This is not a good time to be a soap star. The genre hasbeen on a slow march toward inevitable death for more than a decade, theratings blow, and the cost of mounting and producing a series that airs morethan 250 episodes per year is unreasonable in this lousy economy. And if youwant proof that nobody is safe, just look at Friday’s episode of Days of ourLives. 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 epitomizedthe supercouple phenomenon that helped soaps soar throughout the ‘80s. Aclassy, upstanding psychiatrist who had a knack for falling into the clutchesof madmen (hello, Stefano DiMera!), Marlena fell for the enigmatic John Blackwhen 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 obstacleimaginable—hell, they even beat back the Devil himself: Days’ memorably campydemonic-possession storyline, which played out over the winter of 1995, remainsa 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 hitwith 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 andMarlena 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 littleless dazzling when we tune in on Monday. Soaps aren’t likely to create genresuperstars like Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn anymore—for starters, I dare youto 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 wrappedup 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 astonishingflippancy, and we longtime fans have come to expect this sort of masochisticabuse each and every time. I’m especially peeved that the Days brass couldn’teven figure out a way to give Hall and costar Alison Sweeney—who has arguablybeen Hall’s strongest, most effective scene partner since her arrival in 1993—onefinal scene. What a disgrace.
If I sound resigned, well…soap fans will understand: Sayinggoodbye to characters who have been a part of your day-to-day life for morethan 20 years is, yeah, like saying goodbye to friends. The fact that thishappened to two of Days’ most pivotal, beloved characters and actors makes itfeel even worse—in essence, longtime fans like me are being robbed of a dynamiccoupling that’s a huge part of what has made Days endure for so long. I’veposted a shot of John and Marlena’s final scene below, but trust me—this is farfrom their best work. There are clips all over YouTube that give you a bettersense of their glory days. I encourage you to look them up.
In the meantime, do any of you Days fans have a favoriteJohn and Marlena memory? Will you still watch the show without them? And hey,what should Hall and Hogestyn do next?