In an effort to expand its popularity and take advantage of the streaming revolution Sony and NBCU have made a miniseries spin-off of the classic soap opera Days Of Our Lives. How do you spin-off DOOL into a miniseries, considering the show has had storylines that span decades? You make a closed-ended mystery, spread the cast all over the planet (at least pretend that they are, anyway) and bring back some old favorites. Everything else stays exactly the same. Does it work?
Opening Shot: “National Museum. Kingdom of Alamania. 1991”. Scenes from what looks like Rome, then a closeup of a peacock with lots of jewels on it; the case it’s in is smashed and stolen by a woman clad in all black.
The Gist: Thirty years later — on Labor Day weekend, in fact! — Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) and John Black (Drake Hogestyn) are in Zurich being briefed by John’s ISA contact, Shane Donovan (Charles Shaughnessy) about the Alamanian Peacock. The peacock itself was recovered recently, but the precious and rare jewels that were on it are still floating around; one of them, the sapphire, is in a necklace that’s going up for auction in Zurich that night. Shane wants John and Marlena to bid on it for the ISA. Shane gives John a 3D-printed gun, just in case.
In New Orleans, Ciara Brady (Victoria Konefal) and her former stalker/current husband Ben Weston (Robert Scott Wilson) are on their honeymoon. They go to an antique store and see a rare amethyst ring in the window. When the shopkeeper arrives, she says that the ring is being reserved for Princess Gina Von Amberg. Ciara wonders if that’s her mother Hope, once again brainwashed by the late Stefano into thinking she’s a princess. But when a woman in a tiara and long dark wig shows up, they see that it’s Billie Reed (Lisa Rinna), trying to track down the jewels for the ISA.
In Miami, Paulina Price (Jackée Harry) arrives at her mansion with her new beau, Salem mayor Abe Carver (James Reynolds), her niece Lani (Sal Stowers) and her husband Eli Grant (Lamon Archley). As the incredibly wealthy Paulina name drops, and Eli and Lani get a little alone time from their twins, Paulina proposes lunch at her favorite ritzy restaurant. She takes out a rare orange-gold ring out of her safe to wear on the special occasion.
In Phoenix, Chad DiMera (Billy Flynn) visits with his buddy Sonny Kiriakis (Zach Tinkler) and his husband Will Horton (Chandler Massey). Sonny suspects that Will, a newspaper reporter who keeps staying at the office late to report on a story he can’t tell Sonny anything about, is cheating on him. Chad tries to assure him that Will isn’t, and he retells the story of how his obsession with his wife cheating has nearly ruined his marriage. But they decide to trail Will anyway, and they find a surprise waiting for them at a local resort.
Finally, Anna and Tony DiMera (Leann Hunley, Thaao Penghlis) visit Zurich to visit their daughter Carrie Brady (Christie Clark) and her husband Austin Reed (Austin Peck). Carrie called her mother after she and Austin had a blowup where he mentioned her affair; he tells the DiMeras that he’s going to bid on a sapphire necklace as a surprise to Carrie. To keep his secret, he asks his in-laws to bid for them. When the two of them enter the auction house, who do they encounter but John and Marlena.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Days Of Our Lives: Beyond Salem is unmistakably Days Of Our Lives, despite interstitials that show various worldwide locations. The show is shot exactly like the parent show, with quick-hit scenes, lots of closeups and reaction shots, and all on the series’ usual Los Angeles-area soundstage.
Our Take: We’re not sure what we were expecting with Days Of Our Lives: Beyond Salem. We knew that the miniseries was going to star lots of old favorites from our days watching DOOL in the ’80s, along with other fan favorites like Rinna and Eileen Davidson. The only member of the cast who doesn’t have a longtime association with the show is Harry, who joined earlier this year.
But we thought that the “Beyond Salem” part of the title would take the actors on location. But, alas, just the characters are outside of Salem; the sets could exist basically anywhere. How do we know we’re in Phoenix? Flat pictures of cactuses outside of Sonny and Will’s window, of course. There are pictures of palm trees outside of Paulina’s mansion to let you know they’re in Miami. Fences and shrubbery indicate the French Quarter. The stuff in Zurich could have been placed anywhere.
That disappointment aside, your enjoyment of Beyond Salem will depend on your sense of nostalgia over DOOL. Sure, there are a few popular fourth-generation characters that are sops to fans of the show’s last decade or so, but most of the show is a paean to fans from the ’80s and ’90s. Seeing these characters again will bring longtime fans back, even if they’re all older than you remember them to be. And the mentions of all of their various backstories, which of course are soapy and complex, are fine nods to the fans who have been hanging with the show for decades.
The story itself seems like an episode of a bad ’70s spy show, with a silly plot about the jewels of the peacock (get it?) being spread all over the world. We’re pretty sure Rinna will be running through all of the various scenes, drawing as much attention to herself as she does on RHOBH, her Instagram feed or, well, her entire life. But having her be the tying factor will certainly make the show more fun than the individual mini-stories will.
Sex and Skin: Nothing beyond people kissing.
Parting Shot: Two thugs with guns approach the table where Paulina, Abe, Lani and Eli are having lunch and demand Paulina’s ring. She should have listened when Abe said she should leave it in her safe.
Sleeper Star: This will always go to Jackée Harry, no matter where she is. She brings a flair to Paulina that suits the bombastic soap opera format well. She started in soaps, starring on Another World before getting the role in 227 that made her a star.
Most Pilot-y Line: We’re always amazed at how the format of a daytime soap never changes. It especially comes through as we see Hogestyn hold multiple squints during his 5-second reaction shots.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Days Of Our Lives: Beyond Salem is somehow even cheesier than its parent show, but it also is very aware of how cheesy it is. That’s what makes it so deliciously entertaining for longtime fans of the soap.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.