I’m a Days geek

Hey everybody, guess who’s going to meet Stephen and Mary Beth? Plus a lot of other Days actors? That’s right, ME!

My mom and I decided to go to Day of Days this year! I’ve never been to a Days event before, so I’m excited. Then, Stephen and Mary Beth are hosting a brunch the next day, and we’re going to that. I plan to see some online friends, too, and we’ll all be big ol’ Days geeks for the weekend! Hurray!

So, it is not really my intention to do a post on every episode, but since I’m not going to message boards, this is the only place I have to talk about Days. (Well, there’s Twitter, but I’m too long winded for 140 characters.)

So let’s talk about today (9/10). It was a pretty quiet day (night? evening? I have no idea!) Hope and Aiden are now engaged. I didn’t think it was possible to find a ring uglier than the ring Daniel gave to Nicole, but they did.

I’m still intrigued by this Basic Black story, and the machinations of the three women.  Theresa seems like a babe in the woods compared to the other two, but to the show’s credit, they are acknowledging that. And I like the idea that she has a “vision” for the company, to revitalize the designs, but not much else. Kate and Nicole are the ones with the business savvy.

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There was the barest hint of trouble in paradise for Daniel and Nicole, when Daniel told Maggie that Nicole has been “vague” about wedding planning. It might not mean anything, but we do have two big “wedding to the wrong guy” events coming up, with Haiden (at the bicentennial) and Babby (at Christmas). There’s no room for Daniel and Nicole to squeeze in. So unless they elope, maybe we’ll have Nicole just putting things off until she gets her business affairs sorted out. The other interesting moment for Daniel and Nicole was when she declined to take his advice about accepting help from Brady. He didn’t seem upset, but at least they disagreed on something.

I really have no idea – based only on what I am seeing onscreen – where they are taking Nicole, romantically speaking. My Ericole heart had a tremor when she asked Daniel if he was “jealous” of Brady. Are they setting up a triangle with Daniel/Nicole/Brady? I can’t imagine why they would do that. No, I’m sticking with my theory that they are developing both Nicole and Eric individually, through separate plots, and they will circle back to them as a couple in a few months. Give them a fresh start. But I’m not really basing that on anything I’m seeing on the show, and that makes me nervous.

I have a slightly better feel on Brady and Theresa. The key moment when John said flatly that Theresa doesn’t deserve a chance at Basic Black, and Brady looked uncertain. It seems to signal that Brady will give Theresa a chance, against the advice of everyone in his family. And further, that her growth in this plot will give Brady new respect for her. There was also the scene where Brady scolded her about drinking wine when she’s upset, and she said she’s more excited about the future than she’s ever been.

I liked Brady’s scenes with Marlena and John. We’ve seen him with them so seldom. I liked how Marlena and Brady ganged up on John a little, which forced him to admit his real reason for rejoining the ISA. And if it weren’t for the fact that John already has about 25 different, contradictory backstories, I would think his determination to find out his past is a nice, organic plot for them. But as it is …

Here we are

So, Mama Pickford’s gone home. We closed out TomSell’s last full week together. Josh Griffith and Dena Higley material starts this week.

I’ve been waiting for this for so long, I feel like I should throw a Grand Opening party, a welcome to the 50th anniversary! But, this blog post will have to do.

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25th anniversary cast photo – credit Jason47

I’ve been trying to keep my expectations at a realistic level, and will continue to do so. But for now, I’d like to daydream a little about what I want to see on my show.

