Days of our Lives celebrates its 56th anniversary today. The NBC serial, created by Irna Phillips and Ted Corday, debuted in color on November 8, 1965. The show’s original family, the Hortons, remains a mainstay. Over the years, they’ve been joined by the Brady, Carver, Johnson, Kiriakis, and Price clans.
Happy 56th Anniversary Days of our Lives
Days of our Lives holds the distinction for being daytime TV’s longest current continuous soap. Last year due to a production shutdown because of COVID-19, the other three broadcast soap operas had to air classic episodes after exhausting their current batch of programs. DAYS had gotten several months ahead over the years, due to its production schedule, enabling original programming to air consistently while Hollywood devised safety protocols.
Days of our Lives: The Early Years
DAYS struggled to find its footing in its first year. Ted Corday passed away and his wife Betty Corday became the show’s executive producer. Today, the couple’s son, Ken Corday, serves as executive producer.
In 1966, Bill Bell, fresh off a long run at As the World Turns, accepted Betty’s invitation to helm the show. By 1971, DAYS was top-ranked thanks to Bell’s innovative and powerful storytelling. His memorable stories included the controversial Bill/Laura/Mickey triangle (featuring the acting talents of their respective players, Ed Mallory, Susan Flannery, and John Clarke). Another popular tale was Susan Martin (Denise Alexander) standing trial for the killing of her husband David Martin (Clive Clerk).
Bell also crafted the love story of Doug (Bill Hayes) and Julie (Susan Seaforth Hayes), who wed in real-life and remain front and center on DAYS today. Pat Falken Smith took over as head writer when Bell exited Salem to create The Young and the Restless, however, he remained on as consultant, helping the show win Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series at the Daytime Emmys in 1976.
The Brady Bunch
Days of our Lives enjoyed a new level of popularity in 1982 when Falken Smith, fresh off a stint at General Hospital, returned to Salem and created the Brady family, crafting the love stories of Roman Brady (Wayne Northrop) and Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall), and Bo Brady (Peter Reckell) and Hope Williams (Kristian Alfonso). DAYS always had an emphasis on romance but the show specialized in supercouples in the 1980s. Other popular duos at this time included Neil and Liz, Patch and Kayla, Shane and Kimberly, Tony and Anna, Eugene and Calliope, and many others.
The Life of Reilly
In 1992, James E. Reilly became a head writer at DAYS and the show became a roller coaster of action, romance, and mystery. He aged up Samantha Gene ‘Sami’ Brady (Alison Sweeney), who was relentless in trying to land hottie Austin Reed (Patrick Muldoon; Austin Peck). Reilly introduced the mysterious Gina (played by Alfonso), who turned out to be Hope. The scribe’s most controversial tale was Marlena’s demonic possession, a story that the show is currently revisiting tying in Ben Weston (Robert Scott Wilson) and Ciara Brady Weston (Victoria Konefal), who are continuing the show’s tradition of supercouples.
Reilly, who went on to create Passions, returned to write DAYS again in 2003. He devised a controversial story casting Marlena as a serial killer who bumped off Abe, Jack, Maggie, Cassie, Caroline, Roman, Tony (actually, Andre), Doug, and Alice. Later, all the decedents were revealed to be alive, living on an island known as ‘Melaswen’ (‘New Salem’ spelled backward).
Marlena hadn’t killed anyone. The whole thing was a DiMera hoax. Life returned to abnormal on Days of our Lives but there were sad losses ahead in the coming years. Alice (original cast member Frances Reid), Mickey, Shawn, and Caroline Brady all passed away. Bo returned to Salem having been missing for years. He rescued Hope from a man posing as her new husband Aiden (Daniel Cosgrove) only to die later. Fans still clamor for Bo’s resurrection. Head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, Jr. told a sensitive story of teen Will Horton (Chandler Massey) coming out. They won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team in 2012.
A New Days of our Lives Dawning
Ron Carlivati became Days of our Lives’ top scribe in 2017. He resurrected Will and found a compelling performer in Will’s “killer” Ben Weston. Through therapy and medicine, Ben was reformed as only a soap opera killer can be. Carlivati’s highlights include a story in which JJ Deveraux (Casey Moss) accidentally shot Theo Carver (Kyler Pettis) and also a story in which Belle (Martha Madison) informed her family that comatose Marlena had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). Belle squared off her own father as they debated whether or not to honor Marlena’s wishes.
In addition to revisiting “MarDevil,” Days of our Lives is telling stories of romance and adventure with characters and families whom audiences care about greatly. The show got in on the digital platform game with Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem (also written by Carlivati) last September, featuring past and present favorites as they searched for the elusive Alamainian Peacock which was streaming on (where else?) the peacock, NBC’s streaming platform.
Soap Hub congratulates Ken Corday, the cast, production staff, and crew of Days of our Lives on this incredible milestone. Days of our Lives (DOOL) airs weekdays on NBC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Salem, check out all the latest that’s been posted on DAYS spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.