Higley Piggely

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!




22 thoughts on “Higley Piggely

  1. Thank you for so eloquently summing up what I’m feeling about the past month of shows. So many great seeds have been planted, but before fully exploring them, the writers quickly wrap them up or just leave them hanging. Characters’ history and motivation are ignored. We get kittens and nuclear explosions.

    Did you see this Michael Fairman interview with BF, KM, SN, and MBE? http://michaelfairmansoaps.com/days-of-our-lives/billy-flynn-kate-mansi-stephen-nichols-mary-beth-evans-interview-days-of-our-lives/2015/12/30/

    They were definitely my four favorites this year and it was so nice to hear the respect they have for one another and get some insight into what the actors brought to their characters. BF is pretty clear that he hated the brainwashing storyline, but he talks about some great stuff happening in the next 6 months. If your speculation is correct, hopefully Josh Griffin takes the reins again and rights things.

    I do agree that this was a much better even than the horrible bicentennial celebration. Loved the hair, makeup, and costumes.

    Thanks for writing such a great blog and updating it almost every day in 2015. I really appreciate your insights, as well as those of your other readers it makes watching Days a more enjoyable experience for me.

    • That was a great interview, thanks for posting. I agree that these four had the best stories of 2015, along with Rob Wilson. As I said above I would have liked to see the wealth spread around a bit more, but I’ll take it over what we’ve had lately! I’m glad to hear Billy say he thinks the show gets even better. And he’s so cute talking about how he’s “arrived”! Indeed he has.πŸ™‚

      Thanks for your kind words about my blog. I love the little community we have here!

  2. I just have to say I love this blog. I may not agree with you on everything (I’ve tried Chabby, but I usually cannot handle it and I thank the heavens for the ff button on the DVR), but at least with this blog it makes me WANT to try to watch it. πŸ™‚

    I’m not looking forward to Ava being in the Steve and Kayla storyline, but to be able to have SN and MBE back on the screen, I’ll deal with it and there’s always the ff button if I can’t LOL.

    Most of all, the past few days, one thing I’ve enjoyed have been the multiple stories going on: Joey’s crush on Ava, her date with Fynn, the teen scene, Steve and Kayla’s engagement (hallelujah), Chabby and my new favorite storyline: Basic Black. Basic Black isn’t perfect, but it’s nice to see the characters and for me personally any storyline that has Jen Lilley is good for me. None of these scenes have been very detailed or long, but at least it’s brought a lot of the characters onto the screen that have basically been missing (or are new). I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the car accident.

    Happy New Year MP.

  3. Happy new year, Lisa.πŸ™‚

    I am really enjoying the fact that different stories are going on, all of them getting airtime. That is one change for the better.

    I am warming up to Thrady.πŸ™‚ You and Susanna did a good job selling them to me. They were my daughter’s favorite, by the way. She said “Theresa is so pretty, and they are so cute and happy.” I couldn’t argue!

    • I’m glad your daughter likes Thrady πŸ™‚ Brady may not be the brightest bulb in the room, but the fact Theresa and Brad are falling in love without realizing has been fun. I’m just hoping the car accident doesn’t screw up this story too much.

      I’ve actually watched more of the show in the last two weeks I only worked one day last week – I severely sprained my ankle and was off work two days, then off work for the Christmas holiday. This week I’ve been working half days and made it home in time to watch Days. It’s been interesting watching live rather than with the DVR. My mom was here for Christmas and she watched it in the 1980’s a little bit so it was fun with her: She remembered Justin, Steve and Kayla (she was a huge Justin/Adrienne fan way back when). “He’s still on” (talking about RoJohn). “He’s John now rather than Roman.The guy that played Chris in the 80’s is now Roman.” And then explaining the Chabby/Thomas/Ben story. I think she was glad to get home so she didn’t have to watch itπŸ™‚

  4. Last night I saw the preview video on the nbc site and let me warn you all…it’s still a bit of a spoiler even if you know who is leaving the show so if you don’t want to be spoiled- don’t watch it.

    It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what the problems with the show are. Your chess piece analogy is good but i just can’t help but feel like part of that is being caused from the lack of balance over the last couple of months. If we had seen Eric and Nicole a few more times these last few months then these last couple of shows might not feel so contrived.

