Days of Our Lives’ Glorious Sweeps Event

Days plane crashBy Marlena De Lacroix

My readers know what disdain I usually have for stagey sweeps stunts, so imagine my shock at being sucked into the very beginning of last Friday’s episode of Days of Our Lives and then spit out an hour later thoroughly entertained … and even thrilled!

The plane carrying various members of the Brady family returning from Ireland had veered off course and the hour featured passengers fretting for their lives and scrambling for a dwindling oxygen supply while John and eye-patch-wearing Steve (a one-eyed flyer?) struggled to pilot the failing craft into some kind of landing.  The episode was filled with a feeling of suspense and urgency like nothing I’ve ever seen done on a soap opera.  It was more likea movie … imagine the Airport movies, mixed with Lost, mixed with another incredibly chilling 1993 movie about what it’s like actually be in an air crash called Fearless (with Rosie Perez and Jeff Bridges).

The headline story event in this airplane crash episode was the voluntary death of paterfamilias Shawn Brady (a bravura Frank Parker) who stopped inhaling from his oxygen mask when it appeared there wouldn’t be enough air to go around for all the members of his vast family on the plane (Bo, Hope, Marlena, Kayla, Belle, Phillip, Chloe, their various kids, etc.)  This self sacrifice was shocking and beautiful at the same time, the exact kind of selfless act that is thoroughly the opposite of the violence intended to titillate that is de rigueur on other soaps (General Hospital!) in sweeps months.  Kayla and Hope (a heartrending Mary Beth Evans and Kristian Alfonso) witnessed their beloved Pop die in chilling horror.  When Bo, who had been passed out while his father smothers, awoke to discover his father’s shrouded dead body, Peter Reckell harrowingly delivered the most poignant acting moment of the soap year.

The sequence worked because all the actors did a superb job, but what will be long remembered here (and probably honored with awards) was the super directing.  Armed with about $1.98 of special effects, which included one red spotlight, one green spotlight, an airplane cabin set which either shook incessantly or a camera which shook even harder, director Noel Maxam miraculously managed to evoke the physical feeling of a real crash.  The actual plane ride grew so bumpy and torturous at times, I in the audience actually felt a bit nauseous.  And as the actors delivered their lines into their oxygen masks (a little bit muddled at times), I felt like I was gasping for air.

How did Maxam stage this airplane crash so realistically?  That, darlings, is cinematic magic of the sort we rarely if ever see on soaps anymore.  And sadly, Days isn’t the only soap that is operating on a budget of $1.98 anymore.  Certainly, the show’s executive producer Ed Scott must be lauded for putting this totally out of the ordinary soap episode together.  Fantastic work!

And one more thing.  While I was enthusiastically caught up in this episode, the Marlena voice in the back of my mind kept asking if the entire airplane crisis episode wasn’t a metaphor for the fate of a whole soap known as Days Our Lives. Think about it.  A whole planeload of favorites cruising on a floundering aircraft toward crash (read, cancellation).  Will they be saved?  Can they be saved?  With work like what was done in this particular episode, may there be many more Days of Our Lives!

Comments

  1. Cherry Ames says:

    Was this material and storyline written by Dena Higley? If it was, then kudos to her. She certainly took a lot of heat for OLTL (I’m one of like 2 people in the universe who didn’t think Dena was all that bad nor all that responsible for some of her exploitive sl’s during her writing tenure at OLTL). If not, then kudos to whoever is responsible. DOOL doesn’t have to be the butt of joke that daytime has become.

    Marlena says: By its timing, I think the episode was written during the Writer’s Strike. So I’m not sure who wrote it. The writing was good; but the directing and the acting were terrific. BTW, my great friend Chris L was a defender of Higley on OLTL too.

  2. Bryon says:

    Hey Marlena! I too was amazed! It’s so rare anymore with any of the soaps that I didn’t have to make a concious effort to keep watching the whole hour. Days wasn’t just on in the background that day. I dreaded the end of the episode and couldn’t wait until Monday. It’s so rare these Days, but I think that the way the soaps are supposed to make us feel.

  3. annabelle says:

    I agree, Ed Scott is doing a fantastic job with Days! I tuned back in when Marlena found John was alive, and I can’t believe how different the show is now. It helps that Sami/Lucas/EJ aren’t on as much.

  4. nathan says:

    Marlena, if you say something is worth watching. I tune in. I watch Days occasionally, but when you raved about the crash, and the acting, I had to see for myself. I watched it on youtube. and WOW, it was pretty great. suspenseful, realistic. I just felt the connection between everyone on board, and them thinking it was the end. Kayla/Hope, Bo/Hope, Shawn/Belle, and especially when Bo saw his dad dead. I knew when I heard Ed Scott was bringing in his people from when he was on Y&R, it would only make Days better, and it has!!!

  5. Fabobug says:

    Glad to see a column about my old fave.
    I have been delightfully surprised by DAYS since New Year’s. I have actually found myself sitting through whole episodes for the first time since 1994!

    Usually I can’t stand it when daytime soaps mimic the movies or primetime. But I agree the plane decent on DAYS was different. I attribute this to the fact that they were on such a constrained budget that they really had to creatively and intelligently make use of lights, camera angles, talented actors, etc. More importantly the characters and their relationships were the stars of this disaster, not the special effects (like the ABC soaps).

    It’s rare a daytime soap emotionally affects me anymore. But when I saw Hope and Phillip look around at everyone else unconscious, it was downright disturbing and sad. And Peter Reckell, one of the most handsome and underrated actors of daytime, proved himself AGAIN. Will this man ever get the props he deserves?

    The only thing lacking in my opinion was the dialogue. The direction, production, and acting were all superb. The writing? Well, as you said in a previous column, the scabs aren’t doing “Seinfeld.” This wasn’t even “The Michael Richards Show.”

    Marlena says: Great observations about the plane crash, Fabs. I would like to admit that I became (albeit mostly a silent) Peter Reckell fan about ten years ago. He does such a great job playing a genuinely loving father, son and husband. As I’ve said, to me Days’ greatest strength is the wonderfully mature and relatable middle-aged characters Bo and Hope and Steve and Kayla.

  6. AJ says:

    I record 3 soaps daily. I watch the most interesting one that evening and save the other two for background noise on the weekend. This is the first month in over a year that I watched Days first. The show has improved so much!

    I would like to see the writers make a statement to the effect that they have decided that the character of Ciara does not work. I don’t want to have another storyline where Hope and Bo lose a child. I want the writers to accept that the viewers are intelligent enough to agree that it was a mistake to give them a child at this stage of their lives. Hope is back on the police force. She and Bo should be having adventures. And with the storyline of Bo’s illness coming up, now is a good time to drop the character of Ciara.

    AJ

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