Conspiracy Theories

We viewers have our own WTD story going on right now: Who’s the Dickwad? Is it Ken Corday, or Hogan Sheffer?

What’s wrong with the Days of the past three months can be summed up thusly: stalled storylines, lack of cast balance, dropped storylines, gaps in the stories—e.g. reaction scenes, explanations of motives. (Days’ larger problems—cartoonishness, twuwuv4eva, motiveless villains, story retreads—are too much for me to go into here.)

Let’s start with the sidelining of the four longtime vets on the show–Bo, Hope, John, Marlena. Last fall, all four of these actors were in heavy rotation, especially Bo and Hope. In January, they were still on fairly frequently (even coma-bound John!), mostly as supporting players to the Shelle-on-the-run story, but it felt natural. In February, they dropped off the face of the earth and have been seen only in Maggie-type supporting roles ever since—except for Marlena’s dream sequence (which I have tried to block out of my mind) and a small scene last week of Bo and Hope in their house, nothing has been from their point of view. Instead we have three stories in heavy rotation—Steve and Kayla, Shelle, and Nick and Chelsea. And honorable mention goes to EJ, who is everywhere.

I heard from some ATWT viewers (where Sheffer was headwriter before Days) that Sheffer doesn’t like to write for vets. But he has used other vets, just not these four. I’ve also heard that Sheffer likes to play favorites. That may be true, and is a possible explanation for the lack of balance.

Another explanation I heard is that Bo and Hope and John and Marlena are just played out. Sheffer can’t come up with any more ideas for them—they’ve done everything, multiple times, and there’s just nothing left. This theory is the easiest to discredit, because all four players had roles to play in the stories of the last three months—in fact their absence was extremely odd in some cases. Read a cogent analysis of the sloppy backburnering of the Big Four.

My feeling is that it simply cannot be a coincidence that these four players are the four most expensive players on the show. In January, I read an internet rumor that Ken Corday cannot afford to pay their salaries, and that’s why they were being sidelined. This doesn’t really make sense, given what I know about contract players and how they are paid. They are guaranteed a salary equivalent to (say) three days a week. The show doesn’t have to use them that often, but they have to pay for it regardless. It doesn’t make sense to not use them, or not pay them and risk a lawsuit.

Here’s my conspiracy theory: Ken Corday, and I actually can’t fault him for this (just this), needs to either bring ratings up or bring the budget down. He sent Marlena and John off for the summer last year, and ratings remained stable. Ratings, in fact, barely budged for all of 2006, bouncing between 2.4 and 2.7 all year despite a lot of changes. I think he decided to see if ratings would still remain stable if he sent the big four off the canvas for three months. I don’t think he’s saving any money on them now, but it was an experiment to see if he could send them away permanently and save a huge chunk of money.

I think he was stupid enough to do it at the last minute—my guess is right after Kevin Reilly dropped his little bombshell about the cancellation in 2009—and left Sheffer to scramble to still tell his stories without these four. This would explain the odd absence of the four in stories they should be inextricably involved in.

This decision would have also left a huge hole in airtime. The anvils we were seeing back in December and January (speculation here!)—the “second assassin” being Steve, John knowing this but only able to tell Marlena in a dream (groan), Marlena getting involved with Steve’s treatment, Sami’s attempt to set up EJ—all pointed to a continuation of the “get EJ” storyline we were watching last fall. The Shelle/Claire story may have been meant to step into the front burner for a few months, but I think the EJ story was meant to continue along the lines it started, with Steve brainwashed, Sami trying to help the police by tricking EJ, John waking up in February with a crucial piece of information, and Kayla and Marlena trying to help Steve and get EJ at the same time.

So, without the “get EJ” storyline, Sheffer and Corday had to scramble to replace it with something. Steve and Kayla’s story and Sami’s story are both linked closely to EJ, and if his story was delayed, it follows that their stories would also be put in a holding pattern. This is precisely what has occurred, especially with Steve and Kayla.

I had high hopes for S&K’s storyline, but it makes no sense to do a brainwashed-by-the-Dimeras storyline and have EJ have so little use for Steve. In my fantasy world, Steve is living happily, for the most part, with Kayla, except he has disturbing flashbacks and dreams. He doesn’t know it (and maybe neither do we?), but occasionally EJ sneaks in and makes him to do something, which he has no memory of afterward. Then something really terrible happens (perhaps even this kidneynapping), and the evidence points to Steve.

Anyway, the fact that Steve’s story has been reduced to hangin’ with the loonies and being mean to Kayla certainly speaks to a lack of imagination on Sheffer’s part, but I would cut him a lot of slack if he had to come up with something for Steve and Kayla that could happen in isolation.

