Tears

Well, I have to give Ron credit. He took a shit story, and with a lot of help from Mary Beth and Stephen, managed to spin a little bit of gold from it.

There’s still a lot of problems with the story, mostly centered around Tripp’s problematic characterization, but let’s start with the awesome Mary Beth Evans. No one cries like she can!

It’s a testament to both the writing and Mary Beth that during Wednesday’s scenes I was passionately rooting for Joey to change his mind and stay, because in general, this is the opposite of what I want. I think James Lastovic started out promising (and his blue eyes are a perfect mirror of Mary Beth’s), but he has sadly sunk in further and further as an actor during his time on the show. Also … I know it’s shallow, but I seriously cannot get over his hair. He looks like a member of Ratt.

More importantly, the character was severely damaged when Dena turned him into a killer. I genuinely think the only way to salvage the character is to send him off to prison, and bring him back in a year with a recast and a reboot, hopefully with some interesting layers.

It was so gratifying to hear Kayla’s point of view articulated at last. I was impressed with how Ron artfully reinvented Kayla’s previous cheerful welcoming of Tripp, by having her say “How could I say no? You put me in an impossible situation.” I also loved when she pointed out that Steve has a history of making unilateral decisions.

The dialogue in the Joey/Kayla scene was also excellent. When Kayla attributed his desire to turn himself in to a desire to earn Steve’s respect, I loved how he said it was not because of Steve, but because of HER and the values she raised him with. It was a perfect way to reconcile her (and the viewers) to his decision, because it paid tribute the one constant relationship in his life which has been too often overlooked.

I cannot say often enough how refreshing it is to see Kayla be able to be angry and to blame Steve, even to the point of being unfair. I was seeing some arguing on Twitter this week about who’s right, who’s wrong, and “team Kayla” and “team Steve.” I don’t care about that. Drama, the best drama, is when you can see both sides, sympathize with both of their pain. Layers, what are they?

The weak link in all of this is still Tripp. I hope Ron can save him because I know he’s still on the show, but at the moment I can’t stand the character. It think it might have been a mistake to go for the big dramatic showdown with the scalpel — I suspect that Ron wanted to give Tripp something in the ballpark of Joey’s bad acts, in order to put him on roughly equal footing with Joey. That solves some issues — it gave Tripp a reason to tell Joey not to confess, it gives Kayla a solid reason to say “If our son is going to prison, your son should too!” — but it creates new ones. I’m not going to forget the image of Tripp holding a knife to Kayla’s throat anytime soon, and I think Steve seems a little too willing to let bygones be bygones.

(Look at the framing of this shot — Steve watching Kayla and Joey leave, with Tripp lurking in the background. Perfect.)

But, these past two weeks have been damn good soap, so let us hope for better things. I’d like to see Steve think he can move past it and be there for his son “because that’s what parents do,” but with Joey gone and Kayla traumatized and angry, he’ll find it more difficult than he imagines. Stephen could really sell that kind of angst.

Screencaps Joanie (except the Ratt one 🙂 )

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Bad Tripp

Mixed bag this week.

I thought the hospital scenes with Abby were well done. Missy Reeves was particularly good, and I teared up when she mentioned holding Abby’s fingers as a baby. I appreciated how we saw most characters in town being told the news of the accident and expressing their concern — think about how Dena handled Kayla’s brain surgery as a sad contrast.

I am still a little fuzzy on Chad’s reaction and what it means for the Chabby/Chabi relationships.

He is clearly overcome with grief and guilt for Abby, and feels keenly that the last words he said to her where “stay dead” (Billy Flynn is hitting all the beats there), but I’m not getting (yet) a sense of “It’s really you I’ve loved all along” — the dialogue feels a little more ambiguous. Even when he said tearfully to Abby “I love you,” it still didn’t come across as an epiphany, at least to me, and the camera went to Gabi’s reaction. I really don’t want to see more of him being torn between the two women — it is damaging the character. However, I might be reading this all wrong. I’m content to watch for now and see how it goes.

