By Paula Hendrickson
When the first episode of Days of Our Lives aired November 8, 1965, not even the show’s creators —Betty and Ted Corday—could have imagined the show would still be running 50 years later.
Ted died before the soap even celebrated its second anniversary. Betty died in 1987. According to their son, current Days of Our Lives executive producer Ken Corday, his mom was thrilled just knowing the show hit the 20-year mark. Since that time, increased viewing options have made it difficult for daytime dramas to stay alive. That makes the 50-year milestone even more important, especially considering Days is NBC’s only remaining soap opera.
“This is a medium that only has four shows left, where there were once ten or eleven,” Corday says, “Hopefully our flag waves a lot longer.”
Signs indicate the show, produced by Corday Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television, may be around for some time to come. They’ve invested in new sets and production equipment, giving the show a fresh, updated look. New head writers were brought in to refocus the show on some of its classic characters, which led to the return of several familiar faces.
“It’s a celebration, a miracle in a sense, that we’ve been able to survive,” says recent returnee Thaao Penghlis, who’s played both Andre and Tony DiMera on and off for 34 years. “You have to give credit to Corday and NBC and Sony. It takes a lot of wisdom and a lot of patience and a lot of passion to keep something like this going. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Stephen Nichols, whose Steve “Patch” Johnson returned to Salem a couple months ago, says he’s back for the long haul, and believes by acknowledging its history Days is solidifying its future. “You have to keep that history going, because fans of all ages want to see that history honored,” Nichols says.
From the first episode, it was clear that family is the most important part of the show. On-air and off.
“Ken feels very strongly that the show is a legacy entrusted to him, and that legacy is one of family,” says James Reynolds, who first began playing Abe Carver 34 years ago. “That’s reflected in the show and in the relationships with all of the people who’ve been on the show for any significant period of time.”
Reynolds is glad so many former cast mates are reprising their roles. “This has been a really lovely time, watching Thaao walk through the door, and seeing Peter Reckell [Bo Brady], and Martha Madison [Belle Black Brady] is back. It’s like the family has gotten back together for the holidays and you’re catching up with one another. It makes it a pleasure to go to work.”
Kristian Alfonso [Hope Williams Brady] originally joined the cast as a teenager, and is proud to be part of the show’s legacy. “I have to tip my hat to Ken Corday. I know his parents are looking down proudly at what he’s accomplished and the longevity of Days of Our Lives,” she says, noting the excitement won’t end with the big anniversary. “Even after the 50th it’s going to keep rolling, so buckle up. You’re seriously going to be on a roller coaster ride!”
Corday is more modest about his obvious contributions to the soap’s endurance. “I’m deeply grateful to the viewers for standing by the show for 50 years,” Corday says. “You’re nothing without your viewers, and thank goodness we have faithful viewers. You’re only as good as your audience — and how grateful we all are to have them. They stick with us through thick and thin.”
Days of Our Lives airs weekdays at 12:30 p.m. on WREX-13. Same-day repeats can be seen weeknights at 7 p.m. on PopTV.