Bad Tripp

Mixed bag this week.

I thought the hospital scenes with Abby were well done. Missy Reeves was particularly good, and I teared up when she mentioned holding Abby’s fingers as a baby. I appreciated how we saw most characters in town being told the news of the accident and expressing their concern — think about how Dena handled Kayla’s brain surgery as a sad contrast.

I am still a little fuzzy on Chad’s reaction and what it means for the Chabby/Chabi relationships.

He is clearly overcome with grief and guilt for Abby, and feels keenly that the last words he said to her where “stay dead” (Billy Flynn is hitting all the beats there), but I’m not getting (yet) a sense of “It’s really you I’ve loved all along” — the dialogue feels a little more ambiguous. Even when he said tearfully to Abby “I love you,” it still didn’t come across as an epiphany, at least to me, and the camera went to Gabi’s reaction. I really don’t want to see more of him being torn between the two women — it is damaging the character. However, I might be reading this all wrong. I’m content to watch for now and see how it goes.

I am very curious what they are planning with Eric, Nicole, and Brady. They’ve cleared turned a page here and I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out.

I’ve seen some complaints that Nicole keeping her forgiveness of Eric a secret doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t bother me. People often put off uncomfortable conversations, and that’s the kind of secret I think this is — though taken to an extreme. Also, her instinct to keep this a secret could be telling, that she knows deep down that her forgiveness of Eric means other walls are coming down between them too. All I know is that the scene of them together in Eric’s room was played by both Greg and Ari with a lot of sexual tension, and the moment when she said, “Of course there is nothing between us,” as she turned away, was Soap Denial 101.

From a character (not just shipper) perspective, it was a lovely scene. We saw how much it meant to Eric that she had forgiven him, when he was worried that she had changed her mind. That gave him a reason to go along with her wishes, even though he knows it’s not a good idea. I loved that he tried to talk her out of keeping this a secret by quoting scripture, and the touch of sarcasm with “And you think this is a good idea?” was perfect.

Why is Brady suddenly gripped with irrational jealousy regarding Nicole? Who knows? They could give us any number of reasons that connected with his history with women, but they haven’t. Brady as a character has suffered from bad, or nonexistent, characterization, but he has certainly jumped from woman to woman, convinced each time that this is True Love. This could be explored, or even acknowledged, by the show, but instead the show presents each relationship with a straight face — including his current one. It would be fascinating for Brady to realize that he and Nicole have a similar history of jumping from relationship to relationship, which could give him a reason to doubt what they have now … especially in contrast to Eric’s steady constancy.

Speaking of whom, they need to do more with the fact that this is Brady’s brother he’s jealous of, who he has always been close to, and who has recently been to hell and back…. and who he was recently urging Nicole to forgive.

That brings me to Steve and Kayla. I talked last time about how this story didn’t have to be so crummy, but the fact is that it was, and Ron didn’t really do anything to fix it before heading to this big showdown. I have no sense of Tripp as a person; his characterization is so paper-thin, his reasons for blaming Kayla so laughable, that it sucked a lot of the drama out of the scenes on Friday. I know the Dena portion of the story cannot be unwritten, but how hard would it be to have Tripp overhear Kayla saying to Steve, “I just hope Tripp never finds out the truth about how his mother died” or something else to send him over the edge right now?

Kayla was written well during the scenes themselves — I liked how, after her initial shock, she went to compassion first, and then (finally!) anger when the extent of Tripp’s hatred and delusion became clear. (I’m assuming Ron knows that Steve didn’t actually “leave” Kayla for Ava.) And Steve and Joey talking about Tripp at the same time and putting the pieces together was reasonably well put together.

But, I have to admit the whole thing depressed me, and it’s going to take some pretty damn amazing writing for me to accept Tripp as a viable character after this. Also (and it really pains me to say this), but I feel a little bit like that with Joey as well. Having Joey kill Ava was a major, major mistake, and no matter how many times Steve tries to say it was “sort of” self-defense, that’s not what happened. I don’t know how Joey is exiting the canvas, but I hope it’s something that redeems him a little and gives the character some strength and independence (but doesn’t kill him off). Then, down the road, maybe we can get a recast and a fresh start for him.

