This is not a good time to be a soap star. The genre has been on a slow march toward inevitable death for more than a decade, the ratings blow, and the cost of mounting and producing a series that airs more than 250 episodes per year is unreasonable in this lousy economy. And if you want proof that nobody is safe, just look at Friday’s episode of Days of our Lives. Just two days after the series aired its 11,000th episode, stars Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn appeared for the last time.
John and Marlena’s saga spanned two decades and epitomized the supercouple phenomenon that helped soaps soar throughout the ‘80s. A classy, upstanding psychiatrist who had a knack for falling into the clutches of madmen (hello, Stefano DiMera!), Marlena fell for the enigmatic John Black when he first arrived in Salem wrapped in bandages, his memory all but erased. For the past 22 years, we’ve watched these two fight off every obstacle imaginable—hell, they even beat back the Devil himself: Days’ memorably campy demonic-possession storyline, which played out over the winter of 1995, remains a watershed moment for soaps; it grabbed mainstream attention, and Hall’s steady, wink-wink performance—for which she memorably campaigned for a Daytime Emmy nod (she didn’t get it)—was a hit with fans who’d never known her as anything but the mild-mannered, pragmatic “Doc.” (You can see a great clip of MarDevil in action right here.)
I could spend all day regaling you with my favorite John and Marlena moments, but if you were ever a Days fan, I’d rather hear about yours. Suffice it to say that the Days canvas—and daytime as a whole—will be a little less dazzling when we tune in on Monday. Soaps aren’t likely to create genre superstars like Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn anymore—for starters, I dare you to name one current soap actor whose life story would inspire a TV-movie! Days’ sendoff for the pair was a rush job, a pathetic train wreck that all but wrapped up a year-long storyline in about 20 minutes, but I can’t say I was surprised. The series has always treated its departing cast members with astonishing flippancy, and we longtime fans have come to expect this sort of masochistic abuse each and every time. I’m especially peeved that the Days brass couldn’t even figure out a way to give Hall and costar Alison Sweeney—who has arguably been Hall’s strongest, most effective scene partner since her arrival in 1993—one final scene. What a disgrace.
If I sound resigned, well…soap fans will understand: Saying goodbye to characters who have been a part of your day-to-day life for more than 20 years is, yeah, like saying goodbye to friends. The fact that this happened to two of Days’ most pivotal, beloved characters and actors makes it feel even worse—in essence, longtime fans like me are being robbed of a dynamic coupling that’s a huge part of what has made Days endure for so long. I’ve posted a shot of John and Marlena’s final scene below, but trust me—this is far from their best work. There are clips all over YouTube that give you a better sense of their glory days. I encourage you to look them up.
In the meantime, do any of you Days fans have a favorite John and Marlena memory? Will you still watch the show without them? And hey, what should Hall and Hogestyn do next?source