I've heard over the years that it was NBC who thought Marlena was too old for John but that Reilly was pro-J&M. Don't know what's true or not.
But wasn't it after Maison Blanche and before the possession that John really courted Kristen when Tony was blind? I think he slept with Kristen before becoming a priest again. I only have 1994 episodes up until August so I haven't watched Sep-Dec since they aired. Going by memory here.
I was going through old posts on this thread and saw this and thought I'd offer my insights (based on my current viewing of 1981 episodes):
1. As Heather told Joe, Heather's father (provided Heather was telling the truth about it of course but the show hasn't given me any reason to doubt it) was physically abusive.
2. Heather's mom Alice is one of the most passive-aggressive characters ever to inhabit Port Charles.
I wasn't around then, but they rotated coverage between NBC, CBS and ABC during Watergate. Even so, "Days" was still preempted 20 times! That pushed Suzanne Rogers' debut back a month, and I guess since Bill Bell had things mapped out so far, is also the reason Hope was supposed to be born around Christmas, but wasn't until mid-January.