‘Days of Our Lives’ switch to Peacock angers fans: ‘It’s unfair’

For 57 years and over 14,000 episodes, “Days of Our Lives” fans tune in every day of the week to see what calamity is about to befall the small but exceptionally turbulent Midwest town of Salem.

There was the time Carly Manning was buried alive by her romantic rival, Vivian Alamain.

The time Stefano DiMera planted a microchip in Hope Brady’s brain to make her believe she was an international art thief named Princess Gina.

And time – sorry, of them times – Dr. Marlena Evans was possessed by the devil.

But last week, daytime drama took a leap that many longtime viewers may never accept: NBC moved the soap opera, a staple of its daytime lineup since 1965, to Peacock, the streaming from NBC Universal, replacing it with a daily news show. Now, new episodes of “Days” will be ready to watch on-demand every weekday at 6 a.m. ET. (In a final indignity for some East Coast viewers, NBC interrupted the last two minutes of the show’s final linear run on September 9 to play a pre-recorded address from King Charles III about the death of his mother, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the day before.)

Announced with little fanfare last month, the news that “Days” would live on as a streaming exclusive wasn’t nearly as surprising as, say, the time a completely unrecognizable Roman Brady reappeared in Salem years after he was presumed dead.

“Days” was the least-watched of the four remaining daytime soap operas on television, and it suffered numerous budget cuts as its ratings declined. Still, its audience is loyal and, by fragmented 2022 standards, significant: It drew an estimated 1.7 million viewers on NBC each day (roughly the same number of people who tuned in to the Season 3 finale of HBO’s much-loved “Succession” the day it ran). Peacock had previously tested the digital waters with two installments of a spin-off, “Beyond Salem,” which proved that at least part of the “Days” fan base could be drawn to a new platform.

“The writing has been on the wall for quite a while, at least two years, that the future of dramatic television will be behind the paywall on streaming sites,” said executive producer Ken Corday, whose parents, Betty and Ted Corday, created “Days”, one of the first soap operas to be broadcast in color and expanded to a 60 minute format.

He sees the digital switchover as the latest evolution of a medium that started in radio before migrating to television broadcasting. “As things change, you either adapt with them or you get left behind,” he says. “And ‘Days’ has always been a good pioneer of change.”

While some fans welcome the move as a vital lifeline for their beloved soap opera, many other longtime viewers, especially older ones, are outraged. They balk at the idea of ​​paying for something that was once freely available on the airwaves. They may be intimidated by new technology or lack funds for a smart TV or tablet. They feel like after decades of unwavering loyalty, they’re being let down by entertainment conglomerates desperate to woo younger, elusive audiences. And, perhaps more than anything, they resent the disruption of a cherished daily ritual during a time of dizzying change.

Trish Hobbs, 60, has been watching “Days” since she was 9. (Her German grandmother, a soap fanatic, got her hooked.) As a stay-at-home mom, she timed her kids’ naps so she was free to tune in each afternoon to hear the voice of Macdonald Carey in the iconic intro: “Like the sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Until September 9, Hobbs, who lives in North Carolina, continued to plan his days around “Days”.

“I’m divorced. I live alone. It’s like having friends come over to our house,” she said, comparing the show to a comforting plate of mac and cheese. Thanks to her cable provider, she was able to get a free subscription to Peacock and has been watching the show on her desktop computer for the past few days — “but it’s not the same,” she said wearily Hobbs, a cancer survivor, n is unable to work and can barely afford to see her doctor, so she doesn’t know what she will do when the free subscription runs out.

“I already have to pay for cable to have my television. Now you want me to pay to watch my show on an app that I don’t fully understand, don’t have the money to pay, and probably won’t watch anything else? ” she says. “They don’t take into account the people who made the show what it is.”

Yolanda Viviani, 83, has been watching “Days” since she was a young mother in New York in the 1960s. When she and her husband finally moved upstate and opened a bar, she sometimes turned on the television on “Days”, irritating customers who preferred sports.

“I’m really disappointed with what they did. It’s unfair,” said Viviani, who now relies on her daughter or grandchildren to turn on Peacock using several different remotes. “A little more independence taken away.”

The producers promoted the move with short clips on social media featuring favorite cast members. A, with Bill Hayes, 97, and his wife of 79, Susan Seaforth Hayeswas aimed directly at older, technophobic viewers.

