days of our lives 55 mashup

NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection (3), John Paschal/JPI

A lot of sand has passed through the hourglass in 55 years.

You don’t have to tell Days of Our Lives headwriter Ron Carlivati; he knows that there’s a lot riding on him right about now. As he tells Soaps.com, “It’s an honor to be part of the anniversary, but it’s also a big responsibility. Fans have invested in this show for so many years, and you want to make sure that we mark these milestones and pay homage to their loyalty and to the show.”

Who’da thunk there was a time when it looked like it might not reach its first anniversary, never mind its 55th?

An Inauspicious Beginning

Back on November 8, 1965, NBC premiered a new half-hour soap opera Days of Our Lives, from the husband-and-wife team of Ted and Betty Corday. It… uh, it did not go as well as anyone might have hoped.

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Though in the first episode, mischievous teenager Julie Olson (then Charla Doherty) sought to get not only her parents’ but viewers’ attention by doing a little shoplifting — you can watch her in action below — the fledgeling daytime drama sank immediately to near the bottom of the ratings heap. There it stayed, too, for three long years, cancellation always looming overhead, until kaboom!

Lightning struck in the late 1960s with the story of Laura Horton (Susan Flannery, years before she became Stephanie Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful). The audience was riveted watching her try desperately to keep husband Mickey from learning that she’d been raped by his brother. (In fact, Mickey’s son was his nephew.) So popular did the show become that it was expanded to an hour.

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Glory Days

In the decades that have followed, Days of Our Lives has struck pay dirt with countless other plots, from the love affair of Doug and Julie (played by real-life marrieds Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes, who assumed her role in 1968) to the possession of Dr. Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) to the bad boy/good girl pairings of Bo Brady (Peter Reckell) and Hope Williams (Kristian Alfonso), Steve Johnson (Stephen Nichols) and Kayla Brady (Mary Beth Evans), and Ben Weston (Robert Scott Wilson) and Ciara Brady (Victoria Konefal).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4rdzkw9qOw

Laura, Julie and Susan Hunter (Denise Alexander) made Days must-see daytime TV.

“I’m blessed,” marvels Carlivati, “to have so many cast members who’ve been around for so long. I still get to write for Doug and Julie, and Marlena and John, and Steve and Kayla, and Maggie and Victor.

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“These are legacy characters who are central to the show,” he adds. “But then we also have their children and grandchildren. We now have Sami’s daughter [Allie] on the show, and she’s sort of picking up the torch. We’re trying to grow those generations.”

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Will Allie turn out to be the hellion that her mom was in her teens? And OK, still is, even now.

We’ve Only Just Begun

And grow, they will, so long as the show maintains one relationship in particular: the one that it has with its audience. So Carlivati’s message to you is a simple one: “Thank you,” he says. “Without the fans watching and being so devoted to the show, there is no show.

“I want to thank them for sticking with us year in and year out. It’s their love of the show,” he concludes, “that stokes the furnace and keeps the engine moving.”

More: Days’ greatest characters, ranked [PHOTOS]

In honor of Days of Our Lives’ momentous anniversary, we’ve compiled a massive photo album that will walk you down Memory Lane, revisiting all — or at least a lot — of the stories and characters you’ve loved most over the years. Just click below and dive in, and when you’re done, drop us a comment with your favorite Days of Our Lives plot of all time.

Video: YouTube/Days of Our Lives