#TBT: That One Summer We All Watched “Days Of Our Lives”

This week marks the 50th anniversary of “Days of Our Lives,” and to celebrate, I would like to reminisce with you about a very important time in daytime television history.

The year was 1995, and we were on summer vacation. It was the summer of “Clueless,” the Macarena, and, of course, Michelle Pfeiffer White Savior-ing all over a classroom of black teenagers:

It was perhaps not a simpler time–but it was, indeed, a time. The most important television event that summer was, of course, the OJ Simpson trial (which is the reason we first got cable). But there was another. One that has left an indelible mark on many of us, for it was the summer in which, often in spite of ourselves, we started watching “Days of Our Lives.”

For those of you who were too young (or not alive, sheesh) to remember, there was a moment for many of us when we were flipping channels (which was a thing you had to do to find something you wanted to watch before the advent of the guide thingie) and suddenly came across a screaming woman with white eyeballs. “What is going on here? I must know more!” we thought.

And so began the summer we spent watching the possession of Marlena on “Days of Our Lives.” Which also happened to be the summer that my sister, my best friend and I spent hours saying “STEFANOOOOOOO” to each other in our best “Celeste” voices.

Behold:

We were not raised in a soap opera watching household. Our mom was super opposed to them for some reason. But we were enthralled. Because it wasn’t a normal soap opera where people were, like, just cheating on each other and having surprise evil twins or whatever. This was hilarious. It was pure genius, and there was an exorcism involved. And although we came for the Marlena possession storyline, we ended up getting drawn into the constantly doomed romance of Bo and Hope (who totally did have an evil twin or something), all the conniving schemes of Sami and Billie, and everything else going on in the weird world of Salem.

It was kind of an interesting phenomenon, because not only did my sister (who was four years younger than me) and all my friends watch it with me (in the way that we called each other during commercials), but it was also a thing I could talk to my Nonnie about, as she’d been watching for years. Oddly, the show enabled me to bond with a lot of people in a different way than usual.

We tried to keep up after school started, but since there was no such thing as a DVR then, and no one in our family could figure out how to set a VCR, we lost track of the plot and never really regained interest. It was a beautiful moment in time, but it was only that.

Perhaps not surprisingly, James E. Reilly, the man who was responsible for that summer of “Days,” was also the head writer of my later soap opera obsession, the all-weird-all-the-time Passions (By the way, you can watch ALL of the episodes of “Passions” on YouTube. YOU ARE WELCOME, FRIENDS). Tragically, J.E.R. died in 2008, taking my hope for another gloriously weird soap opera with him.

Soap operas are less of a thing now — “Days of Our Lives” is one of only four soap operas still on the air — but I will always look back fondly on that weird, weird summer. And every once in a while, I will silently whisper “STEFANO” in my best Celeste voice. Because it’s actually just a really fun thing to do.