There was so much jubilation when "Days of our Lives" won a Daytime Emmy this year for best drama -- only its second win in that major category. It was a long time coming. The last statue was awarded 35 years ago. We suspect the reason it won was because one of the reels submitted for judging depicted the massive explosion in Salem -- powerhouse special effects never hurt. However, we are here to say the show might deserve another award for quality stories and character development next year.
It has been a long time since we have warmed up to "DOOL." Most people cheer when the Phoenix (a.k.a. Stefano DiMera) rises yet again; we cringe. Joseph Mascolo’s over- the-top performance is just shy of mustache-twirling. He plays the part well, but it is not our cup of tea. The last time that Eileen Davidson played Kristen on the show, she resorted to the same exaggerated type of portrayal -- again, not our mug of Lipton.
We were very surprised, then, when we fell in love with Davidson's nuanced performance this time around. She is still just as devious, but we see her motivation, and yes, we feel her pain. OK, so she may have gone too far with the drugging and seducing of Father Eric, but we are willing to wait and see how that story plays out because we now see her as a full-blown character and not a stylized weapon of mass destruction.
At the same time, we just watched E.J. (James Scott) kick Stefano out of the family home. How do we extol the virtues of Scott? He, too, is no slouch in the dastardly deeds department, but he always seems to redeem himself. Pairing him with Sami (Alison Sweeney) has been delightful. No longer is it a love/hate relationship. It is all love, baby. They are two characters who often make horrid choices, but who now seem to make each other better. They suit each other well. Never mind the fact that we were happy to see Stefano ousted, we felt for E.J. when Stefano coldly turned his back on him when he thought they were no longer blood relatives. We know Stefano will worm his way back into E.J.'s life, but it was nice to see his comeuppance.
The character of Jennifer has always been too good to be true, but Melissa Reeves has always pulled it off. Still, it's good to see her given a challenge greater than picking one of her numerous suitors. Her son J.J. is still reeling from his father's death and is acting out in truly criminal ways. His escalating aggression toward Daniel is very scary. It has presented Reeves with an acting challenge that she is meeting well. We enjoyed watching her use tough love on her formerly coddled son.
Right after Chandler Massey won another much-deserved Emmy for playing Will, he announced he was leaving the show. We love the Will/Sonny pairing -- and Massey and Freddie Smith work so well together that we dread how they will handle Massey’s departure.
We have even come to like Nicole. The show has taken her from irredeemable to endearing. Arianne Zucker also tended to be over-the-top. Now there is subtlety in her work. We see the conflict of her attraction to her former lovers Eric, now a priest, and Brady. It works.
This is the crux of the show’s turnaround. Even when the town's engulfed in a giant explosion, it's still about the subtleties. It is like learning the emperor really is wearing new clothes. Now if they can ever make us really care if the Phoenix rises again or not, that will be something.