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.