Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Like My Coffee Black and My Days Grey

I believe very strongly that when it comes to desire, when it comes to attraction, things are never black and white.  Things are very much shades of grey.

-Brian Molko

One of the things that made me nervous about the reset was that the words “hero” and “villain” were being tossed around like allegedly stolen nudie pics of Scarlett Johansson.  Days used to have a pretty amazing track record for creating balanced characters that found themselves riding the line between black and white, as oppose to what’s been happening over the past couple of years, which would be characters standing on the dark side in white t-shirts.   

We had Sami shooting someone in the head while wearing a “Hello, my name is Strong-Independent-Woman-and-Mother” sticker on her hoody, and Bo threatening frail, sixteen-year-old runaways with potential beatings from violent pimps to get information on his missing child (which later ended up adding a whole second layer of ridiculousness to an already dumb, misogynistic storyline about physical attacks on hookers).   

But this, of course, was all in the name of good conquering evil.  

The problem is that the “evil” in those two cases included a man who was passed out, and therefore no immediate threat to anyone around him, and a waifish little street urchin who refused to give away a child’s whereabouts for fear that she’d end up back in the hands of her maniacal, lipstick-wearing, gasoline-igniting mother.

Rafe threatening to kill Nicole, bullying Anna, and threatening to lie to police about his sister's sanity.  Will chasing Arianna into the path of a speeding car.  Roman covering up an attempted murder.  Grandma Caroline switching paternity results.  There are way more offenses I can mention, but I won’t.  It’ll just take too damn long.

 After October 31st, anyone can pick up
one of these really cheap.

Needless to say, when I hear the word “hero” in conjunction with Days, the hair at the back of my neck stands on end.

Nicole and Brady

Who are my heroes?  My heroes are the characters that make the show fun to watch.  The ones that stir the pot.  The troublemakers.  The schemers, cheats, and liars.  Vivian.  Kate.  Stefano.  Andre. Nicole.  Anna.  Tony.  Sami.  Scammy Sami, I mean.  Not the toothless version we see today.
Just in case you’re wondering – No.  Sami sneaking into an office to get test results someone’s going to be readily handing her in short time does not count as a glimpse of “the old Sami”.  It’s more akin to a kid sneaking out of bed early on Christmas morning to give his wrapped presents a shake before mum and dad wake up.

While people swooned over the budding romance between Maggie and Victor, my heart was melting over Stefano and Kate – the Morticia and Gomez Addams of Days.  While I have a great amount of affection for Maggie and Victor, watching Stefano and his Katerina having to protect their own immediate families, their combined family, and themselves, from both outside and inside forces, was far more fun to watch.  Seeing their twisted beginnings bloom into full-blown love has been a joy to watch.  

 "Your smile is one of the most beautiful things in my life."

Stefano is Salem’s biggest bad.  He’s the guy EJ, Lexie, Tony and Andre point at to explain their own nasty behaviour.  But in recent years, the jaw that usually locks on its enemies and won’t let go until it tastes blood, or gets what it wants, has gone a little lax.  The Phoenix has been somewhat preoccupied with his own mortality and that of his family's.  Whether or not this is because Joe Mascolo may retire one day, so the writers need to create a permanent out for his character, I don’t know.  But you know what?  It works.  It’s turned Stefano from black to a dark grey.  

Watching Stefano’s eyes tearing up and nearly losing his balance when Lexie told him Tony was dead, cradling a fatally-injured EJ and begging for his life, or mournfully watching Kate walk away from him when his stubbornness keeps him from forgiving her for playing a part in nearly getting his son killed…Well, my heart just went out to him each and every time, and I never got it back.  Shortly after all that, of course, he locked Rafe up in his basement, but who cares?  After the past year, who can blame him for hating the Brady Bunch even more than he already did?

I'm only really looking forward to the returns of Carrie, Austin, John and Marlena to see how the writers have them handling their new DiMera ties (and also in the hopes that with Carrie back on the scene, I'll get my Sami back).  John being Stefano’s half-brother.  Austin being EJ’s stepbrother.  Carrie being back on the scene after her mother’s involvement in the Sydnapping.  Whether or not this will all be explored, who knows?  I’m just happy that my favourite family has grown, and has infinite storyline potential oozing from their pores (for instance, will Carrie tie up a loose end for us by finding out where the hell Anna has disappeared to?) . 

Enough about those snores, though.  Back to grey.

Whenever I hear about couples like Gossip Girl’s Chuck and Blair, or Y&R’s Adam and Sharon, Victor and Nikki, or Phyllis and Nicholas.  I have to admit that, as a lover of grey couples and characters, I get pea-green with envy.  Where have all Days’ grey couples gone? 

Days used to be great at grey characters.  Jack, Patch, Justin, and Tony immediately come to mind.  While all those characters had to overcome some hurdles to become the grey characters they are today (each character believed they had evil wired into their DNA), Jack really had his work cut out for him.  Only one Days character before him, Bill Horton, had managed the near-impossible – redemption after rape.  Jack easily could have remained a villain; after all - he had raped one half of a burgeoning supercouple.  But through great writing, and the charms and talents of Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves, Jack was able to overcome the terrible odds against him and become one half of a super couple of his own.  He was also able to continue nurturing his sneaky side, holding tightly to the rascal within.  He was no longer evil, but he still did a lot of naughty, naughty things, settling into a lovely, lighter shade of grey.   

