Let it never be said that there are any better fans in daytime than DAYS fans. After what was easily the most confusing year in DAYS history, DAYS is climbing in ratings, proving all the naysayers wrong (you know who you are!) and championing the tenacity of true soap fans! Sounds like a good reason to throw a cyber party, right? Right!
So welcome, everyone, to the Golden Donuts! These festivities are named after DAYS Grande Dame Alice Horton's famous pastry. With them, we celebrate the best of DAYS for 2015.
A few ground rules for those of you who are new. @Tony_S_Days and I want to spread the love out as much as possible. So, we swear on a pitcher of Nicole's martinis not to pick the same winner for each category. We also limit ourselves to one winner per character and one per actor. We know it's never fun to read a "Best of" list that's all the exact same thing over and over and over. And, if nothing else, we're all about the fun!
Speaking of which, let's get to it!
Best New Character
Laurisa: Xander Cook
I love a good villain, and darn it if Paul Telfer didn't play the snot out of the role given him. With Victor stepping back a bit from the dirty work (and he really must to keep Magic alive), we needed another Kiriakis -- who's slightly left of normal -- to take over the role. Xander fit the bill. His legitimate need to earn Victor's love kept him from veering too far into cartoon territory. His creepy yet undeniably interesting chemistry with both Nicole and Serena didn't hurt matters either.
Tony: Tori Narita
Hira Ambrosino is completely charming, and that made me fall in love with Tori, too. Admittedly, the character didn't have time to fully flourish like other newer Salemites, but Hira managed to give Tori depth nonetheless. Tori had a "Bree van de Camp" air of prim and properness as well as a quiet strength, yet also a fragileness, which made me care about her and her quest to protect those she loved. I sincerely hope that we get to see the fab Tori again in 2016 because she has a lot of untapped potential. And as I always say, "More, please!"
Best Special Guest Star/Recurring Character
Laurisa: Sami Brady
For me, she was the one relatable spot during Will's memorial. While the rest of the actors gave marvelous performances, only Sami got to draw on events that were real to us. A few weeks later, she returned to spar with Andre and set off a great mystery concerning millions and a possibly not-so-dead DiMera son. Yes, please!!
Tony: Bo Brady
Bo's turnaround was speedy to say the least, but having Peter Reckell don the
Batsuit Bosuit once more was exactly what exasperated "Bope" fans needed. No one believed (or wanted to believe) that Bo Brady had abandoned his family, and we finally got some answers. Sure this storyline had plot holes, but it didn't ultimately matter. Peter was home. He was back as Bo, and he was just as Bolicious as ever, you know, sans the torture and death stuff.
And while I'll never agree with the writers for having Peter spend nearly all of Bo's time on-screen locked up away from his loved ones, Bo's return to Salem in the end was worth the wait. His adventures with fellow rebel with a heart of gold, Steve, was a noble nod to this epic dynamic duo, I loved the reunions with his family and friends, and, within a millisecond of Bo reuniting with Hope, Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso made it so very clear why millions of fans like myself fell in love with Bo and Hope in the first place. Bo may be gone now, but he'll never be forgotten. Please see Caroline for a commemorative shot of Irish whiskey, um, if she left any for us. Cheers to Bo!
Laurisa: Ava Vitali
Though I wished it with all my might, I really never thought that she'd be back. DAYS usually writes off all of their non-DiMera villains for good. But one ounce of Tamara Braun's fantastically evil delivery (I mean, when she looked in that mirror...), and I'm thanking every soap god and goddess that we got this one back on our screens. She's so creeptastically wonderful in this role that I have to make up words like "creeptastically" because there aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe the Lady Braun's Ava.
Tony: Andre DiMera
Andre is to Salem as the Joker is to Gotham -- an unhinged psycho with a flair for the dramatic and destruction -- and the town's just that much more exciting with him lurking in the shadows. I didn't care what DiMera magic brought Andre back from the grave, how he magically became Stefano's son, or that all of that magicalness has never actually been explained. I just cared that the legendary Thaao Penghlis is back in Salem, where he was sorely missed. And while Andre's a scary guy, no doubt, that's not to say that he isn't a little hysterical, too, you know, in a menacing kind of way. I cracked up at his overzealous, nonchalant approach when he asked if Stefano wanted him to kill Aiden, and the Andre and Chad Variety Show has kept me in nothing but stiches. So whether scaring or cracking me up, Thaao is nothing short of brilliant, as is having him back in Salem!
