Days of Our Lives: The Unfixable Flaw That Makes It Great

For fans of the long-running NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives, the past several months have been a bumpy ride. The 2022-2023 Writers’ Strike threw a major wrench into the show’s typical production schedule, forcing the series to rely on non-union writers to keep new episodes coming during the work stoppage. While the strike has been over for months, viewers are still watching those Writer’s Strike storylines play out on screen.

According to reports, Days is one of the few remaining shows that shoots episodes extremely far in advance – around 6-7 months ahead of air at times. This allowed them to have enough pre-strike material banked to stay in originals until shortly before the holidays in late 2022. But it also means the full brunt of the strike writing didn’t hit until January 2023, months after the other soaps had transitioned back to their regular writers.

This extended lead time is a double-edged sword for Days. On one hand, the ability to meticulously plan out extended storylines and film in bulk is likely a major cost savings that has kept the 57-year-old soap on the air with its limited budget. But it also means fans are stuck with any underperforming characters, nonsensical plots, or ill-conceived romantic pairings for nearly half a year before course corrections can be made.

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Most other shows tape just a few weeks out, allowing for quicker tweaks if something isn’t working. Writers can nip storylines in the bud, rewrite characters that don’t catch on, and capitalize on burgeoning couple chemistry that sparks with viewers. On Days, failing plots can linger for an interminable six months or more before getting dropped entirely.

Just look at the current slate of storylines that fans have been subjected to since January. Plots like Xander’s newly-revealed uncle status, the bungled Chanel pregnancy storyline, and Marlena’s struggle with being implanted with a satanic cult leader’s mind have been routinely ridiculed by viewers over the past four months. Yet the show has been powerless to shift gears, having shot the scripts many months ago.

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By the time fresh material from the permanent writing team hits the air in June or July, who knows how much damage will have been done. Fans may have simply checked out, unable to endure the pain points any longer. If social media is any indication, it’s been a slog getting through these recent months on the show.

Of course, Days has been here before and pulled through. The show actually got a small ratings boost during the early pandemic days of 2020 when it was one of the few programs still airing new material. Fans appreciated having fresh content to dive into during lockdowns. Perhaps there’s still enough goodwill remaining from the Days faithful to ride out this current rocky patch as well.

When the regular writers do return, they’ll have some tough choices to make. How much of the extraneous story detritus gets scrapped and how much is salvaged? You’d think outlandish plots like Marlena’s Satanic possession would get tossed out, but the writers may decide to incorporate it into her next struggle against the show’s super villain of the moment. And depending on how far they’ve shot ahead, some storylines may have to be seen through to their conclusion before getting course corrected.

No matter what, expect a lot of bloated plots to get resolved abruptly. Chanel’s baby will likely be declared perfectly healthy. Everett’s split personalities will get magically integrated. And Xander will surely be confirmed as not being the Kiriakis heir after all. It’s a clunky transition, but one viewers have weathered before during other work stoppages and real-life setbacks.

For Days of Our Lives, the survival game has always been about perseverance and resourcefulness. This Writers’ Strike may have provided some of the show’s most outlandish and frustrating storylines in recent memory. But for the few who stuck around, the payoff will be a course correction back towards some semblance of reason. After 57 years, Days will live to fight another day.

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