Congratulations, DAYS fans! We did it! We made it another revolution around the sun. Or is it two? We still can't tell with soap math and the time jump.
Anyway, thanks for joining us around the table for this family get-together where we can brag on some of our favorite relatives like we're a grandma at her church ladies' luncheon. Truth be told, we love DAYS, and this column is one we look forward to every year.
A few ground rules to keep you up to speed -- we can't pick the same choice for any category*. No actor or character can win more than one individual category. And we have to submit this column before Christmas Eve so those elves can get back to the North Pole in time to report to Santa. Or something like that. Let's dive in!
*Yup. We break this rule this year. It's fine. We think you'll be on board.
Laurisa: Abigail Klein as Stephanie Johnson
Truth time: I've never been a Stephanie fan. But darn it if Abigail Klein isn't winning me over to the light side. This version of Stephanie is smart, both book and street, and doesn't need anyone to save her. To add more difficulty to her landing, she got shoved into a love triangle with two men who are famous for their pairings with other women. It would be easy for this Stephanie to be overshadowed by Ciara and Abigail. But Steph is holding her own, which is a delightful new trend that I'd love to see her continue.
Tony: Victoria Grace as Wendy Shin
Jing-Wen's debut in Beyond Salem 2 was wonderful! Within a few episodes, she quickly checked a lot of soap staple boxes and captivated me in the process. She made an action-packed, enigmatic entrance. She was a rescuer and a rescuee. She went from plucky IT prodigy casual to glam goddess (seriously, that coral gown was gorgeous). She even entered a love triangle! All the while, I enjoyed her bonding with Gabi and her bond with her brother, Li. Yep, Wendy was a win a world away, and the victory party didn't end when she got to Salem. Wendy's general wit and her ability to call out Johnny on his Johnny-ness are just a few reasons to adore this newcomer. So, she's smart, sassy, and can save the day? Yes, please.
Laurisa: Leann Hunley as Anna DiMera
I'm convinced they have to have Anna on recurring status because she reads people too fast. If she were in town all the time, people couldn't get away with 90% of their nonsense. She knows not to trust Kristen. It cracked me up when she was seeing how the common folk live by looking around Jake's apartment. She recognizes Tripp's charm. And she's writing a novel about her life! Can we please publish this thing and get it to the masses?
Tony: Linsey Godfrey as Renee DuMonde
"Renee's" storyline might not have been everyone's glass of tropical island punch, but this hit landed for me right in the feels. One of Young Tony's favorite characters was Renee. I loved Philece Sampler's take on the role. Love. Just love. So, with the heartbreaking passing of the spectacular Ms. Sampler in 2021, I feared we'd never see this DiMera daughter again. I was wrong! Renee returned. Sorta.
A scrambled-brained Sarah believed she was Ms. DuMonde, and I was there for this swan song tribute to the character (and Philece). Linsey Godfrey's an established rock star, and her take on the role was a fun, fabulous stroll down memory lane, complete with hearing historic names and places like Alex Marshall, Gwen Davies, Shenanigans, and so many more. It was like flipping through a yearbook.
And if all that nostalgia wasn't enough to love this dip into days gone by through Renee's eyes, it thrust the ever-loving epic duo of Thaao Penghlis and Leann Hunley into the limelight. More Tony and Anna is never, ever a bad thing. Ever.
So, viva la Renee! When I exit a party full of my foes, I'm certainly going to do it her way. RIP, beloved Philece, and thank you for the memories.
Laurisa: Dr. Rex Brady
Dr. Brady's most recent stints on the show bordered on mimbo territory. His relationships with Sarah and Mimi did him no favors. He was just a dummy who couldn't help himself from sleeping with women. But this time on the show, they remembered that he was Rolf's protégé back in the day. He got that role because Rex was a whiz kid. Building on that point came in handy when he joined the research team to develop the orchid cure. Finally, his nice scene with Sarah where he made peace with her was a lovely end...and hopefully a new beginning for our Boy Wonder.
