Back to the Start

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?

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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:

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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?

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37 Comments on “Back to the Start”

  1. GnuHopper Says:

    For me it was 1980. I was laid up with a summer cold and started watching the show because I had nothing better to do (my mom has watched it practically from the beginning). I first got caught up in the story of Jessica Blake — the secret love child of Sister Marie and the nefarious Alex Marshall. Not a well-remembered story today but it drew me in, so I stuck with the show and was there when Tony and Stephano first showed up, when Roman Brady was assigned to protect Marlena from the Salem Strangler, when Bo returned from the merchant marine and met feisty rich girl Hope Williams.

    The 80s were a golden age for Soaps, and DAYS in particular — in these times when she show struggles to build even a single rootable new couple it’s amazing to think how many classic pairings came out of that period. Shane and Kim, Pete and Melissa, Tony and Anna, Mike and Robin, Jennifer and Frankie, Eve and Nick … leading up to favorites Steve and Kayla and Jack and Jennifer.

    I’m not sure what it was exactly that made the 80’s so great, except maybe just the talent and dedication of both the people in front of the camera and the ones behind the scenes. I do know that for me, DAYS has never again hit the heights of that era, when serial killers stalked the waterfront, the Dimeras first spun their labyrinthian schemes, and supercouple romance was in the air!

    • mykleraus Says:

      Oh wow. I’ve always wondered what it was like to watch during that very early 80s period where the show was, from the sound of it, in a major state of flux. It seems like they hadn’t really found a way to move forward from the Julie/Doug, Laura/Bill, Mickey/Maggie heyday of the 70s and were kind of running on fumes and on half-cocked plans to reinvigorate the show. Then that entire renaissance with the intro of the DiMeras, Bradys, and the rest of the big 80s stuff sounds incredible. I wish I could’ve watched that all unfold firsthand.

      I think there was something magical about that period for soaps. I know fans of the earlier decades cite it as ruinous for the genre, and I 100% see their point (since the subsequent years have been a lot of trying to imitate that, with diminishing returns), but it just sounds like they forged out into this new template and things were firing on all cylinders.

  2. ess Says:

    I was 13 and needed something to do while the kid I babysat napped. So I started watching Passions, because it was brand new and there was no history I was missing out on. But I liked it so much that I started watching Days, too.
    I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the first story I saw was Marlena and Roman locked up by Stefano, who made them watch video of John and Kate falling for each other in their search for M & R.
    Also the flesh eating bacteria Nicole put in Chloe’s face. Were those around the same time? Because they’re the first two things that really stick out for me.
    Then along came Chelsea, and I hated her at first, but came to really like her later. She was what kept me watching for a while, but since then I haven’t really felt anything for Days.
    It went from being dramatic and funny, to stupidly funny, to boring for me. I miss watching it, but every time I do I lose focus and quit pretty quickly.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I watched Passions for the first year or two, but then I got so bored because it was insanely repetitive and circular. But it entertained me for a while.

      You must’ve started right after the Salem Stalker and Melaswen. Marlena and Roman escaped the island and then wound up in a castle for another, like, six months watching Roman/Kate get close and conceiving a child (at age 55). And that’s around when the flesh-eating bacteria happened.

      Chelsea wound up being a pretty successful character. She was such a pain in the ass for a while, and then the writing and Rachel Melvin found some humanity and layers in her.

  3. rustyspigot Says:

    1986. I was nine and watched because my my sister who is four years older started watching. The main thing I remember is liking that one loft space that had the sliding metal door that everyone seemed to live in at some point. That and my sister was into the Hope/Melissa/Jennifer goings on. Kim being blind, Kayla being deaf and mute.Good times.

  4. Mo Says:

    I got hooked by Jack and Jennifer. I remember their wedding pretty well as what made me a fan. Shipwrecked on the “Cruise of Deception”. I had to know what was happening to them so even when school started up I set the VCR to auto-record the show every day until the tapes would wear out. I remember the Prime-Time DAYS Specials were always big events for me too despite my family not having a clue what was going on or understanding why they couldn’t watch that week’s Murder, She Wrote.

