So, if Days of Our Lives is through with cast-cutting and ready to move into the future, where does it go from here? Well, let's see what's left to work with first. At their core, good soaps are about families, so what's the score on that front these days?
HORTONS--Salem's premiere family has fallen on hard times of late. There simply aren't that many left. And those who are left make infrequent appearances.
Alice (rarely appears)
Mickey (rarely appears)
Doug and Julie (still pop up from time to time)
Will (Just returned)
BRADYS--In somewhat better shape. At least most of them appear on a regular basis.
Bo and Hope
Chelsea (soon to be leaving)
Roman (rarely appears)
Tony (soon to be leaving)
Anna (I guess leaving too)
Nicole (if the wedding happens)
Mia (will undoubtedly be gone once the baby story wraps up)
Dr Baker (ditto)
By the way, my divisions are totally arbitrary in some cases (such as placing Kate's sons in groupings with their father's families instead of with her). Others would probably do it differently. That's totally cool.
So, if that's the lay of the land, then what's to be done? Here's what I think.
There's still some deadwood. I think the trimming stopped a little bit early. A couple more judicious cuts could be made without affecting story too terribly. If they're not going to write for Roman, for example, they should cut Josh Taylor loose. And, honestly, would anyone really miss that whiny Melanie? For the most part, I think I could do without Dr Daniel as well, even though I'm nuts about Shawn Christian.
The veterans that are left should be played as frequently as possible, in meaty story. It's so delicious to see Victor and Stefano leading their families against each other these days! We need more of this, please. But Maggie (with or without Mickey) and Caroline need stories! I've loved Maggie the meddler throwing herself in the middle of the Daniel-Chloe-Lucas situation. Those recent scenes with Lucas in the bar, were a good reminder of what a powerhouse actress Suzanne Rogers is. More of her please.
Using the vets more often won't completely make up for the loss of John and Marlena, but it would help.
Salem needs more Hortons! They are the show's first family and their simply too thinned out. Aging Will and bringing him back from Switzerland was a good start. Bringing back Abby would also fill a gap in the younger crowd that's going to be created when Rachel Melvin leaves the show and Chelsea Brady is no more.
I know the Jeremy Horton thing a while back was a bust, but maybe it's time to try again. I like the idea of a Horton who isn't quite so goody-goody all the time. I think that, in a good story, the character could work. Especially if his return was followed by the return of his father Mike. Salem Hospital should always have a Horton working there.
Speaking of returns, what about bringing Bill Horton back from Africa, or wherever that clinic is located? Get some known name to recast the role on a short-term contract of 6-8 months and bring the character back home with a tropical disease to die. That would give the regulars on the canvas some meaty stuff to play, while keeping the character around long enough for viewers to both get used to him and care that he's dying. Plus, it might springboard some other short-term returns. And it would give Lucas a chance to have some interaction with his father.
A few more Bradys wouldn't hurt either. Bring Eric back. Sami shouldn't be left without any of her siblings, especially since her mother is gone. (By the way, now that Sami's back in Salem, I really want to see her grappling with not having her mom around, please.) Recast Shawn and get Martha Madison back as Belle. This would fill out the age gap between Bo and Hope and Ciara, return a favorite couple to the scene and bring back one of the best young actresses the show ever had.
The show's greatest strength is its couples. Days is known for creating legendary couples, probably moreso than any other show. Bo and Hope. Marlena and John (and before that Marlena and Roman). Doug and Julie. Mickey and Maggie. Shawn and Belle. These are couples that, no matter what happened, the viewer, and everyone else, always knew where their heart lay.
The show needs to get back to this concept. Stop splitting up Bo and Hope for stupid shit. This is a couple that should be facing all their obstacles together.
Not only has the show stopped creating couples like this, they've been actively torpedoing some of the couples that should and could be of that caliber. Why are Lucas and Sami not together? Why are Brady and Chloe not together?
As far as creating couples go, please, please, please, find someone for Max who is not his niece! I'm sorry, but adopted Brady or not, that's creepy! Darin Brooks is a cutie pie, a strong actor, and needs to be part of a fantastic coupling. Otherwise, I guess he'll be paired with Sami next!
It's time for Salem to become a little less hetero. Both As the World Turns and All My Children have done a good job of integrating gay characters into their core families. I'm thinking an Eric Brady-Jeremy Horton coupling would put the perfect gay spin on the classic Brady-Horton romance. In addition to fleshing out two characters that are relatively blank canvases at this point, it would also add story possibilities to their suggested returns.
Don't forget the connective tissue! It's the friendships and family ties that make soaps work. In between all the couplings and drama and big story, we have to see these little bits that remind us how the different characters are connected to each other. Please don't "island" characters in story so that they only interact with the same characters day in and day out. I know it's a cheaper approach, but the show is better when we see Stephanie having a heart to heart with her grandmother Caroline or Aunt Maggie getting involved with Lucas or Hope.
This also means that absences have consequences. Sami and Marlena were close. Marlena's departure leaves Sami with no immediate family in Salem, except for Roman. I want to see this worked into Sami's story so badly. She needs to miss her mother and commiserate with her father over it. Bo and Hope need to invite their niece over for dinner, so she won't be so lonely. I'd love to see Brady and Sami talking about missing their parents for a couple of scenes. There are all kinds of possibilities here. Hey, it would give Roman something to do!
Give Kate a life. Or at least a love life. I love the way she's playing Chloe right now. It's much more subtle than she's been in the past. But, now that her cancer scare is over, I'd really hate for her to go back to doing nothing but meddling in her kids' lives again.
There's a lot of real talent on the show now.
With the departures of Drake Hogestyn and Stephen Nichols, Days has lost two members of the macho bluster-snort-glare school of male soap lead acting, which is a good thing. With Josh Taylor's Roman currently without a storyline, that leaves Peter Reckell as the only b-s-g actor with lots of screen time, which is a lot easier to tolerate. For once, the show is populated with a lot of folks who are both good-looking and decent actors, with only one or two exceptions. This, of course, is a very good thing.
NEXT: Are there really Days without Marlena?