Most Improved Character
Laurisa: Rafe Hernandez
After years of trying to make Rafe work as a lead opposite a bad girl, someone finally got it right. Rafe got out from behind the bar and got a seat riding shotgun on the Hope Brady Train of Awesome. With Hope, he still has the interaction with a strong woman, but he doesn't have to tote out the ever-tiring scolding and reprimanding. Plus, Rafe is at his best when he's getting to be a super cop. So, the fact that he was the one holdout in condemning Chad the Terrible DiMera was a huge plus in my book. I look forward to his scenes now, which is something I never, ever thought I'd say. Well done, Raferino!
Tony: Belle Black
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of the Belle cheated uh-gain thingy. It wasn't all that fun the first time. What I am a fan of is that Belle came back to Salem with a case of snark. While some of it's out of left field, it's an overall refreshing take on the character because, let's face it, Belle's always been a bit of a spoiled princess who could cry and be absolved of all sins. This time around, Belle seems to own her bitchy behavior. She doesn't really give a flying hourglass if she's being a brat or not, and the divine Ms. Madison is playing it fantastically!
Laurisa: Andre DiMera
As soon as he slithered into the Brady Pub during the middle of a wake (!!!), I knew we were in for a treat. And be it breaking up Bo and Hope or actually scaring a man so badly that he thought murder was a better option than dealing with Andre, this guy drips evil. I love his newfound feud with Marlena's daughters. I love the Joker meets Rhett Butler wardrobe. And, haters to the left, I loved the brainwashing scene in all its Willy Wonka glory. Finally, we're back to dealing with a villain with a legitimate history on the show -- one that we all know, fear, and, let's face it, kind of adore.
Tony: Ben Weston
Hands down, Robert Scott Wilson killed it! He choked out one perfectly petrifying performance after another this year, becoming more captivating with each showing. His transition from Ben "Ollie" Rogers to Ben "Necktie Killer" Weston was seamless. Sure, the guy had a hair-trigger temper before, but when he went full-blown psycho, Robert took the role to an entirely new level of intense scariness and will surely go down as one of DAYS' most memorable villains ever.
Me-ouch! Be it catty comments or full-fledged fistfights, the best battle of 2014!
Laurisa: Eve Larson vs. Jennifer Deveraux in the hotel
It was the moment we'd been waiting for since J.J. and Eve decided to perform their forbidden duet. Even though it sounded juicy that J.J. would be sleeping with mother and daughter at the same time, I really wanted to see the saintly Jennifer Horton lose her mind over her nemesis bedding her prized son. And when Jennifer practically levitated off the floor to strangle Eve in that hotel bed, I got my wish. Her mix of utter disgust and extreme disappointment was pretty much exactly what I'd been feeling for a while. She just expressed it with a much more fabulous braid and leather jacket than I.
Click here to watch Laurisa's pick for Best Brawl!
Tony: Lucas Horton vs. Kate Roberts
2015 hasn't really been a peaceful year, has it? But amongst the overall discord, the battle between Kate and Lucas was a huge turning point for this tumultuous mother and son duo. Lucas had claimed he was done with Kate's manipulative interferences about a billion and one times before, ad nauseam, but this time, he meant it. Kate had irrevocably gone too far, and Lucas ripped into her with a lifetime worth of pent-up disgust. True, it stung to see these two go at it (and Bryan Dattilo and Lauren Koslow shined in the scene), but this fight graduated Lucas from a mama's boy who always huffed and puffed but never blew the house down into a liberated man who left nothing standing between them. In fact, had it not been for Will's wildly untimely death (which we'll be discussing -- a lot -- next week during the Alex North Memorial Awards), their relationship probably wouldn't have bounced back.
Click here to read Tony's pick for Best Brawl!
Laurisa: Bope flashbacks
Talk about waterworks for a whole episode. From the motorcycle to the carnival tickets to, well, the other motorcycle, it was a display of Bope greatness that made us all fall in love with Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso all over again. Bo's return was pretty rough. But these cherished nuggets of soap gold helped to soften the blow -- even if it meant that we were still crying. At least these were somewhat tears of joy!