    I had the same thought you did about how Josh and Dena may have divided the writing because it definitely feels like there has been a shift. At first I was just assuming it was more about storylines wrapping up and new ones beginning but now I think it is more of a shift in writing. I have to say that the shift isn’t good as the show is starting to feel a little more like the show I was struggling to watch back in the summer than the show I was loving in the fall. I wasn’t watching much during Dena’s last stint so unlike you I can’t definitively say this is her work but reading your post it sure seems likely. Beth Milstein was a producer then an associate head writer during my favorite years of Days so I am optimistic about what she will do.

    Thankfully there was a big event because otherwise this week was the weakest the show has been since I started watching again. It’s a bit scary because I believe February is the timeline for a decision on whether or not the show will be renewed. It’s funny but when I started watching again I had vowed to watch through the end of the year and luckily the last couple of months were extremely entertaining and it feel like it flew by.

    I know it is a soap and stories are always going to be recycled and re-told and certain plots and scenes are going to feel ridiculously contrived but the last couple of days were really bad….even by soap standards. I am just dumbfounded that Eric was at a party with basically all of his family there and the only 2 people he interacted with the entire night were Nicole and Daniel!

  5. Oh and your daughter’s reaction is a lot like my husbands. It’s hard to imagine that when I was 10 I was already hooked on Days of our Lives….and Bo and Hope!

    • I was already hooked on Days at age 10 too, though Bo and Hope hadn’t quite gotten started yet. Neil and Liz for me!

      The balance issue (which I mostly lay at Josh’s feet) probably contributed to how random Eric’s appearance felt at the party. It’s hard for me to be objective because I love Eric, so I don’t know how it feels to people who haven’t been longing to see him more. But you make a great point that he had so many family members at the party and didn’t talk to any of them. No one but Daniel and Nicole were worried about him at the party, and we haven’t seen Brady or anyone worrying about him in general. I think Greg is going to have more airtime starting now, so hopefully we’ll see him with Brady and Belle and the rest of his family. That won’t excuse how plot-pointy his “story” is here, but I hope we’ll get some good stuff before he leaves.

      I am enjoying the show, I am liking the new returns like Belle, and it’s fun just having different stories and characters on. So I am still engaged with each episode, but I definitely can see that it is not as good as it was.

      • I am still engaged as well but it’s scary when just a couple of weeks makes this big of a difference. I am not sure how I feel about Belle and Phillip and so far a lot of their stuff has just felt all over the place to me. I am just going to try to wait and see.

  6. I have started reading your blog since the return of Steve and Kayla and I look forward to it every day. Thank you. I too agree that the show has slipped recently to bland and not exciting. The shows featuring Bo’s escape and return and the necktie killer were exciting and watchable. I really wanted to see how it would unfold. Lately, except for S&K I could have left again. Phillip is so obvious. Nothing surprises. Rafe seems to have used up his brain cell quota and skanky Kate being mean to poor little Theresa was too soapy. Where was the mystery and intrigue of the last few months? There are also too few umbrella stories. Characters are in total isolation from each other. Days needs to lift it’s game. I remarked to someone a few months ago that I loved the show AND S&K were in it. Lately I can say that without S&K I might drop the show again. Loyalty does not cut it anymore. I watched for 30 years straight out of enjoyment and sheer loyalty. When S&K left the first time I stopped. I would stop again without my faves. The Days crew did a stellar job retooling and to let it drop again is a cruel trick. Hopefully the new year will bring back my passion for the show.

    • I am still enjoying the show, but not like I was before. And it kills me to see the same things going on last time Higley was in charge. I must say I think the scriptwriters seem better than what she had in her last run, so I’m seeing more discussion showing motivation, at the level of the scene. It still feels a little tacked on sometimes, but I can see the writers filling in holes.. And things like showing Chad drawn to Abby, thinking about her, dreaming about her. With Pawn John, we never really saw that.

      The interview Andrea posted above shows that Stephen, Mary Beth, Billy, and Kate all happy with where the show is going. So I’m optimistic. I’ll be curious if we can see Josh’s style again when Dena’s LOA starts, which is at end of January.