  1. Slow-burn love stories – Let’s start with the big one. One of the reasons I am leery about Higley as headwriter is that she created exactly zero couples that I shipped during her last stint. There was plenty of coupling and uncoupling, don’t get me wrong. But everything happened so fast that it felt mechanical. Chloe is with Phillip, then Lucas, then Daniel. Nicole is with EJ, then Rafe, then Brady. Some of these pairings “worked” in the sense that the actors had chemistry and sold it. But none were the type of romance that I like – the slow burn. Give me some time to get invested in a couple. Keep them out of bed for awhile, but tease us with close calls along the way. And then boom! the big payoff.
  2. Remember the plot is just the framework. – I love a good soapy plot, especially an intricate one involving lots of characters. But, too often the plot becomes the point, and the show forgets that what we really care about is how the characters react within it. How are their relationships affected? Does this connect with anything from their past? Does it make them see someone in a new light, good or bad? This is why we watch, to see people react within the craziness of the plot. Look at Chad and Abby. A WTD story and a faked paternity test? YAWN. But we care because the show is making it a love story.
  3. Family – I loved the scenes in the hospital this week, when all the Bradys on the canvas stopped by to see Caroline. Family scenes often take characters out of their usual circle and give us different perspectives. I don’t even like Theresa much, but I adored the scenes of her with Eve this week. That’s a sisterly relationship that could be explored further (and I loved their snark!). Eric and Brady, and Jennifer with Abby and JJ were wonderful. But I want more, more!
  4. Friends – Similarly, let’s not forget that characters can be friends! Nicole and Jennifer, and Marlena and Kate, had scenes this week. Theresa and Anne are fun. Why not give us more? When was the last time we saw Adrienne and Kayla together? And men and women can be friends too! When Eric had three scenes with Jennifer over the past few weeks, I saw people were freaking out they were going to be paired off. Why? Because men and women are never platonic friends anymore. Remember Steve and Hope’s friendship? Jack and Isabella? If Theresa and Brady continue to have as much chemistry as I’ve seen so far (none), why not make them uneasy friends and co-parents instead?
  5. Let our heroes be heroes – or heroines, of course. I don’t need my good guys to always be good. In fact, let them make mistakes. But show me a reason for the mistake, and also show them paying for their mistake. One of the quickest ways to create a hated character is to have someone act like a lech, a cheater, a schemer, a judgmental ass … and have NO ONE on the show call them on it. And if someone is a “good guy,” give us a chance to see them – at least sometimes – doing something truly good. Rescuing someone, being kind, facing down temptation, going out of their way to help someone, or forgive someone. Also, the bad guys can have their moments too. Show us a reason for their bad behavior, so we can see they’re human. And just like the good guys, they have to pay for their mistakes, they have to suffer a little.
  6. Just say no to endless triangles and quads. – This is a personal pet peeve, which is related to my desire for slow-burn love stories. I think soaps rely on triangles way too much, and I think they like the neverending plot opportunities of stringing two fanbases along. But when neither couple is endgame, it leaves the actors at sea. Especially the one in the middle. Who should they be casting longing looks at? Also, triangles that drag on forever tend to make everyone look bad. The one in the middle seems wishy-washy and unfair. The two on either side seem like doormats or endless schemers. But if you can show which person is the “true love” and also give us an understandable reason to pick the “wrong” person, you can still get a lot of plot mileage out of the story without pissing everybody off.
  7. Mechanics – Another pet subject of mine. Is a story not working? A couple not clicking with fans? Don’t just abruptly drop it. Don’t rewrite history and try to pretend something didn’t happen. Especially if it’s been a painful story filled with suffering, you must give us a payoff, a hash-it-out scene, ideally more than one. See what you can salvage from the old plot as you ease into the new. Abruptly dropping stories, and giving us no payoff or fallout, erodes the trust and investment we have in the show.
  8. Nods to history – Scriptwriters, want to make the message boards light up? Refer to something that happened years ago that relates to something that is happening now. Longtime viewers (and Days bloggers!) live for that stuff. A reference to a character off the canvas is also always welcome. Just be careful to make it vague enough not to interfere with a future return!

More specifically, my wants are simple. Give me a nice umbrella story for the 50th, with lots of cast mixing. Show Steve wooing Kayla. Reunite Ericole and Chabby after some angsty longing. Give me some new characters and couples to root for. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Don’t answer that. 🙂

Shit my mom says

As I’ve mentioned before, I owe my Days watching to my mom. She started watching in 1969, when my oldest brother was born. As a young child, I watched Doug and Julie, David Banning and Trish, Maggie as an alcoholic. And my favorite — Marie Horton and Alex Marshall.

