Lessons Days of Our Lives Can Learn from Australia's Neighbours

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Days of Our Lives recently got renewed for a record-breaking 55th season.

Despite some hiccups, NBC's longest-running soap is going strong, but it could be even better.

Across the globe, Australia's Neighbours will turn 34 in March 2019, and while the two soaps reflect two vastly different cultures, there are some things Neighbours does well that Days of Our Lives could learn from.

DaysNeighbours

One significant difference between the two soaps is that Neighbours is far more focused on family relationships.

That is a shame, as Days of Our Lives' backbone used to be the relationship between Alice Horton and her large extended family. DAYS is starting to get back to its roots in this area, but there's more work to be done.

Family members are too often missing or absent from storylines on DAYS. For example, where was Jennifer when JJ was struggling with suicidal feelings at the end of 2017, and why was JJ shuffled off-screen during Christmas of 2018? And Julie's fall should have had major repercussions for just about everyone in Salem.

Related: Days of Our Lives: Who Should Follow In Alice Horton's Footsteps

Many of DAYS' storylines are based on people not being aware when something is wrong with their family members or not relying on family when they should. 

The whole Sonny/Leo mess is a prime example of this, and it happens that Neighbours is airing a similar storyline right now that doesn't make these mistakes.

Discovering Leo's Weakness - Days of Our Lives

One of the biggest weaknesses in DAYS' version of this storyline is that Sonny and Will never thought to tell Victor about what was going on even though part of Leo's blackmail involved forcing Sonny to let him move into Victor's house!

It made zero sense. Victor is supposed to be an all-powerful former mob boss who would do anything for his family.

And then to add insult to injury, when Victor did find out, he told Sonny to go along with Leo's blackmail for no apparent reason.

Leo and Delaney - Neighbours

In contrast, on Neighbours when Delaney Renshaw blackmailed the object of her affection (ironically, also named Leo!), the first thing he did was go to his father Paul, who is a similar character to Victor, to ask for help.

It turned out that Paul couldn't easily get him out of the situation because Delaney also had some serious dirt on him, but at least Leo tried! And when Paul couldn't solve the problem, there was a real explanation for it, rather than using the moment as a plot device to get Paul onto wrong side.

DAYS could really benefit from creating similar logical obstacles for their characters rather than ignoring family ties or having powerful characters suddenly and randomly become powerless to suit the plot.

Related: Days of Our Lives: Why Social Messaging Matters

Another area in which Neighbours excels is in acknowledging mental health issues and treating them seriously.

Instead of using suicide attempts and the like as plot points, Neighbours creates compelling stories around them, especially with the younger set.

Piper Willis, one of their leading young adult characters, suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia after having been kidnapped, and the show explored her resistance to both therapy and medication and her eventual acceptance that she needed help.

That was far more powerful than the way DAYS moved JJ's recovery after suicide off-screen and allowed him to get magically cured by the belief he was having a baby and more realistic than Abigail's Dissociative Identity Disorder storyline, which did nothing but perpetuates negative stereotypes about mental illness.

Abigail's Subterfuge Continues - Days of Our Lives

Abigail's drama since her recovery has revolved around her family not believing she's well because of Gabi's manipulations. That would have been great had there been some logical basis for it, but instead, it was another example of characters believing things because it was convenient for the plot. 

Contrast this with a recent storyline on Neighbours in which an evil character named Alice was poisoning Sonya Rebecchi because she wanted Sonya's husband to be with her daughter instead.

Sonya's symptoms were consistent with a relapse in her alcoholism, and her husband believed that was happening for several days until his adopted daughter found out the truth, and they went off to find Sonya, rescuing her just before the poison could kill her altogether.

Sonya Loses Nell - Neighbours

The pacing helped the story immensely -- viewers didn't get treated to months of characters acting stupid and oblivious. It also made sense that Sonya's family fell for Alice's lies because her symptoms were consistent with her previous illness.

Plus, Alice got treated as evil. She didn't get written so half the viewers wanted to sympathize with her.

In the end, she escaped justice by running away, not by her victim deciding that pressing charges for attempted murder was analogous to seeking vengeance against her. 

Related: Get Shudder via Prime Video Channels for Spine-Tingling & Provocative Films, TV Series, & Originals!

This example proves that it's not the storyline with Abigail and Gabi that's the problem; it's the way it gets executed.

DAYS tends to put a lot of energy into making excuses for evil characters to not pay for their crimes, and they'd get better served by making it clear that the villains are not heroes and not sympathetic and allowing the good guys to get a win or at least a semi-win in the end.

(TALL) Goodbye For Now - Days of Our Lives

Finally, DAYS could learn a thing or two about writing exit stories from Neighbours.

DAYS has a bad habit of killing off the majority of characters who leave the show, which means they either have to give up those characters for good or write convoluted explanations for how they managed to survive when they return.

There are so many more realistic ways to write characters off-canvas! The way Lucas was written out was decent, but he was an exception when he should have been the rule.

Neighbours views character exits as a natural part of the show and writes emotional and moving stories around them.

Xanthe and Ben - Neighbours

For example, when Felix Mallard left the cast because of his starring role in CBS' Happy Together, his character Ben moved across the country to reconnect with his birth family and work as a mechanic in his uncle's garage.

Ben and girlfriend Xanthe tried a long distance relationship, but Xanthe broke it off after Ben's sudden visit interfered with her plans to study for her college exams.

This storyline was a logical development for the characters and also played with viewers' emotions. Xanthe and Ben were a popular pairing, and many viewers got saddened that they broke up while believing that Xanthe had made the best decision for herself.

That's far stronger drama than yet another addition to the body count, especially since for most DAYS characters, grief lasts 30 seconds before they are onto the next love interest or another storyline.

DAYS fanatics, weigh in! Do you think Days of Our Lives would benefit from becoming more like Neighbours, or are the differences more cultural and impossible to replicate in an American soap?

Sound off in the comments below, and don't forget to check back on Sunday for our Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion!

Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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