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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Days of Alison Sweeney/Sami Brady's Lives

All right, so welcome to Tube Talk Thursday, the day of the week in which we look at a specific type of television program and have a discussion on it.  And, certainly there are dozens of genres of television programs that we can have lengthy discussions on.  And since I began the Tube Talk Thursday theme day, we've had discussions on sitcoms and cartoons.

So, how about we tackle the world of daytime dramas? 

Granted, this is going to be a bit of a challenge for me to do, as I don't really watch too many soap operas these days. 

Well, okay...I MAY watch the occasional episode of "The Young and the Restless", and I do follow along with the British drama "EastEnders", but that's all I will cop to.

And, I'll be completely honest.  Today's spotlight is going to be on a soap opera that I have never watched, and will be somewhat focusing on a character that I am not familiar with.  But when you are given a suggestion by a reader (thank you Michael!), well, you have to take it.  And, as I have said before multiple times on this blog, I love a challenge!

All right, so first things first, let's talk about the show.  And, picking today's soap opera was not difficult at all...after all, there are only four of them still on the air!

As of 2014, "Days of Our Lives" is the second-longest running American soap opera still on the air, premiering in 1965 - just two years after "General Hospital" debuted on ABC.

(Of course, "Coronation Street" is the oldest soap opera on the air internationally, having debuted in 1960.)

And this NBC soap opera has outlasted "Another World", "The Doctors", "Santa Barbara", "Sunset Beach", and "Passions".  Can you believe that this soap opera will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary on November 8, 2015?  And that as of May 21, 2014, it has aired a total of 12,343 episodes?  That is mighty impressive for a television program to run for that length of time.

And of course, who can forget "Days of Our Lives" iconic opening, which has only been slightly tweaked since it debuted in 1965?

Like sands through the are the days of our lives."  And, did you know that the narrator of the iconic line was Macdonald Carey, who played Tom Horton on the show from the beginning until his death in March 1994?  Although Carey has been deceased for twenty years, the show still uses his voice as a tribute to the late actor.

The series was created by husband-wife team Ted and Betty Corday, and currently the program is produced by their son Ken Corday, Greg Meng, and Lisa de Cazotte.  In the forty-eight and a half years that the show has been on the air, the long running serial has tackled a plethora of different plotlines which feature some soap opera standards as adultery, murder, espionage, drug and alcohol abuse, kidnapping, rape, and extortion.  But the show is also known for its storylines that are completely out of the box and defying reality as we all know it. 

After all, "Days of Our Lives" was the show in which people were abducted and taken to an island while the people back in Salem (the place where the soap is set) grieved their "deaths".  And it was also the show in which Deidre Hall's character of Marlena Evans was possessed by the devil.  

I'm not joking about that either.  It was one of 1995's most talked about soap plotlines.

But, we're not here to talk about Marlena.  Instead, we'll be talking about one of Marlena's daughters.  And, while we're at it, why don't we learn a little about the actress who plays her?

For this story to begin, we have to go back about January 1993?

On January 6, 1993, a then sixteen-year-old girl named Alison Sweeney was the newest person to be added to the cast of "Days of Our Lives".  I don't know exactly if she knew the role that she would be eventually playing when she went in for her screen test, but the role that she was given was one that had been previously played by seven other child actresses.  And, to further complicate things, Alison - who was born in 1976 - was supposed to be playing a character that was born onscreen in October 1984. 

Luckily, through the modern miracle of Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, the character was aged seven years and she would go on to become one of the longest running cast members on the series, celebrating her twenty-first anniversary in January 2014.

In a way, this blog will be kind of a half and half blog.  It'll be half Alison Sweeney, and half Samantha "Sami" Brady - the character that Alison plays on "Days of Our Lives".

So, on the show, Sami Brady was the second daughter born to Marlena Evans and Roman Brady (Wayne Northrop/Josh Taylor).  She is the younger sister of Carrie (Christie Clark) and twin sister to Eric Brady (Jensen Ackles/Greg Vaughan), and to say that she is not exactly the girl next door would be like saying that Charles Manson would be the perfect entertainer for your child's seventh birthday party.

Teenage Sami Brady was a real wild child, if you know what I mean.  Let's the 21 years that Alison Sweeney has played Sami, what has Sami done?  Well, she's...