From the show’s point of view, my mom is a better fan than me. She doesn’t obsess about it like I do – she just keeps watching. During our weekly telephone call, we usually spend a few minutes talking about the goings-on in Salem. Even when I’m not watching, she’ll give me updates. I think that’s part of why it was so easy to get back into the show this time around.

She’s a huge Drake Hogestyn fan, so I thought she might want to watch some of the Stockholm storyline with me after I got my DVDs. When I asked her, though, she seemed genuinely mystified. “But I already know what’s going to happen,” she said. I think she thinks it’s a bit odd that I keep this blog, though she’s too polite to say so.

When she comes for a visit, of course, like now, we watch together. This is one of my favorite things to do. I feel like she gives me insight into what the vast majority of Days viewers — the ones who don’t go to message boards — are probably reacting to the show. She doesn’t hold grudges against characters. When they are acting smart and trying to do the right thing, she’s rooting for them. When they aren’t, she sympathizes with them, or rolls her eyes and waits until she can root for them again. She doesn’t say, “The writers have ruined x for me!” or “I will never accept y after what she did to z!”

That’s not to say she’s not a smart viewer. She doesn’t obsess and overanalyze like me, but she knows the score. Here are my mom’s comments on some of the recent storylines:

Daniel and Nicole: “That’s a wedding that will never happen.”

Abby and Ben: “Neither will that one.”

Eric: “He should become a priest again, and spare himself all this aggravation.”

Rafe and Hope: “He’s only interested in her because there aren’t enough women to go around.”

Paige: “She’s supposed to be so smart, why is she acting like a dingbat?”

Stefano and Clyde: “Oh, just kill them both and bury them in that land in Ireland.”

Theresa: (big sigh) “Honestly.”

But, there is one thing my mom and I have in common in our Days watching:  we both want to enjoy the show. Sometimes I need to take a break from message boards just because of the negativity. Not that the show hasn’t earned it. But I’d much rather talk about what I liked on the show each day, instead of dwelling on what I didn’t. My mom is the same, and that makes her a fun viewing partner.

Hey, I’m on Twitter

My username is @spoilerfreedays, and I’ll tweet when I post something new here, with the odd extra tweet here and there. I hope you’ll follow me. 🙂

And here’s the clip where Max gives that picture to Steve:

UPDATE: Mary Beth Evans just favorited my tweet! I think I just died and went to heaven.

The Couple Who Must Not be Named

Okay, everyone, deep breath.  It’s time to plunge into the dark side.

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It wasn’t until 2006 that I found out that the Shane and Kayla pairing had ever happened.  I was reading my mom’s Days history and there was a one-sentence reference to the relationship.  One of those “For a time, Shane and Kayla became close” sentences you read in soap synopses.  I think I stared at it for several minutes waiting for my eyes to clarify this into something that made sense.  Then I said “That’s so wrong!”, threw the book down, and walked out of the room, like I could erase it from my memory.

I’ve thought about this since then, and I’m not sure why I reacted so strongly.  I know my reaction was not unique, and in fact seems to be shared by many Steve and Kayla fans.  On the TWoP boards, someone jokingly spoiler-tagged “Shayla” (the black bar looked like a CENSORED tag) and then we all started doing it.  I’ve seen Shayla called the Couple Who Must Not be Named, and “the worst storyline of all time.”  This on a show that did Melaswen.

It’s not that shocking of a plot:  two sisters in love with the same man.  In fact, you might call it a soap staple.  So why the hate?  Well, I think it has a little something to do with the fact that we’re talking about two supercouples here.  And supercouples were not broken up and then paired off with each other.  Sure, one might die and a new love interest could be brought on for the surviving one.  But that’s it. 

Tom Langan famously said in 1992 that “the era of supercouple is over.”  I think this story was the first shot across the bow.

I’ve always thought that Shane and Kim were the best example of the so-called “supercouple problem.”  Here’s the problem as I see it:  you have about two years of story between first meeting and making it to the altar.  Then about a year of relative happiness, maybe a baby story.  Then a big breakup, with probably a year of story out of that.  That’s about four (maybe five) good years.  The problem is, what do you do after that?  Too much happiness = back burner.  Too many breakups, and you risk jeopardizing what made the couple work in the first place.  After you break up for the tenth time, is it really true love?

