Who’s running this ship?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Beth Milstein is a bad writer and a bad influence.
  3. Josh had one good story in him, and that was the Necktie Killer story, and now he is totally at sea.
  4. Dena still had influence. She and Josh were both jockeying for full control, and the writing suffered.
  5. Josh is gone now, so Dena is gutting his stories and rewriting and re-filming stuff.
  6. 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.


29 thoughts on “Who’s running this ship?

  1. So totally agree — feels like writing by committee, and none of the writers like anyone else.
    Chabby’s gone south, Hope/Aiden is boring, and this attempt at redeeming Deimos is just painful. Summer’s story is not even worth mentioning. Even the actors, who usually give their all, seem like they could care less.
    I would so love to see them come back from the Olympic break and just throw out everything and start over. No explanation would be needed.

  2. I think the current material is heavily Dena. There has been a definite shift in the tone of the show and it is much more old school soapy than the Josh Griffith stuff we saw in the Fall. I started watching again last summer to tune up for the Bo and Steve returns and in the beginning I found the show almost painful to watch but I think it might be worse now than it was then. There are more characters that I like on the show now but I don’t know how much longer I can keep motivating myself to watch. I am looking forward to the Olympic break.

    Maybe they need to hire some writers from outside the soap world. Maybe they could bring in some fresher stories and more compelling characters.

    • I have always thought soaps should try bringing in new blood instead of recycling the same writers from soap to soap. Y&R just brought someone on from British soaps, I think. It’s worth trying!

  3. Totally agree with you both !! It’s like they throw stuff against the wall & sees what sticks…..cannot believe they are getting paid for this. For me, I strictly watch for S & K….but it seems like most stories on there now are simply circling the drain ! I was getting excited about the Mr Simple storyline, but then Fynn gives up ?I would have understood his reasoning if the situation had been different…didn’t quite get the “hands off” approach there. One last complaint–I was all for S & K getting back together after Steve came back…..Kayla had every right to be pissed for Steve basically being a dirtbag. So, stupid me thinks the writers would have the brains enough to contrive a great back story as to why Steve would willingly abandon his family–a family he had been robbed of for 16 years before that. Well,disappointed is an understatement for how I felt when Steve came up with his “reasoning”–seriously, Kayla shouldn’t have taken him back as fast as she did.

    • Oh, it makes me want to cry that we got such a short version of the Mr. Simple story. It’s such a tease, to introduce it and then just drop it. It makes Kayla’s recent actions with Steve come off more as blowing hot and cold. I don’t see it that way because I think they never fully worked through their issues the first time around, but the last couple weeks have been choppy and inconsistent. Argh.

      • I had seen that Fynn will supposedly be on through summer, so who knows ? I still wonder if stuff will hit the fan when Steve finds out Kayla was with Shane ! Granted, she had every right, but he may not take kindly to Kayla keeping it to herself. I agree about the choppy stuff…one scene Kayla is like “I don’t know”….20 minutes later “Can’t live with/without you”—–maybe it is her head injury. I also agree with one of you earlier posts, where they seem to be getting away from the essence of these 2 characters….it was never as simple as bad boy/good girl. I really don’t like the once a week if we’re lucky appearance though. Both these characters have a rich history, and not just with each other. Again,pleading for that stand-alone episode where we might hear what actually went down in Africa & why Steve really abandoned his family…his excuse doesn’t wash.

  4. And this is exactly why we are all scavenging around for clips from the good ol’ days. It seems to me from others’ posts, that S&K have had a lot of cut scenes (again, how do you all know this stuff???)…. and that may explain why there was no explanation as to his absence. Just as LJ said, there’s no way in H— he would have abandoned his family after missing all of the raising of his daughter etc etc. That was just beyond out of character and a sign that whoever wrote for them didn’t know beans about the characters.

    • I am not really up on the cut scenes but it seems to be a difference between spoilers and what actually airs, and between the episode description and what airs. So things will be described in the NBC recap that don’t actually happen on the show.

      I’m sympathetic to the problem of how to explain the absence of a character when the actor was gone, so you’re stuck trying to explain a multi-year absence. Everyone can’t be kidnapped and held prisoner, lol, though they sure use that one a lot. But they really should have come up with something better than they did.

  5. When I started re-watching last summer, I was watching all the show and was enjoying it. Then I got to where I would go through and watch the storyline lines I liked. Lately I come home and delete it off the DVR because it just does not interest me any longer. I miss S&K — only having them on twice a month is not enough. Kayla being hot/cold makes no sense. Like everyone else, I want them to have a hash it out about what happened in Africa (I’m still waiting for my stand alone episode for them). Steve has been back almost a year now (in real time, not sure how long in Salem), but we still haven’t heard what happened. I still like Theresa & Brady, but Summer infuriates me and all this does not interest me at all. And what I’ve read as upcoming spoilers makes me like this storyline even less.

