Okay, everyone, deep breath. It’s time to plunge into the dark side.
It wasn’t until 2006 that I found out that the Shane and Kayla pairing had ever happened. I was reading my mom’s Days history and there was a one-sentence reference to the relationship. One of those “For a time, Shane and Kayla became close” sentences you read in soap synopses. I think I stared at it for several minutes waiting for my eyes to clarify this into something that made sense. Then I said “That’s so wrong!”, threw the book down, and walked out of the room, like I could erase it from my memory.
I’ve thought about this since then, and I’m not sure why I reacted so strongly. I know my reaction was not unique, and in fact seems to be shared by many Steve and Kayla fans. On the TWoP boards, someone jokingly spoiler-tagged “Shayla” (the black bar looked like a CENSORED tag) and then we all started doing it. I’ve seen Shayla called the Couple Who Must Not be Named, and “the worst storyline of all time.” This on a show that did Melaswen.
It’s not that shocking of a plot: two sisters in love with the same man. In fact, you might call it a soap staple. So why the hate? Well, I think it has a little something to do with the fact that we’re talking about two supercouples here. And supercouples were not broken up and then paired off with each other. Sure, one might die and a new love interest could be brought on for the surviving one. But that’s it.
Tom Langan famously said in 1992 that “the era of supercouple is over.” I think this story was the first shot across the bow.
I’ve always thought that Shane and Kim were the best example of the so-called “supercouple problem.” Here’s the problem as I see it: you have about two years of story between first meeting and making it to the altar. Then about a year of relative happiness, maybe a baby story. Then a big breakup, with probably a year of story out of that. That’s about four (maybe five) good years. The problem is, what do you do after that? Too much happiness = back burner. Too many breakups, and you risk jeopardizing what made the couple work in the first place. After you break up for the tenth time, is it really true love?
With every other supercouple, something seemed to happen to bail out the show from this problem. Bo and Hope started in 1983, and they left together in 1987. For Roman and Marlena, Wayne Northrup left, Drake Hogestyn came in, then Deirdre Hall left, all in the course of four years. For Steve and Kayla, they started in 1986 and Stephen Nichols left in 1990. Adrienne and Justin were written out together after about five years. Jack and Jennifer are a little different because their story started at the end of the supercouple era , so by the time they hit their five year mark the show had drastically changed.
So that leaves Shane and Kim. Their story started in 1984 and they got married in 1986. I still have not seen their early story (though I will!); by all accounts it was excellent. Shane the spy and Kim the prostitute with a damaged past. Before and after their wedding they did all the soap staples. They did the dead wife comes back story (Emma!), they did a Who’s-the-Daddy story. A Kimberly-is-blind story. They did a baby kidnapping story, an evil-twin story (remember Drew?). They did the “a child he never knew he had” story. They did a presumed-dead story and an amnesia story. By then it was 1990 and it had been six uninterrupted years. The tank was starting to sputter. They did a second WTD story. Now, I know today no one can have a baby without no one knowing who the mother is, let alone the father. But back then it seemed a little too much. I have to think that after all of that the writers just threw up their hands and said, “Forget it! I can’t think of anything else!”
Patsy Pease did take a break from the show, in 1990. I had always assumed that part of the reason Shayla happened was that the show lost Patsy Pease and Stephen Nichols at the same time and threw Shane and Kayla together as kind of an afterthought. Some of the scenes during the Alamania storyline seem to bear this out. Here are two lead players who definitely need to be a part of the story, everyone else is paired off, let’s chem test them.
I still think that was part of it, maybe the initial inspiration. But Patsy Pease returned to the canvas well before anything significant happened with Shane and Kayla. It would have been very easy to drop the whole thing. What is surprising to me (and I have watched up through March of 1991 at this point) is the care and attention that obviously went into this plot.
And it’s got Mary Beth. So I might not be ordering this sweatshirt anytime soon:
(something to wear to your next S&K meetup!)
but I’m enjoying the story much more than I ever thought I would. So if any of you are willing to come along with me, I would love to have you.