Classic TV

Days of Our Lives – One of the Longest-Running Daytime Soaps in History

What is Days of Our Lives?

What is Days of Our Lives

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

This familiar introduction and the iconic hourglass twirling is very much known by faithful viewers of Days of Our Lives (also known as DOOL or Days) or any soap opera fan, as the show has become a fixture of American daytime programming. Airing nearly every weekday since November 8, 1965, the show is one of the longest-running American TV shows of all time, and one of the longest-running scripted TV programs in the world. Days of Our Lives is ad daytime soap opera broadcast on NBC. The series was created by husband-and-wife team of Ted and Betty Corday, and the show’s earliest storylines were written by William J. Bell.

What the show is all about

Originally, the Days of Our Lives revolved around the tragedies and triumphs of the Horton family in Salem, a fictional Midwestern suburb. The creators of the show combined the idea of a hospital soap with the traditional family-centered story, making a show about a family of doctors, with one working in a mental hospital. It its early days, the show provided a realistic portrayal of middle- and upper-class American families, with the usual themes of love, marriage, divorce, family life, adultery, death, sex, and the medical storylines of individuals with psychological problems.

Throughout the series’ long run, additional families such as the Bradys and the DiMeras were brought into the show to serve as springboards for more drama. Today, Salem is home to the respectable Horton and Brady families, as well as the evil DiMeras.

One of the longest-running TV series

Days of Our Lives has been running for more than 50 years on our TV screens. It has celebrated its 10,000th episode back in 2005 and its 12,000th episode on 2013.

Because it has been on air for more than 5 decades now, it had several long-standing cast. Frances Reid, who played Alice Horton, the matriarch of the Horton family, remained with the show from the day it started until her death in February 2010, playing the character for 37 years. Susan Seaforth Hayes, playing the role of Julie Williams since 1968, is the only cast member to appear on Days in all five decades it has been on air. Suzanne Rogers (Maggie Horton) has been part of the cast for more than 40 years after her first appearance in 1973.

Due to the success of the series, it expanded from the original 30 minute airtime to 60 minutes on April 21, 1975.

The main storyline

For more than 50 years, Days of Our Lives have tapped into different soap opera themes, sometimes leading the way in tackling some taboo subjects. Initially, it portrayed real, American contemporary families without relying on nostalgia. By the 1970s, the show became one of the most daring daytime drama, as it covered situations that other shows of the period would not dare touch, like interracial romance and artificial insemination.

During the 1990s, the series tapped into the supernatural, which critics disliked, as the show stepped far away from the realistic storylines it was initially known for. But this led Days of Our Lives to become one of the most-watched daytime soap opera and one of NBC’s most profitable shows in any timeslot.

Many of the ongoing storylines in the show involved characters in tragic love triangles, or characters with secrets that could harm themselves or their loved ones.

The show started with the story of the Horton family, led by Dr. Tom Horton and his wife Alice. Their children include Tommy, Addie, Mickey, Bill and Marie Horton. One of the longest-running storylines involved the rape of Laura, Mickey Horton’s wife, by Mickey’s brother Bill. Laura confided to her father-in-law Dr. Tom, and the two kept the secret from her husband Mickey. The secret, as well as the true father of Michael Horton (the product of the rape) and Mickey’s health issues as the result of the revelation, were tackled from the episodes from 1968 to 1975. The story that revolved around Mickey, Bill and Laura was the first to bring the show near the top of Nielsen’s daytime ratings.

The plot thickened with Linda Patterson claiming that her daughter Melissa was a daughter of Mickey. When Mickey eventually married Maggie Simmons, Linda became more involved in the story as the show’s main villainess.

Another love triangle between Addie, lounge singer Doug Williams and Addie’s own daughter Julie became a popular plotline. The story ended went on to the death of Addie in 1974, and the marriage of Julie and Doug in 1976.

When the Brady and DiMera families were introduced in the 1980s, the rivalries quickly began to form and put them as core families in Salem besides the Hortons. Besides drama, action-adventure storylines were added, and super couples were formed such as Patch and Kayla, Bo and Hope, and Shane and Kimberly. These revived and gave boost to its ratings.

The show’s most memorable storylines

Days of Our Lives is home to some of the most thrilling, shocking, dramatic and outlandish storylines in soap opera, which made fans get hooked on the show for many years. Here are three of the major unforgettable storylines:

1. Carly being buried alive

The shocking and ratings-grabbing storyline happened in 1993 when Vivian Alamain stage Dr. Carly Manning’s death by burying her alive six feet under the ground to keep her grandnephew away from his mother. Carly was trapped in a coffin with an air tank and radio transmitter so Vivian can torture her. Just as when Carly’s oxygen was running out, Vivian confessed, and Carly was rescued.

Years later, Vivian thought she could get away with the same thing twice, this time with Maggie Horton. However, she ended up tasting her own medicine as she ended up locked in a coffin instead of her intended victim.

2. The Salem Stalker and the Melaswen Island

In the early 2000s, the show has been losing viewers. So in an attempt to push the ratings up, they came a plot where a masked, psychopathic serial killer killed off beloved characters, creating an intriguing soap murder mystery with a “whodunit” angle. Fans were shocked and enraged that the show killed off so many long-standing characters whom they had grown to love. Audiences wept as the show did a great job unveiling the heartbreaking scenes. Reports say that the writer, James Reilly, was told to fix the storyline as soon as possible, and sometime later, the Melaswen Island was revealed. A plot twist was created: all the characters who were killed were alive in the island Melaswen (new Salem). As it turns out, all of them were swapped with doppelgangers and carried off to the island.

3. The possession of Marlena Evans

The greatest DOOL moment ever, which is also considered by many as the most outrageous circumstances of any character in soap opera history, happened when Dr. Marlena Evans fell prey to demonic possession. Stefano DiMera, one of the main villains in the show, mind-controlled the good doctor, hypnotized her and whisked her away into his fantasy world of romance. Marlena completely switched her personality and did evil actions, even going so far as burning an entire church. Conveniently, John Black was a priest that time and tried to perform exorcism to save her. Back then, the image of Marlena’s yellow eyes, menacing voice and evil powers were all too frightening and convincing.

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