    I can’t help but wonder if the Olympics will end up being the final nail in the coffin. I started watching DOOL in 1984 because ABC had the Olympics that year and I wandered over to NBC soaps.

    • OMG..Lisa’s right…it has almost been a year–that is CRAZY !! What talent they waste on that show ! Kayla being hot/cold bugs me too…unless she still has that nagging head issue. My storyline suggestion? Bring back Orpheus & get them back to Stockholm. Hoping, like most on this blog, that S& K get their stand-alone episode—they certainly deserve it & hoping against hope,that the writers come up with something decent for it. Better yet,let SN & MBE write it…they know their characters best !

  6. It’s weird that the writers who’ve been given a veritable goldmine of onscreen talent can’t come up with something more compelling then they’ve got. I would love to see more Steve and Kayla, more of the kids, more of the Hernadezes, and heck, more of the Bradys….If we have to lose Abby, okayyyyyyy…..but be reasonable about the amount of story it is. I liked the fact that they were playing with structure and trying new things. Why not? Who says that the soap has to continue in the same structure forever? Throw in a few days that focus on moving a great story along….Oh wait, that’s right….We don’t want to engage with great actors and great characters…..We want to rehash Belle, Philip, and Shawn again. I am still pulling for Shawn and Phillip to get together. Now, that would be an eye opener, at least. That would require huge commitments from everyone on board.

    It seems to me that commitment is part of what is missing here. The writers won’t commit to a direction and stick to it. So, here the fans are, in the horse latitudes, waiting for a fresh wind to blow a new story into town.

  7. Im going with #6 the paint huffers. They had to be running things for a while at least. How else to explain Joey killing Ava. That has to be one of the dumbest, most ruinious stories ever. Seriously, how does he come back from that? Hes the child of one of the most popular and famous soap couples ever and they had him do that. Whoever wrote it should be fired. The stuff written in the fall …Bo dying, the Aiden turns on Hope parts and the necktie story …those were very good. The ones since were either just plain awful (Ciara’s rape) or never got off the ground. I hope something happens to save the show because it can’t go on like this.

    • Amy, that is driving me crazy. Some of the choices they’ve made in the last few months are so hard to come back from. Chase and Ciara, Joey killing Ava. Big mistakes in story choices and not even done well as shock value storytelling. Well, the rape aftermath hasn’t been horrible but the consequences of Joey killing Ava are just nonexistent. It’s so bad.

      So yes. Paint huffers. It’s the only explanation!

  8. If Josh had “one good story” in him, and that was the horrendous Necktie Killer story then he’s pretty worthless. Because that storyline was one of the lowest point DAYS has had since I’ve been started watching – back in the early 1980s. The Jade Elephant was pretty bad, but the disgusting murders of Serena, Paige and Will Horton were absolutely sloppy, lazy writing and downright insulting to many viewers. The lame 50th Anniversary “celebration” was also miserable and depressing. This show is doomed.

  9. That should have read:

    Because that storyline was one of the lowest points DAYS has had since I’ve been watching – starting way back in the early 1980s.

    • Well, different strokes for different folks. I was against the killing of Will (and I still am, it was a big mistake) but I thought the story was well put together.

  10. Hey Mary… saw your twitter feed. When/where is Day of Days this year? Not that’d I’d ever be able to go, just curious…. super jealous you got to meet SN & MBE…lucky you!

      • Go! Take me with you in spirit! Take tons of photos/video and tell SN & MBE how much we enjoy them (if you’re lucky enough again:) I know I sound like a nut job when it comes to those two… I’m really not a psycho, but having re-discovered them, it brings back tons of great memories. I was just a junior high kid, but I really enjoyed them and could relate to them even as a naive kiddo. I think, also, following MBE’s blog, she’s shown me who the two are as people, and I really do like THEM. There are some celebs you see/hear an interview with, and you’re like, “man, I really don’t like them as a person.” I think MBE would be a great best friend / big sister I never had (as opposed to the awful big bro I’m stuck with).

      • I got my hotel reservations! … and I’ve got Mama Pickford on board! We’re going again! I’ll take lots of pictures and tweet some of them while I’m there like I did last time. It’s going to be fun.

  11. Hi MP and all commenters! I Just thought l would jump in and say for the first time since I started watching again last August I have not been able to watch the show. I went on vacation for a week and then had a crazy week after that – sat down 3 times to a marathon DVR session and started FFing the “boring” stories I am not interested and then started deleting entire episodes thinking well the stories I want to see aren’t in that day, let’s jump to the next day and and finally after about 3/4 episodes realized there are NO stories and gave up deleting a full 2 weeks of episodes. I just kept thinking “why am I wasting my time?” – such a shame because they lured a 80’s early 90’s long lost fan back with the 50th hype and now I think I may be gone.

