Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tony DiMera: The Original DiMera Dark Prince

Pardon me while I geek out for a moment.

You may or may not remember all the hype when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was about to come out in theatres.  A lot of the promotional merchandise centred on Darth Maul – the big baddie with the dual-bladed light sabre (which looked positively nerdgasmic).  All the trailers showcased the majestic martial artistry of Scottish stuntman Ray Park, the man behind all that red and black make-up.  We (well…I) couldn’t wait until our heroes came face-to-face with Darth Maul.  It was going to be epic.

For four minutes we watched Darth Maul kicking two asses at the same time with those Star Wars sabre “swoosh” noises.  Then it happened.  When Darth Maul and Obi-Wan (and his stupid, stupid hair) were the only two left, and our wicked baddie had our hero on the ropes (or about to plummet to his death, rather), the pipsqueak used his Jedi mind powers to leap back onto solid ground and recover his fallen mentor’s light sabre (which he couldn’t possibly have realized was even there). 
Darth Maul is then struck by spontaneous paralysis and can only stand around looking at Obi-Wan like a dumb-ass as he gets sawed in half, then falls into a bottomless pit (because there’s always a bottomless pit in these movies).  That was it.  The whole thing took less than thirty seconds. 
To make a pretty long story short, I watched a long, crappy movie to see what literally turned out to be four and a half minutes of this martial arts expert doing what he does best before becoming victim to the same bad writing that made the three hours leading up to it unbearable.
Thaao Penghlis was amazing at what he did for so long only to have the character he spent years honing to perfection die by the clumsy hands of TPTB.  I watched a long, convoluted storyline to see Thaao, Joe Mascolo, and James Scott in action, and it culminated in one of the most frustrating and mind-boggling soap firings in a very, very, very long time. 
For those that don’t know, Tony died shortly after a railing on the stairs of the pier gave way, causing him to fall and land on something pointy, puncturing a lung. 
And for what? 
The story, like many during Dena’s tenure as head writer, was dropped.  What the hell did that “B” Tony scribbled down stand for?  Did EJ ever figure out what role Nicole played in causing the heart attack Tony suffered later in hospital?  Of course not.  Once Tony died we moved onto the next nonsensical plot-point, with Tony getting a brief mention last December when Stefano made a throwaway comment about how he believes that what happened to his son was an accident.  And it was an accident but…really?

Enough people have fallen down those stairs now
that the city honestly should think about putting a
rubber slide in its place.

Okay.  I could go on about that, but I won’t.  Instead, I’ll focus on why Tony takes the number one spot on my list of people I want back in Salem. 
There’s more to it than the fact that Tony, and evil cousin Andre, were portrayed by one of my favourite soap actors of all time.  And there’s more to it than the fact that, let’s face it, he’s a member of the DiMera family - the most complex, interesting, and bad-ass kinfolk on the block (see The Dimeras Are Awesome Sauce).
Andre and Tony represented different destinations at the end of two roads, and every DiMera that has come after them has had to choose which path to take at the crossroads at one time or another.  Andre, a complete sociopath, embraced his evil nature to the extreme while Tony worked hard to become his own man, to grow out from under Papa Stefano’s shadow.  Most of the time he was successful, but occasionally he was not (particularly during the infamous James E. Reilly’s tenure as head writer). 

“You know, Andre, you’re as much a prisoner as I am.
Only your prison is your body pretending to be something that you’re not!”
“Yes.  And it is so exhausting.  It is a constant strain pretending to be
somebody that I despise!”

One thing the writers managed to get right amidst the whole fiasco surrounding Tony’s death is that in the hours leading up to it he tried to reach out to both brother EJ and Philip Kiriakis, explaining to them that trying to win the approval of men like Stefano and Victor was a futile endeavour.  That’s the kind of man Tony was – he was innately sympathetic to both young men, despite the fact that they were being a couple of stubborn, arrogant, unreceptive idiots at the time.  He was the DiMera with a heart of gold.  Up until a certain point in time (no pun intended) Tony was a huge influence on EJ.  When EJ expressed to him his wish that Sami love him “even half as much as he loves her”, Tony was the one who told him he was going about it entirely the wrong way. 
EJ looked up to Tony as a man who had it all together, proof that, as Tony once said, good men aren’t born, but created.  Decent storytelling would have at least made Tony’s death mean something.  It should have been a turning point for EJ, especially with the way things were left between them when he died (one has to wonder why EJ had suddenly decided to stick his fingers in his ears to keep from hearing Tony’s words of wisdom when they’d come to mean so much to him before).  The way things played out, Tony died in vain.  Not a way for a legacy character to end his run on the show at all.

