I’m baaaaaaaack

Well, we made it.

My hatred of Dena Higley’s writing is of long standing — I actually was driven away from Days during her last stint in 2008, even before Steve and Kayla left the show in 2009. Looking back, however, her second run was positively Shakespearean compared to this stint.

How depressing.

My complaints about her writing are no doubt known to all of you. Event driven stories, thin, cartoonish characterization, lack of payoff, offscreen characters driving story, insufficient attention to character motivation, mix n match couplings … the list could go on and on. When I went on hiatus here three months ago, I HAD to stop watching every day, to avoid getting to the point where I hated everyone and everything in Salem and wanted to blow up the whole town. For instance, I used to like Chad, Abby, and Gabi, but I slowly grew to hate them all in the course of this wretched triangle.

But next week, every character and every story is getting a fresh start with me. I had glimmers of liking Chabby again during the Halo party. I liked Chad/Billy Flynn a lot for all of 2015 and 2016, so I don’t think it will take much to get me back in his camp. And I WANT to like Marci Miller. I was never a diehard Kate Mansi fan — I liked her when the writing was good in the fall of 2015, not so much before or after. So I think Marci and this version of Chabby could win me over too. Anyway, I’m going to give them a chance.

Of course my favorites have remained my favorites: Steve and Kayla, Eric and Nicole. Nicole has certainly tested my patience, but fast-forwarding has been my friend there. As soon as I hear the word “Daniel,” down goes the FF button. Does wonders for my peace of mind!

The show has been improving — slightly — over the last few weeks. I thought the Martin house party was mostly good, by Dena standards. I’ve been enjoying Eric and Nicole since then, too, and I hope we’ll get a little Ericole story before Ari leaves this fall. I’ll talk about them more in my next post.

But for now, let me focus on Steve and Kayla. I wish I could say that I have found redeeming moments in this Tripp story. I recognize that Lucas Adams is a decent actor, and Stephen and Mary Beth have certainly been giving it their all (as they always do), but I have found the whole thing to fairly wretched. Starting from the insertion of Ava YET AGAIN into their story, the lack of buildup to Tripp’s first appearance, the insta-bonding with Steve, then the insta-bonding with Ava’s ghost, the lack of a meaningful point of view for Kayla, Steve and Kayla’s general cluelessness, Jade’s role as wet dishrag/femme fatale … well, need I go on?

But even here — deep breath — I am going to try my hardest to wipe the slate clean and give Ron a chance to redeem it, and especially to redeem Tripp so I can stand the guy even a little bit.

I am mostly unexcited so far by the return of Anjelica in the form of Morgan Fairchild. (If it were Jane Elliot, I think I would feel differently. Just imagining her in these same scenes makes them 1000 x more interesting in my mind.) However, the story has not been terrible. It suffers from the usual lack of buildup, of course, but it has some points in its favor. First of all, it has given Steve and Kayla a chance to interact with characters other than Jade, Tripp, and Joey, which is a major plus. And second, it gave us those delightful scenes on Monday.

Even in the 80’s, Stephen and Mary Beth rarely got to do comedy, and it’s a shame, because Mary Beth is a natural comedienne. So scenes like these are a rare treat:

Some good lines here. My favorite was “Do I tell you how to remove a spleen?” Ha!

Mary Beth was giving off a major Lucille Ball vibe in these scenes, in her expression above and in this moment, when Anjelica mentioned smelling “cheap” perfume:

Adorable.

And then they finished it off with a cute, sexy scene at the end, when Kayla rushed them from their meal so they could go home and get it on:

This, to my mind, was a perfect episode arc for an established couple. A little plot, a little comedy, a little romance and sexiness. More please.

I’m not naive enough to think that the glory days of Days are ever coming back, but with Sheri on his side, I can’t help but be a little more hopeful about Ron than I would be with just any writing change. At any rate, I hope I’ll be able to watch my show without wanting to gouge out my eyeballs. So you can see I’m setting a high bar.

Welcome to Days, Ron!

Screencaps I ❤ SnK 

 

 

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Big big news

Dena Higley is OUT …

I’ve actually heard people many times toss around Ron Carlivati’s name as a possible Days headwriter. He wrote for both OLTL and for GH. He wrote the GH 50th and apparently is credited with saving the show. Apparently he has a campy style, which I don’t mind as long as it’s not over the top. Those of you who know him from GH or OLTL, please chime in in the comments!