“We have to say to our loving and loyal fans, ‘Come on, we’ve got you.’ Take them by the hand and lead them,” said Deidre Hall, who started playing Marlena Evans, a psychiatrist who suffered enough trauma to spend her life in therapy, in 1976. It’s not change, and we’re all a little uncomfortable with change. But that’s a good thing.

Daytime TV is inherently habit-forming “because we never give you relief,” Hall said. “There’s always something you need to know the answer to.” But “Days” is unique in the way it has followed the same families – the Bradys, Hortons, Dimeras and Kiriakises – for decades. It may be crazy, but it’s a crazy familiar.

“We have had such difficult years lately. So many people have been stuck at home, and our show is a huge comfort. They know us, they love us, they trust us,” Hall said.

In its early years, the series was known for its bold yet intimate stories, including a groundbreaking 1970s interracial romance. Over time, ‘Days’ has embraced more outrageous storylines involving look-alikes, brainwashing and characters who have come back from the dead with alarming regularity — a campy streak that ‘Friends’ usurped via the role. of Joey’s escape as a neurosurgeon revived by a brain transplant.

“When you turned on ‘Days’, it was so unlike any other show. It was the eye candy of the soap genre, it was shirtless guys, places like New Orleans , diabolical possessions and larger-than-life marriages. It was really all on its own,” said 22-year-old Casey Hutchison, who learned about the show’s history from commemorative books acquired from thrift stores and whose l love of the daytime genre inspired him to create an audio soap opera called “Eternity and a Day.” “He knows the type of crazy show this is, and it will always be that.”

Even in its most exaggerated form, “there was still some nuance to it,” a kernel of emotional truth that kept the madness entrenched, said Troy Thompson, 36, of Milwaukee, who started watching every days after school with her mother and grandmother. “Especially being a young black gay boy, there were times when I felt more comfortable with these characters than the people in my real life. I was able to lose myself in them.”

Thompson is sympathetic to older people frustrated by the move to Peacock, but thinks younger fans like him need to help out as much as they can. “Yes, inflation is high. We all have our problems. But if you can go get a pack of Newport 100s, you can make sure your grandma can watch Marlena Evans.

This is exactly what some followers of “Days” do. Using her @hourglassfan Twitter account, Clare Kilgallen, 52, tried to educate fans on how to sign up for Peacock and take advantage of a promotional offer allowing new subscribers to get a full year of the service for $20 throughout the month. of September. She hopes that over the next few weeks, NBC will make a vigorous attempt to reach viewers who tune in to the show’s old timeslot. “It’s really important to let people know where they’ve been,” said Kilgallen, who even warned his local library to be prepared for calls from seniors seeking tech support. “It’s like, go help your neighbor.”

Others went even further: The weekend before ‘Days’ permanently moved to Peacock, Elizabeth Capobianco, 35, flew to New York from North Carolina to help her 81-year-old grandmother years of setting up the streaming service. She worries about people in nursing homes or in rural areas without high-speed internet access.

“They’re going to lose so many of these grandmothers who have been watching from the very beginning,” she said. “But the flip side is, ‘Thank goodness they’re not cancelled. Because that was the alternative.

There are other benefits to the streaming model beyond mere survival: preventing constant pre-emptions for breaking news, the possibility of more cutting-edge content, longer episodes without as many ad breaks. There might even be an opportunity to attract new fans (and delight existing ones) with access to classic “Days” episodes from yesteryear. “Although there is nothing planned at this time, we sincerely hope that we can give fans access to older episodes and footage in the future,” Corday said.

But daytime theater flourished in a now unrecognizable cultural and social climate. The remaining American television soap operas — “Days,” “General Hospital,” “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” — face significant challenges. The housewives who once made up the daytime audience are an endangered species — and have been for decades. Their children are addicted to TikTok, not to their mother’s complex and slow “stories”.

Viewers who enjoy family intrigues and messy love triangles have countless other entertainments at their fingertips, including reality TV like “The Real Housewives” and the relentless roll of celebrity gossip on social media. Even brilliant scripted sagas like “Yellowstone” and “The Crown” offer juicy family melodrama dressed up with higher production values.

Ultimately, “Days'” most formidable villain isn’t one of the schemer Dimeras. It’s a viewer with too many options and not enough time.