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Daytime Opinion Article

Still in Shock

Written 4/4/04 by Suzanne originally for Bella Online

Last month, Days of Our Lives viewers found out that Dr. Marlena Evans, beloved heroine of the show, was the Salem Stalker, the show's serial killer. It was a big shock because soaps generally don't make any regular characters guilty of murder, let alone a show's main heroine. It was bound to happen sometime, I suppose, as writers get more daring in a desperate attempt to bring up the show's ratings. If only all shows would take chances and be more daring! Days itself is generally not so daring, but the current Powers-That-Be are letting the head writer do this kind of thing, since it fits in with their own agenda.

You see, back when Days of Our Lives' contract had run out with NBC, they had to do some negotiating in order to keep the show on the network. One of the conditions was that NBC cut costs, specifically cutting the cast down. They also agreed to let Jim Reilly, who created/writes Passions, and previously wrote Days of Our Lives, be the new headwriter. The production company behind Days (Sony, I believe) agreed to these conditions.

Thus the serial killer storyline was born, and the show started killing off most of its beloved characters, especially those that were over 40. To be fair, Days has a lot of over-40 actors, and there are still plenty left (Bo, Hope, Marlena, John, Mickey, Bonnie, Shawn, Julie, and I think Jennifer). However, fans are not happy about the vets being killed off, even if they do like the storyline and the day-to-day action. It's just so objectionable that NBC is saying that these actors are too "old" to be on their network. The justification is that times are tough and they need to cut costs.

Is that really true? I'm not so sure. I read in a soap magazine recently that soaps used to make so much money that they actually paid for the primetime programming. Now they still make money, just not as much as before. If that's true, that soaps are still profitable, then why all the cuts? Shouldn't they be doing some cutting in primetime instead? Seems to me that if they want people to watch soaps again, they should put money INTO the soap: hire the best writers and actors they can, and put money into making the productions look better. Cutting budgets will only make the soaps worse and make people want to watch the soaps less.

How about cutting some of those big primetime salaries for Friends and put the money into Days of Our Lives? It just might work...

CBS soaps seem to do pretty well, money-wise. They are usually at the top of the ratings (except GL), they have great writing, good production values, and they don't seem to worry so much about the ages of their actors. The sole exception might be GL, which has been putting some of the older actors on recurring contract. At least, GL is at the bottom of the ratings, so it makes some sense to cut its budget. Days is near the top, so why mess with it?

All My Children also had a major character, Bianca, turn out to be a killer recently. She wasn't a serial killer, however; she killed in self-defense. That is a standard soap storyline, yet it worked because the murder and its subsequent mystery (although dragged out way too long), was compelling. The acting and writing about the characters, particularly Erica, Bianca, and Kendall, made it all worthwhile. It wasn't even disappointing that Bianca was the killer because everyone hated Michael and wanted him dead (including the audience). It would have been a travesty to make his murderer go to jail.

I don't really think Marlena will go to jail, either. She's clearly insane and so she will be put in a mental hospital or something, until she's cured. It will be interesting to see how they handle everything. Perhaps the next time a major actor wants to leave As the World Turns or Passions, they make them a murderer, and actually have them go to jail for their crimes. It would be another great idea in soaps, something unexpected, rather than the usual habit of having the killer be some minor character, or have it be self defense, of those other predictable ideas.

For now, I hope we have seen enough of serial killers and murder mysteries. There have been far too many of them on soaps lately.

Page updated 12/27/11

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