Drake, Deidre, “Doc”, DAYS and Daytime

Avid readers of soap news are probably having a sense of deja vu surrounding the recent renewal of Days of Our Lives.

Like Guiding Light a few years ago, DAYS was renewed but at a reduced payment rate from the network. As a result, the show has had to cut costs to reduce their production expenses and (hopefully) operate in the black.

But it was admittedly astonishing news that echoed around the world – or at least around the soap blogosphere – this weekend: DAYS was letting several actors go, including Drake Hogestyn and, most surprisingly, Deidre Hall.

This reminds me a great deal of Guiding Light and their decision to kill off the character of Phillip Spaulding in 2004. In subsequent press coverage, it was revealed that GL had hoped to temporarily “rest” the character of Phillip and bring him back the following year. That proved to be harder to do than they originally believed – it’s taken almost four years for Grant Aleksander to finally bring Phillip back to the show.

Actors like Hogestyn and Aleksander are undoubtedly talented and important, but Hall’s pink slip clearly makes a very big statement. Hall – and the character of Marlena – represent daytime royalty, just as surely as Erica Kane, Victoria Buchanan and Reva Shayne are seemingly immovable fixtures.

My reaction to this news ties into several of my earlier posts, and concepts that I’ve been outlining on my “audacious” list. I’m sure my reaction will be hugely unpopular, but I’ll share it anyway.

Though I would not want to see John and Marlena disappear from DAYS permanently, giving these two characters a “rest” makes so much sense creatively (not just financially). I know their fans love to see them, and the actors are magical together.

But what roadblock have these two not faced? The storyline well is kind of dry right now for them. It would be unbelievable for either one to love another partner, and John has gone through divorce, death and becoming a DiMera all in a year or so. They need to go travel the world (and perhaps get entangled in an ISA adventure).

My support of this idea is, of course, provided DAYS uses this opportunity to strengthen the couplings of Bo/Hope and Steve/Kayla, as well as SLOWLY develop and introduce younger characters and distribute story evenly, so stories aren’t focused completely on a newbie – *cough*Melanie*cough* – or a character we don’t care about *cough*Melanie*cough*.

Bring Jeremy Horton back and play him with Alice for a month before he even looks at a potential love interest, so we know who he is!

This move also fits in with my contention that occasionally, we need to creatively prune the tree. (Or rotate the crops, take your pick of farming metaphors.) I’m a big believer in ROTATING stories, content and actors when possible. This is not only necessary financially but healthy for shows creatively, lest they send viewers away from the screens out of boredom or irritation.

When you don’t rotate focus, you end up with the problem All My Children had, where they had a talented actor (Alicia Minshew) onscreen so often people were completely burning out on the show and her character. You don’t want to see the same character EVERY single day, or experience the same emotional truth in a story every time you watch. (No more than you’d want to see the same person on the cover of a soap magazine every week…..)

As I’ve mentioned before, I see both the creative side (as a wannabe soap writer) and the business side (as someone who’s dwelled in corporate hell for years). In order to survive, companies have to be flexible and creative, and sometimes they have to shift size or change focus.

And though we were all irritated when Christopher Goutman made his comment about people not making the time committment they once did, it’s clear that the shows can’t continue as they are.

We all want the shows to be the best they can be creatively, so we can enjoy our time in those fictional universes of Salem, Springfield, and Port Charles. But financial concerns are undoubtedly intersecting with artistic ones.

Right now, metaphorically speaking, daytime needs to be offering sleek, flexible hybrid vehicles. And instead, we’re seeing K cars. There’s a happy medium in here somewhere where the business model can adapt and change without killing the creative side. I really hope that happens for all of the shows soon.

And DAYS would be wise to do some long-term planning, not only for current story but to capitalize on a return by Hogestyn and Hall when the show is financially solvent enough to do so.

NOTE: Sara Bibel has an AMAZING post about the DAYS situation. I haven’t been an everyday viewer of DAYS in years, but Sara has all the right ideas and lays them out here.

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