Veteran US soap Days of Our Lives has axed four actors and replaced its two head writers in a bid to stave off falling ratings.
Actors Matthew Ashford (Jack), Sarah Joy Brown (Madison), Christie Clark (Carrie) and Patrick Muldoon (Austin) have all been let go. All 4 showed up in Salem in September and October 2011 in the US as part of a huge upheaval intended to save the show from cancellation.
Head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas have also been fired, replaced by Gary Tomlin and Chris Whitesell, who previously served as co-head writers on the NBC soap.
Co-Executive Producer Greg Meng told TV Guide the largely female audience wanted to see romance, and speculated whether viewers were interested in a storyline in which the character of Will Horton comes out as gay.
“I don’t know. I think it’s a beautiful story and we are committed to it. But probably it’s not the story that most women are going to tune in for every day, the one they don’t want to miss. I think it’s a story everybody likes, but the women want to see romance. Our goal is to get back lapsed viewers — our family of viewers who stopped watching altogether or aren’t watching us every day,” he said.
The show hit a new low for the week of March 19-23, 2012 with only 496,000 women in the coveted 18-49 range tuning in.
After the firing, McPherson tweeted that NBC “never let us tell our stories. They kept stopping us and changing our direction.”
“I can’t really address where she’s coming from. She and Darrell loved the show so much and it became a part of their lives. We definitely want to retain a relationship with them,” said Meng.
“It was a unique situation. We have this big elephant in the room — the ratings. And we are not seeing any movement. The goal is to have a long life on NBC and we must do everything we can to get the ratings up. It’s that simple.”
But the move may yet signal some life left in the show, unlike ABC daytime soaps All My Children and One Life to Live.
“Our current deal has us on the air through to September 2013, so it’s really important that we do as best as we can, ratings-wise, starting [this] September. That’s our final stretch.”
The show still airs in Australia on weekday afternoons on Nine.