Why does Days need Tony back?  Well, for one I think it’s silly to have Chad discover he’s a DiMera if TPTB are dead set on making EJ and Stefano go whole hog with the villain thing.  Where’s the balance?  When EJ was the young, arrogant hellion first brought on the scene, the only two mentors he had were Stefano and Andre - both with hearts as black as coal (Stefano has obviously mellowed out quite a bit since then).  It wasn’t until Tony came on the scene that we saw some real growth in EJ.  He’d sort of been balancing on the fence for a little while, but Tony was the man who really had a grip on who EJ was, what he wanted in life, and how he had it in himself to achieve it.  Who the hell is Chad going to turn to if EJ himself is still struggling with his inner demons?

"I had a choice: life or death.  I chose life, and not a bad one at that.
  You’re on an island – what are you going to choose?  Being a soldier
doing Stefano's bidding, or living life on your own terms?  Become your own man."

Oh, hey!  What is a romantic, funny, witty, complex, sophisticated hero-type without a glamorous but often flighty soul mate?  Rhetorical question. 

Cue clumsy segue.


Leann Hunley’s Anna DiMera was the perfect woman for Thaao Penghlis’ Tony DiMera.  The two of them could do drama, comedy, and romance – a trifecta that not a lot of couples on Days are capable of (we see glimmers of it in Brady and Nicole, Stefano and Kate, and, before TPTB messed things up, we also found plenty of it in Sami and EJ).

1983. Tony visits Anna in the hospital after the big boating accident.

Anna and Tony DiMera were the original grey couple of Days (their first marriage was the result of Anna drugging him to the altar – that isn’t a typo, by the way).  They were the first.  No other romantic pairing did it better.  Thaao and Leann had chemistry, but the other thing that made them stand out is that they didn’t lose themselves in eachother.  Years later, Anna was still Anna and Tony was still Tony.  They naturally fit together without the other one having to become another person to make it work.  I’ve mentioned in past commentaries that Brady shouldn’t have to become “dark” to fit with Nicole.  It worked long before Brady locked Vivian up in a sarcophagus.  If anything, on the path they’ve got Brady on now, the dynamic has started to shift, and not in a way that would benefit the couple in the long-run.  The same could be said about Sami, who shouldn’t have had to become a pod person to work with Rafe (not that it’s been working now that she is a pod person, but there I go wandering off-topic again).  

“Question number one:  How much money did you invest in my design company?”
“How the hell do I know?  I mean that was at least twenty years ago!”
Tony and Anna re-reunite

Tony and Anna showed us all how it was done.  They stayed together while also staying true to who they were.  I was heartbroken when Tony died and I didn’t even get a lovely goodbye scene between the two.  In my opinion there couldn’t have been a bigger “fuck you” to fans of the couple (pardon my rather unsophistimicated French).  I hope that if Tony is brought back, he'll become a darker shade of grey for a while to avenge Stefano's "neutralizing" of Anna (we still have no idea what happened to her).  Also, breaking the bridge of Rafe's nose for his awful treatment of his wife, while not Tony's usual way of dealing with things (he's far too smart for that) would draw absolutely no complaints from me and, in fact, would be as welcome as ice cream on my apple pie.

Tony proposes to Anna, 2007

I’m hoping that this “reset” Ken Corday and the new writers have talked about will take us far enough back to return Tony to us, or at least leave the door open for a return.  I figure that if Jack can come back after suffering a fatal blow to the head and having all his organs donated, and Jennifer can survive two days with her heart MIA and her chest cavity opened up wider than one of Dena Higley’s plot-holes, then they can bring Tony back.  Obviously stranger things have happened on Days, and realism isn’t ever on the menu for long. 