Tony: Brady Black
Between his brotherly bonding with Eric and his love life sacrifice to save his loved ones, Brady made so many better life choices this year, and I'm so proud of him. He was a great friend, sibling, son, and father filled with sage advice and tough love. I loved his romance with Chloe as they found footing on mutual respect and a more mature bond than ever before, especially having worked out several of their prior issues. Plus, Brady kept realizing Kristen is, and always will be, a hazard (like cocaine). I think the world of Eric Martsolf. He's exceedingly talented, and Brady's finally catching up with his portrayer's awesomeness!
Laurisa: T.R. "Big, Bad, Dirty Ray" Coates
This is one of the tropes DAYS hits out of the park. Following in the chilling footsteps of Trent Robbins, T.R.'s story was the stuff of chilling legends. Sure, the way the show wrote Paulina to even give this man the time of day was extremely problematic. But that didn't take away from the absurdly grand work William Christopher did. He played T.R. as a possibly changed man. Lani really wanted to believe him, and because we love her, we kinda did, too. But as soon as Beth came back, we all saw his true colors. This man was a monster. He was literally in business with the devil. And he had the audacity to shoot Eli -- Salem's closest thing to a Prom King if we've ever had one. His dastardly return as a ghost made us root for Lani all the more. In the end, she did confess. But ironically, his death was the thing that solidified the family he tried so hard to tear apart.
Tony: Ava Vitali
Tamara Braun is top tier tremendous. Ava's actions? Not so much, but -- oh, my soap gods -- do I love watching Ms. Vitali's vicious ways! Tamara layers this lawbreaker so lusciously that sometimes you forget she's the villain (and sometimes she's not-ish).
Ava's war with E.J. was also "Can't Miss Streaming!" Tamara and Dan Feuerriegel's adversarial chemistry was electric. E.J. finally found a formidable foe! From catty comments to complete chaos, these two captivated and worked to wickedly outdo one another. Methinks blowing up a church during a memorial service sort of blasts Ava past the rest of the baddie competition, though.
Laurisa: Abigail DiMera
Abigail only walked among the living for half the year, yet in those six months, she managed to find Sarah, expose Gwen's involvement in the crime, and stand up to Clyde in a truly no-B.S. stance. Six months ago, I set the goal to clear off my desk. Guess who had the more productive year?
Tony: John Black
Without a doubt, John is an international super spy who saves the day time and time again. Like, it's on his business cards, I believe. He was certainly a grand hero in 2022, but he's also an everyday hero. The delightful Drake Hogestyn's charm and comfort in the role makes me believe that John can save the world as well as simply save a Pride party from being too quiet. This proud papa loves hard, and we couldn't love this hero more if we tried! I'd say that deserves some day drinking, and I suspect this super spy would agree.
Laurisa: Chad vs. Clyde, with special guest E.J.!
Chad's grief for Abigail's death hit us all so hard because it was punctuated by these moments of pure rage. None was rawer than when Chad confronted Clyde over Abigail's grave and forced Clyde to recount exactly how and why Abigail died. Anything resembling a new storyline for Chad depended on this type of scene. We needed to see him go through it to buy that he got through it. The chemistry between Billy Flynn and the always spectacular James Reed was perfect.
How could it get better? Add equal parts Dan Feuerriegel. E.J. couldn't let Chad shoot Clyde. But E.J. could shoot him. Was it unnerving to see Chad taunt an almost-dead man? In any other situation, yes. But here, it made chilling sense. This brotherly scene spilled over into the police station, where E.J. didn't leave Chad's side the whole time, and the two hugged it out -- as true blood brothers.