In the meantime, give us a Stephanie.

Screencaps Joanie

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First Impressions

Well, we’ve had three days, what does everyone think?

On the “anyone is better than Dena” front, I was happy. The episodes zipped along, I wasn’t constantly checking my watch. The dialogue was definitely improved, which has always made a big difference to me. There was comedy, there was suspense, there was a couple of heart-to-hearts, characters felt a little more rounded, more real.

Based on this week, it’s not going to as dramatic a switchover as I’ve seen with other headwriters. This is good and bad. It’s good for continuity, but it’s bad for those of us who are just sick of everything Dena and want a clean slate. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m all for continuity because it helps with character believability — something these characters are sorely in need of. But, this week at least, despite my resolve to give everyone a clean slate, I struggled with the fact that I’ve grown to dislike a lot of these characters. They need to be repaired, not just given new stories, and that’s going to take time.

Some highlights:

It was just a small thing, but I really, really liked the Claire/Theo conversation where they talked about whether they could be friends. One thing I’ve been struck by on my 1983 DVDs is how well the teens were written, they seemed like teens but also like people. On Dena’s Days, the whole teen set has made me cringe, because they were all so obviously a middle aged woman’s idea of what “the kids” are like these days, all sex tapes and social media. The conversation with Claire and Theo on Friday, in contrast, felt very real and heartfelt, two people who cared for each other struggling to understand the end of their relationship and how to relate going forward.

And then this was just a lovely family moment:

More of this, please.

As for Chabby, I have mixed feelings.

I can feel Ron taking the right soapy steps to raise the stakes in their story — turning Dario into a villain and a blackmailer is a great idea — but I’m also realizing there was serious damage done to their relationship that will take time to fix. I do like Marci as Abby (though I agree with her critics that she could up the energy levels a bit) and I’ll tentatively say that I like the chemistry she has with Billy and the way they play off of each other. He definitely brings out the best in her.

So what’s the problem? Well, when I liked Chabby, what I really liked about them is Chad’s laser-focused intensity and loyalty in his love for Abigail, and all this stuff with Gabi has damaged that. We might have to throw some stuff down the memory hole, but I think with time and with Billy Flynn once again playing that laser-beam intensity, I’ll be able to believe in that love again.

Based on his Twitter feed,Ron is obviously most interested in promoting his Anjelica/Hattie/Bonnie story. Days has always made room for these kinds of characters, so I’m inclined to be indulgent, for now. If everyone and everything turns into this level of camp — which is something I’m afraid of — that will be a different story.

I also feel a pang for the character of Anjelica, as played by Jane Elliott. Anjelica was not originally conceived as a mindless schemer, and it’s sad to see her reduced to being Kristen-lite. Well, I’ll just quote myself:

What set Anjelica apart, at least at first, was that she didn’t seem to believe that Justin really loved her, or that he would surely turn to her if only Adrienne were out of the picture. She didn’t even seem to be particularly in love with him herself. Justin the playboy pursued her relentlessly when he first came to town, and she enjoyed being in the position of being sought after. Even after they slept together, she mostly treated him as a disposable boy toy. But when he met Adrienne and broke off their affair, Anjelica resented being dethroned—and for such a nonentity as Adrienne Johnson! She seemed to feel she should just be able to squash Adrienne like a bug, and when she couldn’t, rather than walking away, she just kept trying harder and harder. (There was also possibly a sense of an extraordinarily capable woman having too few outlets for her energies, and messing with Adrienne was a source of diversion and amusement.)

