Thursday, April 5, 2012

Back To (Horton) Square One....

For those of you who haven’t yet heard, I’m sorry to report that DAYS head writers Darrell Ray Thomas, Jr. and Marlene McPherson (sometimes called “MarDar”) have been fired and replaced with veteran soap writers Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell. I’m deeply disappointed with this news. Though their stories were met with sometimes met with criticism, Thomas and McPherson should be commended for returning something to Salem that had been missing for years: heart, soul, love and family.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why Thomas and McPherson’s work was met with such mixed reaction. With the soap press inundated with news of a “reboot” that would restore DAYS to its former glory, many viewers expected something more than what they got. Their first few episodes, centered around the unveiling of Horton Square and the return of several fan favorite characters, were filled with a warmth that the show, along with most soaps, had been lacking for a long time. Families interacted, friends hung out with each other, romance was in the air for both established and new couples and stories began to center around organic, character-driven conflicts. The first months of “MarDar’s” run saw the return of John and Marlena, Austin and Carrie and Jack, as well as the introduction of a new character, Madison. The returning characters were integrated smoothly into the existing fabric of the show, and Madison was paired with Brady, who found himself without a love interest. Additionally, the long-gestating story of Will coming out of the closet began, which got fans and press talking. So what went wrong?

The main stories took a few months to develop, but it was Johnny’s disappearance that set off a chain of events that began with Sami and EJ having sex and ended with the destruction of Sami and Rafe’s marriage and EJ and Nicole’s still-tenuous relationship. Will witnessed the disturbing sex act, which sent him into a tailspin and eventually led to his coming out. The mystery of Alice’s closely guarded secrets allowed for some fun Bo and Hope moments, while all the while we got to see small, intimate moments between all the characters; who can forget the painful but cathartic therapy session between Bo and Hope where they finally dealt with unresolved feelings about Zack’s death.

It would be easy to pick apart little mistakes that Thomas and McPherson made. Not every story they wrote was a winner; I’m sure nobody wants to recall the pointless caper revolving around Chad, Will and Sonny’s Web site, and the less said about the suspense-free mayoral race the better. But even those stories, which fell very flat, had elements that kept them watchable, even enjoyable. The Web site saga’s cimax laid the groundwork for Abigail’s obsession with Austin as well as Chad and Melanie finally getting together. The mayoral race eventually figured into Will’s story and gave Abe and Lexie some much-needed conflict.

So if Thomas and McPherson consistently featured popular characters in compelling stories, why would they be fired less than a year after their tenure began? I tried very hard to think of a good reason, but Marlene McPherson answered the question herself on her Twitter account:

@marlenemcp: Thank you DOOL fans. U r the best and we love you! NBC never let us tell our stories. They kept stopping us and changing our direction. Sad.

There you have it, folks. In this time of shows be canceled right and left and all sorts of upheaval behind the scenes at almost every soap, the corporate suits still think they know what’s best and interfere until things stop working. It’s ridiculous to see two talented writers get the boot, seemingly for no reason at all, by two writers whose previous track records have been spotty at best. I hope that McPherson and Thomas find work elsewhere, because they proved in their short time on the show that they understood soap opera as a medium and knew how to respect, entertain and satisfy the audience. “MarDar’s” work will continue airing until July, so hopefully their work won’t be completely undone by the “new” regime. For now, though, keep watching DAYS and let the-powers-that-be know that you have been enjoying DAYS and are disappointed to see yet another jarring change about to occur.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! Crazy the Will story was just picking up. Try to get them on the show!