Sami’s interminable secret keeping has also been stuck in a holding pattern, at least until recently. Now she’s plotting EJ’s death. My theory is that a who-killed-EJ story, which the show seems to be gearing up for, is a last-minute replacement to the Dimera story. (I could be wrong about this, because another explanation for EJ running amok and no one doing anything about it is to give as many different characters a motive as possible.) Sheffer’s stated intention was to make Lucas and Sami the comic relief of the show, which we certainly haven’t seen. That makes me think that what Sami and Lucas are doing now is not what was originally planned.

Shelle have been stuck on that island forever, having the same conversation over and over. Now, though their story isn’t doing much for me, it’s not really related to EJ, and so it being stalled doesn’t really support my conspiracy theory. Although it’s possible their return might have been delayed because Shawn really does have some crucial piece of evidence against EJ. But this one might just be a bad idea badly executed.

However, I think the reason that Chick has been working for the most part is that it is relatively unaffected by the absence of the big four. This story also seems the most Sheffer-like to me, in that characters are reacting believably, lots of things are happening, secrets aren’t being kept very long, and it is chugging along quickly (perhaps too quickly, but that’s a subject for a different post).

So, who’s the dickwad? Do you have to ask?

My hope (curse that natural optimism!) is that Ken Corday will concede that his experiment failed, and we will see this summer the story that was meant for spring. The few little story seeds we’ve seen this spring—Stefano’s failing health, Shawn providing evidence against EJ and Patrick, Phillip and EJ working together, Steve’s memory, Sami trying to trick EJ—could be joined with all those dropped story threads from last fall, and the who-killed-EJ story could lead right into a “Dimeras vs. supercouples” story.


22 thoughts on “Conspiracy Theories

  1. That’s an interesting theory. I wish the real truth would come out, if only to get people to stop doing the “blame game” on ratings drops are S&K’s fault (or even Shelle’s fault for that matter) or “Hogan sucks” because he wasn’t sucking for almost 6 months and the weird direction everything took at Sweeps month was just dumb.

    I will allow anyone that wants to to blame Corday. 🙂

  2. Works for me, maryp! You just know it’s a bad sign when even your husband, who really doesn’t pay attention, is aware that the show is stuck in a rut.

  3. Your theory is certainly plausible. It fits in with the dramatic drop in pace and worsening of balance we saw around mid-January. The budget rumors don’t hold water because (as you said), the vets get paid their contractual guarantees regardless of airtime. However, I could see Corday experimenting with a cheaper show so as to make it more attractive to another network. Obviously, he gravely miscalculated the impact of sidelining the show’s 4 biggest stars at such a critical time.

    I think there are a few reasons why he got away with it last summer but not now:
    1) J&M were the ONLY major couple to be sidelined last summer. Bo and Hope still had a story and there was also the excitement surrounding S&K’s return to boost the show.
    2) Ratings are traditionally higher during the summer months
    3) The Jack/Steve storyline was very popular and probably compensated for the adverse impact of J&M’s absense.
    4) The backburnering of the big 4 has come on the heels of a major cast exodus. Many of the departing actors (especially Ashford, Reeves & Cook) have taken big fanbases with them. When DAYS got its decent ratings last summer, the exodus had not yet begun.

    The one thing that makes me doubt this theory is Hogan’s silence on the matter. Corday is usually evasive in his interviews but on this occasion, he told the mags point-blank that the sidelining of the “big 4” was Hogan’s decision. It seems strange that a straight-talker like Hogan would allow Corday to besmirch his reputation…unless he really is to blame.

  4. Well, I’m not sure what Hogan can say at this point. I can’t beleive it was Hogan’s decision because both Hogan and Corday were stating how all 3 couples were going to be headlining a huge story fairly soon. Someone made a directional change. Does Hogan have the power to make such a dramatic shift? Not without Corday’s approval. And even if Hogan did do it, I can’t believe there was nothing else to go in it’s place.

    The man came in this summmer and took over floundering storylines with a few week’s notice. I find it hard to believe if he changed directions and sidelined major characters, he would do so without having something substantial to go in their place.

    I do think many people have forgotten about the number of actors who have quit/fired though.

  5. If I were Sheffer and Corday, I would stop looking at the ticking time clock. Then I would agree on who the contract cast was for the next year and write for them, and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t bring in any newbies other than day players here and there to support storylines, just write for the cast you already have for one full year. And only let death or other unavoidable issues muck up planned out storylines.

    If Days would put out a consistent product for one year, I bet we would be looking at a different picture at the end of that time.

