Monday, November 08, 2010

"Days of our Lives" Turns 45

Days of our Lives first aired on November 8, 1965. The series was created by husband-and-wife team Ted Corday and Betty Corday along with Irna Phillips in 1964, and many of the first stories were written by William J. Bell. The original title sequence voiced by MacDonald Carey is still used to this day. The series expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour on April 21, 1975. The co-creator and original executive producer, Ted Corday, was only at the helm for eight months before dying of cancer in 1966. His widow, Betty, was named executive producer upon his death. She continued in that role, with the help of H. Wesley Kenney and Al Rabin as supervising producers, before she semi-retired in 1985. When Mrs. Corday semi-retired in 1985, and later died in 1987, her son, Ken, became executive producer and took over the full-time, day-to-day running of the show, a title he still holds today.

When Days of our Lives debuted the cast consisted of seven main characters (Tom Horton, Alice Horton, Mickey Horton, Marie Horton, Julie Olson, Tony Merritt, and Craig Merritt). The series first focused on its core family, the Hortons. Several other families have been added to the cast, and many of them still appear on the show. Frances Reid the matriarch of the series' Horton family remained with the show from its inception to her death on February 3, 2010.

The Cordays and Bell combined the "hospital soap" idea with the tradition of centering a series on a family, by making the show about a family of doctors, including one who worked in a mental hospital. Storylines in the show follow the lives of middle and upper-class professionals in Salem, a middle-America town, with the usual threads of love, marriage, divorce, and family life, plus the medical storylines and character studies of individuals with psychological problems. Former executive producer Al Rabin took pride in the characters' passion, saying that the characters were not shy about "sharing what's in their gut." Critics originally praised the show for its non-reliance on nostalgia and its portrayal of "real American contemporary families." By the 1970s, critics deemed Days to be the most daring daytime drama, leading the way in using themes other shows of the period would not dare touch, such as artificial insemination and interracial romance. The January 12, 1976 cover of Time magazine featured Days of our Lives' Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes, the first daytime actors to ever appear on its cover. The Hayeses themselves were a couple whose onscreen and real-life romance (they met on the series in 1970 and married in 1974) was widely covered by both the soap opera magazines and the mainstream press.

One of the longest-running storylines involved the rape of Mickey Horton's wife Laura by Mickey's brother Bill. Laura confides in her father-in-law Dr. Tom, and the two agree that her husband Mickey should never know. The secret, involving the true parentage of Michael Horton (a product of the rape) and Mickey's subsequent health issues as a result of the revelation, spanned episodes from 1968 to 1975. The storyline was the first to bring the show to prominence, and put it near the top of the Nielsen daytime ratings. Another love triangle, between lounge singer Doug Williams, Tom and Alice's daughter Addie, and Addie's own daughter, Julie, proved to be very popular around the same time. The storyline culminated in the death of Addie in 1974 and the marriage of Doug and Julie in 1976.

In the 1980s, the Brady and DiMera families were introduced, and their rivalry quickly cemented their places as core families in Salem beside the Hortons. Around the same time, with the help of head writers Sheri Anderson, Thom Racina, and Leah Laiman, action/adventure storylines and supercouples such as Bo and Hope, Shane and Kimberly, and Patch and Kayla reinvigorated the show, previously focused primarily on the domestic troubles of the Hortons.

That's when I started watching.

It’s the summer of 1983, I was home from school but Mom was doing some volunteer work in the afternoons, meaning she would be missing Days of our Lives. So she asked me to watch the show for her, then tell her what happened. Remember there were no VCRs. It seemed simple enough. She’d come home and I’d say, " The guy with the beard has the hots for that girl with the big boobs. Everyone is wondering if this guy I think his name is "Cirano?" is really dead even though he was cremated. Soon it became, "Bo (Peter Reckell) expressed his feelings to Hope (Kristian Alfonso) and Stefano (Joseph Mascolo) faked his death by having some John Doe in the morgue cremated in his place". By the time summer was over and Mom was done with her volunteer work, I was hooked on Days of our Lives.

I never felt insecure in my manhood being a Soap Opera fan because Los Angeles Dodger's manager Tommy Lasorta confessed that he hated away games because it caused him to miss Days of our Lives.

In college I bought my first VCR before I bought my first textbook so I wouldn’t miss the show. While working as a Universal Studios Tour guide I met a coworker who had a recurring part on the show as a nurse. I used the show as an icebreaker. Long story short, I married her. It's a mixed marriage, she's an All My Children fan. Every Wednesday I attend a story telling group in Los Angeles called Story Salon. One of the storytellers there is an actress named Marsha Clark, who also plays the no nonsense judge, Karen Fitzpatrick on DAYS. I started to talk to her about the show's serial killer story line where half the town was murdered by Dr. Marlena Evens (Deidre Hall). She must have thought this guy is nuts, don’t make eye contact.

It’s 27 years later, Bo and Hope's marriage is on the rocks, Stefano is alive, well & raising hell and the hourglass has plenty of sand.

To quote Macdonald Carey (Dr. Tom Horton), "Like sands through the hourglass... so are the Days of our Lives".

To quote Ken Corday's new book (The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family's Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives ), "May the sands run for many years to come."

And to quote Tom and Alice's song ALWAYS,
"Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But Always."

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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