Tony: Jennifer Deveraux vs. Gwen Rizczech
Granted, Jennifer was a little juiced when this bout went bananas, but it was SO Salem's version of The Real World. "Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real..." Boom! Jenny Bear blew up at Gwen. Laura and Abigail's deaths combined with the years of chaos Ms. Rizzy-chick put her family through had Jennifer's blood boiling over. She'd. Had. Enough. The mix of mourning, rage, and utter exhaustion was executed flawlessly by Cady McClain. Emily O'Brien was equally great as Gwen! The complexity of that moment was etched across her face. Gwen dealt with someone throwing harsh truth bombs at her while her mother's fate flashed before her eyes, and she could see Jennifer headed in the same dismal direction. It was a battle filled with unfiltered fury, fear, and despair. And it was epic!
Laurisa and Tony: Victor Kiriakis -- Now and Forever
DAYS is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get each weekday, but you know it's going to be delicious. Still, when selecting something scrumptious from the sampler, it becomes even sweeter when you get your favorite blissful bite. Victor is our coconut cluster. We knew every episode he was a part of would be filled with delightfully and devilishly delivered zingers sure to satisfy any craving for snark and sarcasm. Be it his digs at Bonnie or his slow yet sweet grumblings as he waved the flag of defeat to his wife when he knew she was right (and didn't want to admit it), Victor forever kept us in stitches. This charming, cantankerous mogul with a heart full of love for Maggie and -- most of the time -- his family, will always be at his best when behaving badly, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you for the light and laughter, John Aniston. We love you!
Laurisa: Chabby -- "Kiss Me Goodbye"
If Abigail had to die, this was the scene that made it all worth it. Billy Flynn and Marci Miller are so good together. Abigail told Chad he did everything he could to find her killer. He struggles with the thought that he ever was enough for her. But its extreme tenderness showed these two have that supercouple magic. In fact, they pulled off the most difficult feat of all -- showing that he may actually have a legit storyline and love story without her. Future soap couples need to take notes.
Tony: Hope's Heavenly Reunions
When I look back at my many, many, many years of watching DAYS, one moment can make me blubber like no other. That's when a grieved Lexie walked into the hospital reception area to inform Bo and Hope that Zack had died. Lexie could barely speak. She didn't really have to. Everyone instinctively knew the news she was about to level them with. It was utterly devastating, and Kristian Alfonso's flawlessly, gut-wrenching delivery still haunts me.
Flash-forward to July 2022! I once again was flooded with tears over a Hope and Zack scene, though this time they were reuniting in heaven. Kristian's perfect performance was so genuine. There was this moment of pure relief on Hope's face when she saw her son once again. That warmth and love filled my heart -- and my eyes with tears! Truly a mother and child reunion for the ages.
Laurisa: DAYS Anniversary Surprise -- Pilot Episode Flashback!
I. Loved. This. Surprise. I loved that they revisited the pilot, even with a different actress playing Julie! I love that Shawn-D was there to be a part of it. I love that a new generation of fans who don't know MacDonald Carey and Francis Reed got to sample the awesomeness. Soap operas should celebrate every single anniversary to the fullest. This was a grand example.
Tony: The Return of Bo then "Bope!"
There's a rumor out there that some people don't watch soaps. Yet even those misguided folks seem to know Bo and Hope. To many, DAYS is either "That show with Bo and Hope" or "The one where that woman was possessed." Yep. That one. You know, they're a big deal. Epic, even. One of the super-est of supercouples.
So, color me smitten when, despite all the odds and exclamations they'd never be back, it was announced that both Kristian Alfonso and Peter Reckell would be returning to the DAYSverse in Beyond Salem 2! Later, we learned we'd be getting more "Bope!" on DAYS proper, too. And that was all after we learned Bo would make a heavenly visit to look in on Ciara and, as it turned out, resurrect Tripp! Whew. My feet still ache from the Happy Dance I did when I learned the news, but I continue to be so excited that I think we should strike up some more music and keep the party going. After all, "Bope." Is. Back!
