Tuesday, March 11, 2014

40 Years of #Days of Our Lives - #Daysofourlives Addict #DOOL

While my son is home recuperating from his broken leg, he has the newfound pleasure of hanging out with me on the weekdays.  He's managing to attend a few hours of school in the morning at this point, but I pick him up and bring him home by 11:00.  The couch is his preferred spot, and he gets to pick the television shows for the most part, with one exception: from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., it's my turn.  Cue the familiar hourglass heralding Days of Our Lives.

This is when my son grabs his phone and puts in his ear buds.  But he did watch a few minutes one day, and he asked, "I don't understand...what kind of show is this?".  I answered, "It's a soap opera."  But all I got was a blank look in return. 

So I looked up the definition, which describes a "soap" as a serial drama featuring intertwined story arcs involving the lives of multiple characters.  Emotional relationships tend to be the focus, and the open narrative promises a continued story line spanning multiple episodes.  What I found fascinating is that the name is derived from the original radio broadcasts, which were obviously aimed at housewives.  Apparently many of the producers and advertisers of these shows were soap manufacturers.

All that is way beyond my teenager's level of interest in my guilty pastime.  But what I did want to share with him was why I began watching Days of Our Lives, and how it had grown into a 40-year habit fueled by sentimentality and comfort.

I started watching for a simple reason--my mother watched it every day on NBC.  The earliest clear memory I have of watching with her takes place in the family room of the first house we owned, which we moved into when I was about 5 years old.  Of course, the melodrama of adult relationships was not particularly interesting to a pre-schooler.  But I did find one character I could identify with: Hope Williams, who was also a little girl.  She had beautiful black hair and cute dresses. 

When I was about 7, another little girl came onto the scene: Melissa Horton.  But of course I only saw episodes sporadically, either during the summer, school vacations, or when I was home sick.  Still, because a single day can stretch out into weeks in soap opera time, I became familiar with a lot of the characters and relationships: Marlena and Roman, Anna and Tony, Mickey and Maggie, and of course the amazing Tom and Alice Horton.

Since I'm passionate about writing and reading,
I needed to have all the books, too :)
A few from my collection.

Then the Betamax was invented in the mid-seventies, and by the time I was a freshman in high school, we were taping the show every day.  At that point, Bad Boy Pete Jannings had shown up in Salem, and he was in a gang called the Vipers.  Even my younger brother became interested in this plot.  Pete kidnapped sweet Melissa, and of course a romance eventually ensued.  But what I remember clearly is my mom, my brother, my sister, and myself, all gathered together in front of the television, eagerly watching each afternoon's recorded show together.

By college, I was hooked enough to take "my show" into consideration when planning my class schedule.  I had all my roommates hooked as well by the end of the first year.  Another memory I can clearly picture: sitting right in front of the TV with one of my roommates, junior year, bouncing on our chairs in anticipation as Shane Donovan returned from the dead to find his wife in bed with another man.

After college, I could afford my own VCR, and I developed a routine of watching the previous day's Days while getting ready for work in the morning.  A few years later, when I was 25, my mom lost her battle with cancer.  It was a terrible time in my life, and nothing was normal for a long time.  But suddenly Days of Our Lives had renewed sentimental value--a connection to my mother, and our memories.  To this day, some of the characters we enjoyed together--Hope, Marlena, Sami, Jennifer, Maggie, Victor, Stefano--are still on regularly.  Twenty years later, the show is a daily reminder of my beautiful mom.

When my boys were babies, we'd snuggle up on the couch at 1 p.m. and drift into naptime as the drama played out quietly on the television.  It was my favorite part of the day.  And it is still my sacred quiet time these days, if my schedule permits.  And now that I'm a romance writer, I can label it as research; writing romance is all about creating chemistry between two characters, and then keeping them apart as the tension builds.  Sounds a lot like the soaps, right?  Supercouples like Bo and Hope, Melissa and Pete, John and Marlena, and Carrie and Austin certainly didn't travel an easy road to be together.  After all, that wouldn't be very interesting!

I've even used one of the cute actresses as inspiration for what one of my characters looks like.  If you enjoy reading, check out the supercouples I've brought to life from my imagination - Rain and Jason in SILVER LAKE, and Max and Claire in GULL HARBOR.  Both couples share a painful past, and once reunited, they have plenty of obstacles to overcome in their future to get to their happily ever after.

Days of Our Lives, also known to some as DOOL or simply Days, is one of the longest-running scripted television shows in the world.  It debuted in 1965, and has recently been renewed until 2016.  It's now NBC's only soap, and its longevity is a testament to the outstanding writing and acting, as well as the continued support of loyal viewers.

If you're a longtime Days fan like me, feel free to share your favorite memory below!  Mine is easy--the time Bo stormed the church and interrupted Hope's wedding to Larry Welch.  Clad in his black leather jacket, he grabs the beautiful bride and throws her on his motorcycle.  The whole time she's fighting against him, even though she truly loves him; when she gets a chance, she runs away from him, her white dress billowing behind her.  Of course, he catches her...and they kiss...oh, yeah, that's a scene that will always stick with this Days of Our Lives addict.

Bo kidnaps Hope from her wedding, circa 1984


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