What I’m more excited about is that Sheri Anderson is being brought on as a creative consultant. (Ryan Quan will also stay on, with the same title.) Sheri was headwriter or co-headwriter from 1982-1986. It’s truly mind-boggling the mark she left on the show in that time. She created the supercouple formula and the characters of Bo and Hope, Shane and Kim, Steve and (recast) Kayla, John Black as Roman Brady, Victor Kiriakis.  I mean, she wrote the Stockholm storyline — need I say more?

She also worked as a co-headwriter with John E. Reilly, famous for the devil possession storyline. I wasn’t watching then and have no desire to see it, really, but I have been assured by people whose opinion I respect that the stories were campy and over the top, but they were well structured and one flowed into another. That makes sense to me, because that’s one thing that Sheri was very, very good at in the 1980’s.

So, I know it will never be 1986 again. But I have hopes that the stories will be better structured, that character will count more, and we’ll be able to root for some romances.

I am guessing too that this change was forced by NBC, and that renewal was contingent upon it. By the same token, I think we’ll see that cast cuts will likely be coming. But for now … celebrate!

She’s back

No, I’m not talking about Laura Horton, though her appearance was a nice surprise and a great Friday cliffhanger.

LauraJen

Hold me. Dena’s back.

I’m talking about Dena Higley. The material that she and her new co-writer Ryan Quan (after the departure of Josh Griffith) will begin airing next week.

I’m not defending the last few months of writing. It was terrible. Whatever Josh Griffith did right last fall was not on display these last few months (when Dena was on her supposed “leave of absence”). I can only guess as to why it was so bad — it felt like I was watching a show where no one was in charge. I tend to think there was a bitter power struggle going on, and what we saw was the hangover of that struggle. How else to explain, for instance, Jen’s motives for trying to take Thomas. First, she was regretful because Chad loved Abby and was grieving, but she felt she had to do it anyway. Then she insisted he was a horrible Dimera and that’s why she had to do it. Then she blamed him for Abby’s death. Then, after her own fall off the wagon she admits she shouldn’t have Thomas, but still insists that Chad shouldn’t either. But she tells him that he is a “good man.”

Oooookay. And of course, the completely logical outcome of this power struggle is that … Lucas and Adrienne are going to take Thomas. Why didn’t I think of that? Maybe because it makes absolutely no sense.

So while I don’t mourn the end of … whatever we were just watching, I can’t celebrate Dena’s return either, with or without Ryan Quan by her side. It feels more like “out of the frying pan, into the fire.”

But like so many of you out there, I’m nothing if not — dediciated? masochistic? insane? So I’ll still be watching. Cheers.

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.

 

On a leash

So, how about that Emmy win, eh?

It was so gratifying as a Mary Beth fan to watch her win the Emmy, after so many years! Back in the 80’s, I always felt her acting, and her character, was overshadowed by Stephen Nichols’ showier Steve. And don’t get me wrong, I love my Stephen and Steve. But I always thought about that old saying about Ginger Rogers: she had to do everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels.

So it felt particularly nice to see how happy Stephen was at her win, to the point of weeping openly:

SNMBE1SNMBE2

Awww.

Today was a decent episode. I am delighted at the return of jealous Steve. I loved his “You need to keep a shorter leash on your dingo” when Fynn was being protective. Stephen plays jealous very, very well, and it’s been criminally underused. It was one of my very favorite things about their first run, with Chris, and with Jack. And as I’ve talked about, we really need to see Steve worry and wonder a little bit about Kayla. Fynn is pretty much a nonentity here so far, and it would be nice if they beefed up his character a little … but I’m not holding my breath.

Steveangry

I thought their conversation about Joey was well done. It wasn’t exactly subtle, but it hit some really good points. Steve challenged her for not telling him about Joey’s arrest, and Kayla turned it around — “this is why I didn’t tell you” — when it looked like Steve just wanted to rush to the rescue again. Both of them had good reasons to be frustrated, hurt, and angry, and it felt very real.

Kaylareddresslabcoat

I also enjoyed the conversation Steve and Joey, though it would have packed more punch if we had seen Joey agonizing over the fact that he killed Ava. It would be nice for the show to connect the dots and show Joey wanting to leave town because he felt guilty for his role in the Ava mess, feeling his parents would be better off without him. That would connect nicely to Steve’s tendencies in that direction, and would make me more sympathetic to Joey. As it is, his harebrained scheme to take off to LA with Jade feels really stupid. I can’t even tell how much he is supposed to be in love with Jade. I think it’s pretty clear Jade has some secrets, and it feels like the height of idiocy for Joey to be taken in by Jade so soon after being taken in by Ava.