Tony: Will's death
Um, yeah. Pretty much September through November Sweeps could win this award in one all-encompassing sob. Because there were so many tears shed this year, picking one particular moment was difficult, so I rounded up to the more general "Will's death." Here's a quick rundown of the moments that turned misty-eyed sniffling into all out bawling: Camila Banus' heartbreaking performance when Gabi found Will's body, Lucas' "not my son, not my boy" reaction, Sonny's multiple breakdowns, Sami alone in Will's apartment, Kate and Sami's reunion at the funeral, and Deidra Hall's powerhouse delivery of two simple words that broke my heart right along with Marlena's. She simply said, "It's Will." Ugh, I'm getting weepy again just thinking about it!
Best Comedic Scene Stealer
Sure, drama's nice. But comedy is, too, and this character always managed to tickle the funny bone!
Laurisa: Bo Brady and Steve Johnson
One of my favorite episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show is the one where Mary can't stop giggling at Chuckles the Clown's funeral. It's such a serious moment, yet there's humor because she just can't keep it together. I felt the same way watching Bo and Steve -- in the middle of a life-threatening plane crash -- still managing to trade barbs with each other. Same situation goes for a jail cell in Mexico. No amount of tragedy seemed to be able to keep this pair down. And it downright made me smile.
Tony: Andre and Chad DiMera
Sans the scary brain-scrambling stuff, Andre and Chad's hilarious sibling rivalry is pure win. Both Thaao Penghlis and Billy Flynn deliver their lines in such a comfortable and honest way that it's staggering to remember that these two haven't worked with each other that long. Though, Chad -- you know, "the new golden boy" -- and Andre's back and forth jabs are only part of it. Andre's "stink eye" shade is as amusing as Chad's "side eye," which clearly expresses, "What is this thing!?" Yep, these two are made of win, and if NBC ever wanted to air "Andre and Chad Read IKEA Instruction Manuals," I'd gladly tune in.
Say what!? The character, on average, who always came up with the finest zingers!
Laurisa: Ben Weston
So, yes, of course, he's a serial killer who's completely off his rocker. However, who among us hasn't wanted to look at someone and just exclaim, "Shut up and do your damn job!"? Exactly. He had a way of saying the things we all wish we could say if those pesky manners didn't get in our way.
Tony: Steve Johnson
I can't think of one that Stephen Nichols didn't deliver in the most Patch-perfect way possible. Whether Steve was bouncing one-liners back and forth with bromance buddy Bo, provoking advisories, doing the dad routine with Joey, or simply wooing his Sweetness back with his special brand of honesty and humor, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to hear what Steve had to say next. Actually, I may need to find a way to work some of his Patchisms into my daily vocab and pretend I'm cool enough to pull them off.
Laurisa: The Teen Boys at the Bicentennial Celebration -- Joey Johnson, Theo Carver, and Chase Jennings
Talk about making a stylish debut! I loved that the younger generation used the bicentennial as an excuse to have fun with fashion and wear those snazzy colored suits reminiscent of the Four Seasons. Indeed, I couldn't take my eyes of them.
Tony: Eric Brady
Not that priest garb isn't flattering, of course, but non-padre Eric knew how to work his wardrobe. Between his swanky jackets, comfy cord sweaters, and the occasional sharp suit, Eric's style was a great reflection on his changing character. Granted, it would take an epic fail of an outfit to make Greg Vaughan look bad, but that wasn't a problem this year for Eric. Amen to that!
DAYS' Hottest Female Eye Candy
Laurisa: Camila Banus as Gabi Hernandez
She looks stunning. She wears snazzy clothes. I'm pretty sure her hair is made of moonlight and onyx. (The closer she stands to Casey Moss doesn't exactly hurt the optics either.) It's no wonder why everyone in Salem was so jazzed to see her!
Tony: Kristian Alfonso as Hope Brady
There's no denying that Kristian's beauty could launch a thousand ships, but there was a scene in April that really made me pause. Hope was at the pub. We hadn't seen her in a few days, and when Kristian popped onto the screen it was like what I suspect the ancients probably felt when seeing Helen of Troy. She simply lit up the screen. But Kristian's beauty isn't only skin deep. Our resident Fancy Face has a radiant inner beauty that shines through, making this graceful soul beautiful inside and out.
