I enjoy thinking about the process of writing a soap. I enjoy looking for signature characteristics of different headwriters, good and bad. I have prided myself on my ability to get inside the writer’s mind, think about what they were going for, and evaluate how well it was working. This is really fun when the stories are good, but it can even be fun when they aren’t, because you can think about what the goal was (turn X into a heroine … redeem Y … create a romance for Z) and suggest ways that the story could have been better.
I have to say, I have been utterly flummoxed for the last few months. I felt I have a handle on Dena’s writing style from knowing it in her last run, and it was on display in January and February (the big car accident, the Ava story). I felt I knew a little bit about Josh Griffith’s style from watching last fall, and certain elements of it were on display in March and April (the Yo Ling story, Abby going crazy) — but since then I can’t make head or tail of who is in control. Dena was supposedly on a leave of absence while what we are watching was being written. So this should be Josh (and Beth Milstein) in full control. So why isn’t what we are watching anywhere near as good as what we saw last fall? Some possible explanations:
- Dena is a better writer than I am giving her credit for, and she had a hand in last fall’s stories. What we are watching now is what Josh is like alone.
- Beth Milstein is a bad writer and a bad influence.
- Josh had one good story in him, and that was the Necktie Killer story, and now he is totally at sea.
- Dena still had influence. She and Josh were both jockeying for full control, and the writing suffered.
- Josh is gone now, so Dena is gutting his stories and rewriting and re-filming stuff.
- No one is writing the show. They are getting scripts from the paint huffers in the alley.
I actually think that #4 is the most likely explanation. I think this because we have been hearing about cut scenes and dropped stories for the last 3 or 4 months, with no letup in sight. For example, quality aside, if Josh was in full control, why would he bring back Aiden so soon after killing him off? It honestly feels like a the stories are a product of that children’s game, where you pass a story around the room with each person adding a little bit. Stories start up and change direction or are entirely dropped.
Another example: they seemed to be setting up a “who killed Diemos” story, giving everyone a motive. Victor, Justin, Phillip , and Hope were all given motives, along with Kate and Nicole. Now he’s back, and it looks like all of those things are being dropped. Steve and Kayla looked like they were getting a Mr. Simple triangle with Fynn, and I was genuinely excited for it. Now it looks like that is dropped too. The cast is going through another bloodletting: Summer, Belle, Shawn, Lani, Fynn, Phillip are all gone. They might still be on my screen for months, but it’s hard to get invested when I know they’re leaving. It’s all so inconsistent. It really feels like no one is in charge.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted much lately. The thing is, I don’t really enjoy writing about the show when it’s bad. I like to be optimistic and praise the show when it does something well, and suggest helpful things to make it better when it’s not going as well. But right now — I’ll enjoy a scene, or see a glimmer of a story setup that intrigues me, and my next thought will be, how is the show going to screw this up or squander its potential? I can’t even go to my fallback — suggesting ways that it could be better — because I can’t make head or tail of what the show is even trying to do.