, many soap fans can no longer watch live, and must time-shift, but that’s not Days of Our Lives biggest problem, at least not in this writer’s opinion.
Soap opera fans are incredibly loyal, but they are also not afraid to vote with their remotes. When storylines drag down once sympathetic characters, and writers abandon character-driven drama for plot-driven drivel, viewers tune out in droves. The thing is, when soap fans take a break from their shows, they still track them in the prolific soap press. And when things turn around? Those fans flock back to their shows.
Some things DOOL seems to be doing right include finally giving poor Nicole (Arianne Zucker) a baby and keeping beloved vets like Alfonso, Stephen Nichols, and Mary Beth Evans. The soap ought to consider re-hiring Brandon Beemer and Martha Madison and Shawn Douglas and Belle Brady. This time, though, they should put them in a storyline which maximizes their abundant chemistry, rather than squander it.
What do you think? Are you still watching Days of Our Lives? Which storylines are working for you? Which ones do you think are ratings poison? How would you fix this TV show? Sound off, in the comments.