  7. Happy New Year!

    I’m a little confused about the shift in the writing, too. What I’m wondering is if Higley’s influence just felt much lighter from Sept-Nov because they had to hit certain beats with regards to the anniversary/returns/exits, and once that dust had settled, she was the one who pitched the next steps. A lot of this has technically been in place for a while — Steve and Kayla getting an interloper once they reconnected, Abigail and Chad having something tear them apart once they were clear to be together, the Basic Black stuff — so maybe it’s just a matter of how the timing shook out. What will be interesting is if the show starts looking different in February, or if it looks like the Sept-Nov show, or what.

    I agree that this event was better than the bicentennial. It felt less forced, and the interactions were more interesting.

    • You’re right that all the seeds have been in place for awhile – Sami’s theft of the money, Ava, Basic Black. The emphasis on just those two big stories for several months, and the way they wrapped up at the same time, creates a “starting from scratch” feeling, though that’s not actually true. And I don’t object to any of the stories per se (except the brainwashing), it’s mostly the execution that feels like a different writer. And it’s not worse across the board – I like seeing a wider variety of characters and stories. At any rate, I think the fallout from this car crash will be interesting. And by the way, it’s another Higley rehash – last time it was a plane crash.πŸ™‚

      • Yeah, it’s almost an achievement that they’ve managed to make it feel as if they’re starting from scratch when they really aren’t! So weird.

  8. MP – my 13 year old daughter started watching with me around end of Sept and we both loved the Ben/Chad/Abby story. She was interested in the few scenes with JJ and Gabbi starting up, but she is now giving me the eye roll at Chad’s brainwashing and has given up watching. Not a good sign to get younger newer viewers if our little focus group of daughters is an indication. When I was 13 I was definitely watching every day and loving it (this was back in the Luck and Laura hey day! LOL)

    I am definitely not enjoying the show as much these past few weeks as I was in the prior 2 months. One of the reasons is the pacing seems wrong – one day lasts for weeks at a time and the speed of some of the stories seems so quick. Maybe I am a masochist for the old 80’s90’s when storylines took forever (or even for a first kiss to happen and for characters to admit their feelings) but I am surprised at the speed of both Brady falling in love with Teresa and Chad turning against Abby/ the reveal of Chad being the father. Seemed VERY rushed that Abby gets a sample of Ben’s blood comes up in the elevator and then voila next scene – dut dut dahhhhh why Ben CAN’T be the Thomas’s father. I don’t know just didn’t seem that necessary to rush it.

    Also Eric (who I never really got to know, so I haven’t embraced him as a character) just seems thrown into the episode for the sole purpose to show him having a few drinks and then off he goes to obviously cause a DWI accident. Seems just so thrown together and poorly written.

    And the episode ends with Jenn in the car avoiding him? Where did she come from, where is the build up that at least shows her getting in her car? Last I saw she was at the hospital?

    I did like the NYE where there were multiple characters interacting at least we got to see some people we haven’t seen in a while. I do wish they mixed up the stories a bit. Adrienne was in a few scenes about a cancer scare and the past month she was on maybe one day? Lani is revealed to be Abe’s daughter – we have seen them in 2 scenes and now she is promoted after 2-3 weeks on the job? Even Abby having the baby she was pregnant for 3 months in real time??

    I am still all for watching the show – and I don’t know the writers as well as you, but I am hoping some things start to get interesting. Love Steve and Kayla and I could watch them be cute forever, but the Ava in the mix I just don’t see as that compelling, what is her motivation and what is she trying to do? I just don’t see the danger…………………

    • I love hearing your daughter’s reactions So similar to my daughter’s, lol. My daughter could totally get hooked, I think. She likes the love stories. She caught Steve’s proposal and kept asking me if Kayla had accepted. She was happy to see them together on NYE.

      I’m not sure if I want her to watch or not, though – does that make me a hypocrite? Hee!

      I totally agree about the reveal about Chad being the father. Feels very rushed. It almost feels like there was a change in direction and the brainwashing story is getting cut short, and this is how they are doing it. (I’m assuming finding out he’s Thomas’s father will break through to Chad). But that doesn’t make sense to me because it’s barely gotten started. Seems an awful quick change. I’m not complaining, but it’s strange!

      I think we saw Jen gathering her things and leaving the hospital, but they probably should have shown her getting in her car. I thought it was fine the way they did it, but it could have been better.