  6. Interesting analysis, MP.

    It’s fairly well known that I place almost all of the blame at Corday’s feet. I base this almost entirely on the 2007 preview issue of SOD where Corday said flat out that HOGAN was placing the show in the hands of the three major couples. Now, I’ll grant you, it wasn’t date specific, but the preview covered what was supposed to happen in the first three months of 2007, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to conclude that the statement was intended to apply to those same months. And, January started out just as Corday described (the three supercouples shown as parents first and then evolving into an umbrella story).

    Then, February arrives and . . . nothing. It just doesn’t make sense to me that this was what Hogan had planned. So, until someone can prove otherwise, the Dickwad is Corday.

    That’s not to say that Hogan doesn’t get any of the blame, because he does. His hand may have been forced, but he should have been able to come up with a better way of stalling things. Heck, just having the cast he’s allowed to use interact more would have been a start. But, it didn’t work that way.

    That said, I’m willing to give Hogan another shot because we had a nice glimpse of what he can do last fall. It was working then, and the ratings proved that. There is no reason it can’t work again if somebody would just let it.

  7. It has to be Corday (even though IA with esp13, above). The common factor over the last set of headwriters, the cartoonish direction Days has headed, etc. etc. isn’t any one headwriter. It’s Corday.

    I just commented to a friend that it’s not just the writing that has suffered since mid-January. The production values have significantly decreased as well. There was some gorgeous lighting and set work back in the fall and winter, (and yes, some real doozies, but all in all. . .) and now–blah, blah, blah.

  8. I think what’s depressing is that, looking back, even though things weren’t perfect, there was a lot of energy to the show last fall. And things seemed to be getting steadily better. I had hope for the future. Now, I still have hope, but it’s more a “hoping against hope” kind of thing.

    Believe me, I had some nuttier conspiracy theories I didn’t include in my essay. One was that Corday was still holding a grudge against SN and MBE for leaving when they did back in 90/92 (just as he was coming on board) and for implying they left because they didn’t like the direction their characters were taking. I have heard that Corday is a big one for nursing grudges and I thought maybe he set up this whole thing so they would get all the ire of B/H, J/M fans and he could fire them in disgrace. Then I decided that was a little too out there.

    I was trying to think logically about all this, and really the only reason to not showcase Bo/Hope/John/Marlena is money—not now, obviously because they have contracts, but later. And who benefits from a cheaper show? But it might be a mistake to try to apply logic to Corday, because I’ve heard that he is constantly promising a great story involving the vets, and delivering only more Shelle (that was laward on TWoP who said that).

    I wasn’t watching through the 90’s and the early 2000’s, so I’m really not the best one to pass judgment on the quality of those years. But as julianscat says, the common factor since 1992 is Ken Corday, and that by itself says a lot.

  9. This is all interesting and I haven’t had time to consider the behind the scenes stuff in depth – other than to know that contractually it makes no sense to have the big 4 off long-term, they work on 13 week contract cycles, so them being on heavily in one part of that cycle would make sense money-wise, but not them disappearing through the whole quarter.

    Money-wise they also appear to being paying James Scott way too little because he’s on literally every day, and while I can appreciate that on several fronts, I am also sick of it on several others.

    Though all I really know is that I’ve caught up my watching mighty quickly over the last couple of weeks because there has been mass fast forwarding even of characters I like. Really the only things I’ve been in anyway compelled by over the last couple of weeks have been Nick/Chelsea, a little of Max/Abby, and moments of Steve/Kayla. A little. And Moments.

    And whatever the cause that needs to change, particularly given that they’ve shown us what they can do in the second half of last year and then suddenly there was this late January fall into a ditch. Which must be explicable, and maryp your explanation could be as good as any other, but that explanation is just not quite apparent yet.

    As for a prospective who killed EJ story, I think it would be who shot/otherwise injured EJ rather than who killed him – they can put EJ in a coma next to John and give James Scott some well earned time off – but I really don’t see where else it can be going, because they’re writing themselves into that corner with Sami’s story.

  10. I agree there have been glimmers in the past two months, like Kayla and Max’s trip to Italy. I think Sami and Celeste have been fun to watch. Like I said in my post I think Chick has been working for the most part. It seems like one episode out of 3 (or 4 or 5) is really terrific—even if nothing much happens. But then the ones in between are so blah it just brings it all down.

    I try not to FF but I admit my finger was hovering over the remote during the “Steve & crazies” scenes this week. I managed to resist though.

    I should clarify I don’t think they’re going to kill EJ—just an attempt on his life, as you say. I was just saying “kill” for brevity.

  11. Last week is a perfect example of the yo-yo nature of this show right now. We had three really good days (at least IMO) with Kayla’s car “accident.” Lots of character interactions, Steve breaking out of the hospital and going after EJ, people putting pieces of the puzzle together. It was really all pretty good stuff.