(Here’s the original post)

However, Ron has definitely given Anjelica some good lines, and the interplay between her and Hattie has been more enjoyable than anything else Anjelica has done this time around (which, under Dena, was mostly unwatchable). Dee is obviously having a ball with the dialogue (“You have some kind of bisexual disorder”), and Lord knows this show is sorely in need of some fun. I also laughed at Anjelica and Hattie making fun of Marlena’s wardrobe while Anjelica is wearing this little number:

My eyes, my eyes!

Next week, we’ll see what Ron does with the characters I actually already love … eek!

Screencaps Joanie

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 

 

 

Anna’s ashes

I know I haven’t posted for awhile, but I have actually been been able to find something to enjoy in each episode (well, usually). But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — some of Dena’s ideas sound good on paper and have real potential, but the execution of them is usually slapdash and all surface level. I have to try hard to block out my brain when it starts whispering, wow, if they had done it this way this could be a really good story. Why aren’t they doing it this way?

But on that surface level, there are things to enjoy. The Prague scenes are a perfect example. It’s all plot, but it’s been fun to watch our guys running around, chasing clues and talking about the case. It’s bittersweet to hear all this talk about Stefano being alive when Joe Mascolo has just died — I’m hopeful that he will turn up in a scene or two that he filmed before he died. How amazing would that be?

Anna’s appearance added a welcome comic element to the Prague story. Carting around Tony’s ashes in what looks like a cocktail shaker, waving a gun around, speaking French to the Czech policeman, sparring with Marlena. I especially loved the interplay when Anna watched jealously as Carrie hugged Marlena and then Carrie and Anna sniped at each other.

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Christie Clark played the exasperated straight man perfectly to Leanne Hunley’s kooky screwball heroine. It was all so great that I was gobsmacked to realize that Carrie and Anna have hardly shared any scenes at all, and not since 1986!

So seeing Carrie and Anna was a major treat, but seeing Carrie and Austin gave me warm fuzzies too. Not because I ever shipped them (I missed their 90’s heyday), but because seeing Austin Peck standing there woodenly reminded me of 2005-6 when I was posting constantly on the Television Without Pity board. We called Austin the “Forehead of Thought” and made many, many jokes about his woodenness and his stupidity. Sigh. That board was so much fun.

Regarding the other stories, I’ve gotten to the point where I am FFing all of Hope’s prison scenes. I try not to FF in general, but these scenes are just painfully bad. I am still (with reservations) enjoying the Chad/Abby/Gabi scenes, but I’m starting to feel a familiar dread. Last time Dena was writing, she arranged the twenty- and thirty-somethings in complicated quads that featured endlessly revolving couplings and uncouplings. (Being a fan of the slow burn love story, it’s one of the things I dislike most about her writing.) What she’s setting up with Chad/Abby/Gabi/JJ/Lani/maybe Dario/maybe whoever — has the same feel to it. I think Chad and NuAbby have chemistry, as I mentioned in my last post. I really love their angsty scenes, and I thought their date scenes this week were great. I mean … look at them.

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But, but … I’d rather they were apart and longing for each other right now. I’m almost feeling the “longing for each other” story element with Chad and Gabi. If I set aside how silly it is that Chad and Gabi are using the L word after a few kisses and one makeout session, the supercouple scenario is more on their side: just as they are about to get together … the dead wife comes back from the grave! But, I don’t think they are endgame, so it’s all a bit weird.

Sigh. It’s like Bizarro world. Everything is backwards.

Next week, ERIC!!

Screencaps  Joanie

Merry Christmas

I enjoyed the Christmas episodes last week. The Horton ornament hanging always brings tears to my eyes. I read a post from Jason47 a few years ago about how delicate and precious these ornaments are in real life, packed away carefully by the props department each year, and only brought out for the filming itself. I got the impression that everyone, every actor, director, producer, and crew member holds their breath as they are hung on the tree, especially the ornaments for Tom, Alice, Mickey, Laura, etc … all the old ornaments that are older than some of the cast members!  After reading that I find the ornaments ceremony even more touching, if that’s possible!

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Steve and Kayla comedy hour on Friday.

