Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dena Higley Through the Looking Glass

Rereading 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' is always a treat.  They're both the sort of books where you discover something new, or relate different passages to things happening around you.  And in the past little while I decided I could apply it rather nicely to my Dena Higley ranting.

'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'

'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'

'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'

'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'

'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.

We all know that one of Dena Higley's main problems seems to be that she and her team are always dicking around with the history of the characters, or forgetting aspects of their past altogether.  Rafe was an orphan raised by nuns.  Then out of nowhere these two sisters show up reminiscing about warm family moments with good ol' Mama Hernandez.  Now suddenly he has a brother, too (one whose existence wasn't acknowledged in any way, shape or form in Arianna's video will only a couple of months ago).

This is only a recent example, of course.  What about the huge, convoluted reaches we've had to make into Stefano and Caroline's pasts to believe he would become involved in the ridiculous organ-snatching scheme, and Caroline would know how to hack into a computer system to change paternity results  to stick it to Victor?  What about the fact that with all this unearthing of the Grace debacle, neither Sami nor Nicole brought up the fact that Sami's initial reason for not telling EJ about her pregnancy had nothing to do with  the hit put out on Philip or the murder of the mayor?  And is Gabi ever going to find out that Rafe, Sami and Will tried to cover up the shooting, which indirectly led to Arianna getting hit by that car or is that over and done with now?

"One's memory works both ways."

Another problem of Higley's is that she's writing with blinders on that are not only keeping her from acknowledging the history of the show (unless she can twist it for the benefit of one of her current storyline disasters), they're also keeping her from pulling back and seeing the big picture and what long-term damage could come from it going forward.  She's left varying degrees of scarring on just about every character on the show now, and not all of them will fade easily.  No matter what happens in the future, Sami is still going to be the woman who shot a man in the head and got away with it.  Rafe is still going to be the dirty cop who covered it up.  Will is still going to be the guy who bullied Arianna into the street and got her killed.  And who didn't want to reach into their TV and throttle Kayla when she lost her mind and sounded off at Carly's hearing? 

Because Higley seems to take a connect-the-plot-points approach to writing. She's not thinking about further down the road when these characters are put in a position where we're supposed to feel sympathy towards them.  And think about loved characters who might not appear on our screens for much longer.  When's the next time we'll be seeing Kayla again, for instance?  Is she going to fall off the end of the earth with the viewers hating her?  What the hell kind of legacy is that?  Or Caroline.  Right now I'd like to push her off the end of the earth, nevermind waiting for her to fall off it.

'What sort of things do YOU remember best?' Alice ventured to ask.

'Oh, things that happened the week after next,' the Queen replied in a careless tone.

Dena Higley is all about "shock value".  Like Erika Slezak (OLTL) said, "She doesn’t write stories, she writes events. It’s like one event – let’s have a bomb, let’s have a plane crash – but there is no story."  It's almost like Dena thinks to herself, "Well, I'll have Sami shoot EJ in the head.  That'll be shocking and something the viewers can look back on and think, 'Remember that time when Sami shot EJ in the head?'"  Higley doesn't know that most times we finish that sentence with "...that was really stupid", "that was a colossol error in judgement", or "that was the last time I watched Days".

The Hatter shook his head mournfully.

'It was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing:

"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!"

'You know the song, perhaps?' asked the Hatter.

'I've heard something like it,' said Alice.

'Well, I'd hardly finished the first verse,' said the Hatter, 'when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, "He's murdering the time! Off with his head!"'

'How dreadfully savage!' exclaimed Alice.

'And ever since that,' the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, 'he won't do a thing I ask! It's always six o'clock now.'

A bright idea came into Alice's head. 'Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?' she asked.

'Yes, that's it,' said the Hatter with a sigh: 'it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles.'

'Then you keep moving round, I suppose?' said Alice.

'Exactly so,' said the Hatter: 'as the things get used up.'

'But what happens when you come to the beginning again?' Alice ventured to ask.

Good Question.

The thing that immediately drew us to EJ is that, as a baddy (and I don't believe him to be one anymore, despite Cordiglay trying their damndest to make me think otherwise), he had so many layers.  He's never played it straight evil.  Hell, even when he was messing with Sami's head it was clear that he was crazy about her, and that crazy would expand or level out as needed.  The truth of the matter is, whether it was intentional or not, James Scott never played EJ as the moustache-twirling, cape-wearing bad guy whether he was asked to spin it that way or not.  And the one constant was that he played EJ as being hopelessly in love with Samantha. 

