Wishful Storytelling: What if Susan Hunter Martin was Carly Manning's Mother on DAYS?
Inspired by all the rich flashbacks, and poignant usage of history on display in Salem this week on Days of Our Lives (in bittersweet courtesy to the end of the lives of Frances Reid and Alice Horton), I began once again thinking about how my favorite soap could better utilize its history to refocus the sudser around it's central mythology—the trials and tribulations of the Horton family, their lovers, rivals and friends.
As I was driving home in rush hour traffic on Wednesday, readying myself for the eppy where everyone learned dear, darling "Gran" had taken a turn for the worst, I started thinking about how DAYS executive producer Ken Corday has been consistently mentioning, during his press tour for his memoir, that it was DAYS' "story" which keeps fans glued to the show. And while I readily agree with Corday, in recent months, I am beginning to feel said story is leaving much to be desired again. Don't get me wrong, DAYS is still an enjoyable soap opera, for the most part, and vastly improved over recent, disastrous years. I am loving Victor and Maggie's (John Aniston and Suzanne Rogers) twilght years romance, with twisted Vivian (Louise Sorel) as the spoiler.
Arianne Zucker is still a schemingly-delicious treat as bitch goddess Nicole Walker (so glad she's stopped crying over all the town's babies!), and the never-ending multiple choice test of "Which Man Should Sami Choose?" has yet to grow old. That brings me to what I thought would be one of the best triangles in daytime history, the one between Carly (Crystal Chappell), Bo (Peter Reckell) and Hope (Kristian Alfonso). It saddens me to say, that a triangle that could have been lifted from my fanboy dreams, has turned into an unwatchable, plot-driven farce, and considering this is one of DAYS' biggest, frontburner stories, I fell they really need to take strides to fix it— before it's too late.
For starters, branding Carly a Scarlet Woman for taking back up with Bo all these years later, when Hope had already moved out on her husband was just plain silly from the get go. Soap fans— contrary to popular opinion and focus group data— are not that slow. We spied Bo and Hope's contrived break up a mile away. Having Carly kill Lawrence Alamain (Michael Sabatino), the dashing, eurotrash villain, who worshipped her to the point of erotic obsession and coming up with some cockamamie story about abuse brought on by insanity, didn't do my Katerina any favors either. Now let's discuss Carly's other defining story point since returning to Salem— the revelation that town twit, Melanie Layton (Molly Burnett) is her long-lost daughter.
While Burnett and Chappell have managed an organic chemistry, seeing Carly blustering all about town for months over some stray we never knew about, when Nicky— the child she loved and lost, thanks to a maniacal Vivian's machinations— was somewhere out there mourning his father's death alone was, again, contrived.
Flash forward to recent weeks and months, when during Peter Reckell's absence from the show, whoever was in charge of keeping Dena Higley occupied with the shiny ball in the writers' room allowed her to pen this shiteous storyline where Hope begins mugging people and carrying on, while wearing her hair like Snooki from the doggone Jersey Shore and doped up on...sleeping pills. It says mouthfuls that this is the storyline Higley came out of hiding to take credit for. I bet every other scribe on that staff breathed a sigh of career-saving relief when Higley stood up to claim this stinker. Who would want on their Wikipedia page, "created Nightime, Snifling, Sneezing, Coughing, Mugging Hope? Not I says the cat!
Seeing Hope Williams Brady, my all-time favorite soap heroine (Anne Heche's Vicky was an antiheroine on Another World, thank you very much!) acting out a poor scribe's version of former DAYS leading lady, Deidre Hall's Greatest Reilly Hits (Marlena Possessed, The Salem Stalker) just breaks my heart. I'm also none-too-thrilled at watching Carly Manning, the haunting, gothic romance novel character brought to life I fell in love with almost 20 years ago, being turned into a one-note busy body/victim.
Alfonso, Reckell and Chappell deserve bettter than this, but more importantly, so do the DAYS fans, not to mention the Guiding Light viewers who followed Chappell over. Chappell was able to do more while freezing Kim Zimmer's balls off in Peapack, with handy cams following her around on a set made from old popsicle sticks, than she is able to achieve with this pisspoor storytelling, and can someone please tell me why she gives a rat's stinky butthole about what Daniel (Shawn Christian) and Chloe (Nadia Bjorlin) are doing? This is Crystal Freaking Chappell! Put her in scenes with the shows other POWERHOUSES for Ted and Betty Corday's sake!
