The New, New, New Plan to Save Days
What’s that old saying? “April showers bring really boring 1-2 pm television hours”?
In what has become a wretched, time-honored tradition for viewers of Days of Our Lives, we now find ourselves at the beginning of spring, with months of material left to air before a new writing team’s work shows up onscreen. And, honestly, I’m bored. I can only make so many jokes about Nicole’s hair or Rafe’s bathroom or this DOA mob war. So let’s play a favorite game: speculating about what the new regime might do, as well as what we’d do if it were up to us.
Putting this behind a cut, on account of casting news that implies spoilers…
First up: who to cut?
We already know that Arianne Zucker (Nicole), Vincent Irizarry (Deimos), and Vivian Jovanni (Ciara) are out over the next several months. Signs point to Deimos being killed off in a murder mystery, which makes sense. I really, sincerely hope that Nicole’s exit isn’t depressing the way that fall 2015 and winter 2016 were. Just let her have Holly and leave Salem, preferably alone because that would indicate some character growth. As for Ciara, the character should be on canvas, and I hope they’ll recast sooner rather than later.
The rest of the cast generally makes sense to me, though not everyone is being utilized as well as they could or should be. As far as exits are concerned, I’m going to advocate for cutting Galen Gering (Rafe), Jordi Vilasuso (Dario), Thaao Penghlis (Andre), and Gabrielle Haugh (Jade). I know that Gering has fans among both viewers and TPTB, but the character has never really worked as a lead — even when he was paired with Sami, he was an accessory to her — and his coupling with Hope has been a failure. There really is not time or money to waste with regards to trying to make characters like this work. Let him go. There are strong rumors that Vilasuso is already out, which is okay by me. I like him fine, and I can think of several uses for him, but the character is weirdly just “there” even after a year. He has chemistry with Marci Miller’s Abigail, and I suspect plenty is going to happen with them over the next few months. But they don’t read as a long-term important couple to me, so whatever happens, play it out and then cut him loose. And I know Andre was probably brought on as a Stefano surrogate, but they haven’t really slotted him into that role, and I find his presence bizarre and upsetting. This man has been guilty of two serial-killing sprees. He isn’t Tony. I don’t think they should kill him off, though; send him to prison, and then he’s available if they ever want another balls-to-the-wall villain, or to raise the specter of the “old DiMeras” if they ever need to do so with Chad, Theo, etc. But Andre as a regular character putzing around Salem makes no sense. End it. Gabrielle Haugh has been fine performance-wise as Jade, but the character is the epitome of pointless; I’m sure she’ll play some role in the tension between Joey and his half-brother, Tripp, but she is not worth keeping around now.
Oh, and there’s also Sal Stowers (Lani), who isn’t even on contract but needs to be mentioned because she’s now in a pairing with JJ. I actually don’t mind her this time around, but this relationship is a story void. My initial thought was to suggest keeping her until it’s clear whether Casey Moss (JJ) intends to stay, and if he wants to go, send them off together… but really, JJ has value in Salem, and this isn’t a role that’s beyond recasting. So have Lani take a promising job offer elsewhere, give her a nice goodbye with Abe and Theo, and have them mention her from time to time.
Next: who to add?
Whenever there’s a writing change of this nature, a lot of the initial reaction from fans is “I hope they bring So-and-so back!” And the show seems to fall into that, too. Returns generate buzz, they get people excited, and they bring a familiar element back to the screen. But I also think it’s easy for nostalgia to cloud the issue here. How many times have we seen a fan favorite brought back, only for the story to tank and the actor to be dismissed a year later? What’s most important now, with a one-year renewal and no certainty beyond that, is to have a canvas full of characters who will contribute meaningfully to story.