With spoilers telling us that EJ is going to be "enchanted" with and "humanized" by Nicole's sister over the next couple of days/weeks/months/who-the-hell-knows, and that he and Stefano are going to keep Rafe stuffed in their basement in a ridiculous ploy to get Sami to fall out of love with him right through spring (I'm sure it all makes just as much sense in your head as it does mine, mental illnesses aside), it's just further proof that:

 a) Dena hasn't a fucking clue how things are actually playing out on-screen - EJ's been human for about four years now.

b) It appears her logic is that she can make Sami look better by making EJ look worse. 
Some viewers might feel otherwise, but I'm going to have to have a lobotomy to forget EJ bleeding out of the head while Sami buggles Rafe in Lucas' bedsheets.  Hell, I still can't forget Sami's dirty feet in that one sex scene filmed from above the bed, nevermind Stefano crying and clutching EJ to his chest.

So is EJ being punished by being thrown into this endless cycle because JS is too good at his job?  That's my spin on it.  I sincerely think the writers tried to even things out between EJ and Sami by having him keep Johnny away from Sami despite his son's wishes to see her, but that didn't work out in TPTB's favour, either.  So here we are - another attempt at some Sami/Rafe angst and double the screen time for Commander Hernandez, while characters like Nathan, Philip and Carly sat on the shelf.  Well...we still have Crystal Chappell, but let's face it - how much longer is she going to put up with this crap?

I invite you to rant along with me.  No one likes to rant alone. 


  1. I love ranting! Sami-shot-EJ-in-the-head and Johnny-lost-an-eye-to-cancer turned into nothing but plot points. Plot points with no payoff, so exactly what was the point - or is that - the plot point? I'm really confused about what all the carrying on was about. Since none of it makes sense, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks, mayhaps, that a portion of the script was lost (an 18 minute gap if you will) or someone thought they came up with a better idea. I'm really disappointed that the trick and fancy mirror scenes ended up being a waste of effort.

    Of course, then there's Sami who didn't spend two seconds reflecting on the fact that she shot EJ. Anyone who shots an unconscience person in the head and then jumps into the sack with her boy toy dejour either has no conscience or a faulty circuit board in her brain. Pulling all the books out of the case in Roman's office would suggest that Sami is mentally unstable, but no one close to her seems to be concerned about her health. Since she has the impulse control of a toddler, Rafe would be well advised to sleep with one eye open and keep his service revolver under lock and key. If Sami would shot EJ, what's to stop her from capping Rafe? I think all the news items about the Tucson murders should be shoved under Dena's nose. That guy is undoubtedly going to spend the rest of his life in prison or a loony bin, and his crime will never be forgotten.

  2. Okay, first of all great rant, I sincerely enjoy reading your blog. I'm mystified about many things but after reading what you quoted by Erika Slezak I'm further mystified why ever KC would hire Dena Higley? Talk about a blemish on your resume.

  3. Thank you for this post - I'm new to your blog and I look forward to tuning in as you update it.

    I am convinced that someone way up in TPTB do NOT want Sami and EJ together. There HAS to be something going on that we do not know about because EJAMI is a gold mine! Something is NOT right.

    Another thing that is bothersome is that they made Johnny sick and for what? No EJAMI reunion through that? No discovering that Ally is actually EJ's? FAIL.

    Of COURSE we will never forget that Sami shot EJ. What another terrible, deplorable s/l.

    Every single character and their development has been assassinated. I'm embarrassed for them all -writers on down to the actors.

  4. Brilliant! Thanks so much for doing this Diggy!

    This needs to be forwarded on to tptb (Sony perhaps?)

  5. Love your post Diggy! I cannot stand plot points and I can't stand Higley's writing because it insults the viewers who take the time out to watch the show and get to know the characters and the relationships between them. What is the point of watching the show and getting emotionally attached if at any moment's notice they do something that is the completely inconsistent with their character? Everything she has done has turned this show into a mockery and a joke. As much as I was annoyed with Passions, at least they were consistent and didn't make me feel like history of the characters didn't matter. Granted, s/ls never moved but as least when they did their crazy stories it made some kind of sense and there was a reason for it. Sami shot EJ in the head and everyone acts like she just put a scratch on his car. Johnny loses an eye for what? And now Jennifer loses her heart only to get it put back together like humpty dumpty. What is the point? There is so much to work with on the show, there is a great cast and great characters to match. USE IT! Any head writer would kill for the opportunity she has, clearly she doesn't see it.

  6. I stopped watching during that whole Johnny lost an eye ordeal, I don't consider that entertainment. So now EJ is sportin' a big cigar and talkin' a little gangsta' I bet JS nearly falls off his chair when he reads the script for the week.....pony

  7. Everything I've been thinking but put together so much better!

    Higley destroyed OLTL and it's not extremely watchable, not perfect, but so much better.

    DAYS OTOH, has gotten so bad I can't force myself to watch for the very reasons, and then some, you stated.

  8. Are the original for those pictures from the music video for the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' song, Don't Come Around Here No More? Even if not, I dream of the day when someone says those words to Dena Higley.

