James E. Reilly

James E. Reilly

James E. Reilly (born July 15 1948 in Bountiful, Utah) is an American soap opera writer. During the WGA stike, he chose financial core status with the Writers Guild of America and continued working.


Reilly created the NBC Daytime soap opera "Passions" in 1999 and has held the Head Writer position ever since. Before that, he was the Head Writer of "Guiding Light" from 1990 to 1992, "Days of our Lives" from 1992 to 1997 and "Sunset Beach" in 1998. He also worked as a staff writer for other soaps prior to that, including "The Young and the Restless" and "General Hospital". It was his work at "Days of our Lives", however, that garnered him the most fame and acclaim.

In August 2003, he returned to "Days of our Lives" where he wrote before he was let go in the spring of 2006. He currently writes for "Passions." He is known for his outrageous and/or supernatural plotting. In late May 2006 NBC announced he was leaving "Days of our Lives" again and was be replaced by former "As the World Turns" head writer Hogan Sheffer.

Declining ratings and a desire to make room on the schedule for an expanded version of "The Today Show" led to the cancellation of "Passions", which finished its NBC run on September 7 2007. Passions moved to DirecTV on September 17 2007. DirecTV announced the show's cancellation in December 2007, with the last show shcheduled to air on August 7 2008.

Departure from traditional story

When Reilly started writing for "Days of our Lives" in 1992, one of his first story choices was to have one of the show's heroines, Dr. Carly Manning (played by Crystal Chappell), buried alive. The culprit was villainess Vivian Alamain (Louise Sorel). Critics of the show panned Reilly for the uneven storytelling. For example, even though Vivian allowed Carly to have water, she stayed in the coffin for weeks. Also, Vivian had the forethought to program the coffin with speakers so Carly could hear Vivian taunt her. Finally, after Carly was freed from the coffin, she returned to normal, and did not have any traces of claustrophobia or schizophrenia. Carly was written out shortly after. Reilly would use this same story for "Passions" involving heroine Sheridan Crane (McKenzie Westmore) and Jessica Bennett.

In 1995, Reilly would start what would arguably be his most infamous storyline when he wrote another heroine, Marlena Evans (Deidre Hall) as being possessed by Satan. The storyline continued for a year, and involved her lover (who was a priest in his past life) exorcising the demon from Marlena's person. This story was interrupted many times due to the O.J. Simpson trial, but the show's ratings rose during this time mainly due to the possession storyline.

In 1997, Marlena's ex-lover, John Black (Drake Hogestyn) was set to marry Kristen Blake (Eileen Davidson). However, unbeknownst to him, Kristen's surrogate, look-a-like Susan Banks, married him instead, in an Elvis-themed wedding that she planned. John thought he was marrying Kristen, but Laura Horton (Jaime Lyn Bauer) knowing that something was off shook Susan, causing her false teeth to fly out of her mouth, landing in Vivian Alamain's champagne. Since Kristen did not have false teeth and Susan did, the secret was out.

He left "Days" in 1997 and created "Passions" in 1999. Examples of storytelling on that show include a centuries-old witch named Tabitha Lenox, who wreaks havoc on citizens in the small hamlet of Harmony. Charity Standish, a teenage girl from the hamlet, has the power to channel the forces of good. Charity was also sent to Hell, the door to which was one of the character's closets. This scenario has led some fans to coin a phrase, "Better than Hell in a closet."

With ratings at an all time low and NBC threatening to cancel the series, James Reilly was brought back as head writer of "Days of our Lives" in the summer of 2003 and given carte blanche to "fix" the show. His major storyline to save "Days" was the ultra-controversial Salem Stalker storyline. The story line grew more graphic (and ironic) each day. Recovering alcoholic Maggie Horton was bludgeoned by a liquor bottle. The bloody corpse of troubled teen Cassie Brady tumbled out of a turkey-shaped piñata on Thanksgiving Day. And the town matriarch, Alice Horton, choked to death on a donut, her culinary specialty, that was forced down her throat.

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