DAYS' Hottest Male Eye Candy
Laurisa: Jason Cook as Shawn Brady
I firmly believe that the only men who should sport facial hair are Jesus and Santa Claus. But SeŮor Cook is making me rethink that policy. When Shawn returned with a huge smile and a hug for Hope, I couldn't help but cheer. Not only has our little Tiger Beat Shawn-D turned into a bona fide brooding soap stud, but he brought one of the few genuinely happy moments to November Sweeps.
Tony: Paul Telfer as Damon/Xander Cook
Talk about doubling your pleasure, doubling your fun! If you missed the first chance to swoon over Paul Telfer as delicious henchman, Doman, you were in luck -- he returned months later in the new role of Kiriakis black sheep Xander. Sure, sure. Xander wasn't exactly a pillar of society, but Paul proved that while he's as hot as the sun, his acting shone just as brightly. So, to recap, he's handsome and talented. That makes me wonder how close to this cloning humans thing science really is and, well, if there's a preorder list out there somewhere.
Most Likely to Succeed
Laurisa: Chad DiMera
It took Brady Black approximately 2,379,127,349 proposals, a kid and beating a drug addiction to manage the courage to do what Chad did in just under a year. That is, take a legitimate step out from under his father's thumb and become his own righteous dude. I have to tip my hat to Sir Chadsworth for never wavering in his staunch love for the completely dull girl that he clearly adores. He managed the business sense to oust Kate from DiMera Enterprises. And best of all, he's helmed by the dazzling Billy Flynn -- who, as long as he wants to stay around Salem -- is and should be the younger male lead of the show. Seriously. Just give the guy the key to the city and don't look back. Might as well throw in the Wi-Fi password too. Chad's that good.
Tony: NuTeen Sceen
In the interest of full disclosure, I've felt that past several "Teen Scenes" didn't exactly live up to the bar set by the "Last Blast" posse. There were some shining stars and moments, for sure, but no overall group has managed to capture that magic again. But this new crew -- Theo, Ciara, Chase, Claire, and Joey -- have grabbed my attention. Granted, most of them grew up overnight (like, literally in some cases), but I give the casting department major props for finding young adult actors with the same similar qualities that we grew to love in the children actors. Though it was initially kind of jarring, these new actors have taken the roles to the next step, and I'm eager to find out where they end up. Group hug, gang!
Most Likely to Return
Laurisa: Will Horton
I don't know when or how. But I do know that his death was one of the most unnecessary in DAYS history. (The Hortons and Bradys were literally dancing the week after.) So, as sure as I am that Maggie makes the best desserts around town, there will be a writing regime that comes along and rewrites this wrong.
Tony: Kristen DiMera
Though it's been said that you can't keep a good man down, I feel the same applies to sinister, scheming psychopaths with swagger to spare. Not that Kristen is a psycho, per se, but, when you steal your enemies embryo and have it implanted in yourself, well, that might be at the very least a little crazy pants. Nevertheless, Eileen Davidson's celebrated, albeit all-too-short, cameo only proved that the Salem universe is much better with Kristen in it. And despite a tumble off a castle tower or those nonsense promos stating the end of the "Kristen/Marlena feud," I'll never stop believing she'll return. Even if I have to strong-arm Celeste and nouveau psychic friend, Caroline, and force them to conjure up Madame DiMera, I'll channel my inner-Kristen and do whatever it takes...and throw glass objects against walls while doing so.
Laurisa: Eric confesses that it was never Nicole's fault
We have to go back earlier in the year for this gem, but it was well worth it. After all of the heat thrown Nicole's way for "costing Eric his chance to be a priest again," I thought that little rewrite was just going to go down in soap lore as a new fact. But there, under the stress of near death from heat exhaustion, the honesty came out. Eric said that he'd left the priesthood because of his love for Nicole. And with that, not only was a wrong righted, but the Team Ericole flag went a-flyin' once more! Viva la Rollerbladers!