    Such potential on some of the stories and actors but they are all cut short, have too much time in between appearances so you can’t really feel the buildup or just are horribly executed. So many stories that they haven’t shown for weeks – didn’t Lucas propose and then fell off the map along with Adrianne’s breast cancer scare and Paul, Gabbi, Pappa Hernandez, Jenns recovery, jacks appearances and so many potential stories. Why even bring Blanca on if u r never gonna show her or build her character? And with all the exits announced I kind of want everyone off the show now that is leaving.

    Thanks for all the insight MP I have truly enjoyed your blog this past year I just wish o could say the same for the show. Not sure if I will even bother continuing to watch which is sad!

    • I’m not there yet, of quitting the show, but I totally get being there. I can’t figure out why certain stories are hardly on at all and others are on and don’t go anywhere. I don’t know. The whole thing is depressing.

      It’s been fun having you here commenting! I am still going to be posting about old stories — got a J&J post I’m working on, so I hope you’ll check back in occasionally.🙂

      • I am still gonna be nosing around so I am not 100% sure I am quitting – I still want the show to trim around!

    • For about a month I have been falling behind in viewing. I would get an episode or two behind during the week then catch up on the weekends. Now I am 3-4 episodes behind and I was home most of the weekend and made no attempt to catch up. I just find it harder and harder to make the effort to watch. I’ve gotten this way with GH off and on over the years until I fall a couple of weeks behind then I just give up and stop recording it all together. Right now I am trying to watch until the olympic break but if something doesn’t change soon then that may be it for me.

  12. Hey Mary… super happy you decided to go (and a bit jealous as well LOL). I bet you have a great time. I’ll be watching for your pix etc…

  13. I won’the give up on Days, but I too am disappointed lately. To have all that momentum going in November and then lose it all is baffling to me! I remember that I couldn’t wait to watch then, and not fast forwarding thru anything. Now I have to admit that most days, there is absolutely nothing that interests me. For one thing, the time they give stories are off. I thought they finished the Necktie Killer story too quickly. They could have let the viewers guess a little longer before revealing it was Ben, and then waited longer before Salem knew. Stories like that deserve more time. Steve, Kayla and Fynn…. come on writers!! Research these messages boards and see what the fans want. No we don’t want you to split up one of our favorite couples, but we don’t mind watching Steve squirm and show his jealous side! I agree with everyone else who said that Steve’s excuse for leaving Africa fell flat. That’s because we never really got one! “There was a threat and I had to leave to keep you guys safe.” Who was the threat?? Why did he let the divorce go thru?? There was an interview with Stephen and Mary Beth after he came back to Days and they were discussing the divorce. Stephen makes the comment “but it was never finalized” and then darts his eyes to the side as if he revealed something he wasn’t supposed to. I was so hoping that would go somewhere! Like the ISA kept it from going thru while Steve was working with them and Kayla finding out, getting angry, then deciding if she really wanted to push the divorce thru. Ugh!! I miss these two on the screen!! They have been on once in two weeks!! Why do the writers do this? I know they did it before with Marlena and John after the Ling storyline and other characters as well. There needs to be a better balance. And as I have said many times, and know things probably won’t change, I so wish they’d build super couples again! Back then, we’d see some chemistry with a couple, the touches, the angst, the obstacles and then finally they’d be together!! Why do they think to this day people lovvvvveee Steve and Kayla, Bo and Hope, John and Marlena! Stick with what works. Now, character’s meet and are sleeping together the next episode. No investment from the fans whatsoever. It was hard for me to buy Nicole being so devastated by losing Daniel, not because I didn’t like them together, but because she’s been with half of salem! Give time to the stories that need it, wrap up the ones that don’t need to be dragged on, don’t revisit ones that weren’t popular or didn’t make sense the first time, and please please listen to the fans!! We lose Days to the Olympics soon and I’m hoping things pick up. Until then, I guess I will be rewatching good ol’ 80s Days. Sigh…

    • It is depressing how quickly people get together. Slowing things down is how you get people invested. It’s one of the biggest things I miss. They did it not too long ago with Sonny and Will, and (sob) Ericole. I guess they are taking their time (relatively speaking) with Rope but I’m not really invested in that relationship.

      Anyway, I’m with you. I will keep watching the show but I’m digging out my DVDs.🙂

  14. I definitely miss S&K. It’s like they never came back. They certainly aren’t on a lot, hardly. I hope that means we will get a lot more of them after the break. Well, I can hope can’t I. Last time I saw them Kayla had just come to Steve’s office where he is staying. I kinda doubt they will come back to that so we can see the outcome of it. The last time I saw the show was today 7-14 and it said in synopsis that Steve would come to John and help him with Tate’s kidnaping (this makes no sense). We had news break so I don’t know if he did or not, but I dont think so. Who knows, probably another splice on the floor( or should say delete from the tape.

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