I am very curious what they are planning with Eric, Nicole, and Brady. They’ve cleared turned a page here and I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out.

I’ve seen some complaints that Nicole keeping her forgiveness of Eric a secret doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t bother me. People often put off uncomfortable conversations, and that’s the kind of secret I think this is — though taken to an extreme. Also, her instinct to keep this a secret could be telling, that she knows deep down that her forgiveness of Eric means other walls are coming down between them too. All I know is that the scene of them together in Eric’s room was played by both Greg and Ari with a lot of sexual tension, and the moment when she said, “Of course there is nothing between us,” as she turned away, was Soap Denial 101.

From a character (not just shipper) perspective, it was a lovely scene. We saw how much it meant to Eric that she had forgiven him, when he was worried that she had changed her mind. That gave him a reason to go along with her wishes, even though he knows it’s not a good idea. I loved that he tried to talk her out of keeping this a secret by quoting scripture, and the touch of sarcasm with “And you think this is a good idea?” was perfect.

Why is Brady suddenly gripped with irrational jealousy regarding Nicole? Who knows? They could give us any number of reasons that connected with his history with women, but they haven’t. Brady as a character has suffered from bad, or nonexistent, characterization, but he has certainly jumped from woman to woman, convinced each time that this is True Love. This could be explored, or even acknowledged, by the show, but instead the show presents each relationship with a straight face — including his current one. It would be fascinating for Brady to realize that he and Nicole have a similar history of jumping from relationship to relationship, which could give him a reason to doubt what they have now … especially in contrast to Eric’s steady constancy.

Speaking of whom, they need to do more with the fact that this is Brady’s brother he’s jealous of, who he has always been close to, and who has recently been to hell and back…. and who he was recently urging Nicole to forgive.

That brings me to Steve and Kayla. I talked last time about how this story didn’t have to be so crummy, but the fact is that it was, and Ron didn’t really do anything to fix it before heading to this big showdown. I have no sense of Tripp as a person; his characterization is so paper-thin, his reasons for blaming Kayla so laughable, that it sucked a lot of the drama out of the scenes on Friday. I know the Dena portion of the story cannot be unwritten, but how hard would it be to have Tripp overhear Kayla saying to Steve, “I just hope Tripp never finds out the truth about how his mother died” or something else to send him over the edge right now?

Kayla was written well during the scenes themselves — I liked how, after her initial shock, she went to compassion first, and then (finally!) anger when the extent of Tripp’s hatred and delusion became clear. (I’m assuming Ron knows that Steve didn’t actually “leave” Kayla for Ava.) And Steve and Joey talking about Tripp at the same time and putting the pieces together was reasonably well put together.

But, I have to admit the whole thing depressed me, and it’s going to take some pretty damn amazing writing for me to accept Tripp as a viable character after this. Also (and it really pains me to say this), but I feel a little bit like that with Joey as well. Having Joey kill Ava was a major, major mistake, and no matter how many times Steve tries to say it was “sort of” self-defense, that’s not what happened. I don’t know how Joey is exiting the canvas, but I hope it’s something that redeems him a little and gives the character some strength and independence (but doesn’t kill him off). Then, down the road, maybe we can get a recast and a fresh start for him.

In the meantime, give us a Stephanie.

Screencaps Joanie

Forgiveness

Ron’s second week was solid soap. I appreciate how each episode zips along — there is momentum, and energy, and suspense. I appreciate good plotting, and the suspense surrounding Dario’s arrest and attempt at blackmail, plus the multiple-character maneuvering over Theo’s laptop, was particularly well constructed. I am liking Marci Miller and Chabby 3.0 more and more. Friday’s cliffhangers — three of them! — were all terrific and have me looking forward to next week.

But, I need to talk about Tuesday’s Ericole scenes. First, can we take a moment to appreciate Greg Vaughan as one of the best male criers in the business:

I loved that Eric was touchy and angry when Nicole first found the letters, and snapped at her for snooping in his desk. For all that I love Eric’s tortured, against-all-reason love for Nicole, that doesn’t mean I want to see him being a spineless noodle — in fact, the pride and anger makes the suppressed longing all the more appealing.