I'm beginning to hear rumours.  Let's hope they pan out. 
Next on my list?  Another good twin – Eric Roman Brady.


  1. Tony Dimera was one of the best characters on DAYS...and Thaao Penghlis one of the best actors. Would love to see DAYS come to their senses and bring "Tony" back with a great storyline.

  2. As a huge Thaao Penghlis fan I applaud you on a terrific article that captured everything his fans have been screaming about. This is the perfect time to bring Tony back to take his rightful place in the DiMera Family. TPTB need to wake up and bring Tony and his Contessa Anna back to Salem with a storyline worthy of the talents of Thaao and Leann.

  3. Now that my number 1 (Jack) is coming back (though I still fear they'll fail to do him justice), I think Tony would probably be next on my list. I love the character, and I'm sure I haven't even seen his best stuff. I should check out some early Tony on Youtube some time. By the way, I'm a huge fan of Star Wars (the original three), but The Phantom Menace was one of the biggest let downs of all time. I'm hoping the revamping of "Days" isn't a similar sort of let down.

  4. Bravo Diggy!

    This was so perfect that I can't even expand upon it . . .

    All I can say is that Thao and Leann are at the top of my list (with a storyline that does their characters justice after how much DH screwed things up . . .)!

  5. Brilliant, for someone who doesn't know much about older DOOL you did an amazing job of explaining what made Tony great, and why he should be back.

  6. Excellent blog. ITA It's time to bring back Tony and Anna. The DiMera family needs a wake up call.

  7. There are rumors? SPILL!

    Tony is at the top of my most wanted back list.

    If anyone's needed back in Salem, it's him.

  8. I'd rather see DOOL go off the air than see yet another Dimera. If Tony replaced EJ that would be fine but there are already enough of those guys. I'd rather see Tony than EJ and Chad but not all three.

    The push of this family as the central family is killing the show. Look at GH. People get tired of shows consumed by the bad guys. Days was never supposed to be that. Constant building on Dimeras is a show killer.

  9. People get tired of shows consumed by the bad guys. Days was never supposed to be that.

    That is the writers fault, not the characters, though your problem doesn't appear to be bad guys as much as the DiMera family in general and having them front and center. According to you, they bring down the ratings. Historically, that isn't accurate. Some of the stories that helped raise the ratings significantly in the past featured this family. The key is the writing and the caliber of the acting.

  10. Thank you for all the time and research that went into your post Diggy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and wish more than anything Ken Corday gave a crap about this show and the fans who have watched over the years.

    I hear Crystal Chappell is complaining about her character's exit storyline because Carly got no goodbye scene with Bo. Tanna fans can certainly understand. I guess CC doesn't know Ken as well as she thought she did if she was actually expecting to get that.

  11. Tony tops my list of characters I would like to see return to DOOL. And you can never have too many Dimera's IMO because they are all so different. Ej, Lexie, Stefano, Chad, and Tony are some of my favorite characters and add so much spice to the show even when the writing is bland.

  12. Great post Diggy. Tony DiMera is by far the most complex and interesting character on the show (though slightly less so now, thanks to Hogan's awful "it was Andre for 20 years" rewrite).

    It doesn't seem like Thaao has any intention of going back to the show, but I'm sure we would all be happy to see him return - it would give the writers a chance to redeem themselves for the terrible exit they gave him (which apparently was just to incite the DiMera-Kiriakis feud story that went for all of 2 months). Considering that Tony was written out of character those last few months, one could speculate that it was really Andre who died - yet again. If not, then Tony faked his death knowing that Stefano and Victor would go at it (and not go after Tony for taking the fuels project).

  13. Great commentary Diggy! The Dimeras are definately the most interesting family on DOOL and it is a shame the way they are currently being written. Come on September!

  14. Catching up!! I absolutely hope that Tanna make their way back to Salem!!

  15. Tony was so noble, and so evil. I love Thaao!
    Tho please no Eric Brady, I cannot stand his holier than thou attitude to Nicole again. Esp when it might hinder Bricole, for another time. Ugh

  16. i stopped watching Days since Tony died...Bring him back!