    Then, it just stops. And we get Steve in the looney bin, and more debate about a hairbrush (I love Chick, but the hairbrush thing is killing me) and yet another psycho apparently wants Shawn and/or Claire. And it all seems so much worse becomes it comes after something so good.

  12. I want to just keep hating Corday. Can I do that? I’m not ready to hate Hogan…even if he is to blame some for what he has turned out he’s given us S&K in some fashion as well as Chick.

    The hairbrush thing is killing me too. I’m wondering if they think this is their way of writing in a MacGuffin but I’ve never seen one so discussed and analyzed before. It’s driving me nuts and almost ruining Chick for me.

  13. Can someone give me an objective description of Corday, I mean, not his looks, but what kind of person he is. I read a lot about him from viewers and although I’ve been a Days fan from the 80s (sporadically watched after Steve “died”) I’ve never really paid attention to Kenny baby. Really, is he worth the time?

    I really want to know more about him and if if I have to hate him or not.


  14. I can’t seperate his person/professional qualities so I will discuss them in tandem.

    *He genuinely cares about the show and keeping it on the air but has never had a creative vision of his own for it. He’s easily influenced by the opinions of others (though not viewers).
    *He tends to let the headwriter have free reign but interferes sporadically when he wants a particular couple/character to be pimped.
    *Unlike most executive producers, he takes little interest in the production/creative process. He tends to delegate authority to others (first Al Rabin, then Tom Langan, now Wyman)
    * He lies alot. Look over his past magazine interviews and they read like a catalogue of broken promises. He’s very good at pacifying fans with silver-tongued comments but rarely delivers on these.
    *The cast seem to genuinely like him as a person and speak warmly of him. They seldom praise his skills as an EP, though.

    Overall, he strikes me as an affable person but one who is painfully ill-suited for his position. I think he sees DAYS more as a burden left to him by his parents than a rewarding career.

  15. Ponz, that sounds fair. All I know is from what people say on message boards and what I guess based on his handling of the show. I think you hit the nail on the head with your first comment: “He genuinely cares about the show and keeping it on the air but has never had a creative vision of his own for it. He’s easily influenced by the opinions of others (though not viewers).”

    I think he’s also living in a fantasy world to some extent, and thinks that Days will hit 4.0 again. And he thinks there is a magic *something* that will make that happen.

  16. so he’s a man with no vision and couldn’t care less about the legacy left by his parents?

    Boy! At his age he should be thinking of HIS own legacy. One that is positive and not one that will make people hurl at the sound of his name.

    Poor man. Does he have kids to leave Days with?

  17. Ok, I’m just going to throw this out here now…but your conspiracy theory seems to have gotten a huge boost based on the spoilers I read on where we are going now with S&K.

    I’m very impressed!!

  18. Oooh, interesting, Tripp. I can’t wait to see what you mean.

    daggerrose, regarding Corday: I think he does care about the show, he just has no idea how to be a leader and has no creative vision of his own. It’s sad. The strangest thing is his constant lies to the press—saying things are going to happen on the show that don’t, in fact, happen. That just seems like a common sense thing to me.

    I don’t know if he has kids or not.

  19. It’s interesting, but all of the actors seem to have a lot of affection for Ken. I mean both Judi Evans and Renee Jones sang his praises when they were fired. Okay, they weren’t necessarily singing his praises as EP, but just how much they loved him and would love to come back to work for him. Yet, he allows the show to tank and repeatedly lies to fans. Very strange combination.

  20. I read some comments like that, too, esp. Even Hogan said in one of his interviews last fall that Ken was a great guy to work for. Bet he’s not saying that now.

    He probably is a nice guy—who knows? Or he could be like the Bush Administration: if you’re not 100% loyal, you’re out.

  21. I would say nice things about the boss who was firing me, too, if I worked in an ever-tightening industry with only about eight employers and . Did we ever hear about RJ landing at Y&R, or did that not pan out for her?

    There was an odd story around the time when RJ left about the cakes at the good-bye parties at DOOL. Apparently if they put your picture on the cake, the door is open for you to return at some point — and presumably that’s the signal to start sucking up to the big boss in the press. There was a pic in one of the mags — both RJ and Rhasaan got picture cakes.

    I’m still hoping someone writes us a book when this is all over, and now I’m hoping it’s SN. I bet he wouldn’t do it unless he was really done with soaps, but it would be awesome.

  22. As far as I know, RJ is not going to Y&R, but I tend to not be up on these things.

    Faces on cakes, huh? I’m always learning something new here! I’m thinking that since most of the firings lately have been for financial reasons, they would leave the door open for most of these people to come back.

    I’d love to read a tell-all behind the scenes book. We know SN can write from his plog, so he seems like a good candidate.

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