Pondering over the Daytime Confidental podcast that I listened to the night before...that is when I was able to drive the memories of Jamey’s singing and Jillian’s cackling out of my head...I reminisced fondly of the DAYS of the late great headwriter James E. Reilly (those of us who really loved him nicknamed him JERk for short). Ahh...JERk! Who needed villains like Stefano Dimera around when you had JERk?
WHAT?! you say! Wasn’t he the one who penned Aremid and the Possession storyline? Didn’t he come to the rescue of DAYS, saving the flailing soap from cancellation, that fate that is worse than...well, is television death?! Yes...and no. As far as sweeps and ratings in the 90s, Reilly definitely showed off his skill with the art of shock tactics. Viewers tuned in to see the car crash of their beloved Doc with yellow eyes and a snarl, levitating over her bed...granted, more for the shock of seeing the soap diva reduced to such a demeaning level than for any actual merits of the plot...which as I recall was done much better in a little film during the 70s called THE EXORCIST. This was the beginning of the great DAYS divide. Part of the fans loved all the excitement, the gothic twists and turns of the crazy storyline. Others of us (myself included) rolled our eyes in dismay, yearning for the good old holidays when the Horton family surrounded around their Christmas tree with their painted ornaments...rather than watching yellow-eyed MarDevil gleefully desecrate a church.
The Reilly Reign of Terror had begun with a bang. He may have saved DAYS with that storyline, but at what cost? Sometimes, I think DAYS truly sold its soul to a real demon at that point because so much of the crapfest we are watching now, you can trace directly back to the mad genius of JERk.
How many ways do I hate the writing of JERk? Well, let’s start counting, shall we?
Reilly was one of the first big egomaniac headwriters. He was like Alfred Hitchcock (who loved to treat his film stars like cattle) without the talent. Indeed, I’ve heard tell that he liked to play with Barbie dolls while coming up with his lame-brained ideas. During the Glory Years of the 80s, there was a time when the writers at least collaborated a little bit with their actors. There was a time when the words “integrity” and “quality” were still recognized. And DAYS even (loud gasp here!) paid attention to fan outcry and responded to it. All this went out the door with Reilly. It was his way or the highway. And things only got worse...can anyone say Dena Higley?
For some perverse reason, he loved to emasculate some of DAYS’ sexiest male characters. I won’t go on too much about my fave sexy Dimera, since I just blogged about him. But leave it to JERk to take the sexy dangerous Count of the 80s and turn him into an insane eunuch! Leave it to JERk to take the complicated witty dysfunctional Jack Deveraux (the thinking girl’s hunk) off of the Cruise of Deception and turn him into an inane clown before replacing the actor Matthew Ashford with a lot of blonde Ken-doll-clone recasts. Leave it to JERk to take the wild motorcycle-riding rebel, Bo Brady, and make him a mindless drooling idiot, bouncing back between Hope and Billie like a ping pong ball. Even the actors Reilly claimed to love weren’t safe. Was I the only one who shuddered in horror at the thought of John Black being a priest? The strong mysterious man without a past who roughed up Marlena in the wilderness and kidnapped Diana from her Kiriakis wedding...a priest who couldn’t be with any women? Ever?! WTF!!! And things only got worse...can you remember the last sexy love scene on DAYS with a real supercouple? I am not talking Danloe’s pornographic fuckfest set to a laughable love song. I am talking about Steve and Kayla sweatin’ it out on the rooftop, Jack and Jennifer doin’ it in a cave, Bo and Hope makin’ out hot and slow New Orleans style, Tony and Anna steamin’ up the shower. No, I can’t remember the last scene like that either...
After a while, simply castrating the characters of actors he didn’t like wasn’t enough to float JERk’s boat anymore. Then he decided to kill them off...and kill them off again...and again...and again. Quick trivia question: who has left town/been killed off the most? Jack or Tony/Andre? Sorry, I don’t know the answer either. In this case, things really haven’t gotten too much worse. Sheffer only fired Ashford once. And Dena’s only planning on firing Penghlis once...I think.
Reilly loved to write for lame-brained dim-witted teenagers. Young studs who liked to lounge around in their underwear...and their dumb-as-post girlfriends. Austin and Carrie really started off the insane teen craze in the 90s, which morphed to Shawn and Belle, Phillip and Chloe, Brady and Chloe, Phillip and Stephanie. As far as this Diva’s concerned, all of these couples are pretty much interchangeable, vapid and dull. And things will only get worse...once Melanie Layton really falls in twu luv, the pukefest will get goin’ good!
Reilly created um...interesting special effects that makes me yearn for amnesia. Flying coffins. Flying beds. Talking kewpie dolls and turkeys. Bloody piñatas. Sami becoming a man. Tom Horton’s floating head. And things only got worse...at least this stuff was so bad, it made me laugh during my fury. Kind of how you laugh at those bad movies they show at 3 A.M. where the sound never quite matches the picture. Now I’m just furious and bored.
Even though Reilly’s gone now (may he rest in peace), his legacy lives on. Watching DAYS as it is now reminds me a bit of the Salem Serial Killer days – seeing a beloved show’s limbs get hacked off one piece at a time. Dena Hackley will continue to play the egomaniac, slashing away at any vet that dares to cross her path. And JERk’s good old buddy, Gary Tomlin, will unceasingly strive to recreate DAYS into JERk’s peerless classic of a soap, PASSIONS, or even better...SUNSET BEACH. We’ve all been yearning for those shows back on our screens, haven’t we? Oh, admit it!
As for the legacy of Ted and Betty Corday and their original vision of DAYS? Well, you have to look for that on YouTube...