It has been three weeks since Ken Corday, Executive Producer and owner of NBC’s “Days of our Lives,” made his first move to save the soap from near oblivion with the firing of Head Writer Dena Higley and replacing her with former “Passions” scribes Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas. In the weeks that followed, soap stars Crystal Chappell (Carly Manning), Louise Sorel (Vivian Alamain), Bren Foster (Quinn Hudson), Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe Lane), Tamara Braun (Taylor Walker), and Francisco San Martin (Dario Hernandez) were all out of jobs. If those changes weren’t enough to signal a revolution heading toward Salem, it was definitely made clear with the firing of Co-Executive Producer Gary Tomlin along with the expected returns of Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans), Drake Hogestyn (John Black), and Matthew Ashford (Jack Deveraux) and the rumored returns of several former cast members including Mark Hapka (Nathan Horton) and Bryan Dattilo (Lucas Horton).
Since receiving word from Jeff Gaspin, the now former Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment (now NBCUniversal Media), late last year that the network had decided it would renew “Days of our Lives” for two additional years, on top of its previous contract that was set to expire in September 2011, the daytime drama series has been trending downward in the Nielsen ratings. This is in direct contrast to the upward trend the soap had received prior to its renewal. In our interview with Corday back in May of 2010, he laughed when he said that “the show grew 10% in ratings from the previous year, which NBC can’t say about any of their other shows between 2008 and 2009.” Unfortunately, between 2010 and 2011, the drama series is experiencing a downward spiral and it’s no laughing matter.
In the latest ratings released covering the week of May 30, 2011 through June 3, 2011, it was revealed that “DAYS” is down a whopping 17% in Women 18-49 and another 15% in Households season to date (September 20, 2010 through June 3, 2011). Only ABC’s canceled “All My Children” had a bigger loss in Women 18-49 (down 22% season to date) with a much smaller loss in Households (down just 5%). So what can “DAYS” do to turn things around before seasons end? Not much of anything.
Unlike in primetime where scripted television airs mostly in originals from September through May, daytime scripted television airs in originals from September to September, therefore “season to date” would cover from September 20, 2010 through September 16, 2011. Why is this piece of information so important? “Days of our Lives,” now celebrating its 45th anniversary year on television, is currently filming at such a rapid speed that there is literally no way that Higley’s material will stop airing before the official close of this season, or is there?
Days after news broke that Higley was fired, it was announced via Twitter by Judie Henninger, an NBC employee who handles the networks promos for “DAYS,” that 17 episodes scheduled to tape before Higley’s ouster were being rewritten by the shows new writing team. While the tweets have since been deleted, Corday confirmed that Co-Head Writers McPherson and Ray Thomas were rewriting a number of episodes. “We didn’t have to reshoot anything, but we had to rewrite three weeks of shows yet to air and chart a new course,” said Corday in the June 14 issue of Soap Opera Digest when asked if any storylines were being changed. Interestingly enough, in the same response he confirmed that Chandler Massey‘s Will Horton would indeed be portraying the rumored gay character on “DAYS” despite the show itself still not confirming the news to the press directly. “We are telling a story dealing with the first gay character on the show and that had to have another look and the take on that had to be changed. It will be written much more slowly and carefully. It’s a story about one of our characters coming to grips with who he is,” Corday stated.
For her part, McPherson has joined Twitter to bring a voice from the new writing team straight to disgruntled fans who were thrilled to learn that changes were finally happening at their favorite daytime soap. In her first tweet on Saturday, June 4, McPherson said “Writing the first week of “our” shows! So exciting! Don’t miss 9/23!” This was our first indication as to when we could expect the teams material to begin airing, although it doesn’t make it clear if said material was part of the rewritten scripts or if they would be credited for a time prior to this episode as co-heads with Higley (when material is re-written…it remains based on the outline of the original writer leaving credit with said original writer and those that made any changes). While minor details still need to be sorted out, fans should at least expect a big party to kick off a new era for “DAYS.” On Saturday, June 11, McPherson tweeted “The excitement is building! Huge party with many surprises the week of 9/26! You are all invited! We promise you won’t be disappointed!” What are those surprises? You’ll have to tune in to find out of course. Until then, Soap Opera Network has learned exclusively that “Days of our Lives” will outline numerous changes in a press release going out tomorrow that includes the announcement of its new co-executive producer (rumored to be Noel Maxam), the ouster of Gary Tomlin, and the likely announcements of who is returning to the drama series beginning this fall.
Are you ready for better “DAYS?” We sure are!