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I loved how Stephen and Mary Beth played the scenes slightly cockeyed, like Steve and Kayla had already gotten into the eggnog. The banter with Roman about the fruitcake was cute, but it was nothing compared to Kayla’s “gift” for Steve that she’s been taking harmonica lessons, and her demonstration of her skills with “Jingle Bells.” Stephen’s deadpan response was perfect, when she told him enthusiastically that now she can play for him all the time.

And of course, there were these outfits:

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Look at that red patch! I laughed out loud at Ari’s line, “I didn’t know Santa Claus was a pirate!” It was all so, so much fun.

And surprisingly, I was really blown away by the Chabby scenes. I haven’t been as down on Abby’s return as some people have. I certainly can’t say it’s been well written — Abby’s been all over the place and none of her “plans” about staying dead — such as they were — really made any sense. But I like it when things are stretched out and they make us wait, because that’s something that they don’t do enough anymore. The anticipation of Chad finally seeing Abby was heightened through the long wait, and it was nice to see that pay off in a big way (payoffs — remember those?).

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I particularly liked Chad’s mixture of emotions, part elation that she was back, part fury that she ever left. That carried through nicely through today’s episode, when he defended Gabi after Abby lashed out at her. but also seemed close to taking her in his arms a couple of times. I’m gratified to see that Billy and Marci seem to have a more intense, emotional chemistry, which contrasts nicely with the friendly, bantery chemistry he has with Camila. I’m leery of how this triangle will play out, but so far, so good.

I would say overall Thursday and Friday were a perfect pair of Christmas episodes. A wonderful blend of family bonding, humor, angst, and heartbreak. I can’t remember a pair of episodes I’ve enjoyed more. Today’s show wasn’t quite as good — too much Hope and the teens, which are the weaker stories — but it was great to see Charles Shaughnessy back, this time with the vets.

And how poignant was it to hear him say, considering Joe’s recent death, that Stefano might be alive? If only, if only. 😥

Screencaps Joanie and LizK

Not another one

Someone sure loves baby stories, doesn’t she?

I really hope that Jade is lying about the baby, or there is some other twist so that Joey doesn’t end up a father before his twentieth birthday. I like James Lastovic but Joey has been written as such a dim bulb. If there was some career he was preparing for, something he was dreaming of doing, and this baby was forcing him to give up that dream, I might be able to muster up more interest. But he’s going to college (under protest), living at home, and not working. Steve is proud of him for “stepping up” but how is he stepping up? Offering Jade a place to live in a place he’s not paying for?

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There’s also the fact that he’s a murderer. I could maybe forgive that, but I can never forgive this hair:

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I will take the ring to Mordor, only I do not know the way.

Also, Jade’s smugness, and her taunting, about the baby at Thanksgiving drained any sympathy I had for the character (and I did have some). If she’s going to treat her baby like a meal ticket, why should I see it any differently? Grrr. Someone help me out here.

I am theoretically intrigued by this Abby/Chad/Gabi triangle — I like all three characters. So far, though, the best thing about it is the homophonic couple names. Chabby vs. Chabi! They sound so alike? How can we choose?? Abby’s talk about staying dead had me shouting at the TV, “What about your son??” Also, the fact that her own brother is with Gabi should put a dent in her certainty that Chad has “moved on.”

On Friday, though, they addressed the Thomas issue a little by having Abby freak out at her inability to comfort him, which added fuel to the idea that Thomas might be better off without her too.

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In general, Abby’s hysteria on Friday made her decision to stay in hiding a lot more understandable. I liked that Jennifer mentioned her pill addiction and Chad’s doubt about her ability to take care of Thomas. (Though she left out the whole custody battle — I’d like to see Abby’s reaction to that!) And I was surprisingly moved by Jennifer’s sense of betrayal that Laura kept Abby hidden from her. In general, I’ve been enjoying the Deveraux/Horton family interactions. Let’s hope the love triangle gets a little more interesting.