    • Todays younger viewers are just different than we were as young viewers. I have said a lot of them don’t have the attention spans for long, drawn-out, slow burn storylines but they also don’t have the same tolerance for the more unbelievable, over the top stories either. You mentioned you were watching when you were young and it was the Luke and Laura hey day….well remember when the Cassadines were trying to freeze the world? If your daughters are rolling their eyes at a little brainwashing imagine how hard they would have laughed at that?

      • Shea – yes I remember the “Ice Princess” and freezing the world! Ha ha General Hospital was my first soap in Junior High that I got hooked on and it was at the Luke and Laura heyday when literally EVERYONE was watching. Days came after that around 1984. The comment I get now from my daughter is it is “boring” and I should just let her know when Chad and Abby are back together or when JJ is on. So I agree the attention span is not there.

        I also like to see the emotions and the characters seem real, even when they are in completely over contrived plots. I think that is what has been missing this past month. They did a great job with the emotions with Bo and Hope but now it is well choppy.

  9. Happy New Year all! I’ve been away for 10 days, and came back to MARATHON through the last week’s Days episodes. There has been some really excellent stuff, but also some things that are making me super nervous LOL. On the whole I really enjoyed what I’ve seen (it’s fun to have a bunch of episodes to watch all in a row!), but MP I have to agree with you on some of the super-contrived plot points. And I agree it has to be Higley. I know a lot of soap writers just re-cycle stuff as they move from soap to soap, but she seems to be doing the same thing over and over on the same show. I also agree that the actors are really carrying a lot of this – the performances have been really good, which has made even the eye-rolling stuff watchable.

    The one thing that DID surprise me was Jen’s inclusion in the car crash. That actually stunned me, though maybe it shouldn’t have with the news that Matt Ashford will return for a few episodes. That has to be how it ties in.

    The Chad brainwashing I find tiresome. I was glad he and Belle didn’t go all the way, since that would have probably ended up with another OOPS pregnancy. I am kind of loving MM’s bitchy Belle though. Not so sold on Philip, but it’s early yet so we’ll see.

    What Griffith seems more than capable of doing is making the characters feel REAL. If you are correct on your assumption that this stuff is mostly Higley, than she seems more of a cartoon character writer. We’ll see. I also wondered if they gave Higley a graceful exit. The whole “leave of absence” thing seemed odd, but I guess we’ll find out. I’m always more about the character development than the EVENTS.

    What we do know is that when the writing team in ON, they can deliver, so I’m hopeful. I’m dreading the Ava/baby stuff. I’m dreading the fall out of this car accident and the drama that you know is coming with Daniel’s death.

    I’m really looking forward to the ending of the brainwashing storyline and some meaty Chad/Abby vs the Dimera’s. Looking forward to Steve and John’s PI office getting going.

    My New Year’s resolution for Days is that I’m going to watch for pure pleasure and not get too het up about the stuff I don’t like, and just enjoy what I do (that’s what the ff button is for LOL).

    Hope you all had wonderful holidays. Thanks again for the wonderful blog MP!

    • Welcome back, Denise! πŸ™‚ It is fun to watch everything in a marathon, isnt it? I am dreading what is going to happen with Ava also, though so far I like how Steve and Kayla are still on the same page, no secret keeping. I am hoping there is some kind of twist about the baby, that it’s not the simple and obvious answer.

      I have taken an instant liking to bitchy Belle, glad you like her too, lol. It’s not really a credit to the writing because we haven’t seen why she’s acting like she is. We can assume/fanwank that she’s reeling from the divorce and the cheating that led to the divorce, but – in true Dena style – the show hasn’t connected those dots.

      I think you’re spot on saying that Griffith makes the characters seem real, and Dena doesn’t. There’s definitely a cartoonish feel to the show now that wasn’t there before, as over the top as some things were.

      I like your New Year’s resolution. That’s how I like to approach the show — I’d rather talk about things I like. I especially don’t like to take such a dislike to any character that I hate every scene they are in. I got close to that with Daniel, but then he disappeared, LOL.

  10. Thank you so much for this blog!!! I don’t consider my watching of any episode to be complete until I’ve read over your thoughts.πŸ™‚

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