Pissed off without payoff

Fans over at Days of our Lives are steaming mad these days. And can you blame them?

In the last few weeks, they’ve learned that four characters – Steve, Kayla, Tony and Anna – will be leaving the show. This is in addition to the earlier unwelcome news that Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall (John and Marlena) were being written off.

I feel for those fans.

This sequence of events is similar to what happened at Guiding Light a few years back. And though my readers know that I’m enjoying the show these days, it’s been harder for other GL fans to reinvest in the show after some of those bumps and tangents.

bridgetonowhere1mgOver a period of a few years, GL had stories that just – WHAM – stopped in the middle of the narrative when business trumped the creative process and actors left the show.

We had Ross Marler, a character who had been onscreen for twenty-six years, leave abruptly and then be honored with a funeral that may have lasted twenty-six minutes. Phillip’s story went into limbo when Grant Aleksander didn’t return. And Harley’s long, multi-chaptered story took a huge tangent when Beth Ehlers left.

It’s been hard for ANY fan of ANY show to invest in ANY story the way we used to. Business and budgets DO intrude on our shows, in an increasingly evident way. It’s why we see fewer veterans and fewer supporting characters.

But Days has a long history of making really poor choices, and it’s made some boneheaded ones here by so cavalierly, and quickly, putting these six on the chopping block.

And let me be clear: I’m not sure I disagree that any of the six actors listed above could be cut from the cast. I thought the DiMera dynasty was played out several years ago, as well as any possibilities for John/Marlena. But the fact is this: People love these characters, and actors. And when you seen them on screen for twenty, thirty or forty years, they deserve a proper sendoff.

John and Marlena could have had a fun, flirty ending that would have honored who they were. Instead, they had a five-second wedding and then Marlena disappeared without so much as a goodbye to Sami – her daughter.

They at least had a visible goodbye, because apparently Steve and Kayla are simply – POOF! – not going to be seen anymore.

And perhaps most egregiously, Tony and Anna will also not get anything resembling a happy ending. Tony and Anna were two of my favorite characters from Days, and I had hopes that Anna’s return would bring a nice cap to their story (and erase a dozen or so years of crap story for Tony).

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If soaps continue to jerk viewers around, and offer no payoff to stories that people invest in, they simply will STOP WATCHING.

Charlie Brown may have had faith in Lucy with the football, but most of today’s viewers have a remote control, an iPod and an itch for rewarding content. It’s an incredibly gray area, because it’s in the very DNA of soaps to tease us to the breaking point and then make us wait for more. But there MUST be rewards.

Days should have given these characters at least a few weeks each to draw their story to a close, and give them compelling, real reasons to leave town. Those weeks (or months) could also have been used to introduce new characters tied to the departing ones, or used to refocus existing characters and preparing popular, valuable characters to fill the void of those who are leaving.

Instead, it all looks like something that Dena Higley came up with on a pee break one afternoon. And it’s a damn shame.

2 thoughts on “Pissed off without payoff

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more regarding John and Marlena. The one minute finale was incredibly disappointing and not the payoff the audience deserved. They could have cut the previous two weeks with the psycho psychiatrist and used that for a more fitting departure. I don’t watch Days anymore.

  2. Yup, Patrick, that about says it all. As someone who has watched all 37 years of his life, I’m about as done as I’m ever going to be. Sure, I still catch scenes here or there to check in on what’s going on, but I really could care less.

    These budget woes COULD have been navigated successfully. People forget that Deidre Hall, Peter Reckell, and Kristian Alfonso all left during the same week in April 1987. The show actually thrived in their absences, because they had great actors and skilled writers to buffer the loss.

    Now with fan favorites leaving, there are few characters to care about, and the writing is covered in a sheath of dullness.

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