    From Jack and Jennifer I remember loving Austin, Billie, Lexie, Carly, Vivian. Of course Sami when she grew up and her first feuds with Carrie and her mother were epic! The Demonic Possession story was a favorite too. Just when I would get bored with the show back then they would suck me back in.

    • Mo Says:

      Oh and this will date me but Tanner and Molly were my favorite for awhile in ’91 or ’92! Most probably won’t remember Molly, Tanner, or Tanner’s big brother cop Brian. Looking back they were failed throwaway characters but to me they were the cool older kids I wanted to hang with.

      • mykleraus Says:

        That seems like such a weird, lost piece of Days history now. Aside from Brian/Melissa and his interaction with J&J, that whole group was so disconnected from the core of the show. The closest comparison I can come up with is the Jordan/Ben/Clyde invasion, where their tether was basically just Rafe, a secondary character.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I think a LOT of people got sucked in by J&J — it sounds like an unusually careful, long-term story for daytime post-1970s.

      I really wish I’d been watching when they were doing the primetime specials. That sounds so fun.

  5. DOOL Fan Says:

    I was 16 years old and home sick when I came across a commercial of Days that was kind of a whodunit when Renee DiMera was killed. It was a lavish party with everyone all dressed up. I had to see what happened. That’s all it took for me. One commercial and I was sucked in.

    I’m not sure if I recorded it during my last years in high school or I just watched when I could, but by the time I got to college in 1985, the show was such a big deal, that the TV lounge in the dorm was packed at 1pm everyday with people watching. It wasn’t unheard of for students to purposely not schedule a class during that time so they could watch Days.

    Yes, I quit a few times, but even during those periods, I would read the weekly TV Guide updates or take a quick look at a Soap Opera Digest at the supermarket.

    Us long time fans are still out here watching. Yearning for good story lines, but still watching. Wishing for characters to remember their own history, but still watching. Hoping for a past character, no matter how major or minor, to be mentioned, but still watching.

    It’s been thirty-three years since i saw that commercial, but I’m still watching.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I’ve seen that party on YouTube! It seems so dramatic, with Renee’s big speech telling everyone off.

      When I went to college (early 2000s), there was still a group who’d gather for the soaps at different times of the day. I remember trying to avoid having classes at 3 pm because that’s when Days aired. And the most ridiculous thing I ever did was tell my politics professor I had a doctor’s appointment at 3 and had to leave class early so I could be in front of the TV in time for the episode where Greta’s coronation turned into a massacre!

    • mykleraus Says:

      It also really is amazing how much enjoyment I can get out of an old flashback or a reference to (or cameo by) an old cast member. Do they understand how powerful that stuff can be and how much goodwill it earns with us?

  6. Fluffysmom Says:

    I started watching in 83 or 84. I was in jr high and my new stepsisters watched the show. Bo and Hope were the ones who hooked me. It was their early years. The 80’s were glorious for soaps. There were lavish parties, fabulous location shoots, and they used actual pop music. I’ve been watching ever since.

    In high school our VCR was broken on the day Cruz and Eden on Santa Barbara were getting married. I convinced my mom to let me stay home from school. Now A Martinez who played Cruz is playing Eduardo on Days.

  7. rustyspigot Says:

    Speaking of college. I went during the possession storyline and EVERYBODY was watching that shit.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I was in fifth grade, and people were constantly talking about it at recess! I remember it being a HUGE cultural thing.

      • Fluffysmom Says:

        I may be the only longtime fan who hated the possession story. It literally gave me nightmares. I almost quit watching the show.

      • mykleraus Says:

        I think a lot of people did. It was so out-there and different and ridiculous, and it’s the kind of thing that’s hard to go back to “normal” after. I almost think I like it more in recaps than I would’ve watching live, because the drama feels so heightened and gothic…

      • Fluffysmom Says:

        I think fans either loved it or hated it. I suppose that’s true of many of Reilly’s off the wall tales.