Honorable mention: The glorious Ejami reunion on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. It took a new writing team and all of two minutes to give Ejami fans the closure they deserved. Actually, it took about 30 seconds, because the rest of the time was spent acknowledging the true hero of the piece -- the young Syrian refugee who'd braved conditions from real-world hell to survive. The whole thing was made of win.
Tony: Gabi gets sprung
There has been so much sadness on DAYS the past year. Some of it intentional on the writers' parts (the deaths and such) and some of it unintentional (like that elephant statue and such). So, amongst that sadness and the changing landscape of Salem, I was totally surprised in the best way possible to see Gabi walking out of prison a free woman and being reunited with her family. Having Camila Banus back was like a welcoming home an old friend just when we needed one. I'm still doing the happy dance she's returned, especially since they've paired her up with J.J. in what's turning out to be an A-plus tender, sweet romance. Yes, yes, and yes, meet your new friend yes!
Laurisa: Marlena Evans and Chad DiMera
They're not a romantic pair, but there's a lot to fall in love with when it comes to these two. Talking Stefano out of easy revenge has happened exactly once that I can remember, and Chad managed it. As a result, Marlena couldn't ever really believe that he tried to strangle her. (Aw, how sweet!) Finally, their unlikely bond meant that Marlena partially filled the vacant role of mother for Chad from time to time. It was such an odd pairing that it just managed to create a little magic for the show. Here's hoping they protect it!
Tony: Steve Johnson and Kayla Brady
Stephen Nichols is probably one of the coolest dudes out there. Mary Beth Evans is pure joy. Pair up their alter egos, Steve and Kayla, and you have one magical couple. Like Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso did with Bo and Hope, Stephen and Mary Beth just "go there," too. Their performances draw you into the Steve and Kayla coupling because of its honesty and tenderness. You can simply tell that Steve thinks Kayla hung the moon. You can vicariously feel the giddy swooning Kayla attempts to hide, knowing that. And what makes them even stronger is that, while they ultimately love each other full-heartedly, Kayla is staying true to her sweet, yet strong self in the process of them reuniting, and I couldn't love that -- or them -- more if I tried.
Best Veteran Character
Laurisa: Kayla Brady
She's the equivalent of DAYS bacon. Add her to any storyline, and it gets better. Thrown in the spectacular work from Mary Beth Evans, and Kayla can't help but win. She casts a wide net, believably interacting with a diverse group of characters. She had fabulous chemistry with Roman. She was superb when counseling Abigail. And when she broke down over Bo's death, she pretty much represented all of us.
Tony: Marlena Evans
Good news: Mar Mar and I have worked past our issues surrounding Kristen's death...for the most part. We've agreed to disagree. We've hugged it out in group therapy. Maggie was there with lemon bars and an oh-so-proud look on her face. So, aside from the fact Doc may or may not have pushed the divalicious Ms. DiMera out that window, Marlena has been on fire this year! She's been a stoic matriarch, a tough lover-giver, a comedian at times, a white-hat wearing gladiator, a friend to all (especially to Chad, and I completely adore this pair, too), and, most importantly, she's remained true to fantastic self.
And, if we're being honest, Mar use to have a little trouble not throwing herself at the Altar of John; the rest of her life be damned. This year, she challenged John. She was willing to be his partner again, but she wasn't willing to give up herself in the process. If they were going to be a team again, they were going to be equals, and because of that, it turned out to be one of the best "Jarlena" reunions ever.
Oh, and let's not forget that Marlena fought back like a champ when Mr. Necktie Killer came a-calling. Ding, ding. You win, Mar! You. Win.
Laurisa: Thaao Penghlis as Andre DiMera
I really don't know how Thaao Penghlis does it. There's nothing redeemable about his character. Andre isn't even settling some grand score. The writers don't even pretend that he has a whiff of humanity. Yet, somehow, Thaao manages to give this snake depth and charm. It's almost liberating to watch Thaao's dastardly delicious portrayal of Andre. I watch him with the same glee that I watched my favorite baseball player at the plate in a clutch situation. I just sit back and wait for the greatness to happen. Because, he's got this. No problem.
Tony: Billy Flynn as Chad DiMera
I'll be completely honest here. When Chad initially lost a few inches in height and went from offbeat hipster to a corporate suave DiMera padawan, I was a little skeptical, but the charismatic, talented Billy Flynn completely won me over and then some. I'm in. I'm totally in. I'm on the fan bus with face paint and the foam finger.
