In January of 1990, there was a headwriter change on Days. Anne Howard Bailey was fired, after being there for less than a year, and replaced with the team of Anne Schoettle and Richard J. Allen.
Bailey was fired due to a ratings decline, and executive producer Al Rabin had this to say about her when she left:
“[Bailey is] a wonderful writer before she got here. She was a wonderful writer here and she will be a wonderful writer in her next project. It’s just that the emphasis shifted slightly from romance to adventure. Since we preferred the audience that we had, we will be shifting back.”
Knowing future events, that in just a few short years the show drastically veers away from the supercouple formula, this quote is very interesting. It shows that Al Rabin was himself a true believer in the formula, not surprising considering he was an executive producer of Days throughout the 80’s. (He left in 1992, replaced by Tom “the era of the supercouple is over” Langan.)
But more crucially, I think Al Rabin, and whoever else made the decision for a headwriter change, was very aware of one drawback of the supercouple formula, perhaps the major drawback: without a constant supply of new couples, after awhile you run out of stories. (I’m not saying it is impossible to write dynamic stories for established couples, only that Days has never been able to do so.) This is what was happening to Days in 1989. And even though Days had been following the supercouple formula since roughly 1983, it really was the first time the show faced this problem. Because Roman “died” and then Marlena “died,” Pete and Melissa were permanently broken up, and Bo and Hope left town, there was never a significant bunch of established couples crowding out air time, and new couples could come along in their turn.
But in the fall of 1989, Steve and Kayla are broken up, Justin and Adrienne are broken up, and Shane and Kim are broken up. Steve and Kayla have the “back from the dead” spouse story plus a pregnancy story, Justin and Adrienne have the “scheming third party” story (with fertility problems thrown in), and Shane and Kim have the “presumed dead so the surviving spouse moves on” story. These stories have been decently well-executed, but they lack freshness and originality. It’s clear that none of these breakups is permanent, and eventually all the couples will reconcile—okay, then what? Start the whole dance over again? What’s left?
How about new couples? A new character had been brought on for Roman, Yvette, but it wasn’t clicking. Nick and Eve seemed to have run their course, Mike was gone (sob, Michael T. Weiss), and Nick and April weren’t catching on fire. The show hadn’t committed to either Jack or Emilio for Jennifer, and their stories were mostly going around in circles. The show needed fresh blood if the supercouple formula were to continue, or they needed to find a new formula.
The quote above shows clearly that from 1990-1992 they decided to stick with their formula, and toward that end they got rid of their headwriter, and directed the new headwriter to find some new couples, quickly. I’ve already discussed how in December 1989 and January 1990 there is a significant shift toward Jack and Jennifer. Isabella is brought on and eventually she and Roman/John have a successful love story. Bo and Hope come back and Hope just as quickly dies, so Bo is free to move on with Carly. (The whole “Cruise of Deception” story seems an attempt to recapture the magic of Stockholm with the new generation of couples.) Marlena returns in 1991 and is torn between Roman (and Supercouple) v.1 and v.2—which I have to admit, is pretty clever. Justin and Adrienne leave with a happy ending in 1991, Stephen Nichols leaves in 1990. And though poor Shane, Kayla, and Kim are then given the dreaded “Shayla” story, this era really does represent the last gasp of the supercouple concept.
I always wonder what Sheri Anderson and her team, the originators of the formula, would have done with the “established couples” problem. Would she have been better at writing for longer term couples? Maybe so. I actually think that she also might have been more ruthless about breaking couples up after the stories weren’t there anymore. She did it to Pete and Melissa, after all—and though in retrospect perhaps they were a second tier couple, at the time I didn’t perceive a difference between them and Bo and Hope. Ironically, Sheri Anderson did come back in June of 1992. But Al Rabin left in the same month, and his replacement Tom Langan and Ken Corday hired James E. Reilly in December of 1992. The era between June and December of 1992 would probably be very interesting to watch, to see what Sheri Anderson’s writing was like without Al Rabin and the rest of team she had behind her in 1983-86—but my DVDs don’t go that far, so I won’t be able to find out.
Before leaving in April of ’93, Sheri Anderson actually worked as co-headwriter with Reilly—a fact that always makes my head explode.