“Days of Our Lives” Makes Sweeping Changes
Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn are reprising their roles as John and Marlena on “Days of Our Lives,” while Crystal Chappell is leaving the show as part of a large scale attempt to reboot the show.
On the heels of replacing headwriter Dena Higley with Marlene Clark Poulter and Darrell Ray Thomas Junior, executive producer Ken Corday told Soap Opera Digest, “You will see, in the course of a month, in the neighborhood of six characters leave Salem and five or six characters return or come to Salem, leading up to a huge September.”
On Wednesday, Chappell, who plays Carly, announced via Twitter that she had been let go from the show. Thursday, Louise Sorel, who plays Vivian, told TV Guide that she was leaving the show. She also broke the news of Hall and Hogestyn’s return, saying, “They’re bringing Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn back for the summer, which doesn’t mean they won’t continue on for the fall, winter and spring.”
Hall and Hogestyn, arguably DOOL’s biggest stars, were written off in 2009 amidst budget cuts. Fans were furious, but surprisingly the ratings went up, thanks in large part to the popularity of the Sami (Allison Sweeney) and Nicole (Arianne Zucker) baby-switch storyline. In recent months, the show’s ratings have declined. Corday clearly decided to take drastic action, envisioning a leaner, meaner DOOL. He told Soap Opera Digest, “This is not a time where I’m going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. I’m going to throw everything but the kitchen sink on-screen, but it’s not going to be spread among 30 cast members. It’s going to be centered on 15, and 15 who are loved and are dear to the audience.”
Let the speculation about who is coming and going begin! Last week, news broke that Matt Ashford would be returning to his role as Jack, presumably to play out a love story that will reunite Jack and Jennifer (Melissa Reeves). Other favorites who seem like good prospects to return include Bryan Datillo (Lucas), who has unfinished business with Sami and would be a natural part of his son Will’s (Chandler Massey) rumored gay storyline, and Carrie (Christie Clark), who has made several brief appearances in the past year. Given the show’s tight budget, losing the teen newbies who are getting paid scale will likely not be enough to pay for Hogestyn and Hall — though after enduring two years with little acting work, they may be willing to return for lower salaries. That leaves other veteran actors, ones who do not play what would be considered core characters, vulnerable. I would not be surprised to see Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe) or Shawn Christian (Daniel) go.
So, will all the changes bring viewers back to DOOL? I think it depends on the writing. People tuned in to see Chappell’s return to DOOL. She had legions of fans from her stint on “Guiding Light” as well. But for whatever reason, instead of scripting the epic Carly/Bo/Hope love triangle that everybody wanted to see – a storyline that could have easily generated years of compelling, character-driven story – the show opted to rapidly break up Hope (Kristian Alfonso) and Bo (Peter Reckell) for no good reason, then threw Hope and Carly together without giving them a real love story, while Hope took sleeping pills that made her crazy. Since Carly and Bo’s break-up, Carly languished on the backburner until she recently became addicted to drugs literally overnight. The Emmy-winning Chappell, and the audience, deserved better.
If the new headwriters script a thrilling storyline for John and Marlena’s return, I think people will tune in. If they come back to Salem to have soft-focus sex scenes and dispense advice to Sami, nobody will care. The underwhelming returns of numerous daytime A-listers have proved that merely seeing familiar actor and characters is no longer enough reason for most people watch. DOOL has played musical chairs with its cast for the past few years. After Hogestyn and Hall were written out, Chappell and Sorel returned. Bjorlin’s return was supposed to recreate the Last Blast era, with Chloe, Shawn, Belle, Brady and Phillip together again. Instead, Shawn and Belle were quickly written out, and the others were thrown into instant relationships that had none of the magic of the characters’ teen romances. In contrast, bringing back Nicole was one of the show’s best moves. Her rivalry with Sami drove the show’s story for nearly a year. I truly hope that all of the changes at DOOL really will bring back the romance and family drama that represent the best of the show. I applaud Corday for realizing that he needed to take action to prevent the show from being canceled.
Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo Leaving “General Hospital”
Speaking of squandered returns, “General Hospital’s” Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo tweeted that she is taping her final scenes on the show. “hey guys Just finished tv guide interview with Michael Logan. Gave official last day but exit story must stay a surprise. It’s a twist!!!” With Ingo Rademacher also exiting the show, it looks like Brenda and Jax may be leaving Port Charles together to live happily ever after, pleasing the numerous fans of the couple.
Brenda’s return has go to go down as one of the great squandered opportunities in daytime history. No actress has a larger fanbase. She was still on the cover of soap magazines on a regular basis even when she was not working in daytime. There were plenty of great stories about Brenda to tell, with the three most significant men in her life, Sonny, Jax and Jason, all still on the canvas. Instead, it seemed like the writers were making it up as they went along.
Brenda spent her first month on the show in Italy dating a movie star. It was strange to reintroduce a character by isolating her. Once she got back to Port Charles, she spent most of her time hiding from an allegedly terrifying criminal named the Balkan who turned out to have had access to her all along. So what was the point? It didn’t help that the only frightening thing about him was Daniel Benzali’s hammy performance. She sparred with Jason. Then she stopped. She had a mysterious connection to Dante, but it turned out that he just helped her hide a body. Brenda is supposed to be a supermodel. It would have been natural for her to become the new editor of Crimson and become a mover and a shaker. Instead, she has been written as a pathetic victim who needs to be protected. The revelation that Brenda had a child by a man we only saw in flashbacks was anti-climactic to say the least. With no obstacles to keep them apart, Brenda and Sonny’s rekindled romance has been dull. Even their wedding turned out to be just another excuse to rip off the famous clink-boom car bomb scenario from Brenda’s first stint on the show. I never thought I’d say it,but I am not sorry to see Brenda go.