With every other supercouple, something seemed to happen to bail out the show from this problem.  Bo and Hope started in 1983, and they left together in 1987.  For Roman and Marlena, Wayne Northrup left, Drake Hogestyn came in, then Deirdre Hall left, all in the course of four years.  For Steve and Kayla, they started in 1986 and Stephen Nichols left in 1990.  Adrienne and Justin were written out together after about five years.   Jack and Jennifer are a little different because their story started at the end of the supercouple era [1989], so by the time they hit their five year mark the show had drastically changed.

So that leaves Shane and Kim.  Their story started in 1984 and they got married in 1986.  I still have not seen their early story (though I will!); by all accounts it was excellent.  Shane the spy and Kim the prostitute with a damaged past.  Before and after their wedding they did all the soap staples.  They did the dead wife comes back story (Emma!), they did a Who’s-the-Daddy story.  A Kimberly-is-blind story.  They did a baby kidnapping story, an evil-twin story (remember Drew?).  They did the “a child he never knew he had” story.  They did a presumed-dead story and an amnesia story.  By then it was 1990 and it had been six uninterrupted years.  The tank was starting to sputter.  They did a second WTD story.  Now, I know today no one can have a baby without no one knowing who the mother is, let alone the father.  But back then it seemed a little too much.  I have to think that after all of that the writers just threw up their hands and said, “Forget it!  I can’t think of anything else!”

Patsy Pease did take a break from the show, in 1990.  I had always assumed that part of the reason Shayla happened was that the show lost Patsy Pease and Stephen Nichols at the same time and threw Shane and Kayla together as kind of an afterthought.  Some of the scenes during the Alamania storyline seem to bear this out.  Here are two lead players who definitely need to be a part of the story, everyone else is paired off, let’s chem test them.

I still think that was part of it, maybe the initial inspiration.  But Patsy Pease returned to the canvas well before anything significant happened with Shane and Kayla.  It would have been very easy to drop the whole thing.  What is surprising to me (and I have watched up through March of 1991 at this point) is the care and attention that obviously went into this plot.

And it’s got Mary Beth.  So I might not be ordering this sweatshirt anytime soon:

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(something to wear to your next S&K meetup!)

but I’m enjoying the story much more than I ever thought I would.  So if any of you are willing to come along with me, I would love to have you.

On Hiatus

I’m sorry to say I’m going to have to take a break from this blog. I’ve been posting weekly since 2006, and recently it’s gotten harder to find the time to give it the focused attention it deserves.

I will however, continue to watch my DVDs. I will likely be unable to resist posting my thoughts on the Cruise of Deception, Steve’s death, Jack and Jennifer’s wedding, and Shayla. So feel free to check back in occasionally. But, for now, I won’t be posting weekly anymore.

But here’s something fun to close things out. I just got a couple of new DVDs that have the Daytime Emmys from 1986 through 1989. I haven’t watched them all yet, but I got a big kick out of this clip from 1986:

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(Check out Jane Krakowski on Search for Tomorrow—I had no idea. And with such hair!)

I had heard that TPTB were toying with a Hope/Steve pairing back in the day, and I think this clip, with its little teaser kiss, reinforces that idea. It’s funny to think what is considered, and discarded, in the writing rooms. But, though there’s no doubt these two have chemistry, I’m so glad they didn’t go that direction. I always treasured Hope and Steve’s friendship. Chemistry doesn’t always have to be romantic.

EDIT: Oh, my, check out Matt Ashford from his Search for Tomorrow days!

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Teen Scene

Whenever I tune in to modern day-Days, I am struck by the complete and utter vacuousness of the characters in the teen set: Chad, Will, Gabby, Mia. (To be fair, I haven’t seen the new Will—he could be awesome for all I know.) Especially Mia! Say what you will about Melanie—she’s taking over the show, she’s terribly mannered, her voice is like nails on a chalkboard … I know it’s all true. But at least she has some personality. Mia is like a lobotomy on Thorazine.

