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Another article:

Every few months, soap fans work themselves into a major lather over this plotline or that casting decision, and this week they’re focused on a doozy of a twist, one worthy of a soap plot itself.

Earlier this week, “Days of Our Lives,” the only daytime soap that has not seen its ratings tumble among key demos this season, fired its two stars, Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, both of whom have been with the show more than two decades.

Their characters' on-and-off love story has been at the center of the fictional town of Salem for years, and one blogger compared their firings to axing Bill Cosby from “The Cosby Show.”

NBC promises the estranged couple will be reunited before their January exits, but that’s a small comfort to angry fans, who have posted thousands of protests on messageboards.

"'Days of Our Lives' has decided to rest the characters of 'John Black' and 'Marlena Evans,'" the network said in a statement. "After a year of separation, 'John' and 'Marlena' will finally reunite before exiting the canvas in early 2009."

Hall, who has played Marlena since 1976, has had some of daytime’s zaniest storylines in that time, perhaps the two most infamous being her possession by Satan and serial killer phase, though it turned out her victims were alive and well and living on an island. Like every good soap character, she’s also died and come back to life.

The firings came just days after NBC renewed “Days” through 2010, a decision that surprised and delighted fans. NBC has been paring down its daytime soaps, canceling “Passions” last year to make room for a fourth hour of “Today.”

Many expected the network to dump “Days” as well, since it’s the network’s lone remaining soap. But NBC issued the renewal on the condition of severe budget cuts, and the high-salaried Hall and Hogestyn likely won’t be the last casualties.

“If DOOL continue to replace popular actors with other unknown actors. They might as well cancel the show. Enough already!!!,” writes one poster on the official “Days” site’s forum.

“I have watched the show for forty-two years and there were several other times I wanted to stop watching. Every camel has a final straw,” threatens another. “There are plenty of other things I can do during that daily hour!”

Still, NBC has to take comfort in the fact that fans remain so engaged and interested in the show that they’d react this way. While numbers for every other soap on television have dipped this season among women 18-49 and 25-54, “Days” has held steady, according to Nielsen data analyzed by NBC.

“Days” is tied for No. 3 this season in daytime among women 18-49 with a 1.4 rating, and it’s averaging a 1.5 among women 25-54.

By comparison, ABC’s “General Hospital,” which ranks tops in those demos, is down 6 and 10 percent. Other shows are off even more.

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SOD: Days Gets a Pickup; Hall, Hogestyn Out! · DAYS: News, Spoilers & Discussion