That’s why I can’t get enthusiastic about Jeneric, even though I get why people would, for the character Eric’s sake — hey, we even saw him smile again on Monday! But Greg Vaughan plays intense, bottled-up emotion so well, and I can’t see a Jeneric relationship being anything but cute. As I said last week about Chad, one of my favorite things about soaps is the intense, tortured loyal man in love. And what could be more tortured than being intensely in love with a woman whose fiancé you killed?

Of course, Days has failed immensely in the characterization of Nicole this past year. She is not naturally a suffering heroine type. Even though Arianne Zucker can do suffering and angst, it is best when it is layered with some zip and some spunk and some snark. Tuesday went a little ways toward repairing the damage done — at least, it fixed the hypocrisy of her withholding forgiveness from Eric when she has been forgiven of at least equal crimes. In fact, I would say the dialogue would have been better if it had emphasized that aspect, rather than how Saint Daniel would want her to forgive.

In the end, perhaps the crucial question is not whether Nicole can forgive Eric but whether the viewers can forgive Nicole. I really have no idea if Ron will go for it with Ericole or how he would even approach it, given that Ari is leaving … but, for me anyway, the heart wants what the heart wants, lol.

Turning to Steve and Kayla — I have mixed feelings. It was a fantastic coincidence that Steve and Kayla’s yacht wedding anniversary happened to fall in Ron’s first full week, and kudos to him and his team for taking advantage of it. Seeing Steve give Kayla a yellow rose, sign “Happy Anniversary, Sweetness,” give her a bracelet with an anchor charm, and then swoop her into a slow dance … well, my Stayla shipper cup runneth over. All this shows a lovely the attention to history (the sign language particularly made me swoon) and besides, it fits with the character of Steve — he was always given to outsized romantic gestures.

I could be churlish and point out that these little details cost a writer nothing and are no substitute for a actual frontburner story, but I won’t do that. Instead I’ll give Ron (or Sheri) full credit for this … and still go on to complain about the Tripp story.

Looking back on it, it is truly pitiful how badly it has been executed. I would just like to point out that even though I would have always been against the idea of ANOTHER Ava-themed story, this one could have been actually good. Imagine if Tripp had come to town as a street kid with a rough, hardscrabble past. He knows Ava is his mother, but he doesn’t know who his father is.

He has some early, negative interaction with Steve — maybe he is caught stealing and Steve catches him. He is arrested and gets community service — he doesn’t know Steve actually helped him by talking down the charges and getting him out of jail time.

Tripp tracks down Angelo, who takes him in and gives him a home (first one he’s had that’s not foster care). Angelo feeds him a lot of lies about how the newspaper stories about his mother are wrong; she was demonized to justify her killer: Steve.

Tripp could also interact with the teens in various ways; for our purposes, he gets to know Joey. Say Tripp truly is bright and has a lot of potential, and he expresses so much interest in medicine that Joey introduces him to Kayla.

In the meantime Steve has caught wind of possible child with Ava, and he is chasing around trying to find him. Kayla goes with him on some of these adventures. She has mixed feelings (which are shown to the audience and respected by Steve) about a child with Ava, but her mentoring of the street kid Tripp helps her reconcile herself to the idea a bit.

Tripp is shown growing close to Kayla, but he keeps his distance from Steve and acts weird when he is mentioned. Kayla and Joey attribute this to Steve catching him stealing. He discreetly quizzes Joey and Kayla about Steve and (in his mind, not openly) makes the most of Steve’s past mistakes to justify thinking Steve is really a bad guy. As time goes on, Tripp is torn between his revenge — that Angelo is egging him on about, and he feels a certain loyalty to him — and his genuine growing interest in being a doctor and his friendship with Joey and Kayla.

It all ends with Tripp kidnapping Steve with the intention of killing him, but he dithers. While Steve is missing, a lead comes through on the investigation that shows Kayla the truth: Tripp is Steve’s son. She runs to Angelo, figures out where Tripp is holding Steve, runs in just as Tripp is about to shoot Steve, shouting “Don’t kill him! He’s your father!”