- tries to steal her sister's boyfriend Austin Reed (Patrick Muldoon/Austin Peck) multiple times
- she angrily opposes her mother's new love interest, John Black (Drake Hogestyn)
- kidnaps her baby sister, Belle, and tries to sell her on the black market!
- shoots her rapist in the groin after he tries to rape her again; but only after the town refuses to believe her
- drugged Austin and tried to seduce him by telling him that she was Carrie
- got pregnant by Austin's brother Lucas Roberts (Bryan Dattilo) as a teenager, and tries to pass off the child as Austin's
- agrees an immigrant named Franco (Victor Alfieri) so that he can get a greencard to stay in the country, only for him to die on his wedding day
- framed by Lucas' mother, Kate (Lauren Koslow) for Franco's murder and is nearly executed in prison, but is saved at the last minute when the real killer (Lucas) confesses

- crashes through a plate glass window and nearly dies
- assumes the role of a man named Stan to drug John Black after being forced to by Tony DiMera (Thaao Penghlis) - I told you this show was strange!
- is caught in a love triangle with EJ DiMera (James Scott) and Rafe Hernandez (Galen Gering)

- had her baby stolen by Nicole Walker (Arianne Zucker), and believed for months that her own baby had died when Nicole was raising her all along
- becomes a grandmother at the ripe old age of...thirty-six

And, that's just the tip of the iceberg, folks.  I could seriously go on and on about some of the other misdeeds this bad girl of Salem has done, but if I did that, this blog would be twenty-eight pages, and you would likely fall asleep midway through.

Fortunately, the real life story of Alison Sweeney is not nearly as dramatic as that of the person that she's portrayed on "Days of Our Lives".  In the real world, Alison is married to David Sanov, and the couple have two children together, Benjamin and Megan.  Alison has also hosted the NBC reality show "The Biggest Loser" since 2007 after original host Caroline Rhea departed.

And, she also appeared in an episode of "Fear Factor" as a celebrity contestant...and well, she did not do so hot...

Oh well.  You can't blame her for trying.

But in all seriousness, I have to give Alison a lot of credit for the work that she has done in her career.  Many actresses don't get the opportunity to play a character for twenty-one weeks, let alone twenty-one years!  And, to be honest, I actually admire Alison Sweeney for standing strong against all of the criticism that she has had to face during her career - especially during her early years.

You see, when Alison was hired on "Days of Our Lives", she was coming onto the series at a time in which super thin models like Kate Moss were the biggest thing in fashion.  1993 seemed to be the year in which size zero was the only size to wear.

(And to think, I'm old enough to remember when a size 8 was considered svelte.)

The point is that Alison was not a size zero when she started on the show.  And, honestly who cares if she was or wasn't?  Looking at old photos of her, and old clips of her on YouTube, she was a healthy and attractive teenage girl who looked absolutely beautiful then and still looks beautiful now at age thirty-seven.  At her heaviest weight in the 1990s, she was a size twelve.  And again, to me, that was fine because again, watching her in old clips, she looked great. 

Unfortunately, the tabloids and entertainment shows that were on the air were particularly cruel to Alison, and frequently bashed her on her appearance, and savagely comparing her weight with the weight of her slimmer female co-stars.

Let's just say one thing.  I loathe tabloids like the National Enquirer, and I equally have much hatred for the judgmental fluff piece known as "Entertainment Tonight" for promoting a negative opinion on women who just happen to have a few extra curves on them.  The way that these publications treat cellulite as if it is as ugly as a cancerous tumour...I mean, it's just absolutely sick.  Who cares if celebrities have cellulite?  It's a part of life.  Everyone gets it.  Hell, I bet even I have some on my body somewhere!

The point is that these trash mags really caused a lot of anger and frustration for Sweeney, who documented the whole thing in her 2004 memoir.  I also imagine how hard it must have been for Sweeney to have to act out the scenes in which Sami Brady struggled with bulimia, given all of the pressure she was facing to lose weight.

Except that she didn't need to lose any weight.  At least, I didn't think so.  And if she did decide to lose weight, she should have done it for herself, not because Mike Walker from the National Enquirer or Mary Hart from Entertainment Tonight told her that she must do it.  And, looking at recent photos of herself (and her commitment to The Biggest Loser), I'd say that she did a fine job of maintaining a healthy weight her own way without caving into the pressure of looking a specific way...and now she can be considered an inspiration for finding balance in life.  At least, I see her as such anyway.

Now, as for the future of Sami sort of remains uncertain.  In January 2014, on the set of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", Alison announced that towards the end of 2014, she would be departing "Days of Our Lives" after an astounding 22 years on air.  Nobody knows exactly how Sami will be written out of the show yet...but if her character sketch provides some clues...she'll likely go out with a bang!

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