Somehow I thought the first non-John and Marlena day would be different. Nope, nothing. Nothing’s changed – the sets are the same; the dialogue is the same; characters are still lying, cheating, and scheming; the sun still shines in Salem; Stefano is still an evil bastard; Sami is still “real” pregnant; Nicole is still fake pregnant… and yet everything’s changed.
I had a love – hate relationship with John and Marlena, even though they were the heart of the show (along with Bo and Hope, Patch and Kayla, and other core families). Their love storyline had it all: romance, realism, surrealism, making up, breaking up, making up again – it was all there. I hated the possession storyline. Roman Brady becoming John Black didn’t thrill me either. Drake Hogestyn’s ‘John’ was first a Brady, then a man with no identity, an Alamain, and finally a Dimera. Fans needed to wear a neckbrace to keep up with the changes in John’s backstory as those changes went whizzing by. None of the worst of the John and Marlena storylines, however, came close to outweighing what was good about them. They are and always will be legendary.
It’s possible that DAYS will find the ‘new’ John and Marlena, on the cheap, but will it matter? The ‘new’ and presumably cheaper John and Marlena won’t be able to provide the show the one thing fans are unwavering in wanting – a link to history. Their relationship ended the era of the Roman-Marlena relationship that it intially gave rebirth to. They introduced new legacy characters (including Belle Black, whose relationship with Shawn Brady was legendary in it’s own way). They helped keep tradition, being part of the Brady-Horton clan. For decades, their marriage was at times as real as anyone else’s. How do you replace that? How do you appropriately celebrate their relationship with the fans (and their onscreen relationship with one another) if you’re foolish enough to think you can replace them? The uber genius minds at Serial Drama addressed the cheesy send off the couple, barely, received from Corday and crew.
Sad, huh? I wouldn’t be surprised if we later find out TPTB didn’t want to spend the cash paying staff writers to write a more fitting goodbye for the couple. Four words for you: monkeys, typewriters, locked room. Makes sense to me!
On Monday, the first John and Marlena free day, the first day we knew they wouldn’t walk on set again, I wondered how the summary writers would describe their last day… behold:
John recovers his memories, but may remain nothing but a physical vegetable from the neck down. Marlena decides that cannot happen. Time being of the essence, Marlena takes charge and decides to go with John to Europe for treatment. John and Marlena share heartfelt goodbyes with Brady, Roman, and Kayla. Even Stefano shows up, and is upset when he is given the cold shoulder. Before leaving, John and Marlena are married once again in an emotional impromptu ceremony.
Let’s hope the summary writers are interns and not staff writers, or we’re doomed! I thought about how symbolic their last onscreen days were and wondered if the writers weren’t Freudian slipping all over their own manuscript. John’s ‘physical vegetable’ state is symbolic of the writers’ own. He is unable to move and is in need of rehab, as they have bee unable to move DAYS away from the ratings dive it’s been in for years – oh yes, I also think there’s a strong need for rehab in the writers room. Might I suggest a creative writing workshop? Or two? Or three? Or…? Once strong, virile, able to withstand any attack, John was weakened and in need of life support. Uh huh.. .CHECK! Ditto on the show. John remembered when he woke up from his ordeal. He remembered the glorious times that he shared with Marlena.
That’s where the analogy breaks down a bit. I have a hard time believing that TPTB can remember how important their history was and still let them go.
As with John and Marlena leaving everything behind, their social support network, the family members who would embrace and love them; the writers and TPTB are leaving behind its offscreen family: Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, and the viewers who are now experiencing a gaping hole in what was once a strong family network. For as much as I love most of the Days’ cast, there are at least a half dozen actors/characters I would get rid of before I got rid of John and Marlena.
I’m convinced that what’s helped keep the Young and the Restless and The Bold and The Beautiful at the top of the soap genre for nearly two decades is the commitment both serials have shown to their veterans. Those of us who watch know that those shows ‘feel’ the same in many ways, today, as the day we started watching them (though the YnR, I think, is risking its status as it continues to add so many newbies – I’m still impressed at the slower integration of newbies by the YnR than by shows like Days Of Our Lives).
Daytime is not drawing in the younger, “hipper” viewers daytime execs and advertisers seem to crave. It’s time for them to face reality and work with what they have. To do so would mean to stop killing off and getting rid of veteran characters who have name and face recognition in favor of the pretty-but-pointless. Stop assuming that we want the ‘new’ John and Marlena, when love or hate them, we’re not done with the John and Marlena we already have.
There’s seemingly no hope for saving soaps. To get rid of long loved characters at this stage of the game seems senseless. If you must send off fan favorites to make room for more muck and dread, give our beloveds the proper send off they deserve so that we can think of them fondly, and lovingly, and have fewer negative feelings about the fan loss you’ve engineered.
It would be nice to see them back on screen, soon. Whether or not that happens, Thank you, Diedre Hall for giving life to Marlena Evans. Thank you, Drake Hogestyn, for giving life to John Black OH! And for the occasional shirtless scene. I’m still shallow! I hope to see both again, soon, if not on Days, somewhere in daytime or primetime. What a loss to the genre they helped keep profitable for so many years.