Okay, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that this story did not have to be inherently bad, and so far Ron doesn’t seem to be fixing it. We don’t even know whether Kayla believes she is being framed or if she really made those mistakes. Tripp’s motivation for targeting Kayla is as weak as before, and he remains unsympathetic because of it. I’m delighted to see Steve finally suspicious of Tripp in Friday’s cliffhanger, but I’m worried about the story just being quickly wrapped up rather than fixed.

Screencaps Joanie

First Impressions

Well, we’ve had three days, what does everyone think?

On the “anyone is better than Dena” front, I was happy. The episodes zipped along, I wasn’t constantly checking my watch. The dialogue was definitely improved, which has always made a big difference to me. There was comedy, there was suspense, there was a couple of heart-to-hearts, characters felt a little more rounded, more real.

Based on this week, it’s not going to as dramatic a switchover as I’ve seen with other headwriters. This is good and bad. It’s good for continuity, but it’s bad for those of us who are just sick of everything Dena and want a clean slate. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m all for continuity because it helps with character believability — something these characters are sorely in need of. But, this week at least, despite my resolve to give everyone a clean slate, I struggled with the fact that I’ve grown to dislike a lot of these characters. They need to be repaired, not just given new stories, and that’s going to take time.

Some highlights:

It was just a small thing, but I really, really liked the Claire/Theo conversation where they talked about whether they could be friends. One thing I’ve been struck by on my 1983 DVDs is how well the teens were written, they seemed like teens but also like people. On Dena’s Days, the whole teen set has made me cringe, because they were all so obviously a middle aged woman’s idea of what “the kids” are like these days, all sex tapes and social media. The conversation with Claire and Theo on Friday, in contrast, felt very real and heartfelt, two people who cared for each other struggling to understand the end of their relationship and how to relate going forward.

And then this was just a lovely family moment:

More of this, please.

As for Chabby, I have mixed feelings.

I can feel Ron taking the right soapy steps to raise the stakes in their story — turning Dario into a villain and a blackmailer is a great idea — but I’m also realizing there was serious damage done to their relationship that will take time to fix. I do like Marci as Abby (though I agree with her critics that she could up the energy levels a bit) and I’ll tentatively say that I like the chemistry she has with Billy and the way they play off of each other. He definitely brings out the best in her.

So what’s the problem? Well, when I liked Chabby, what I really liked about them is Chad’s laser-focused intensity and loyalty in his love for Abigail, and all this stuff with Gabi has damaged that. We might have to throw some stuff down the memory hole, but I think with time and with Billy Flynn once again playing that laser-beam intensity, I’ll be able to believe in that love again.

Based on his Twitter feed,Ron is obviously most interested in promoting his Anjelica/Hattie/Bonnie story. Days has always made room for these kinds of characters, so I’m inclined to be indulgent, for now. If everyone and everything turns into this level of camp — which is something I’m afraid of — that will be a different story.

I also feel a pang for the character of Anjelica, as played by Jane Elliott. Anjelica was not originally conceived as a mindless schemer, and it’s sad to see her reduced to being Kristen-lite. Well, I’ll just quote myself:

What set Anjelica apart, at least at first, was that she didn’t seem to believe that Justin really loved her, or that he would surely turn to her if only Adrienne were out of the picture. She didn’t even seem to be particularly in love with him herself. Justin the playboy pursued her relentlessly when he first came to town, and she enjoyed being in the position of being sought after. Even after they slept together, she mostly treated him as a disposable boy toy. But when he met Adrienne and broke off their affair, Anjelica resented being dethroned—and for such a nonentity as Adrienne Johnson! She seemed to feel she should just be able to squash Adrienne like a bug, and when she couldn’t, rather than walking away, she just kept trying harder and harder. (There was also possibly a sense of an extraordinarily capable woman having too few outlets for her energies, and messing with Adrienne was a source of diversion and amusement.)

