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Daytime Opinion Article

Days of Our Lives and Passions

Written 5/4/04 by Suzanne originally for Bella Online

If you haven't been living in a hole, you probably know that Marlena on Days of Our Lives is the Salem Stalker. This is the serial killer that has been killing off characters since last fall. Marlena is the leading lady of the show, like Erica on All My Children. Unlike most shows, the victims are not just day players and other characters that we don't care about. They are mostly main characters, some of which have been on the show 30 years or more.

The first to die was Abe, played by James Reynolds. It certainly took guts to kill off the longest-running African-American character in the history of television (yes, you read that right, not just in daytime but all of T.V.). Abe has not had much story in the past few years, but he was arguably the most moral character of the show. The next victim was Jack Deveraux, a popular character and half of the popular couple Jack and Jen. Many fans were outraged when he was killed because Jack and Jen had been kept apart for years and finally reunited in marriage last year. Whereas Abe was the moral center of the show, Jack was often the humor of the show.

Many other popular characters were killed off, including Roman Brady, Marlena's ex-husband, on the day of his wedding to Kate; and older characters such as Maggie, Caroline, and Doug. It has been noted that every single character that was killed was over 40, save for Cassie, the only young victim. The final victim was Alice, the only surviving original cast member and the matriarch of the show. Her killing was tasteless and not befitting someone of her age and stature. I know the actress was very sad to leave the show and felt that her write-off was terrible.

Let me just note here that despite all this, Days treats its older actors better than GH does. They told all of the actors ahead of time that they were being killed off and they gave them great stories beforehand. They gave Frances Reid (Alice) an expensive ring, as well as the usual send-off party. They are keeping Susan Seaforth Hayes (Julie) and Shawn Parker (Shawn) around, and they would have kept John Clarke (Mickey); it was his choice to leave due to health reasons. They replaced him with John Ingle, who had been cast off from GH. GH let go of many of their older actors by putting them on recurring status, and they didn't even bother to let them know ahead of time. Then, after Ingle left, they recast him with someone who is the same age as his TV son! ABC oughta be ashamed.

Back to NBC....

Early last year, Days' contract with NBC was up, so they had to renegotiate. In order to make the agreement, the people in charge of Days of Our Lives had to agree to trim down its large cast and to make Jim Reilly the head writer. Reilly had been in charge of Days in the early 90's and made its ratings rise, and he had created Passions for NBC. He is now in charge of both shows.

I understand that NBC thinks it needs to cut costs and that they think Reilly is some sort of golden boy. To me, he is a horrible writer. He comes up with some great ideas, such as having Marlena possessed, but then the execution (pardon the pun) of the story is horrible. His plot devices include having many flashbacks and having characters talk out loud to themselves in endless monologues. His heroes act in very stupid ways and the plots often have characters reacting in ways that make no sense. So, viewers tune in to watch the great ideas, but in the meantime we moan and groan at the day-to-day stupidity and the long drawn-out storylines. In the short run, the ratings rise, but in the long run, they lose long-time viewers who don't enjoy seeing their favorite characters act like idiots.

Passions is full of great ideas. Having a 300-year-old witch with a live doll, and having them spoof many horror films and TV shows like Dark Shadows, is really fun. Some of the couples, such as the very popular Sheridan and Luis, are great to watch. But on a day-to-day basis, the show is agonizingly dull. It's gotten worse since Timmy died because there is less emphasis on the supernatural. I watched the show for a few weeks in April and it was very tedious. There were funny moments from Rebecca and Liz (two of the villainesses), but that was about it. The show seemed to pick up the pace a little toward the end, so perhaps that has gotten better.

Passions has always been low-rated. It always hovers around 2.0 It was always slightly above Port Charles, which was canceled last year (and it remains in the same place). So, why does NBC think that Reilly is so great? I really don't know. Perhaps the young demographics are all that matters to them. And what a sad commentary it is on the youth of today that they watch that dribble. I'm hoping they all get together with their friends and watch the show so that they can make fun of it, but I fear that's not the case. And by the way, let me make it clear that it's only the writing that sucks. The cast is great and they should be nominated for many Emmys. But unfortunately they get punished at Emmy time because of the poor writing.

I am usually the last one to say that a show should be canceled. I know how sad I feel when one I watch is canceled. But I think it might be time to put Passions out of its misery and cancel it.

Since the Salem Stalker storyline has started, the ratings on Days have gone up. But at what cost? I know many fans that are tuning in just to see what happens but they all say they will stop watching when the story is over. My guess is, that they might stop even sooner if they keep dragging it out. Now that we know Marlena is the killer, the only questions left are, why did she do it, and how will she be punished? No one wants Marlena to go to jail or get executed because we all love the character and the actress.

I think it's very sad that the people in charge thought that the cast members over-40 were expendable. I'm very glad they're keeping John and Marlena, and Bo and Hope, but I'm sorry they had to destroy Marlena's character in order to do it. NBC should treat its audience with more respect and intelligence. We don't want to see a bunch of 20-somethings acting stupid and talking to themselves. Jim Reilly should be fired and never given another soap writing job. At the very least, they should bring in some other writers who know their craft, so they can punch up his ideas and make them more interesting and realistic.

Only time will tell if the ratings go up or down on both shows, and what the effects will be.

Page updated 12/27/11

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