In my six years of writing this blog, I’ve now had to begin four of these year-end Best & Worst lists with the caveat that there was a writing turnover that took place in August/September, so it was sort of like grading two totally different shows. The shift from Josh Griffith’s version of Days to the Dena Higley/Ryan Quan incarnation has been less abrupt than some of the past changeovers — i.e., no serial killer or sharp “new direction” — but I find the present version of the show way, way more palatable than what was going on last winter and spring. Even with things that aren’t totally (or at all) working, it feels like Days again to me. That said, there’s so much stuff that was packed into this year, partly because Griffith started and dropped a whole slew of things that never paid off. I almost called this the “Best, Worst, & Other of 2016,” because there were a few instances in which “best” simply meant “least offensive option I could remember.” But with all that out of the way, here goes…
BEST RECAST: Vanessa Williams as Valerie Grant
I can only think of three recasts that debuted this year: Jordi Vilasuso as Dario, who’s… fine even though the character has no point and was replacing an actor who held the role for six months years ago, and Marci Miller as Abigail, who’s doing pretty well with tough material and is also very new. So maybe this one goes to Vanessa Williams by default, but that’s selling her short. Valerie last appeared onscreen in 1982, and she was played by three actresses during her original run, so it isn’t as if Williams was taking over for a beloved performer who’s fresh in viewers’ minds. But from the moment she stepped into Abe’s hospital room, she’s come across as a refreshing, natural presence on the show. She’s definitely younger than the character should be, but not distractingly so, and I love that this gives both Abe and Julie stuff to do. In a year where I spent a whole lot of time wishing that things happening onscreen would go away and never be mentioned again, this is one case in which I’m actually eager to see more.
BIGGEST WASTE OF TALENT: Vincent Irizarry as Deimos Kiriakis
Soap vet Vincent Irizarry, best known for popular runs on Guiding Light and All My Children, joined Days near the top of 2016 as Victor’s never-before-referenced younger brother, fresh off a 30-year prison stint and out for revenge. Within months, he had stolen Victor’s fortune and left Maggie paralyzed — and that’s on top of the fact that his quest to obtain the serum to cure Topit’s Syndrome (remember that?!) led to Bo’s death. Pretty good recipe for a new villain, right? Instead, the writing kept taking bizarre left turns, with everyone from Nicole to Brady to Victor making excuses for Deimos, while he simultaneously sort of felt bad for the things he’d done while also continuing to be a ruthless bastard. This sort of propping never makes a character more likable, so instead of creating a worthy successor to Stefano or old-school Victor, they’ve just created this darker version of Daniel, whom even the talented Irizarry can’t salvage. Days seems to want to have its cake and eat it, too, with this character, but instead they’re just winding up with that sad mess Paige threw on the floor at the saddest birthday party ever.