Deep Soap: The Ugly Truth

Salem Trials

The axe keeps swinging at Days of Our Lives. This week, the show let go Stephen Nichols (Steve), Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and Thaao Penghlis (Tony). On message boards far and wide, fans are protesting the destruction of the show and wondering what will be left of their beloved soap. From a creative standpoint, I agree that this is terrible news. In addition to being longtime favorites, they are three of the strongest actors on the show. However, from a cold, hard, business perspective, this actually makes sense. All three characters have been on the back burner for the past six months and relegated to supporting status for far longer. Unlike Hall and Hogestyn, they all returned to the show relatively recently after extended absences. They are not core characters. Moreover, all three have been ill used. Steve and Kayla’s return to the show has been a bust, thanks to poor storytelling under multiple headwriters. Tony’s “fueling ad agencies” storyline was pointless filler. Since it ended, he’s been reduced to serving as an occasional sounding board.

The cold, hard facts are that DOOL is the only soap not losing viewers this season. In fact, it has actually gained viewers in one demo W55+ (a slight improvement from 2.4 to 2.5), presumably the most likely to be longtime viewers. Other than Alison Sweeney, it isn’t the vets who are drawing in viewers. They aren’t on enough to be a factor. The show has been battloing General Hospital for #2 in W18-49 since it began focusing on Nicole faking her pregnancy. DOOL is essentially a one storyline soap right now. The only other plot that’s getting significant airtime is the Chloe-Daniel affair. Given its ultimate impact on Lucas, and the Lucas-Sami relationship, it might ultimately tie into the baby switch storyline.

DOOL transformed itself months ago. The show just waited to send out pink slips. It has made it clear that it is now primarily about Nicole, EJ, Sami, Rafe, Daniel, Chloe, Lucas and, to a lesser extent, Phillip, Stephanie, Melanie, Max, Chelsea, Bo and Hope. Yes, Bo’s “suddenly psychic” storyline seems like a posting on a hypothetical message board thread entitled “Create the worst possible Hope and Bo fanfic.” But it’s existence signals that the show intends to keep them on the canvas. I don’t enjoy the show in its current state. I’m baffled by its success. I’m equally mystified by Paul Blart: Mall Cop’s hit status. Apparently, there are a lot of people whose taste in entertainment differs from mine.

There has been a lot of online grumbling that Taylor Spreitler, who plays Mia, The Formerly Pregnant Teen, has been signed to a longterm contract while so many veterans are being written off. As it happens, I had the opportunity to speak to the actress this week. Remember, she is a 15 year-old who got her big break, undoubtedly makes far less money than any of the performers who have been let go, and is no way responsible for any of the decisions made by TPTB. Spreitler, who told me that Mia was always a contract role, had some interesting things to say about her experience on DOOL.

Is it difficult being the only teenager on the show and playing a mature storyline with adult performers?

Not at all. They’re all kids at heart. We’re in these serious scenes. We’re all screaming at each other. Then when we’re done we’re all sitting there cracking jokes. It hasn’t been difficult for me to fit in at all.

So many television shows are doing teen pregnancy storylines right now. How do you think DOOL’s handling of the situation compares to the others?

I think Days did a good job of showing the tougher side of teen pregnancy. I don’t think it’s exactly an easy thing for teenagers to go through. It was difficult even just wearing a belly. I couldn’t even put on my own shoes when I was wearing it.

Who do you think is the cutest guy on the show?

Darrin [Brooks.] He is a doll. And James [Scott]. I was walking through the hallway one time and James said good morning. And for some reason when I said good morning to him I said it in an English accent, too. He started laughing at me. I was trying to walk down the stairs and my whole script and everything in my binder fell down the stairs. It was probably the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.

Where is Mia’s family? She’s so young yet the only relative she’s mentioned is an aunt in Japan.

I have no idea. That was never really established. I think them not establishing Mia’s family could add something very fun in the future to my storyline.

If you could write a storyline for Mia what would you like to see happen to her?

Definitely a love interest. That would be a lot of fun. I think it would be cool if maybe I was somehow related to some family like related to Nicole.

With so many longterm actors leaving the show, how’s the morale on the set?

I haven’t been there that long so I don’t really know anything about that kind of deal. I think on any show you have to just expect that because not everybody’s going to be on the show forever.

There are rumors that DOOL plans to add more teen characters. Have you heard anything?

I’m sure they will because with Mia there I’m going to have to have friends at some point. I think that’s going to be really good for Days.

More specifically, is there any truth to the rumors that Sami’s son Will is going to return and become Mia’s love interest?

I don’t know. We talk about it in the make-up room. Maybe. It’s possible. But I’m not positive on anything.

Lucky Number 4

Congratulations to The Young & The Restless for hitting a 4.0 in the HH ratings for the first time in nearly a year. It took a huge storm that kept hundreds of thousands of people homebound, but it shows that it is possible for a show to reach that ratings milestone again. Y&R’s consistently good storytelling is making it the show to watch when you’re snowed in. January is usually the highest rated month for daytime programming, which may be the reason General Hospital is running its much-hyped bio-toxin storyline now instead of during a sweeps period.

The Phillipalooza Continues

Mark your calendars. Friday, February 13 at 3PM EST/12PM PST, Fancast will be hosting a live chat with Guiding Light’s Grant Aleksander. Talk to him about Phillip’s first week back in Springfield, the upcoming return of Krista Tesreau (Mindy), or whatever else you want to know about Guiding Light. Get ready by watching classic Phillip clips and reading the interview with Aleksander.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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