But, jealous Steve!! Kayla in a red dress! Mary Beth an Emmy winner!!

Gifs from the Salem Hourglass Tumblr blog

Come back

Sorry I’ve been a bit MIA lately. Work and home have been busy, but I think mostly I’m feeling depressed about the show, ever since the announcement of Josh’s departure and Dena’s return. The show has gotten better over the last month, and I can definitely see Josh’s stamp on things. But I’m having a hard time getting excited about the show, knowing it won’t last. I know Higley’s stuff won’t show up for awhile, but it still feels like a big, looming dead end.

Also, I’m sure many of you have heard the news that Martha Madison, Brandon Beemer, Sal Stowers (Lani), and Marie Wilson (Summer) have all been let go. I can’t say I’m devastated by any of these exits, but I’m kind of exhausted by the revolving door, the constant drumbeat of comings and goings. Is Days ever not in a state of flux?

The darkness that didn’t bother me last fall has been bothering me lately. Joey a murderer, Ciara’s rape, Steve’s rape, Hope’s killing of Stefano, Hope and Rafe framing Andre … and Roman covering up for everyone. He did it again today, when he declined to take Joey’s confession and instead colluded to cover it up and let Steve take the fall. ROMAN IS THE WORST COP IN THE WORLD.

But today was good, for all that. James Lastovic was excellent showing Joey’s desperation to confess, and his frustration at not being allowed to. The Ciara/Hope scene hit a lot of the right notes, especially when Ciara said that she knew she shouldn’t feel ashamed but she did, and when Hope said it would always be with her but it would get better.

But this, of course, was the high note for me:

SteveKaylakiss4

For all my frustration with Joey the murderer, Stephen and Mary Beth have been doing excellent work with their part of the storyline. I loved Kayla’s line today that she lied to Stephanie: “I’m getting pretty good at it.” Such ruefulness in her tone. I loved Steve’s words to Joey too, when he asked him to let him do this, to make up for being gone all those years.

With everything that has been happening, they haven’t had time to really deal with the fallout of what happened with Ava, but I’m kind of liking that. Sometimes it’s more exciting when these moments can come in between the cracks of the big drama. Don’t get me wrong, I want a big hash-it-out conversation, but these little bits have been surprisingly effective. “You’d better come back.” Yes.

 

Failing up

Well, most of you have probably heard the latest news. Josh Griffith has left the show. Dena Higley will stay on, and breakdown and dialogue writer Ryan Quan will join her as co-headwriter. It’s not clear whether Josh left voluntarily or not. My suspicion is that this is due to a combination of the recent renewal (which probably involved budget cuts) and a power play between Dena and Josh.

I’m sick about this. I like Josh Griffith. I really do not like Dena Higley. Even when she has a decent idea the execution is always terrible. What does she have on Ken Corday, so that he keeps hiring her and supporting her?

On Daytime Royalty they are talking about organizing a fan campaign to get rid of her. Apparently this worked once before, in 2011. I’ll keep you all posted about that, if anyone is interested in participating.

As for today’s show, I thought it was quite good. Vivian Jovanni did well, better than I thought she would. And Joey and Theo were so sweet. Chase’s text “R U Okay?” was creepy, in a (sort of) good way. It shows he is going to convince himself it wasn’t rape and he’s not a bad guy. To say I’m not on board with this story is an understatement, but I’ll give it a chance if it’s executed well.

I thought the Eric/Jennifer scenes were great. When he said “I wish it was me too” – sob. Truly heartbreaking. Jen’s pill addiction happened way too fast, but I like that Eric called her out on it. Another great line: “What do you grab hold of when there’s nothing left to hold on to?” And then the kiss, which didn’t bother me. The show is obviously not going for Ericole, so let’s get Eric some action while he’s still in town. If they give me more scenes like today, I’ll take it.

My favorite part of the episode was (surprisingly) the Andre/Hope/Rafe scenes.

RafeHopeAndre

I am so angry with Rafe and Hope, and their smugness, right now. I’m not sure if that’s what the show intends for me to feel, but it made me appreciate Andre’s jabs, and Lani’s suspicious looks, and Roman’s doubts. I’m actually invested in this story for the first time, because I want them to be caught. In addition to Lani’s suspicions (and clear dislike of Hope), I have a feeling that Chad is going to believe in Andre’s innocence. This might get interesting.

Sigh. Still depressed.