Days has a new producer, Ed Scott, previously of Y&R. What does a producer do? You got me. Apparently anything from script changes, lighting changes, giving actors feedback, and helping the directors set up shots. Stephen Nichols sounds very excited about the changes he’s bringing to the show.
Let me rewind for a moment and talk about the last big executive change at Days, when Hogan Sheffer was brought on as headwriter. Sheffer has been good and bad, but the change in the show from last spring could not be greater. Given that the producing team working behind him is the same one that worked behind James E. Reilly, I give Hogan credit for almost every positive change in the show in the past year. If JER at his worst is a “0” and Days circa the Stockholm storyline is a “10” I would put Days right now at a solid 5. That is a significant improvement.
If I had to sum up Sheffer’s biggest problem, it would be this: short attention span. Where he shines is at the episode level. There have been many, many episodes over the past year that I wouldn’t be ashamed to compare to 80’s Days. Hogan has also had some very nice mini-storylines, that last a week or a few days. What’s missing is that sense of accelerating toward a climax, that all this is going somewhere. When I look back, I see that storylines have made progress, but instead of a smooth forward trajectory of setup/conflict/climax/resolution, it’s more like zigzags interspersed with sudden starts and equally sudden stops. This negatively affects the slow build required for a true romantic story, a redemption story, or even just a good payoff to a dramatic story.
His short attention span, I feel, also leads to sloppy execution. I always feel, even when nothing much is happening, a sense of impatience in the stories. Quick, quick, on to the next thing! Motivations will be left hanging (why did Nick suddenly believe Chelsea about not setting the fire?), the ramifications of the event will be left unexplored (what is the status of Chelsea and Billie’s relationship? Who knows!), and it will all happen so fast that there is no time for emotional investment or even dramatic suspense to build for us, the viewers. For example, when Hogan does a cliffhanger they’re often not much better than JER’s false tags: we know that Bo is not going to be blown up by a bomb. A bomb is not inherently suspenseful. You have to set up some other source for the suspense: like Bo finds out the bomb is inside the tabernacle and is frantically trying to get to Hope to warn her at the same time she’s desperately trying to get the key back from Andre so she can open the tabernacle. Who will open it? Will Hope be hurt? Will Andre? Will the clues inside be destroyed when the bomb goes off? Will Bo get there in time? If he does, will they be able to disarm the bomb and get the clues out?
Then there’s the problem behind the story balance. This is where I picture Hogan like a kid with ADD, hyperfocusing on one story at a time. OMG Nick and Chelsea are soooo interesting! I have ten days of material for Nick and Chelsea and I’m going to put it all on at once! And no matter who else is on that week it feels like they’re shoved in between the cracks of the Nick and Chelsea show. Then the ten days are up, and no matter where he left the story, he’s lost interest. And the next time Nick and Chelsea are on, the energy just isn’t there. It can still be good, but there’s no momentum carryover from their ten days on in a row.
So why am I talking about this? Based on Stephen’s comments it sounds like Ed Scott is a hands-on guy, a detail-oriented guy. I hope that he will resolve some of the issues Days has with sloppy execution, because all it takes is a little extra care with the details. Showing motivations, considering ramifications, milking drama out of the plot points as they occur. This is not difficult, it just takes patience and follow-through.
What is more difficult, and probably more crucial for Days’ long term success, is addressing the issues of storyline structure and the slow build to romantic relationships and character development, what could be called the “vision thing.” Ideally our executive producer, Ken Corday, in concert with his headwriter, would be supplying this. That’s not gonna happen. And maybe it’s too much to hope for that Ed Scott, in addition to being a details guy, could be a big picture guy. But hope springs eternal.
Note: I probably won’t be able to post again before I go on vacation next week to South Carolina. But I’ll be back in time to see Ed Scott’s first episodes of work, on August 29!