The most noticeable gap on the canvas is in the 30-to-45-year-old female set. Once Nicole exits, Chloe is going to be the only woman in that age range. These characters, ostensibly, should be the major leads. I’ve seen lots of comments calling for Belle and Carrie to fill this role, but… enh. I think both characters could have a place on canvas, but they’re also both bound to pretty set-in-stone couplings. Short of killing Shawn or Austin, I don’t think you could really play either of these women as romantic leads again, mostly because of the weight and damage of past storytelling. I have some ideas for Belle and Shawn, who have a teen daughter on canvas; it’d be great to have Carrie and Austin around on recurring, acting as supporting characters while raising their young son.
Abigail is the logical lead female in the under-30 set. I actually wouldn’t cut Gabi, whom I sort of like as a B-level character, but I’d keep her as that. Either figure out a story for her and JJ — a relationship that had a lot of potential that was never particularly utilized — or actually build something for her and Eli. To fill things out, there are a whole bunch of younger women who could be recast and more or less reset:
- Stephanie, whose parents are on canvas, since it’s unlikely Shelley Hennig would return for more than a visit;
- Chelsea, who even without Bo or Billie around would have powerful connections to Hope, Ciara, and Kate, among others;
- Theresa, who could be shifted pretty easily away from the Brady storyline that she was changed for;
- Melanie, whom I know is a trigger for a lot of people, but she has a ton of connections and could also be something of a blank slate.
Anyway, I’ll go with Stephanie right now, because I like that she provides story for Steve and Kayla. I would also bring back Philip Kiriakis — either in the form of Jay Kenneth Johnson, if he’d deign to return, or ideally by stealing Jacob Young from The Bold and the Beautiful.
In terms of other returns, I’d love to bring back Kassie DePaiva as Eve, because there was so much left undone with that character. I do sort of feel like the time has passed for her, since Paige’s death has settled, Theresa is gone, Justin has moved back toward Adrienne, etc. But I wouldn’t be opposed to Eve/Lucas or to building something between her and a recast/returned Mike Horton down the road. If they could manage to find a story for her and Eduardo now that the Paige stuff is so long in the past, I’d be fine with that, too; A Martinez could stick around to be in a small story with Eve and support Gabi.
Aside from these, I don’t think we need to add many characters, but rather utilize the existing ones in strong stories. A few familiar names will pop up below, however…
And now: what the hell are the stories?
These are more loose thoughts than fully fleshed-out stories, but the general idea is that they really need to shift the focus to the next generation and give them momentum moving forward. No more stories about couples over 50 years old being broken up by third parties. Doesn’t mean that John and Marlena or Steve and Kayla shouldn’t have strong places on the show, but those stories come off as so silly after a certain point. (It’s part of why Belle/Shawn and Carrie/Austin don’t feel that viable to me without some real creativity — their big love stories have been told already.)
First up: end this terrible Abigail/Chad/Gabi triangle. The perspective on it has been off since the beginning. The current construction makes it feel like Chad/Gabi are the rooting couple, because they’re the ones being “kept” apart, but it should 100% be Chad/Abigail at the center of it. God only knows where this is going to go by August, but have it end with Chad and Abigail reaffirming their love for one another and settling back into a marriage.
Marlena and Roman get word that Sami was in an accident and is now comatose somewhere in Europe. They go to hold vigil over her and take care of the kids. After nearly dying, Sami awakens (get Alison Sweeney to appear for a few episodes) and reveals that her search for EJ actually led her to evidence that Will is alive. With Sami still hospitalized, a crew (Marlena, John, Lucas, maybe even Carrie and Austin) set out to find Will. They discover clues that Stefano engineered his capture after it appeared he’d been killed by Ben, but in Stefano’s weakened state, he handed Will over to… Alan Harris, the rapist whom Sami shot in the groin two-and-a-half decades ago. Alan has cooked up a revenge plan against Sami and her family for ruining his life, using DiMera brainwashing techniques. Alan is caught, Sami stays in Europe with Johnny and Sydney, and Lucas brings Will and Allie back to Salem.
Meanwhile, Sonny’s role in the Deimos murder mystery causes a huge rift between him and Paul, who is uncomfortable with Sonny’s new murky morality. Paul gets involved with the newly arrived Andrew Donovan. When Will is revealed to be alive, Sonny becomes a part of the quest to bring him back from the dark side. Sonny and Will tentatively come back together, but there’s still a strong bond between Sonny and Paul. Andrew manipulates Will into helping him keep Sonny and Paul apart for good.
A woman is seen selling DiMera Enterprises secrets to a known adversary. We’re led to believe that this is Abigail, operating under an alias as some sort of revenge against Chad for the Gabi relationship. Her behavior appears increasingly strange. But it turns out to be Belle. She confusingly pushes away Shawn and has a covert fling with someone unexpected (Steve’s son, Tripp?!). She also resents Claire’s renewed mentor/mentee relationship with Eve and tries to sabotage it. As clues emerge, it is revealed that Belle is suffering from DID; some traumatic event in her childhood (it would be amazing to tie this into Marlena’s possession) caused her personality to fracture. Her actions spiral, but eventually, Shawn and her family pull her back from the brink, and she begins the difficult process of integrating her alters. Through the process, however, something else comes out: that this Belle is not the same baby whom Sami kidnapped all those years ago. John and Marlena set out to find their real daughter.
At the same time, you can use Abigail’s aforementioned off behavior to show that she’s having memory flashes pertaining to the time that she was presumed dead. Either she unknowingly got mixed up in something shady, or she had a brief jaunt on her own before winding up with Laura — but that opens the door to new threats for her and Chad. Laura returns as part of the mystery, and she and Roman hit it off.
I’d shift Brady, Chloe, and Philip into a quadrangle with the returned Stephanie. After Deimos’s death, Philip returns and reconciles with Victor, who installs him in his rightful place as the head of Titan. The useful thing here is that Chloe has powerful histories with both men, so you could position this either way, but the key is to figure out early on which is the rooting couple. I think you put Brady and Chloe back together, then have Philip return and reunite with Steph. Slowly, Philip and Chloe realize that what they left unfinished in late 2016 is still there, but they’re committed to other people, and it spirals into a huge mess that doesn’t involve Chloe being unfaithful to Brady. Depending on chemistry, you could also use this to spin Brady and Stephanie off into their own pairing once the quad ends.
Jennifer and Eric feel like a couple with real rooting value to me, so I’d continue them on their path. There are lots of relationship milestones that can be used to trigger issues for them: what happens when Abigail and JJ find out about the relationship? What about when there’s suspicion that Holly might be Eric’s because of that “drunk man causing a scene” at the fertility clinic that was set up? Jennifer could want him to pursue that, and even do it herself, while Eric doesn’t feel that he has any right to involve himself in Nicole’s life. Since Nicole is leaving, I wouldn’t make the baby actually be his, but there could be a way to use this to solidify the relationship and then spin them off into a story about a foster child they meet through the Horton Center and/or a story Jen is writing, which could be complicated by the fact that Jennifer knows she won’t have any more children but feels Eric deserves the chance to be a father.
As for other folks: use a recast Ciara and a rattled Claire to build a more complex quadrangle with those two young women, Theo, and Tripp. With Jade gone, bring in Chloe’s sister, Joy Wesley, who could get involved with Joey, JJ, or both (much like the triangle we thought was coming when Jade got pregnant). Play real conflict for Eli and Gabi over her status as a convicted murderer who killed the cousin he never knew. Have Abe and Valerie marry.
I haven’t figured out a great place for Steve and Kayla just yet, but they work so well as tentpole characters. It might be interesting for them to face danger as a result of Kayla’s work (maybe she gets overinvolved in a patient’s case, or framed for negligence) instead of Steve’s for once. Oh, and let Hope be a mother, grandmother, relative, and friend for a while. A new love interest, ideally someone with ties to the past, can be introduced down the road once she’s had time to recover and doesn’t have the stink of “Rope” all over her.
Again, these are relatively quick thoughts, but I feel like the most important thing for Days over the next year is to stop coasting on the fumes of what’s already been done and to give the 20- and 30-something characters fuel that will drive story for several years.
Who would you cut from the cast? Who would you work hard to keep? And what kinds of stories would you like to see moving forward?