  9. YES! The images are indeed from Tom Petty's video! His Mad Hatter was the reason I read the books when I was a kid (and why no other Mad Hatter will ever measure up)! :D And yes - I totally agree. I silently will those words to DH every night before I medicate myself into a coma.

    I'm going to edit this post to include Tom Petty's magnificent video.

  10. First, Love the blog, and the rant!

    This show is beyond ridiculous right now! It baffles me that with all the wonderful, dedicated work that JS and AS have given the show over the years that their characters could be written so poorly and out of character right now! I hope they pull it together before the actors realize they could take their amazing talents to a show that will appreciate their efforts.

    My Ejami heart is broken at the moment but my hope remains strong! Keep up the great work on the blog, Love it!!

  11. Diggy, this is my first read of your lovely blog and all I have to say is it's fucking epic.

    That is all :)

    Team DiMera!

  12. Diggy, you are one brilliant woman, and this is the most brilliant of your brilliancies to date! God, I love you!

  13. Tricia Zarine ForbeckFebruary 3, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    I think you need to send this to TBTB at Days and let them realize how much they all suck!

  14. Well the wait was worth work yet Diggy.

    I am done ranting at the moment...tptb are not listening and I am tired of feeling abused. My ejami heart is heavy.

  15. I love everything about this are always so spot on...You need to see if it is possible to add a twitter retweet button and a facebook like button, so we can spread the word on this blog...

    As for Dena, she can bite me, I hate what she has done to so many beloved characters on this show...

  16. I for one believe that the writers wont stop until they have EJ/Sami/Dumbass acting just like Dudley Do-Right, Snidely Whiplash & Nell...
    I EJ starts sporting a cape and mustache I may turn postal!
    xoxox Novela

  17. Fantastic, diggy!
    I think I'll retweet this @ Sony and NBC till the cows come home (or till Days starts to make sense again!)

    Don't get me wrong: I'm all for writers giving us dastardly, devious characters we love to hate (like Stefano of that bygone era when he was actually someone to be feared and not this criminally inept teddy bear that the Salem PD taunt and use as the butt end of mob jokes... or villains like ATWT's James Stenbeck or that psycho Sheila who raised so much hell on Y&R and B&B).
    But when the writers themselves become the most hated names on a show for mangling both the good and the not-so-good characters beyond all sensible recognition, that's just bad writing, bad management and just plain bad television.

    I just keep praying that the Comcast crew comes in and really shakes things up. First item on the agenda: reassignment of duties. Dena should be in charge of trash detail--that seems to be all she's capable of peddling these days anyway.

  18. Diggy, great blog!!!

    This entry is spot on. Watching Days during Higley's reign, particularly since September, has seemed like a trip in a backwards world where logic and reason have no meaning whatsoever. What happens one day is forgotten the next. Core characteristics that made characters breathe have been decimated and all that is left are hallow shells that I have no feeling for and have no interest in watching.

    I don't care about any character on Days anymore -- not even Sami and EJ. While I love the actors who portray them, I find no entertainment value in watching EJ as the cartoon villain and Sami as a brainless and victimized bimbo. Other characters fare no better -- Nicole going from abusive relationship to relationship - the woman has no pride or self esteem. Kayla is a shrieking shrew. The list goes on . . . but I don't want this post to become a novel.

    Years ago when James E. Reilly was writing during his second stint, I quit Days out of disgust. The show was on a downward spiral storytelling wise -- I felt insulted as a person with a brain watching his crap. The sole reason I can back to the show was because I happened to catch James and Ali's first together. And I had heard that Reilly had been fired and replaced by a new writer. So I gave the show another chance.

    I'm not sure that I can say that I'm glad that I gave Days another chance. While I did fall in love with Sami and EJ, I cannot say it's been worth the price of admission in the end. In a way, I wish I would have watched that first EJami scene, enjoyed it and then reminded myself that Days had transformed from a show that I thoroughly enjoyed (in the 80's and 90's) into an exercise in constant disappointment. That didn't start with EJami. There are many other instances during the 2000's when the show was a frustrating experience for me. I should have kept that in mind. When I have looked on YouTube at what other soaps were putting out during those years when I watched Days, I felt like I had made a monumental mistake as a soap opera viewer. I could have been watching stories that made sense, that had emotional resonance, when instead I entrusted my soap opera viewing to Corday and co. I always said to myself, "This has to get better, right?"

    In any case, that's all water under the bridge. I love soap operas and I'm still watching them. But I am getting my fix elsewhere. If I want to take a trip to a world where everything is mad, I'll re-read "Alice in Wonderland." But Days is dead to me.

    That's my rant.

    Diggy, keep up the good work. Your blog is a pleasure to read.


    Miou aka V