(Here’s the original post)

However, Ron has definitely given Anjelica some good lines, and the interplay between her and Hattie has been more enjoyable than anything else Anjelica has done this time around (which, under Dena, was mostly unwatchable). Dee is obviously having a ball with the dialogue (“You have some kind of bisexual disorder”), and Lord knows this show is sorely in need of some fun. I also laughed at Anjelica and Hattie making fun of Marlena’s wardrobe while Anjelica is wearing this little number:

My eyes, my eyes!

Next week, we’ll see what Ron does with the characters I actually already love … eek!

Screencaps Joanie

I’m baaaaaaaack

Well, we made it.

My hatred of Dena Higley’s writing is of long standing — I actually was driven away from Days during her last stint in 2008, even before Steve and Kayla left the show in 2009. Looking back, however, her second run was positively Shakespearean compared to this stint.

How depressing.

My complaints about her writing are no doubt known to all of you. Event driven stories, thin, cartoonish characterization, lack of payoff, offscreen characters driving story, insufficient attention to character motivation, mix n match couplings … the list could go on and on. When I went on hiatus here three months ago, I HAD to stop watching every day, to avoid getting to the point where I hated everyone and everything in Salem and wanted to blow up the whole town. For instance, I used to like Chad, Abby, and Gabi, but I slowly grew to hate them all in the course of this wretched triangle.

But next week, every character and every story is getting a fresh start with me. I had glimmers of liking Chabby again during the Halo party. I liked Chad/Billy Flynn a lot for all of 2015 and 2016, so I don’t think it will take much to get me back in his camp. And I WANT to like Marci Miller. I was never a diehard Kate Mansi fan — I liked her when the writing was good in the fall of 2015, not so much before or after. So I think Marci and this version of Chabby could win me over too. Anyway, I’m going to give them a chance.

Of course my favorites have remained my favorites: Steve and Kayla, Eric and Nicole. Nicole has certainly tested my patience, but fast-forwarding has been my friend there. As soon as I hear the word “Daniel,” down goes the FF button. Does wonders for my peace of mind!

The show has been improving — slightly — over the last few weeks. I thought the Martin house party was mostly good, by Dena standards. I’ve been enjoying Eric and Nicole since then, too, and I hope we’ll get a little Ericole story before Ari leaves this fall. I’ll talk about them more in my next post.

But for now, let me focus on Steve and Kayla. I wish I could say that I have found redeeming moments in this Tripp story. I recognize that Lucas Adams is a decent actor, and Stephen and Mary Beth have certainly been giving it their all (as they always do), but I have found the whole thing to fairly wretched. Starting from the insertion of Ava YET AGAIN into their story, the lack of buildup to Tripp’s first appearance, the insta-bonding with Steve, then the insta-bonding with Ava’s ghost, the lack of a meaningful point of view for Kayla, Steve and Kayla’s general cluelessness, Jade’s role as wet dishrag/femme fatale … well, need I go on?

But even here — deep breath — I am going to try my hardest to wipe the slate clean and give Ron a chance to redeem it, and especially to redeem Tripp so I can stand the guy even a little bit.

I am mostly unexcited so far by the return of Anjelica in the form of Morgan Fairchild. (If it were Jane Elliot, I think I would feel differently. Just imagining her in these same scenes makes them 1000 x more interesting in my mind.) However, the story has not been terrible. It suffers from the usual lack of buildup, of course, but it has some points in its favor. First of all, it has given Steve and Kayla a chance to interact with characters other than Jade, Tripp, and Joey, which is a major plus. And second, it gave us those delightful scenes on Monday.

Even in the 80’s, Stephen and Mary Beth rarely got to do comedy, and it’s a shame, because Mary Beth is a natural comedienne. So scenes like these are a rare treat:

Some good lines here. My favorite was “Do I tell you how to remove a spleen?” Ha!

Mary Beth was giving off a major Lucille Ball vibe in these scenes, in her expression above and in this moment, when Anjelica mentioned smelling “cheap” perfume:

Adorable.

And then they finished it off with a cute, sexy scene at the end, when Kayla rushed them from their meal so they could go home and get it on:

This, to my mind, was a perfect episode arc for an established couple. A little plot, a little comedy, a little romance and sexiness. More please.