As for Adrienne’s big decision, again the execution of the story leaves a lot to be desired. I loved Justin’s big entrance (even without the necessary buildup) because it was soapy, and Adrienne’s collapse was fun to watch for the same reason, but the writing is so thin in between these events that it is hard to care. “I love them both,” she says. But what does she see in Lucas? What does she see in Justin? What are the stakes? Three times she has been interrupted right before she announces who she has “chosen,” and sadly this is all the suspense we have been given. Again the pleasure is coming from the family/friend interactions. Wally Kurth and Bryan Datillo have obviously been having a lot of fun with their juvenile sparring. And then there’s Steve throwing shade at Justin:

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What a look! I love Steve in protective older brother mode.

Aaaaaand … how great was this scene:

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Awwww.

Screencaps Joanie

Nouveau Deveraux

Technically, that should be “nouvelle,” but that didn’t rhyme.

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(Look at that picture of Jack! Jack, who I met last weekend!!!)

I was quite favorably impressed with Marci Miller as the new Abby. I thought her scenes with Jen were very good. She connected very naturally with Jen and they gave off a nice mother/daughter vibe. She also really sold the whole “I faked my death so you could all move on” thing — not the easiest sell for one of your first scenes. And, family resemblance isn’t everything (see Brady, Ciara), but Marci’s striking resemblance to Melissa Reeves is a nice bonus.

She’s also got the “blink and let one tear fall down your cheek” thing down pat — always a good skill for a soap actress!

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The big test will be seeing her with Chad.  They seem to be banking a lot on nuChabby, based on the general buzz, the frequent behind-the-scenes photos, and the constant cutesy tweeting between Billy and Marci. I worried that it was all being built up too much, because for me anyway, I won’t automatically ship a couple I like if there’s a recast — quite the opposite, actually.  Now, I’m not a Chabby shipper per se — I like them, but I was open to seeing Chad paired with someone else. I didn’t want to see Billy Flynn wasted just because Kate Mansi left the show. At any rate, I’m excited to see how it plays out.

Seeing Steve and Adrienne together is always something special, and this was a particularly good scene:

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I loved the banter about “the blues” being her “something blue” and Steve saying he was the “something old” and Adrienne cracking up and saying “at least you didn’t say me!” Such a cute sibilng vibe to these scenes.

At the (pitifully attended) wedding itself, the highlight for me was Steve and Kayla making googoo eyes at each other:

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I was on board for Justin’s big entrance, because it’s so soapy, but this is the kind of thing that calls for more than a couple of scenes (not even episodes) of preparation. I heard there was a cut scene where Adrienne was talking about the wedding and accidentally said Justin’s name instead of Lucas. That seems like a scene we should have seen, don’t you think? And a better writer would also have made more of Sonny being torn between encouraging his father to interrupt the wedding and the fact that he’s Lucas’s best man, his former father-in-law, and Lucas has endured so much loss in his life recently (as has Sonny). But instead it was just “Oh, by the way, Dad, you should totes interrupt the wedding.

Then there was Theresa’s exit this week. I actually have been drawn into this little arc against my will.

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I was so annoyed at the whole Mateo retcon, and I still don’t believe in a million years that Shane and Kim would help Theresa leave her son and go off with a dangerous man, no matter how powerful he was. But, I must admit it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a decent “I have to pretend to be a horrible person” storyline (a story which can be good soapy angst if done well), and this one actually gave Jen Lilley and Eric Martsolf some surprisingly good material to work with. I haven’t liked Thrady that much since Theresa’s redemption. But they had an interesting dynamic when Theresa was bad and Brady was a drug addict, and the angst they got to play this week reminded me of when I liked them.

And, I’m glad they gave a little hint that Shane might have another plan in mind, and he’s not letting Theresa go off with Mateo after all, in his last scene on Friday.

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Now can we get some scenes with Kim and Shane with Kayla and the rest of the cast, pretty please?

Screencaps Joanie