Pete and Melissa, anyone remember them?
After hitting a home run with Bo and Hope, the writers at Days churned out several more bad boy/good girl stories (including, gulp, Steve and Kayla), and one of them was Pete the gang member and Melissa the angelic dancer. It wasn’t a bad pairing, but after they were married things quickly spiralled downward.
They turned dumb-but-likable Pete into a jealous idiot fixated on Melissa’s dancing teacher, Lars Englund. And then his legs were paralyzed and he played the pity card and guilted Melissa into staying with him. Then Melissa started an affair with Lars after all, and her marriage ended. Poor Pete slunk out of town, a shadow of his former self.
But Melissa wasn’t done with bad storylines. Miss Twinkletoes hurt her knee and FOR NO REASON didn’t tell Lars about it (despite scene after scene after scene of Lars saying “Are you all right? I get the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me.”), so eventually her knee gave out for good and she had to quit dancing. (Lars dumped her, but that was a blessed relief.)
How about Glenn Gallagher? Anyone remember how he was a narc for Abe Carver? He dated Jennifer Horton and he wasn’t a bad guy. Then he was turned into a jealous idiot when Frankie came on the scene and had a crush on Jen (Glenn got off without being paralyzed, however). Emasculated Jealous Boyfriend is a thankless role to play, particularly when you were playing the rootable love interest before, and when you also have to play Teenage Boy Wants Sex with Reluctant Virgin too, well, I got to hate the sight of his blue eyes and sculpted nose, not to mention his ubiquitous letterman’s jacket.
How about plot holes? Insufficient character motivations? I hate to say it because I love it, but the Steve/Kayla/Jack triangle is riddled with both, including: when Jo first meets Jack she has no idea he is her son, but when his adoption papers are stolen from her they clearly state his adoptive parents’ names (maybe she never happened to read them?). Anyone thinking Victor’s motivation insufficient for his dastardly actions in the Claire custody storyline would do well to take a look at Harper Deveraux, Jack’s adoptive father. Harper is content to merely blackmail and insult Jo Johnson, his son’s natural mother, but when he thinks Kayla has the adoption papers, he tries to kill her. Not only that, he tries to kill her in the slowest, most gradual way possible.
Rewritings of history? The most dramatic has to be John Black’s Silly Putty of a past, able to be twisted into whatever contortion fits his current storyline, but that’s the 90’s, not the 80’s. In the 80’s we had Steve suddenly given a wife, sandwiched between Britta’s supposed death and Steve’s arrival in Salem (probably the time of his life when he would be least likely to marry). Shane was given an identical twin brother who he had never happened to mention before—an evil one, naturally.
SORASing?** People say EJ, who was born in 1997 and is in his late 20’s now, is the most drastically SORASed character on the show, but actually Mike Horton has that honor. He was born in 1968 and full grown by 1974. Okay, so that’s the 70’s, not the 80’s. But he gets special recognition, after being in his 30’s in the 80’s, for being de-SORASed in the 90’s, in fact looking younger than he had before. (As an interesting aside, 15 different actors have played the part of Mike Horton.)
Terrible actors? Austin Peck’s wooden, leaden presence has nothing on Jack #2, James Acheson. (Luckily, he didn’t last long, but he was Jack during the horrible Steve and Kayla breakup. I think it made it worse!) Michael Leon, who played Pete, and Billy Hufsy, who played perpetual third wheel Emilio Ramirez, are neck and neck for dumbest piece of beefcake. (Emilio wins because of his appalling mullet.)
By the late 80’s/early 90’s, the bad stories started to outnumber the good, with Jack and Jennifer and Isabella and Roman being the bright spots. But Patch without a patch? A second Who’s-the-Daddy/switched paternity test storyline for Shane and Kim? Shayla?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the 80’s. But no show that is on 5 days a week, every week, can avoid having dull spots, logical inconsistencies, and repetitious storylines—just like Days still has today. No writer will ever be able to bat 1000 all the time. But if the good can outweigh the bad, if the characters still draw you in, if you just gotta find out what happens, that’s all we can hope for.
**SORAS = Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome