The behind-the-scenes drama at NBC’s two daytime sudsers is getting almost as good as the onscreen action.
Peacock isn’t commenting, but “Days of Our Lives” head writer Jim Reilly could soon be leaving the show, according to two people familiar with the situation.
While sudser scribes regularly come and go, Reilly is one of the medium’s deans, having brought the Corday Prods./Sony Pictures TV-produced “Days” back from the ratings doldrums on more than one occasion with out-there storylines (even by daytime standards).
Reilly’s most recent stint in the sudser’s fictional Salem began in the summer of 2003. Within a few months, he quickly helped lift the show to first in women 18-49 with a serial killer storyline — all while doing double duty as head writer on NBC’s other soap, “Passions.”
So why might Reilly be leaving now? NBC execs aren’t talking, but the potential shift comes amid buzz that former “As the World Turns” head scribe Hogan Sheffer — a multiple Daytime Emmy winner who’s recently started developing for primetime — has been approached about taking over the same gig on “Days.”
Even if Reilly leaves “Days,” he still appears to have a job on “Passions.” NBC on Friday said it was renewing the sudser for another year and that Reilly would continue as head writer and consulting producer.
Not everyone on “Passions” is so lucky, however. At the same time NBC renewed the show, it implemented a round of budget cuts, with about 20 staffers expected to lose their jobs.
Long-term, the future of both “Days” and “Passions” is somewhat cloudy. Daytime ratings at all the nets have been on a downward spin for a decade, while production costs for many shows remain higher than nets would like.
And though NBC negotiated a lower license fee for “Days” a few years ago, the show’s pricetag — and the fact that NBC has no ownership stake in it — has led to industry speculation about whether it makes sense for the Peacock to continue “Days” without another license-fee cut. Some analysts even believe NBC — or another net, most likely CBS — may consider experimenting with the cheaper telenovela format in daytime.
Carat USA’s Shari Anne Brill says nets have no choice but to consider change in daytime.
“It’s not as profitable as it used to be,” she said. “Women increasingly have jobs and work outside the home. The daytime audience is consistently getting older or younger and more downscale.”
(Michael Learmonth in New York contributed to this report.)