Laurisa: Eli Grant and Lani Price-Grant
All of Eli's actions surrounding T.R. came from love and a true allegiance to his wife. T.R. was the family Lani got. Eli was the family Lani chose. And it showed in true brilliance when he stepped up to take care of the twins, rallied the family around Lani, supported her when she made the decision to confess, and finally moved so that their immediate family could be together. For her part, she trusted him with the truth where other soap gals lied to "protect someone." She put her family first and supported Eli when he was in a coma. Seeing the rest of Salem rally around these two showed just how best this couple is.
Tony: Abe Carver and Paulina Price-Carver
These two were everything this year! The ever-talented duo of James Reynolds and Jackée Harry's chemistry is completely charming. I enjoyed the fact that Abe and Paulina are -- and if I may borrow a tune title from another supercouple, Kimberly and Shane -- "friends and lovers." They have a clear respect for one another that deepens their bond. The fact that they can work through their problems is a strong indicator this couple can make it through anything Salem can throw at them.
Their Juneteenth wedding was also as joyously drama filled as it was historic. I enjoyed that so much of the cast and guest characters came together for the occasion. And while it was a traditional Salem wedding in the sense that more drama ensued than you could shake a broom at, the ceremony itself and the sentiments were beautiful. Oh, I absolutely loved their vows. Love and wins abounded.
In fact, Abe and Paulina's love and forgiveness inspired GDA-runners-up Roman and Kate to reunite. The Price-Carvers' friendship, encouragement, and, perhaps, coaxing skills got everyone's favorite commish turned restaurateur to open his heart back up to Salem's most fabulous fashionista and overall diva who was genuinely remorseful for her actions. So, not only are Abe and Paulina a captivating couple, but they also inspire other great loves to be as super as they are. Well, almost as super.
Laurisa: Sami Brady
Any time it works out for the Lady Sweeney to stop by Salem, she does not disappoint. For Sami vs. Lucas, we got that rarest of sightings -- a wedding explosion that wasn't Sami's fault. When Lucas was forced to confess at the altar that he was Sami's kidnapper, Sami almost didn't know how to act. Here's arguably the one person closest to her that broke her trust in a profound way.
Then, she went to E.J. to eat some humble pie. Timing was not great, thanks to him being in bed with her baby sister...as one does on soaps. But it ultimately led to the mic drop line of, "You're not worth the effort it would take to blow you up." Game. Set. Match. Sami Gene.
Tony: E.J. DiMera
Elvis Jr. has a lot going on. He realizes that he's no longer Stefano's golden child -- or anyone's child after Susan's death. He's a father who lost large swaths of being a dad due to injuries. He's trying to prove his past maladies didn't make him weak. He wants to be the leader yet has nobody to give him proper accolades. His outbursts are a relic of his adolescence, yet he can't let them go, making him his own worst enemy at times. He completely wants to control the wildfires around him and is frustrated when he can't and gets burned. He has to hate Sami because he can't love her right now. And he wants to be loved and cared for, but not vulnerable. Yes. E.J. has a lot going on. He's an hourglass full of paradoxes, and the profoundly talented, dynamic Dan Feuerriegel is selling it all in fantastic fashion.
Laurisa: Julie Williams
She's usually one who gets a Two Scoops scolding, but this year, Julie found a way to use her pushy power for good. She started when she called out Gwen and Leo for their scheming right off the bat. She can smell her own kind. She peaked when she had the pep talk to end all pep talks, where she told Jen to get herself healthy again because, with Abigail gone, Jen is the most important woman in Charlotte and Thomas' lives. Then, finally, when Julie danced with Eli before he left...raise your hand if you didn't cry. Good on you, Jules.
Tony: Chloe Lane
Ready to feel old!? Nadia Bjorlin was 19 when she debuted in the role of Chloe. That was 23 years ago. Yep. She's a vet, and an amazing one at that!
