‘Days’ celebrates years

‘Days’ celebrates years
DAYS OF OUR LIVES -- Pictured: (l-r) Peter Reckell as Bo Brady, Crystal Chappell as Carly Manning -- NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth

“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

For 16,702 days, the honeyed voice of Macdonald Carey has echoed those famous opening words into households across the country. First aired on Nov. 8, 1965, the daytime soap opera “Days of our Lives” has continued to impact the lives of audiences for generations.

The longevity of “Days” hasn’t meant lethargy; the soap’s storylines never fail to spark interest. Twists and turns are manifested daily, be it through astonishing paternity results, the return of an amnesiac relative or an organ transplant of such technological feat even the American Medical Association has not yet encountered it. The newest scandal to hit Salem comes with the return of the green-eyed vixen Dr. Carly Manning. In 1990, Manning, played by Crystal Chappell, came to Salem running from the law. Upon arrival, she switched identities with a long-lost schoolmate, sought to release her brother from an underground dungeon and taught a deaf boy sign language — and this was only in her first three episodes.

“She’s just kind of a wild thing, isn’t she?” Chappell said in an interview with The Eagle. “It’s so delicious and so much fun to do.”

While audiences tuned in to her tantalizing tales, it was the relationship between Carly and Bo Brady, played by Peter Reckell, that captivated fans. Brady’s bad-boy looks paired with his infectious charm left viewers swooning. Infatuation soon turned to infuriation when, only three years later, Manning left Brady, and the show, to marry another man.

After a 16-year hiatus, the doctor is back, prescribing just the right amount of mischief to concoct trouble. After stabbing her husband in a hotel in Morocco, Carly is headed home to Salem where viewers have anxiously awaited the reunion with her one-time love. While the cast remains mum on the storyline, their own excitement is something they cannot easily hide.

“Fans and cast alike are excited to have Crystal back,” Reckell said. “She brings such intrigue to the storyline. Working with such an amazing actress makes life fun.”

While the return of Dr. Manning may excite viewers, there is hope it will also serve as the boost for which daytime television has been waiting. Over the past decade, soap operas have watched their ratings decline. Although TIME Magazine proclaimed daytime television to be “TV’s richest market” in 1976, accessibility to the Internet coupled with contested plot changes and economic woes have left the soap opera industry close to vanishing. Even the fictitious town of Salem was hit by the recent and very real recession, as “Days of our Lives” took a financial blow due to its dependence on car companies to buy its commercial airtime.

Yet, despite the hardships, “Days of our Lives” remains strong. Resilient in a time when soap operas such as “Passions” and “Guiding Light” can only hope for repeated syndication, recent reports portray a very different story for “Days.” For the 2009-2010 season, the show presented the biggest year-to-year gain of any daytime series, with total viewership up 21 percent.

“It’s exciting,” Chappell said. “It’s wonderful to see [the show] resonate with people.”

While plotlines have occasionally spun stories fit for science fiction, “Days” piques audience interest by presenting the true dynamics of human relations. The show has never shied away from the taboo, dealing with hot topics such as abortion, suicide and rape, along with the quintessential scandalous affair.

“Days of our Lives” is not a soap opera confined to its one-hour timeslot; the show has instead expanded beyond simple pixilation into a cultural phenomenon. It has been referenced in shows like “Sanford and Son,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Friends.” “Days” has inspired more than 30 books from character analyses to cookbooks. The “Days of Our Lives” CD, “Love Songs,” to which Reckell contributed, has a rating of five stars on Amazon.com. Most recently, “Days” has continued its ascent into pop culture infamy with Reckell guest-starring as his character, Brady, in an upcoming episode of “30 Rock.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Reckell said. “I’m honored to have had the experience.”

As their 44th anniversary draws near, the “Days of our Lives” cast is quick to reflect on the significance of their supporters.

“It’s so important to recognize the fans,” Chappell said. “I’m just so grateful for their support.” It is in that spirit that the cast will join fans in the “Day of Days” fan event Nov. 7 in Los Angeles. The day will include a meet-and-greet with the stars, a question and answer session, raffles and a sneak preview of an upcoming episode. Despite his years in entertainment, this is one gig that Reckell couldn’t pass up.

“Talking to fans, to look in their eyes, see them one on one and hear what they have to say, it’s what makes it all worth it.”

You can reach this writer at thescene@theeagleonline.com.

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