I’m not naive enough to think that the glory days of Days are ever coming back, but with Sheri on his side, I can’t help but be a little more hopeful about Ron than I would be with just any writing change. At any rate, I hope I’ll be able to watch my show without wanting to gouge out my eyeballs. So you can see I’m setting a high bar.

Welcome to Days, Ron!

Screencaps I ❤ SnK 

 

 

On Hiatus

Hello everybody!

I think I am going to put this blog on hold, hopefully only for a few months. The show is depressingly bad, and I have no hope of it getting better until June. But the main reason is that I just got a huuuuuuuuge promotion at work. I was promoted to president of the nonprofit I work for (we say president, essentially the role is Executive Director). It’s a big jump for me and I want to be able to devote my full energies to it.

I don’t officially start until the end of April, but I’m busy making plans and getting a team in place so we can hit the ground running. Once things settle down a bit I hope to be able to pick this blog back up again, which ideally will be right around the time Ron, Sheri, and Ryan’s stuff starts airing.

I haven’t watched the show at all this week, but I will probably start again next week and I’ll still be around on Twitter. Hope to see you there!

Much love,

marypickford

 

I Do

Well, that was a pretty damn amazing little interlude, wasn’t it?

skwedding4

Stephen called it “a bubble of love” and it really was. This wedding showed that you don’t have to have a big budget to have a beautiful wedding. Some people complained about the fact that the guests were standing, but I think it was better. Chairs can make a small wedding look even smaller, like the Chabby wedding (where there were actually EMPTY chairs). I’ve seen small weddings like this is real life too, where everyone stands.

I can certainly quibble about people who weren’t there, but I thought they did a good job bringing in most of the people of the current cast who should be there. Having Shane, Carrie, and Austin there was a nice treat, since they are only back for a short time. And I really appreciated that Hope came back in time for it. I’ve been frustrated with the fact that Days has turned into the Hope show for the last few years (Dena said once in an interview that she was on “Team Hope” — what headwriter talks like that?? — and believe me, it shows), but Hope was such an important part of Steve and Kayla’s early love story. She needed to be there.  (I also liked that she pulled Roman aside to tell him Eric was the one who took care of her.)

Of course, I loved, loved, loved having Stephanie there:

johnson-family-photo

It wasn’t just seeing Stephanie again, it was that Shelley Hennig wanted to come back for Stephen and Mary Beth. It just made the whole thing more meaningful.

Her scene with Joey in the part was adorable. They did a good job connecting as siblings, teasing each other and saying “ew!” at the idea of their parents having sex. I actually enjoyed James Lastovic again! Another reason for Stephanie to come back for good!

So many great little moments: Steve catching the bouquet, Stephanie tearing up during the ceremony, Joey telling Steve to “man up.” I loved Steve calling everyone to dance, and watching the all the couples together. I wanted “The Rose” or “When Your Heart Comes Out Tonight” but I was glad they got a song.

But, I have to say my favorite part was the vows. This is no surprise, since Stephen and Mary Beth apparently wrote them themselves. It showed. I loved Kayla’s reference to how the first time they got married, she thought she knew everything. I don’t know if that’s 100% true of when they got married, but it’s very, very true of their early story. Kayla was very, very sure they belonged together (she had to be to be keep at it through all the obstacles he threw at her) and didn’t quite get what a painful journey it was going to be. I loved that we saw that journey — from certainty to doubt, but then taking the plunge again anyway knowing the risks.

For Steve, I loved the line “You chipped and chipped away at that armor and you started to show me the best parts of myself. Parts I didn’t even know were there.” One thing that sometimes irks me is when people say Kayla “reformed” Steve or “saved” him. She didn’t; she just revealed to him who he really was. It’s a fine distinction but I think an important one.

I was going to go on from here to complaining about the rest of the show, but I’ll save that for next time. Instead, I’ll leave you with this:

skwedding

Sigh. So beautiful.

Screencaps LizK  and NBC