Over the past few years (and especially in 2022), I've found myself appreciating Ms. Lane on an entirely new level. I've always adored Nadia and admired her vast talents, of course, and Chloe's always been "one of the gang -- a Last Blaster," but this year, I realized how much of the heart and soul of it she is. Nadia's masterfully navigated so many changes for Chloe over the years, and the character's blossomed into a smart, strong, sensitive, heroic, honest, and hilariously funny best friend you'd want to have in your corner, especially if you need tough love and some sage advice.
And, again, that humor part cracks me up every time! Nadia nails comedy. Chloe's retorts to people like Kate, Kristen, and Victor are sidesplitting. Like the time Kate said it was nice to see her, and her reply was, "It is? What's wrong with her?" Ha! I love it and love the Chloemeister. Cheers to cracking up together more next year!
Laurisa: James Reynolds as Abe Carver
In a story about the women who orbit him -- Lani, Paulina, Chanel -- he was the constant. He stood out in a sea of powerful women as the support that tied these women to Salem and the world we know and love. This is an extremely hard task for an actor. James had to both lead the audiences to know these new faces and let these new faces find their own paths in our DAYS family. But when Abe had the tender scene with Chanel where he asked her permission to marry Paulina, or when Abe told Lani in no uncertain terms that she is his daughter, or when Abe stood by Paulina's side when the devil came to town, James showcased Abe's fortitude, decency, and all-around hope that love would always win. He's a gem of an actor to watch work.
Tony: Martha Madison as Belle Black-Brady
Not all of Belle's actions were award-worthy in 2022, but Martha simply shined brightly throughout the entire year. I'm constantly awed by her abilities and consistent growth as an actor. Like, how does she keep getting better and better!? It's a true testament to her talents and commitment to the wide scope of her role. Tink wears many hats. She's a wife, mother, daughter, sister, lawyer, friend, sometimes a conflicted sorta-gray-area adulterous, and a onetime Satan. Yep. That's a lot of hats, and one set of horns. Still, even when the complexity of the character makes one have mixed emotions about Belle, one thing is clear -- Martha is nothing but magical.
Laurisa: Marci Miller as Abigail DiMera
I didn't nickname her "Killer Miller" for nothing. Marci slayed every scene she got this year --- which, again, was only half a year. Marci brought a tenderness to Abigail's scenes with Jennifer and Jack that felt exactly like it had been earned through years of a woman parenting her parents at times. Marci brought an authority to Abigail's professional life, as Abigail stopped at nothing to solve the mystery of Sarah's disappearance. (See how that's done, Salem PD?) With the endlessly talented Emily O'Brien, Abigail finally found a formidable foe in Gwen who both tugged on and took direct aim at Abigail's main weakness -- her soft spot for family. Finally, with Billy Flynn, Marci brought an aged love to Abigail. Abigail wasn't a silly girl with a crush. Marci's Abigail was a mom with a great sense of responsibility to see her kids do great things and see her own love with Chad reach deeper levels. Marci's swan song on DAYS was the equivalent of that Mariah Carey note. You know the one. Where everyone else just walks away and marvels, "Yup. She just did that."
Tony: Billy Flynn as Chad DiMera
Simply said, Billy was brilliant! From Chad's faithful friendships with Sonny and Kate to his grief as a widower, his performances were purely moving the entirety of the year, but especially throughout Abigail's murder storyline. During the "Whodunnit?" Chad had to interact with a slew of Salemites, and it became increasingly obvious that much of the town adored Chad, and their hearts broke for him. The sincerity in Billy's scenes with so many castmates was effortless due to his amazing adaptable chemistry with each and every one of them. From grief to rage to rebounding (and being straight-up hilarious), Chad's journey was a vast one this year, and Billy helmed it beautifully. Bravo. Bravo!
Laurisa: Who Killed Abigail DiMera!?
