There's not a Days of our Lives fan in history who doesn't have an opinion about the Salem shenanigans that have hit the screen over the past half century, but writer Ryan Van Meter is the only one lucky enough to be featured in major outlets like the New York Times for his candid thoughts on the NBC soap.
The author, known for If You Knew Then What I Know Now, is one of twelve writers who contributed to the new anthology of TV criticism, Little Boxes: 12 Writers on Television, and his essay is all about the addictive pleasures of watching DAYS. And just like the millions of soap fans who tune in to the series each and every day, he's just as addicted to staple characters and could really do without the newbies writers of the past have brought in.
"New characters often come to town, but mostly I wait through their scenes," Van Meter writes in the humorous yet moving essay titled The Hourglass. "What I want are the same characters played by the same actors since I was five. I want to watch Marlena and Kristen fight over John the way they have since I was in college in 1996."
Van Meter also touches on how watching a soap opera in the 1990s was a bit like watching reality TV -- before reality TV was even a thing.
"With police officers and doctors and businessmen and the guy who ran the pub and the woman who sewed clothes for the woman who sang, Days of our Lives had a 'these are the people in your neighborhood feeling,'" he writes. "Because Days of our Lives and the soap operas my grandmother watched -- the CBS ones -- were on five times a week and took place in towns that looked a lot like ours, and all of the people had jobs I'd actually heard of, I felt as though we were watching actual people. All of the other stuff on during the day -- game shows, talk show, the news -- also depicted regular people in regular clothes. There were no sweeping shots. There were no outsides of houses. So it seemed as though on soap operas, we were watching people living their familiar lives while we lived ours -- families, neighbors, cops, and doctors. I thought of it as a kind of reality television, long before I knew that such a thing would actually exist."
Of course, DAYS isn't the only classic television series featured in the book that waxes nostalgic over the best shows of the '90s. Twin Peaks, Dawson's Creek, Daria, The Cosby Show, and Northern Exposure are a few other fan-favorite shows that sharp-witted authors like Justin Taylor, Elena Passarello, and V.V. Ganeshananthan delve into via the slim collection that explores why TV matters so damn much to us.
“We had one parameter,” the book's editor, Caroline Casey, writes in the introduction. “Everyone asked to contribute ... grew up in that finite moment when television was omnipresent, but before the internet was.”
Little Boxes: 12 Writers on Television is available now on Amazon.
If you were approached to write an essay about why DAYS matters to you, what would you write about? Do you agree with Van Meter's thoughts about DAYS? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.