I have been waiting for the official announcement that Dena Higley (or whoever) is the new headwriter. But since it appears that Hogan Sheffer in all likelihood is totally out, I thought I would take a moment and pay tribute to the guy.
I don’t want to rehash his plotting problems, problems with rushing and balance, storytelling mistakes like the EJami rape, dropped story threads, and the like. I’m not even going to talk about his superior dialogue, which I am still missing. Instead I just want to give him credit for one thing he did absolutely right: Chelsea’s redemption.
Back in late 2005, when I first started watching again, Chelsea had been revealed to be the miscarried child of Billie and Bo, buried in a Louisiana swamp in 1998, but somehow revived, SORASed, and given to another Salem family to raise (by Stefano, naturally). All of this earned her the not-so-affectionate nickname SwampFetus on the boards. She was “friends” with Abby and dating Max, but I never saw what on earth either of them saw in her. She was, to put it simply, a one-note, raging bitch.
She was also a very bad driver. After one minor accident left her without a license, she guilted Bo into signing off on a temporary license, borrowed his car, and immediately mowed down her little brother Zack. I never thought that was totally her fault (how about the people who were supposed to be looking after him?), but the stuff that happened afterwards was unbearable to the extreme. Thinking that if she broke up Bo and Hope’s marriage it would make her father more likely to side with her, she and Kate engaged in a tiresome series of schemes to break up Bo and Hope. Naturally, this being Days under JER, it worked.
And so it went, until Hogan came on board. Then little layers started appearing. We started hearing about the Benson’s, Chelsea’s adoptive family, and how she felt about their deaths. We saw her pay, not for her mistakes, but for trying to do the right thing (reveal that Shawn was Claire’s father). She stopped dating her uncle. Chelsea’s bitchiness morphed into a very welcome snarkiness. (She was the only voice of reason for Billie during the Billie/Steve/Kayla triangle. Too bad Billie didn’t listen.) We saw Chelsea gradually make peace with her mother, her father, and Hope.
Then there was Nick. Their love story was rushed and cluttered with too many obstacles, but the character of Nick, played by an actor who could match Rachel Melvin on all levels (and who has great chemistry with her), was a breath of fresh air on the show. I loved how their interaction let us see two flawed people be drawn to each other, and bring out the best and worst in each other. There was, and remains, so much internal conflict between those two that could be mined for future storylines. I only hope the new writer realizes what she has.
Except for the few months where Chelsea flirted with glitter-dom during the Jett triangle, Hogan avoided the over-redemption trap. Chelsea was good without being neutered, as we saw during the Ford Decker storyline, when she tried to tackle the problem in any way she could think of. Her actions there were always understandable and even admirable, but sometimes had bad consequences anyway. Hogan also generally avoided the annoying “propping”-style redemption, where a character is redeemed through having everyone on the show smile fondly at them and say how great they are.
Of course a lot of credit goes to Rachel Melvin, who made the most of these layers. But if it weren’t for Hogan, she never would have gotten the chance.