Monday, April 21, 2008

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

I got my first taste at age 17.

It was the Spring of my Junior year of high school, and twice a week I surrendered my 6th period study hall to go down to one of the Home Ec labs and sew costumes for the massive dance production my high school staged each year.

The brand-new, ten million dollar auditorium was not the only recent effort to make the school as high-tech and up-to-date as possible for 1997, and so each classroom had a very nice television mounted in a corner near the front. There were several of us sewing costumes, and as we sat at our surgers running pastel jersey under the needles, we were allowed to watch TV to amuse ourselves.

That's how it started.

There were two Seniors down there with me, and each day they would tune the TV to Channel 7, and there it would be...

Days of Our Lives.

Stephano, played by Joe Masocolo, still reined supreme in Salem. Kristen had Marlena locked in that basement room of the DiMera Mansion. I couldn't understand what on earth Kristen saw in John, but I hated Marlena for being such a goody-goody stick-in-the-mud, and so I cheered Kristen on at every interval, even as she used the crazy, Elvis-loving nanny Susan to further her schemes.

Summer arrived and each day at 1:00pm I was glued to the television. When school began again, I only saw the show once in a blue moon, when I was home sick, or when I skipped school to go stay at High School Boyfriend's house--letting me watch Days was always part and partial to the deal. Fortunately Soaps move at such a retarded pace that the plot can be followed even with sporadic viewing.

Then came college, and my own tv/vcr which I knew how to program. I taped it each day and would take one or two evenings a week to watch the shows that I had taped. When I went abroad for a year--where they are several years behind on all the American soaps--I found a wesbite (surprisingly run by a man!) that gave a daily synopsis so detailed it was like watching the show yourself.* Yet I still regret missing the massacre at Greta's coronation.

After college I moved to New York. It was a bit shaky for the first few months when I was living with Cambodia (aka, "The One That Got Away"), but then I moved and found a new job and fell into a groove. Wake up, watch Days, go to work... rinse, repeat. My roommate even got to the point where she knew the characters and their backstory.

And then, as so often happens in the Soap Opera world... I slowly fell out of love. The stories weren't as good. My favourite characters were all gone. Kristen and Stephano were both now on The Young and the Restless (not the characters, of course, but the actors--Eileen Davidson and Joseph Masocolo). And I got bored. And eventually... I stopped watching.

I broke up with Days of Our Lives.

Until recently.

About a month ago, I was piddling around with my DVR and suddenly I thought... "Hey, I wonder what's going on on Days these days..."

So I set my DVR to record. And I started watching.

And it's not as good as it used to be. Not by a long shot.

And yet I was still intrigued.

You see... I have always had a soft-spot for Magical Realism, which is a trademark of Mexican and Chicano literature and theatre. But it is also a trademark of a Soap Opera.

In any other genre, if you lose an actor, the character is gone. In a soap, you simply re-cast. The only exception to this rule of which I am aware is the original Tom Horton from Days, whose voice is still used for the famous voiceover during the opening credits. Otherwise, any role is open game.

I love the fact that a single day can span two weeks, but children can age decades over a single episode.

I love that nobody is ever dead--not really. As they so clearly illustrated in the movie "Soapdish" (one of my favourites), anybody can come back from the dead.

I love that the acting is fabulously terrible--though I still maintain that Days has the best actors of any Soap currently on the air.

But most of all I love that I could stop watching for three years, turn on my TV, and within three episodes figure out what's going on--who had died, who is back from the dead, who is dating, who is divorced, who are friends, and who are enemies--and I already have predictions as to where the show will go.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the same as it used to be. When they dramatically aged Belle and Shawn (formerly Shawn D), I fell in love with Kirsten Storms and Jason Cook--no other replacements will ever do those roles justice. Then again, they've brought back the original rapidly-aged Phillip, and got rid of that jarhead moron who had no chemistry with ANYBODY, least of all Belle who was supposed to be his wife.

So, much like Marlena is having difficulty reconciling herself to this "new" John, I found myself having difficulty reconciling myself to this "new" Days, which is not necessarily the show I fell in love with well over a decade ago. Yet I think Marlena should take a page out of my book. Because this new version? It may not be as good as the old, not by a looooong shot... but it has its merits. And I'm willing to see where it leads.

For the time being... I shall follow.

*To those few of you who know my real name: if you Google it, I believe you will stil find a link to a version of a Days drinking game that I updated, still posted on that site.


Lpeg said...

I Loved this show, and it's so true - within three episodes, you are caught back up, even if it has been a few years since you've seen it.

I, sadly, started watching it when I was in elementary school, at the babysitter's house. Back then it was on a 9am, so we'd watch Bewitched at 830, Days at 9, then she'd watch another soap at 10 and send us outside to play.

You are absolutely right - it is not even half as good as it was back then, and the hardest part I find, getting back into it, is figuring out who everyone is, because they have recast pretty much everyone.

But all in all, I find myself tuning in on days off.

Anonymous said...

oh gosh, i could never get into soaps. partially b/c my mother believes they are trash. but the one thing i can say is that i can tune into that soap "Passions" after like, 2.5 years and still nothing will have changed. aka Theresa (i think that's her name) WILL CRY at some point in the episode. it's absolutely ridiculous.

A Lil' Irish Lass said...

My mother has watched Days since she was in high school and, consequently, I grew up on this soap. Literally. I have distinct memories of eating hard pretzels and sitting in front of the tv with my mother when I was in kindergarten. I remember when Jennifer was a teenager involved with Frankie. I remember when Beau and Hope were not yet dating. I remember characters that haven't been on the show for twenty years.

I certainly don't watch regularly anymore. And, I agree, it's quality has fallen off somewhat as of late. But there's something about the longevity of Days. Something about the way it feels comfortable. Feels like home.

BloodRedRoses said...

I used to be late to class everyday after lunch from grades 7 to 8 because we would go to a friends house and watch Days.

It's true! For any soap you stop watching for a period of time, you start again and it's like you never left!