Jack and Dian(a)

I miss the Spectator.

When people remember the Spectator now, they rightly remember Jack and Jennifer and all their His Girl Friday antics. But the Spectator was more than that. The show successfully used it as a setting and vehicle for many different characters and storylines—disproving the idea that in Salem you have to be either a cop or a doctor if you want to work onscreen.

It was introduced when Diana Colville (played by Genie Francis) bought the paper. Facing financial difficulties, she planned to get back in the black by breaking a big story exposing corrupt Assemblyman Jack Deveraux and his shady dealings. Jack, however, caught wind of her plans, and was able to kill the story by buying 51% of the paper from her through a third party.

I always got the impression that Genie Francis was having a lot of fun playing Diana. After her Very Serious introduction as a mysterious, secretive assault victim who was tangled up with a big conspiracy, the show hit its stride by lightening the tone considerably. She was presented as an ambitious, no-bullshit investigative reporter. Days used to do great heroines, and she was one of them.

I’m a little fuzzy on the details because this story is just getting going on my DVDs, but this was the beginning of a rivalry between Jack and Diana, as each struggled to wrest control of the paper from the other. There is a mystery and mini-umbrella story, involving more of Jack’s shadiness, local kids getting a mysterious rash, and Diana enlisting Steve and Kayla, and Alice Horton, to help her investigate the story. (No doubt I’ll be posting more on this as it unfolds.)

I give Higley credit (no, really!) for introducing the workplace back into Days, but as always the execution leaves something to be desired. When Anna went to work for Tony’s rival instead of Tony, she said it was because she wanted to prove herself to him—so that’s what I was rooting for her to do. But like so many things, it all just petered out with no payoff whatsoever. Anna eventually gets fired and goes to work for Tony after all. Huh? When Diana buys the Spectator, she also has something to prove. She’s just lost the fortune she inherited from her father, and she wants to make it on her own. We are rooting for her to succeed because she wants to succeed. When Jack foils her, it’s maddening. But when she succeeds, it’s wonderful. This is how you do work-related storylines, by using existing relationships (Jack with Steve and Kayla), and creating new ones (Jack and Diana), and giving the characters something to work for and care about.

Matt Ashford is delightful as always as villainous Jack. And even when he outmaneuvers her Diana doesn’t back down. Here’s the scene where Diana finds out just who her new partner is:

Jack buys the Spectator


7 thoughts on “Jack and Dian(a)

  1. I am actually watching Days DVDs from the “Steve gives Kayla to Jack” era with my daughter (very painful), so I’m seeing a bit of Diana again. It reminded me that I really liked her character. I may even have liked her with Roman/John. (I’m almost afraid to admit that.) It’s too bad Genie left Days so soon. And having a reporter and a newspaper is a good way to create a story. Of course, Americans hate the press these days so maybe it’s impossible to have a heroic reporter.

    It’s too bad characters can’t have jobs that actually matter to them. Jobs are really only props on the show. What happened to Stephanie the passionate race car driver? For that matter, what happened to Stephanie the student? There are storyline opportunites out there as opposed to the endless kidnapping/memoryerasing/evil genius storylines.

    You could even build a storyline around a really passionate hobby. I’m not talking about scrapbooking or crochet. But people get really involved in theater as an avocation. Or dance. Or music. You could turn a part time position as a basketball coach into a chance to bring in some high school characters (and add a little ethnicity to the mix).

    I often enjoy outlandish stories but I like them best when they are linked or even come out of existing characters. I wasn’t watching during the rapist Ford storyline, but it sounds like it might have actually had some roots. Of course, then it was over and everyone forgot all about it — including the rape victims.

  2. Sounds like you got your DVDs, Flaco, that’s great.

    I liked Roman and Diana too. Drake and Genie worked well together and always seemed to be having fun.

    The job thing is funny. Nowadays we see people at work and that’s a good thing. But take the younger set—none of them seem to really want anything. Putting aside the race car driving thing, Stephanie was supposedly interested in advertising, but all she ever does is talk about Max. Chelsea is an occupational therapist intern now, but we never heard anything about it until she was doing it already. They are all pretty indifferent.

    I loved the job choice for Steve, but we never saw him working for it, reaching for it. That’s what makes us care about their jobs. That’s why the Phillip/John showdown has been a better “work”-related storyline than anyone else’s. It was silly, but both John and Phillip really wanted control of docks and we got to watch them try to outmaneuver one another.

    You make a great point about hobbies, too—and the same thing applies there. If we could just see people striving for things and caring about things, that would make us care about whether they reach their goals or not.

  3. The point about working for it is a great one, MP. Part of the reason the Emergency Center and Community Center were such important parts of Kayla’s and, later, Steve’s characters was because we saw Kayla be hired for the purpose of starting the EC and how important it was to her. It was more than just some generic place for Steve to show up and bug her. Her being hired to run it and her dedication to it was a layer to her character.

    With the community center, we watched Steve and Kayla fight for it against Jack and it became a part of them as well. And it was something that carried through. Kayla was still involved in the Emergency Center all the way through her run on the show.

    But, back to the point, I loved the Spectator and the Jack/Diana rivalry. The Spectator gave Jack a way to remain bad without being evil. He could mess with Diana and use the paper for his own selfish purposes and we could still root against him. But, he didn’t have to do anything truly illegal or evil so it didn’t stand in the way of his redemption. Diana’s position as an investigative reporter gave her a reason to be involved in all kinds of storylines and the conflict between dedicated Diana and smarmy Jack was great.

  4. Ooh, great point about the EC. When Kayla decided to take the job, it was partly because Steve told her the neighborhood was too rough for her. And naturally, being in that neighborhood gave Steve every reason to show up there all the time. It also provided an excuse for Steve to be able to rescue Kayla from assorted bums, junkies, and gang members, which is what Days seemed to do whenever they couldn’t think of anything else.

    I love that Jack ended up running and loving the Spectator after he bought it just to kill a bad story on himself.

  5. When I went back and watched all the Steve and Kayla stuff and some of the Jack and Jenn stuff a couple of years back, the way the work environments in all those stories were worked in – pun intended – struck me practically in every clip.

    And I’m not afraid to admit I loved Roman and Diana, and was bloody disappointed when Marlena came back, even though it was good soap. But even between them, Roman/John the cop and Diana the reporter, made for some good set-up and clashes.

    I also enjoyed what they did with Jack and Diana.

    Thanks for bringing all this up maryp!

  6. I’ve been getting brief glimpses of Roman and Diana as I watch my Steve and Kayla DVDs and it’s really reminding me of how much fun it was. They had a pretty tempestuous relationship as I remember — sort of His Girl Friday-esque. And since they were on equal footing, there was a lot of snap. I loved that element in Jack and Jennifer, but Jennifer was so much younger and less experienced than Jack, it was different. Diana was a grownup woman with her own professional agenda. How I miss such a character. There aren’t too many of them on Days these days.

  7. zara, I am continually struck by how often they used character’s jobs in the storylines and situations. In addition to enriching the characters, it made the show feel more like normal life.

    I miss characters like Diana, too, Flaco. Days used to have so many great strong women.

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