        I watched Passions off and on but it never really captured my interest.

      • mykleraus Says:

        Totally. I wanted to love Passions, but the writing felt so dumbed-down that it was really difficult.

  8. Shea Says:

    I believe it was during the Christmas Break of 1981…I was 8 and my sister was 12. We had watched some of the ABC soaps….AMC,OLTL,and GH the previous summer when our older cousin had been babysitting us but when my sister had gotten back to school she had friends who had spent the summer watching Days of our Lives so when our school break came along my sister wanted to check out Days so we started watching. We liked it and so the following summer we were allowed to stay home alone during the summer of 1982 we were watching the Salem Salem Strangler and the budding romance of Roman and Marlena and we were hooked. Unfortunately we didn’t have a VCR so we were only watching during school breaks and on sick days. In 1985 I finally convinced my parents that I needed a VCR and I immediately began recording and watching every day. My sister was involved in other activities by that point so I was watching alone and had no one to share my love of Days with when I became obsessed! What I consider the “Miami” storyline is the one that elevated me to obsession status. Savannah Wilder had been had been operating a drug trafficking operation for Victor and the newly introduced Patch Johnson was working for her while he was trying to get revenge on Bo and Shane and Kim were trying to get the goods on Victor. It ended with a Miami Vice style shootout with Shane dangling from a helicopter and Bo and Steve jumping from an exploding boat. Of course that lead right into the Pawn storyline and the WTD? of Andrew Donovan. I was obsessed but all of my friends were watching Y&R and I had no one to share my obsession with. Right before school started in the fall of 1986 I got a phone call from one of my friends and she had met a band camp that was transferring to our school….and she would not shut up about Days so my friend passed to phone to the new girl and I knew I had met my Days soulmate! My obsession became an full blown Addiction with the Stockholm storyline and the pairing of Steve and Kayla! I even managed to get my Mother to start watching with me…well maybe that was more Drake Hogestyn and his chest hair but I finally had people to share my addiction with!

    • mykleraus Says:

      Oh wow! I think I would’ve gone insane had I not had access to (crappy AOL) internet back when I started watching — I felt the constant need to talk and read about Days. Luckily I had a friend who was complicit in getting me hooked, and she was more than willing to talk about it all the time. One of my greatest achievements was getting a good 50% of my fraternity riveted during the SSK storyline.

      • Shea Says:

        Back in 1986-87 we had a TON of soap opera magazines and my friend Jennifer and I bought every one of them and we started making Steve and Kayla scrap books of every photo, article and interview we could find. I am pretty sure there is a box on the back of the shelf in the closet of my old bedroom at my mother’s house that contains those old scrapbooks. I would have made the effort to to look for them if it didn’t break my heart to just think about all the hours my friend Jen and spent working on those things. Jen died 8 years ago and although we weren’t that close by the time we graduated from college, I still have a hard time not missing her when re-watch scenes that I so vividly remember obsessing over with her.

        My freshman year of college I sat next to the started QB of our college football team in Spanish class. We would chat before class and one day we somehow discovered we both loved Days and everyday he would head back to the athletic dorm right after class to watch it with half the football team. Then we would talk about it before class the next day if something exciting had happened. I used to get a ton of dirty looks from sorority girls trying to figure out why the QB was talking to someone like me.

      • mykleraus Says:

        Oh wow. Sorry to hear about your friend. I know how those connections can be.

        That’s so funny about the QB, though! That’s like a Last Blast-esque story, but… not as stupid. 😉

      • Fluffysmom Says:

        The fun and torturous thing about watching soaps in the 80’s and earlier was the lack of spoilers. Unless something was hinted at in SOD you didn’t know what would happen. I remember crying my eyes out when Hope was “killed” in the vat of acid. I never thought Hope would actually die. Back then she remained dead for several years.

      • mykleraus Says:

        I think spoilers have done soaps a lot of harm. It’s one thing to get a tease of “There’s a shocking return next month” — it’s another to know the actor’s first airdate and the specifics of what’s going on. I know they *think* it entices people to watch, but I think it makes it much easier to go, “Oh, I know what happens, so I won’t bother.”

  9. Fluffysmom Says:

    I agree about the spoilers. Days filming so far ahead makes it hard to keep things a secret too.

  10. victor kingsley Says:

    I am in my mid 50s. My mom got me hooked on the show when I was in elementary school. The first stories I remember were of Doug and Julie’s struggle to be together; Bob and Phyllis Anderson; Chris Kosicheck (sp) and Mary Anderson; and Amanda and Dr. Neal Curtis–whom we all thought was so handsome! I also remember the character Trish who sang at Doug’s club—she sang like an angel and the music was just an added artistic gift to the intriguing drama.

    Perhaps my favorite part of Days has always been the family connection. I loved watching Alice and Tom Horton together–kind of reminded me of my own grandparents. And to this day, I get teary eyed when they decorate the Christmas tree with the Horton ornaments. I wish the show would focus more on family connections.

    I also remember when Marlena joined the show. I thought she was so pretty and I loved the fact she was a career woman. I also relished her scenes with (the real) Roman. Their banter never failed to entertain and I loved the build up of their relationship. I also looked forward to all of the scenes with Marlena and her goofy platonic friend Eugene. I wish Days would inject more lighthearted scenes into the current scripts.

    I do not enjoy the recent episodes of Days as much as I did the earlier ones. However, I still look forward to watching the show. And I hope the genre of soap operas will continue. I loathe the morning talk shows such as “The View.” I cannot stand to watch people argue and try to force their views onto someone else. Yes, soaps are corny and they defy logic. But they provide a chance to watch great acting and real emotion in even the most ridiculous of situations—–that is the beauty of soaps.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I love this! Thanks for sharing.

      I have the same association with Tom, Alice, and the Horton ornaments. That entire thing reminds me of my aunt (who watched the show for most of her life and passed away a few years ago). It’s so wonderful and family-centric. I wish they’d realize that it’s okay to lean on that stuff at times other than the holidays!

      • Fluffysmom Says:

        I love those generational family holiday scenes too. As a teen I enjoyed watching Hope, Jennifer and Melissa sharing meaningful scenes with Gran and Grandpa H.

      • mykleraus Says:

        Yes! I was really happy when they were having Shawn interact with his cousins Abigail and Theresa, just because it felt fresh.

  11. ADW Says:

    I started watching, rather comprehending Days in 1985 when I was 6 years old because of my Maternal Grandmother who I was very close to. I loved Bo/Hope and Steve/Kayla love stories. Jennifer was spunky, funny, headstrong and much more enjoyable to back then. I was terrified of Victor but, not Stefano because I thought Stefano looked a little like my Dad. I remember Sami and Eric when they were babies and John (when he was Roman) putting them to bed which in retrospect is funny because they are now 4 years older than me.

    • mykleraus Says:

      That seems like a great time to have started watching. That’s so funny about Stefano. It always shocks me to see how absolutely nasty and evil 80s Victor was.

      That’s so ridiculous about Sami and Eric! I remember when EJ was BORN, and now he’s several years older than me.

  12. Diana Says:

    I might have you all beat. My mom watched Days from the beginning. Some of my first TV memories were waking up from my nap early in around 1970 and being ABSOLUTELY mystified by people taking other people’s babies and other people’s husbands. I remember when Marlena first came on the show, and then her evil twin- when I didn’t even know that evil twins were a thing. I remember Baby Hope. I took a big break after college, from about 1985 until I went part time at work and had a kid in 2000, but got sucked back in. They really should show more flashbacks and refer to the past more. Would I be watching this random, dark dreck if I didn’t have a huge sentimental connection with it?


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