This was a grand umbrella storyline! This is why we love soaps! Was it Lucas? Was it Gwen? Was it Sarah under the influence of drugs that made her not-so-Sarah? Was it Kristen? (Because, come on. It's usually Kristen.) Was Abigail even really dead, considering the Dr. Rolf of it all? Every twist and turn was a good one. In the end, we got an actual conclusion that also wrapped up a decade-long mystery about another DiMera murder. Most soap storylines are about the destination. This one was very much about the journey and the threads we pulled from characters along the way.
Tony: Beyond Salem 2
Honestly, how could I not!? This streaming special sequel started and ended with the return of Bope! THAT is huge. Though it didn't just set up their return, it was a solid story stuffed with fan service and everything that makes DAYS special -- action, adventure, romance, fantasy, family, friends, and evil foes.
Beyond Salem 2 was also significant in establishing new characters as well as reuniting us with loved ones in a year when seeing friendly faces was a welcomed site! We met the wonderful Wendy Shin. Guest star Loretta Devine was, well, as divine as ever as Angela. We also got to spend more time with "CIN" and adorable Baby Bo, and it was great to see Scott Shilstone reprise his role as an adult Zack Brady.
We were reunited with Stephanie, now played by the completely charming and talented Abigail Klein. Tanner Stine became our new Joey, who entirely encapsulated Joey's Joey-ness in all the best ways possible. More Lucas Adams time is always a plus! Plus, we simply adore Johnson family pizza parties (and want invites).
The absolutely talented and loveable Christopher Sean lit up the screen again as Paul! We were reintroduced to an all-grown-up Andrew Donovan, played to perfection by Coltin Little. And Paul and Andrew kind of fancy each other, and we fancy that.
Andrew Hyatt Masset's return as the wicked Larry Welch was so welcomed, and we LOVED Josh Taylor's cameo as Chris Kositchek! It was great to hear that unlucky-in-love Chris finally found a happily ever after with former wild gal Savannah Wilder, and that they run The Body Connection San Francisco. Sign us up!
The marvelous Miranda Wilson made her way back to the DAYSverse as Megan Hathaway. She did not miss a beat, stepping back into the baddie's stilettos, and I still stand firm that she has the best villain laugh in all of daytime right now -- a title passed down by the epic bellow of Joseph Mascolo's Stefano, appropriately enough.
We got all of those amazing reunions and introductions, PLUS the one and only legendary Eileen Davidson delivered the drama (and laughs) as two of the Banks siblings. More Eileen? Yes, please.
It was all like a nostalgia onslaught that hit us directly in the feels! Still, rather than just relying on the past, the multigenerational aspect of Beyond Salem 2 gave a great baton hand-off to the next generation of Salemites. The past, present, and future of the DAYSverse collided, and Beyond Salem 2 certainly went beyond expectations.
Was there some wonkiness here and there? Perhaps, but the overall joy this special brought was beyond anything wrong with it. And above all, it left us with hope...and Bo!
Honorable mention to the fabulous Chanel Dupree, especially, for her hilarious takes each time someone in Salem explained a piece of Salem history to her. She was all of us when she'd deadpan how crazy people are. Hat tip to the fantastic Zach Tinker. He feels like a seamless transition to keep our Sonny boy thriving in Salem. Thaao Penghlis is a constant reminder of how important it is to stay mentally and fashionably smart. And if there was a storyline Paul Telfer didn't handle like an absolute pro, we surely didn't see it this year.
Finally, we're excited about Peacock picking up the DAYS renewal and starting us all on a new journey. Soaps moved from radio to TV. Now, we've moved from TV to streaming. Don't look now, kids, but DAYS is hip! And that's the secret we've always known. There's nothing some nostalgic characters (even on a new streaming platform) and a good donut can't fix about a bad day. Thank you all for coming along with us on this Two Scoops journey. We consider you part of our extended family and wish you all a very happy, healthy, and wonderful holiday season.
That's a fact.
Laurisa and Tony
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