I had this fantasy of using this two-week hiatus from the show to do all kinds of fun, creative posts that wouldn’t just be about recapping current action, but honestly, the show has been so exhausting and such a chore to keep up with lately that I’ve been grateful to have a break. But, in the spirit of remembering why we subject ourselves to this often-torturous experience, I thought it’d be fun to open up the floor for some audience participation. So:
When and why did you start watching Days?
For me, it was right around the start of 1997 — in fact, it might’ve been New Year’s Eve in Salem. I was a freshman in high school, and I’d seen bits and pieces of Marlena’s possession and the adventures in the sewers of Paris, which were all the rage amongst the middle-school set. But I happened to flip to NBC at the tail end of an episode in which Sami was screeching at Austin, and he put his car in drive and accidentally reversed, slamming her into the wall. It was both incredibly dramatic and unbelievably hilarious, which I’d come to recognize as the magical combination that would keep me fixated on Days for the next two decades.
I immediately got on the phone with a friend who was a devout viewer and got her to explain the entire Sami/Austin/Carrie storyline to me, which led to a recap of John/Marlena/Kristen, Bo/Hope/Billie, Kate/Victor/Vivian, and Jack/Jennifer/Peter. Then I got my hands on the 30th anniversary coffee table book and was fascinated by the extensive, insane history of the Hortons, Bradys, and other Salemites. And in the midst of all this, this was happening:
The spring and summer of 1997 were the tail end of James E. Reilly’s first run as headwriter, and that meant all his big stories were reaching crescendos. The Marlena/John/Kristen triangle, with the added element of wacky Susan Banks, was the centerpiece of the show at the time, and it was glorious. I don’t think I’ll ever derive pure pleasure from a soap story’s climax the way I did from that Elvis-themed wedding and the reveal of Kristen’s secret room plot. That August brought Carrie’s takedown of Sami at her wedding to Austin, complete with the truth about Will’s paternity and that sisterly punch heard ’round the world.
In retrospect, there’s probably a good reason that 14-year-old me was so drawn to these stories. Sometimes I still get nostalgic for 90s Days, but it’s pretty glaring now how dumbed-down the writing was. Reilly tried to recreate the same vibe on Passions and his second run on Days (2003-2006), both of which were cartoonish disasters. But there was something that really did work about this period in Salem: clear stakes, regular twists and turning points, and a sense of what we were supposed to be rooting for. I can recognize a lot of faults in the writing from this time period, things that would drive me bonkers now — history was ignored, offscreen characters were almost never referenced, people spent absurd amounts of time recapping their plots in excruciating detail aloud to themselves — but there was an energy that I still wish could be recaptured.
How about y’all? What was it that sucked you into Days and won’t let you quit?