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!

Advertisements

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.

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.

1990castpic

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. 🙂

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I was intrigued by this little quote, from the forthcoming Soap Opera Digest, regarding Days:

“Scenes that were shot almost 6 months ago were reshot in the last couple weeks to make the transition to the new stories smoother.”

First of all, in today’s tight budgets, when even second takes are frowned upon, I think it must be practically unheard of for reshoots to happen. And simply to make things “smoother”? I have trouble understanding where the money is coming from for all this. All these new big-name contract players, new improved sets and production values, and now reshoots? Did Ken Corday sell his soul to the devil?

One of my pet favorite things to do is to look for the onscreen effects of backstage decisions, so I think the next month is going to very interesting to watch. Let’s walk through some of these dates.

(Via Days historian and all around awesome resource Jason47, I found this tape-to-air schedule for Days in 2015, which was my source for all of this.)

The headwriter change to Higley and Griffith, from Tomlin and Whitesell, happened on February 16, 2015. That was a dark week at the studio, so filming under the new team presumably started February 23. At that time, there were three weeks of TomSell scripts fully written and ready to film. I am assuming that the new production team, including Albert Alarr, also started that week. According to the above schedule, the episodes filming then will start to air July 16 – yesterday! Did we notice some nice production values on July 16? I think we did!

wpid-wp-1437148630214.png

Look at the beautiful … lighting.

I really, really liked the way the whole final segment looked, going from Daniel and Nicole being happy, to Serena in her darkened hotel room plotting revenge, to Eric standing by his window thinking of Nicole, back to Serena pacing, and then finally Daniel and Nicole making out with Serena’s voiceover: what would happen if Daniel found out? It established the emotions of the four players, and heightened the tension of what is going to happen, in a really lovely way. On Daytime Royalty some posters said they noticed a few new musical cues as well on Thursday. I have a terrible ear for music, so I didn’t notice this, but that is also a very good sign.

I assume that the new writing/production team had very little time in those first weeks to rewrite scripts that were already fully written, so a lot of those three weeks of TomSell material must have been shot as is. This is the material that is mostly likely being partially reshot.

I can’t imagine these will be at the level of inserting a new storyline or completely changing the purpose of scene, but on the other hand it has to be significant enough to justify doing it. I’m curious if it means some scenes are completely cut, and replaced with a new scene that prepares us for a fall storyline, or if instead it’s a matter of rewriting the dialogue in an existing scene and reshooting it? I would guess too that they wouldn’t do this with actors who are gone, who they would then have to call back to the studio and pay them again. (But then, what do I know? Maybe it’s in their contract that they have to do that if necessary.)

The other tidbit I recall is that Mary Beth said awhile back that within two weeks of the new material, it’s a completely different Days. So the new team clearly came in and shook things up very quickly, and by Labor Day we’ll be fully into the new stories. Clearly they must have decided the transition was a bit too drastic, and they are doing this to make up for it. I just still can’t fully wrap my mind around it. It must have been very abrupt. Re-editing I can see, but actually reshooting?

At any rate, I look forward to playing “guess the reshoot” over the next month!

 

 

What, me worry?

In life, I’m an optimist.

But, when it comes to Days, I’m a worrier. I worry about the ratings. I worry the show will be cancelled. I worry whether my favorite characters will airtime.

And, if they do get airtime … that’s where my worries really explode.

For Steve and Kayla, I worry they won’t get their own story, just support another people. I worry they’ll be too happy, thrown together again with no angst. Or they’ll have angst, but it will be badly done angst. No attention to Kayla’s point of view. Yet another triangle with Steve in the middle – with Eve, maybe, or some new character. Kayla being too forgiving. Saintly Kayla. Steve being too mean. Both of them being idiots. Infidelity stories. Character assassination of all kinds.

I’m starting to worry about Ericole, too. I spent last night watching clips of them on YouTube, and I think I’ve fallen in love. And if anything I am more worried about them than I am about Steve and Kayla, who at least I know will end up together, even if it’s badly done. I worry that the plan is put Nicole with Daniel instead of Eric. That they’ll turn Eric into a judgmental tool (again). I worry Nicole will be never find her backbone. Or they’ll make her keep a stupid secret because she’s afraid of losing him. Or she’ll lose another baby. I worry that Ericole aren’t even on the new writers’ radar, and they’ll be written out. Or they have different plans for the characters. They’ll put Nicole with Lucas, and Eric with, let’s see, Melanie?

I worry about Dena Higley, the new headwriter (co-headwriter with Josh Griffith). She has been headwriter before, and is actually what drove me away from Days in 2009.* She gave Steve and Kayla a big frontburner story but it was a triangle featuring a woman from Steve’s past, Ava. Basically, it was a lesser version of the Marina story from 1989. Kayla was given nothing to do except cramp up at key moments with her problem pregnancy. Ava was really the focus. Higley turned Stephanie, Steve and Kayla’s daughter, into a satellite of Melanie and then wrote her out. Higley also destroyed my favorite younger couple on the show, Chelsea and Nick, by bringing on Dr. Daniel Jonas and pairing him with the much-younger Chelsea (ew, still grosses me out!). Oh, and she turned the character of Nick in a psychopath, too, for good measure.

What I remember is that I found her stories were full of incident but no depth; they gave me nothing to sink my teeth into. Big events would happen and then the story would just end, with no fallout. We Steve and Kayla fans actually had to do a write-in campaign for a hash-it-out conversation between Steve and Kayla after the events of the Ava storyline. (When we finally got it, though, it was very good.)

On the bright side, she was good at creating a balanced canvas, with a interesting mix of characters of different ages and types, and having everyone involved in some story of their own. (I didn’t always like a lot of the stories, but everyone had one.) Her big story from that era, the babyswitch, was fairly well executed. And — this is really what really makes me optimistic — I have heard good things about Josh Griffith. He has never written for Days before, but is reportedly good at writing for vets (!) and writing romance (!!!!). I’ve also heard good things about the new EP, Albert Alarr. He’s a Days alum and is popular with the cast.

What I’ve realized from watching Days in the modern era is that there is not ONE thing wrong with the show, where if we fixed it, there would be a second golden age. There is no magic bullet. It’s too easy to say that this headwriter sucks and this one is great. Tomlin and Whitesell, the current writing team, have truly written some terrible stories based on what I’ve seen this summer. (Ken Corday is busy throwing them under the bus in this week’s Soap Opera Digest.) But as far as I can tell, they managed to write two successful slow-burn romantic stories during their run: Ericole, and Will and Sonny. (Then they proceeded to ruin them both, but that’s another story.) That was more than I saw Hogan Sheffer or Higley able to do. I used to enjoy demonizing James E. Reilly, who wrote the Marlena possession story and Melaswen, but he wrote a great little story arc for Steve and Kayla, right before he was fired last time – when Steve and Kayla went to Cincinnati. It was nothing to win a Daytime Emmy, but it actually had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and more importantly showed Steve longing for Kayla, but scared of living up to her expectations – exactly how it should have been played all along.

So, what does all this mean? Essentially, that we know nothing. 🙂 And, despite my worries, I know that there will be some good things to watch. And probably the bad things that happen will be the things that didn’t occur to me to worry about.

Yes, I worry about that too.

* For what it’s worth, this is a post I wrote back in 2008, comparing Higley with Hogan Sheffer, who preceded her as headwriter.