Every soap has them, to one degree or another: teen characters meant to bring in those oh-so-demographically-desirable teenage viewers. But does it work? No doubt the networks have extremely sophisticated market research techniques that tell them it does. But when I was a teen rushing home to watch Days, was it to find out if Jennifer was going to go to the prom with Glenn or Frankie? It was not. It was the 20- to 30-something set that held my attention: Steve and Kayla, Shane and Kim, Roman and Diana, Roman and Isabella. I didn’t get interested in Jennifer until she joined the grownup set. It makes sense: what was titillating to me then was imagining grownup problems, grownup love stories. Why would I want to watch what I could see going on around me at school every day?

But, as I think more about this, maybe those network executives are onto something. For much of 1983 and 1984, when I was 11, I watched Guiding Light. And what hooked me was—yup—the teen set on that soap. And if you can hook the 10 and 11 year olds, there’s a good chance they’ll still be watching a few years later. The same principle applies: I wasn’t a teenager yet, so teen angst and teen romance were mysterious and exciting.

There were four main teen characters on GL: Phillip Spaulding and Mindy Lewis, both rich, spoiled, and cute, Rick Bauer, square and reliable, and Beth Raines, poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks (played by the awesomely talented Judi Evans). They called themselves the Four Musketeers and Mindy was in love with Phillip and Rick was in love with Beth, but Beth and Phillip fell in love and had a very wonderful rich boy/poor girl star-crossed lovers story. And I cared immensely whether Phillip was going to take Mindy or Beth to the prom.

But, consistent with my general weakness for bad boys, it was another teen character who was introduced later, gang member Lujack, who really grabbed me. Lujack (Vincent Irizarry) was like Pete Jannings, but much smarter and cuter. And he had an awesome love story with Beth—even better than the one she had with Phillip—that is pretty much Steve and Kayla, junior:

Sigh. So dreamy.

I wasn’t able to find much on YouTube for them, but here’s a taste:

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Judi Evans left GL in 1986, and we all know where she ended up—Salem. Back when Adrienne first appeared, I got the biggest kick out of my favorite character on GL being cast as the sister of my favorite character on Days. Looking back, though, I wonder how Judi felt about it. Not only did she play a very similar character—young, poor, unsure of herself—not only was her love story with Justin a very close retread of her love story with Phillip (rich boy, poor girl), but she got to play a rape victim both times: raped by her father on Days, by her stepfather on GL. But, naturally, she gave it her all.

I always loved Adrienne and her interactions with the Johnson family, particularly Steve. Considering how much I loved Judi Evans, it is surprising that I was never more than warm-to-lukewarm on Justin and Adrienne. After their initial falling in love story, I just never found their stories that compelling—too much baby stuff, too much Judith Chapman, too many scenes of Justin saying “I renounce you Victor—and this time I mean it!” (Justin and Victor were the Lucas and Kate of the 80’s.) The show couldn’t seem to find a happy medium between heavy angst and sentimental schmoopiness, and tended to veer wildly between the two extremes. Judi can do heavy angst with the best of them, but Wally Kurth really can’t.

But, there was always good stuff to enjoy, too, and I’m lucky to be able to revisit some really great scenes on my DVDs. This is a scene around Stephanie’s birth. Justin and Adrienne are divorced, but have been slowly bridging the gap. One of the things that broke them up was Adrienne’s inability to have a child, and here they have a nice talk about babies. I think the show did best when Adrienne was the angstful one and Justin was sweet and supportive and could make her smile (which is pretty much how they started out):

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Incidentally, I apparently wasn’t the only one to be captivated by the GL teen scene in 1984. All four characters aged to adulthood and stuck around for long runs on the show, though a couple of them were recast. Grant Aleksander’s Phillip especially became a mainstay on the show. Before it went off the air, the show did a Four Musketeers reunion—25 years later!

Will viewers be tuning in to see what Melanie and Mia, Will and Chad are doing in 25 years? Somehow I doubt it.