My daughter watched part of Wednesday’s show with me, and when I explained to her about Chad’s brainwashing, she shook her head and said, “Mom, why do you watch this show?” So, thanks a lot, Days, for putting me in a position to be judged by a 10 year old.
These stories are definitely Dena Higley material. Back in her last run, we had Ava, Nighttime Hope, and pawn John. Now we have Ava, revenge Hope, and brainwashed Chad. Marlena’s role of “believing in John” “I have to get through to him” — while John treated her horribly — has a perfect echo in Abby now. Higley also featured a business storyline with Kate, with Madison as her younger rival, similar to Theresa now — down to also being Brady’s love interest.
Repeating herself is only one problem, though. After all, soaps recycle stories by the dozens. Another Higley staple is the way she moves people around like chess pieces, leaving it up to the viewer to understand why these people are behaving like they are. Why do Steve and Kayla forgive Ava, and more importantly, believe that she’s truly repentant? Why is Kate persecuting and possibly sabotaging Theresa? Why is Marlena willing to believe Chad is conspiring with the Dimeras? Why is Belle so eager to jump into dating other men? What is driving Phillip to be Mr. Bad Business guy, to the point of breaking the law? Why doesn’t he run screaming from Belle, who cheated on him once before? Why is Abby obsessing about Chad and nothing else? Why is Eric drinking? Why is everyone so eager to believe Theresa has changed?
No wonder Higley likes brainwashing, memory-erasing, “the pills made me do it” stories so much — with stories like these, you don’t even have to think about character!
The degree to which these things are working — and some of them are — is dependent mostly on the actors selling it, the scriptwriters who fill in some blanks, and how much fanwanking is required. I see many Chabby fans filling in the blanks about Abby’s motivations. Steve had a lovely speech about forgiveness (and I loved Kayla’s speech on Thursday about forgiving Ava so she would leave town). Martha Madison is selling me on Belle’s eagerness for male attention in the wake of her divorce. But so many things we just have to take on faith.
Incidentally, in Higley’s last run, this “move the chess pieces” contributed to my biggest pet peeve — the quick coupling and uncoupling that everyone went through. Dena decides that so and so is in love with so and so, and bam! Done.
It makes me wonder if Dena and Josh, far from being collaborators, divided up the show by month. Josh took September, October, and November, and Dena took December, and …
This is where it gets interesting. It was announced on August 16 that Higley would be taking a leave of absence. According to Jason47’s tape-to-air schedule, that corresponds with material that will air at the end of January/beginning of February. Inquiring minds want to know if what we are watching now didn’t go over so well with TPTB, and they eased Higley out, giving her this face-saving cover story. (They are also probably still paying her, since writer contracts don’t have the “outs” that actor contracts do.)
Part of me is very doubtful about this theory, simply because TPTB, in my opinion, would judge her success based on ratings, not on whether they personally liked these stories. But, the exception would be Josh Griffith, since his name is on these stories too. Does he want his reputation tied to brainwashing Chad with kittens? He might have lobbied some higher-up to let him have full control, and won.
If that’s true, more power to him! If I’m right that Griffith’s material is what we saw in Sept-Nov, I would take that any day of the week over what we’ve seen the last month. There is only one thing that I would say Higley does better than Griffith, and that is balancing out airtime. This is not insignificant, because it did annoy me that we had two A stories for those three months (Chabby/Ben and the Steve/Bo return), and everything else was absolutely starved for oxygen.
But think about this. We had two men who were given character 180s within those three months — Aiden and Ben. And they both worked! The difference is that we saw the transformation happen. It happened quickly but we saw it happen. It wasn’t just “Ben took some pills so he’s crazy now” like we saw with Nick (and Hope, and Ava …)
One thing that I had heard about Dena even before her last run is that she “writes events, not stories.” I would agree, but I would also add that she writes events rather well. That brings me to the last two days. I love events where the whole town gets together. I thought this was better than the bicentennial in that way —
First of all, I know he wears it all the time but, damn, Steve looks good in basic black:
Some great little moments for Steve and Kayla. I loved Steve’s new year’s resolution, “Stay put, and not screw up.” (And John was really cute saying, “Hey, that was gonna be mine.”) I loved when Kayla told Steve, “I was scared about given you my heart again, but the truth is you’ve always had it.” It makes me nervous how adorable and happy Steve and Kayla have been, though. The last time I remember a couple being this over the moon happy was Haiden in the summer — and we all know how that turned out.
We got to see Eric and Nicole in the same frame:
Though it just makes my heart hurt now, thinking about what could have been.
Boy, were the anvils dropping that Daniel is going to die. When does a character on a soap ever say that his life is “perfect” except when something awful is about to happen? The video call to Nicole, seconds before the crash, was really stupid. A voicemail or phone call would have worked fine. Obviously I’m not a Danicole fan so maybe none of this would have worked for me anyway, but they have been on so little that I don’t feel at all that Nicole is having her hard-earned happiness snatched from her. That seems to be what they are going for.
Daniel and Nicole’s relationship, Eric’s drinking, we’ve only seen these things in little bits and snatches. (And what was Jennifer doing there?) The setup to the big car crash has been very sketchy. But I have to admit the crash was a great, dramatic cliffhanger for the end of the episode. This is clearly going to be a Dena-style Event (like the plane crash in 2008) that creates ripples all over the canvas, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
I thought the reveal of Thomas’s parentage was sloppily done. It felt slapped together, almost an afterthought. Ben the serial killer takes time away from plotting Abby’s kidnapping to donate blood! Hey, that makes sense! But I did enjoy this scene:
I liked that they made it clear before Abby went over there that she wasn’t expecting this news to magically make things right for her and Chad. “I can’t even think about that.” That set the scene nicely, so that instead of being devastated and running away in tears, she stayed and scolded them both. “You barely know her” and “You’re married!” Hee! And I thought Billy and Martha played their reactions perfectly.
I’ve had such a fun year blogging and discussing the show with all of you, and I look forward to more in 2016! Happy New Year, everybody!