Why can't Carly's "B" story be with Alison Sweeney or James Scott? Dont get me wrong, I adore Chloe, and Bjorlin, but Chloe's hatred of Carly is beyond manufactured. Also, Chloe is being written as if she's a few bricks shy of Habitat for Humanity House these days. What happened to the self-righteous-but-heartfelt diva we all knew and loved? The Chloe Lane I once rooted for wouldn't want to kill someone because they were going to out them as a cheater, nor would she be a puppet for a looney tune like Vivian. Paging Nancy Wesley (Patrika Darbo) to talk some sense into that gal!
A triangle is only as good as its inherent motivation and character-driven conflict and neither of the triangles featuring Carly Manning have that at this point. This is why I think DAYS should just go ahead and play the "destiny" card and make Carly the daughter of one Susan Hunter Martin, as played by Denise Alexander.
How awesome would it be for Carly's mother to turn up in Salem after all these years, causing Julie Williams (Susan Seaforth Hayes), Hope's sister-mother to spit fire at the very sight of her, just before Carly asks, "Mother?" Now I will admit, it's 2 am, and right now I cannot for the life of me remember if Mama Von Leuschner is dead or alive—all I remember is Carly's dad, Henri (?), and of course, her brother Francois (Billy Warlock)—but even if it was previously revealed that Carly was a motherless child, we can bring her madea back and reveal at a big, splashy engagement party for Bo and Carly, that Carly's mom is none other than Julia's onetime BFF-turned-mortal enema, er enemy!
For newer DAYS viewers who are like "Who the EFF is Susan Martin?" , don't feel bad, the character hasn't been in Salem since the 1970s, so I never saw her onscreen either, but boy did I hear about her from my late grandparents! Susan and Julie's battles were the things of legend! Once best friends, Julie and Susan basically fought over every man in Salem from circa 1966 to the mid-1970's, from David Martin, to Scott Banning, Sr. It was also Susan who hired a con by the name of Doug Williams (Bill Hayes) to romance Julie, the rest is soap operatic history. If you don't believe me, ask the editor of Time magazine.
I have read the old story summaries of the Susan vs. Julie rivalry many, many times and they always leave me riveted, yet a bit sad that soaps stopped doing rich, psychological, character-driven triangles like that a looooong time ago. Nowadays we get Phick vs. Flick vs Shick vs. Oh suck my...
Wouldn't it be the bee's knees if DAYS took the Julie vs. Susan saga and made it a template for Hope vs. Carly moving forward? Fate and destiny have always played a huge part on the NBC soaps. How fated would it be to learn that after leaving Salem, Susan Martin moved to whatever country the Alamains and Von Leuschners hail from and fell in love with Carly's father, then bore Carly? It could be a takeoff on Grace Kelly's romance with that Prince dude from Monaco!
A livid Julie would no doubt think none of it was a coincidence. Julie would rage that Susan sent her daughter to Salem to infiltrate the Hortons' lives, a charge Carly would have to vehemently defend herself against. Carly, heroine that she is, of course would have had no idea her mother had ties to Salem. Hope, wouldn't be so sure. Then you'd finally have a real, viable conflict between these two women, rooted in one of Salem's— and soaps in general's— most epic, feline battles.
Susan Martin already has something in common with Carly Manning. She too killed her husband. Can't you just see Julie spitting out, "Like mother, like daughter!" Then Susan's granddaughter Melanie could begin to worry that their was some sort of generational curse handed down from mother to daughter, which meant she was destined to kill Phillip (Jay Kenneth Johnson), the same way Susan had killed David Martin, and Carly killed Lawrence.
I'm sure Alexander would relish the thought of reprising the role that made her so famous General Hospital snapped her up as Dr. Lesley Webber the moment her contract negotiations with DAYS hit a snafu (Brian Frons barks orders to his lowly assistant, Hecuba to get Alexander's agent on the phone. "Tell her we have a huge summer story planned for Lesley!). What a treat it would be to see one of daytime's first, big mega stars of the late 70's/80's "glory years" mixing it up with the Hayes again. If not, well don't mind me, it's time for me to go to bed anyway!