Billy's downright captivating portrayal of Chad has been nothing short of phenomenal. Throughout the year, he's delivered one sincere, solid performance after another. To pinpoint it to one wouldn't be easy, and I'm not even going to try. Billy merely has brought out the best in Chad -- his compassion, dedication, humor, romanticness, and heroism -- in stellar showings that are sure to garner him some gold during award season. Bravo, Billy. Bravo!
Laurisa: Kristian Alfonso as Hope Brady
Looking back on the array of emotions Kristian Alfonso was challenged with playing in 2015, it would have been understandable if only about 80 percent of it landed. But I believed every piece of Hope this year. She was the perfect Meg Ryan to Daniel Cosgrove's (also superb) Tom Hanks early in the year. Then, she made us worry for Hope when it looked like Aiden might have taken her to that cabin to kill her. She perfectly conveyed Hope's sense of abandonment when Hope thought Bo had left her and Ciara alone. We couldn't help but be happy for her as she became the giddy bride. And when Bo came back, Kristian perhaps did the best work of her career, navigating Hope through terror, relief, confusion, heartbreak, and laser-focused anger all in the span of, oh, about ten episodes. The lady earned her paycheck this year -- and then some.
Tony: Kassie DePaiva as Eve Larson
Kassie is the acting equivalent of a culinary wizard. At times, she was handed the sourest lemons of a storyline but managed to create the sweetest treats out of them with her mind-blowing performances. Whether going rounds with enemies (and there will always be a place in my DAYS-loving heart for her scenes with Melissa Reeves' Jennifer), sharing a charming dance with Justin, commiserating over drinks with Kate, or, most prolifically, mourning the loss of Paige, Kassie brought a raw, gritty truth to Eve that made me care about the character despite what she's done. There wasn't a moment when I didn't believe that Eve's worst enemy -- the person who hated her most, who found her the most disgusting -- was herself. And all of that made me love Kassie even more!
Laurisa: All you need is love: John and Paul
Honestly, it was hard to find a storyline in 2015 that worked the whole way through. But the revelation that Paul was John's long-lost son managed to actually elevate all of the characters involved and leave the show with some nice new ties with which to play. John was accepting of Paul right away. He skipped the predictable beat of hating Tori for lying to him. They tied it back to John's real history of him being a priest. Heck, even Hope, Will, and Lucas got in on some detective action!
At the heart of it all was the fantastic chemistry between Christopher Sean and Drake Hogestyn. The two brought an ease to the role, perhaps motivated by the fact that it was a departure from what either of them was forced to do outside of this particular plotline. Whatever the reason, I loved it. And I still look forward to John and Paul scenes!
Tony: 2015: A new Hope
In what can only be called tour de Salem performances, Kristian Alfonso brilliantly took us on an adventure this year as Hope navigated one drama after another. From moving on with her life to having it shattered only to be rebuilt and shattered again within hours, Hope's ongoing journey and spiral into a deep, dark despair unlike any we've ever seen before was enthralling.
To think, in the spring, Hope was snuggled up to Aiden and vowing to stand beside him, but by the fall -- in one terrifying moment portrayed perfectly by Kristian -- all of that love was lost and turned into a gut-wrenching fear for her life that left Hope searching desperately for answers. Moments later, the man she believed abandoned her and her family swooped back into her life like a prince charming/guardian angel combo. A short time later, he was gone, too.
For Hope, two great loves instantly become nothing like what she had thought they were. She was left alone with her heart ripped to shreds and a million unanswered questions. Then, due to the loss of Bo, Hope became a (justifiably) slightly unhinged, completely overwhelmed avenging angel in a display of Sydney Bristow level of woman power kickassery. And throughout every twist and turn, our classy, glorious Kristian didn't miss a beat, and that was simply the best!
Thanks for joining us to celebrate DAYS! In case you think we've had too much spiced wine, rest assured that we'll be back next week to hand out the Alex North Memorial Awards to those who truly stunk up Salem. But for now, please join us in raising a glass to our favorite soap. Because at the end of the day, we love this little town. And we're proud to call ourselves DAYS fans!
As always, thanks for reading!
Laurisa and Tony
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