I never once thought about the importance of pacing on soaps until I started watching Days again two years ago. Under JER, all you need to know about his pacing is that it gave rise to the word “monthday” on TWoP. I remember the first week I started watching, Marlena was in her penthouse in a white bathrobe all week long, with notRoman I (Wayne Northrup), notRoman II (Drake Hogestyn), and really notRoman (Josh Taylor) assembled around her. Each episode ended with Dee saying, with that small, smug half-smile of hers: “Now I know the man with whom I am going to spend my life.” Freeze frame on the three men. End credits.

I still shudder to think about it. People like to joke about Hope’s year-long pregnancy with Ciara. Since Bo is the baby’s father, and Bo and Hope were estranged starting with Zack’s death in early January 2006, the baby must have been conceived in late December 2005. Since Ciara was born in December of 2006, that makes for a twelve-month gestation. However, in June of 2006, when Hope first exhibited her classic pregnancy-signaling faint, she couldn’t have been more than three months along (not on that skeletal frame!). Hogan’s decision to make the baby born in December, in that case, makes perfect sense. It is Hope’s uncertainty about the paternity of the baby that doesn’t make sense. In “real” time there would have been a full three months between sleeping with Bo and sleeping with Patrick.

Blame the monthday.

When Hogan started as headwriter, it was like a whirlwind came through Salem. Suddenly, things were happening, big things. It was a Wednesday, I believe, where the big reveal happened that Sami was the one who blackmailed Lexie into telling Carrie that any babies she had with Austin would be deformed (I can never find a non-convoluted way to write that). After JER, I was so excited! I felt I couldn’t miss a day! This was the life!

But then the doubts started to creep in. Last summer, halfway through an episode, Lucas—who was in the hospital for some reason or other—tried to get out of bed and found he couldn’t walk. Two minutes later, he was fine. Huh? Is this a soap or what? Tease me a little, why don’t you?

If JER drew out the suspense so long that by the time the payoff happened I didn’t care anymore, Hogan had a way of rushing the big reveal to the point where I didn’t have time to care in the first place. Add to this his tendency to skip crucial reaction and aftermath scenes, and you have a ship that is careering madly toward … nothing much. (To be fair, under Ed Scott, Hogan’s pacing improved immensely.)

Say Sami is in trouble and she calls Roman for help. Under JER Roman would tell seven people that Sami had called him and how he hoped nothing was wrong (cut to Sami lying nearly dead on the floor), and have ten flashbacks to the phone call on the way over there. Under Hogan we’d see the phone call and Roman would use one of the Salem wormholes to show up in the next frame. We might not even see his arrival at all! He would just suddenly be there and everything would be taken care of.

Can’t we find a happy medium?

Under Higley, the jury is still out. She’s certainly closer to JER than to Hogan. I am rather enjoying being teased with the little appearances of the mysterious woman who upsets Steve so much. I did NOT, however, enjoy the artificial suspense around Bo’s cancer two weeks ago, when Kayla was a doctor cut from Lexie’s cloth: full of vague, dire pronouncements, so we didn’t even know who was sick, let alone what he was sick with or how serious it was. (It was a relief when they mentioned an actual disease this week. I thought we might be in Jack Deveraux territory).

This week we had a plane take all week to crash, which I think is acceptable. Though it makes it rather more painful when we have to listen to the same dialogue loops: “No, you take the oxygen!” “No, you!” “I should go up and help Steve and John.” “No, stay with me.” “Okay, but I’ll go up if I have to!” The best part was John standing over the unconscious Steve with that oxygen mask in his hand—though I didn’t like poor Steve going up to the cockpit to help and immediately passing out. Some hero! I was truly in suspense wondering if John would save Steve’s life or not. (I am actually enjoying John being an asshole, does that make me a bad person?)

And I have to point out that Steve’s bandana is just about the cutest thing ever:


5 thoughts on “Pacemaker

  1. I think the plane crash week could have been squeezed into a couple of episodes, maybe three. But I can’t complain about that at all. Days has always spread out big events at least over weeks which I first noticed during the Cruise of Deception (or someone pointed out to me they remained in the lifeboat all week).

    JERk was the worst. I never had a problem with his first controversial storyline on days, Carly’s buried alive story but looking back she was underground for at least a week or even two. Then he got worse and worse and worse.

    Hogan was just the opposite extreme. Higley might be a happy middle, if I trusted her to write good stories and not screw everyone up.

  2. I’ve actually kind of liked the buildup on the plane this week. Yeah, it could have been compressed a little bit more, but it wasn’t too bad. It’s fun to watch the tension build bit by bit as more and more things go wrong. And, SnarkyJohn has been fun pretty much all the way through.

    I did enjoy Hogan’s pacing in many ways (and at it’s worst, it was still better the JERk), but as time wore on the number of missed reactions became harder to justify and ignore. Thus far, I think we’ve gotten a decent balance of moving the story along and still getting the necessary reaction scenes. It’s not perfect (the J&M scenes in the hospital definitely could have been compressed, Sami and Lucas didn’t need to say goodbye 3 or 4 times, etc.), but I can’t really complain.

    Like Tripp, I wish I could have trust in Higley to keep the good pacing and not screw up the characters. Because, right now, I’m really liking most of what is going on and I’d like to have hope that I’m going to continue to like it. But I don’t, not yet.

  3. I too have been enjoying the show this week for the most part. With all this disaster, the simplistic dialogue makes perfect sense. And John has gotten some good one-liners.

    There have even been a few moments where I thought “Hogan would have skipped this” like Victor calling Bo about Chelsea being off the hook. I like having those reaction scenes.

    I always hear that Higley writes Events not stories. Well, this is certainly an event—we’ll see what happens after this.

  4. I read your blog often and though I sometimes disagree with what you write, I enjoy seeing what you have to say, and I think you’re an excellent writer. I think you’re 100% on the mark regarding the pacing. I am a Marlena fan and follow the “Marlena outfit system” to determine “days”, and I can tell you that JER’s monthdays were not an exaggeration at all. Plots would move ever so slowly until the payoffs, which would happen during the last week of sweeps. I often marveled at the fact that Christmas would come one “day” after Thanksgiving, or that Valentines Day would lead into St. Patrick’s day almost immediately.

    Sheffer, in my mind, paced the show way too quickly, especially to an audience coming off of the JER system. Events happened offscreen – unheard of in JERland!- and multiple “days” took place in a week. I found it dizzying and difficult to keep up with. Judging by the ratings, viewers did as well. If a viewer thinks that missing a day of the show means missing too much of the plot, the viewer will be less inclined to tune in the next day to catch up.

    The current writers have been pacing the show very well, in my opinion. A nice use of flashbacks, yet not too many JER-style flashbacks to the day before. “Days” last a week, not a month. However, my only complaint is that the pacing seems to be erratic, which is disconcerting to the viewers. Marlena found John almost instantly in Stefano’s basement, yet after that, John was in the hospital with not much to do for over a week. Once the pacing levels out, though, I expect the viewers and the ratings to respond accordingly.

    Thanks again for your insightful blog!

  5. Thank you, Ellie!

    It’s no secret that I’m not J&M’s biggest fan, but I will admit that their current storyline is more engaging than anything else they’ve had since I’ve been watching again. I agree with you that I was mystified when Marlena found John so quickly and then they spent all those days in the hospital right afterward, going over the same ground.

    I hope Higley really will be a happy medium. I have to throw out a shout-out to Leah Laiman (HW 1986-89), the HW who I think was the master at drawing out suspense, and then giving us the payoff at just the right time. She did it in her long story arcs, and in the day to day stuff too. I’m always struck by it when I watch clips from that time.

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