Jack and Jennifer

Y&R embraces their grey characters and couplings.  On that show, everyone is looking for love, and no one is left out in the cold.  Even a guy like Victor – practically the root of all evil in Genoa City – gets some sweet, sweet loving from the ladies, from his children, and from his friends and colleagues (yes – the man even has friends, believe it or not).  In fact, all contemporary soaps, daytime and primetime, embrace their grey characters.  

 The inimitable Rhett and Scarlett

People relate to them.  They speak the unspeakable.  They avenge wrongs done to themselves and their loved ones the way we wish we could.  We don't always understand or agree with their motivations, but we find ourselves sympathizing with them despite that.  And over the years they become the friends and family we just can’t stay mad at. 

  Y&R's Nick and Phyllis, Adam and Sharon, Victor and Nikki

Look at characters like Dexter’s Dexter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Spike, True Blood’s Bill and Eric, House’s Gregory House, and Gossip Girl’s Chuck and Blair.  Look at classic couples like Rhett and Scarlett, Cathy and Heathcliff, and Jane and Rochester.  The latter two movies have been remade in recent years a couple of times now (coincidentally, there’s a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights due out any time now).  That’s because grey characters and couples are where it’s at, man.  

 Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley as Heathcliff and Cathy
Wuthering Heights (2009)

So why is Days trying so hard to change Sami into a heroine when she was perfectly flawed perfection just the way she was?  Why have they twisted her into such a stale, bland pretzel when she was Blair to EJ’s Chuck long before there was even a Blair and Chuck to compare them with?  Why, when EJ and Sami’s storyline has headed towards the natural conclusion that they end up together so many times now, does it get derailed in the most unnatural way towards the end?

   Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf

Sticking Nicole and EJ together just because they both happen to be grey characters doesn’t work, Powers That Be.  If that worked, you’d be able to stick any vanilla characters together and expect the sparks to fly off the screen, too.  Hope with John, for instance.  Roman with Jennifer.  Melanie with Austin (Ooh.  Did I just give the writers an idea?).  The laws of chemistry still apply.  The reason I’m such a fan of grey couples in the first place, in fact, is because grey doesn’t discriminate.  It doesn’t try to fight chemistry.  It plays to it.  Jennifer was a Horton and Jack was a bad, bad man whose biological father raped his own daughter, and whose adopted father was a serial killer.  On paper, it shouldn’t have worked.  But it did.   

 EJ and Sami

Good writing and great chemistry made it happen.

The chemistry is already being provided, people.  We’re only waiting for the good writing.
I’d say Days is behind the times except that Gone with the Wind was published in 1936, and Wuthering Heights was published in 1847. So what’s the deal?  How far behind the times is Days exactly?


  1. OMG - This is difinitely my cup of tea Diggy!! I don't think it can get any better than how you described this, Grey is the new Black we all know that, why can't this show embrace it they have so much potential and chemistry is what allows these wonderful matches so perfectly flawed. Ej & Sami, Jack&Jen, Vict&Maggie, Stefano and Kate all have their own individual characteristics that make them work so well together, and the stories so much more intriguing and entertaining. I totally love Wuthering Heights, Emma, Gone with the Wind epic lovestories and classic tales that all have embraced the darker shade of grey. Come on days, this is where season 46 needs to go.


  3. This blog was a delight to read. You really hit the nail on the head. This is why gray characters are always so popular and why unorthodox, angsty, pairings are the ones remembered for years and years.

  4. Diggy,
    Once again you've peeled away all the layers and gotten straight to the heart of the matter. Grey characters and couples make interesting and compelling viewing. Days has, at times, created beautiful gray characters and true supercouples, but has been been failing in this regard in recent years. One reason is that they have ignored natural chemistry between actors when writing for certain couples. Another is that they have gotten into the habit of trying to tell the viewers what to think about a character and their actions, rather recognizing that we, as intelligent, free-thinking individuals, are going to form our own opinions, regardless. I have to say that many of those opinions, at least on my part, have been favourable.

    I'm glad that you brought up some of Sami's recent activities. In some arenas, this seems to have been viewed as a "return" to the old Sami. It is not. Trying to access test results and hiding under a desk was cheesey and lame. The old Sami would be changing her test results with some ulterior motive and certainly would not allow a buffoon like Rafe catch her in the act. In fact, the only person who could anticipate the Sami of old and get one (or several) step(s) ahead of her, was EJ. Of course, we know what happened to that compelling pairing that fairly oozed hotness and chemistry - torpedoed.

    I have to say that watching Stephano and Kate's relationship develop has been one of the few pleasures, besides the fine acting of Days' veteran actors and James Scott, that Days has given me over the last few years.

  5. Grey is what makes the soap world interesting alright... grey, like the real color of 25% of my hair...but the rest is red, so hey, variety. Guess what color I never, never, never wear? White, that's right white, because it's BORING! And also because I'm a pasty Irish girl and then I look like the ghost of a ginger kid...

  6. I get back from my trip to a blog, yippy!
    To touch on your last thought, Why is Days behind the times? Why did it take them nearly 50 years to come to even hinting at a gay storyline when everyone else has?

    Why do they continue to force this stale couples down our throats and try to sell it like it's something new?

    Why do they hide Jack's face from the viewers when we were the ones who lobbied for his return? Know his voice. The List goes on!

    Why does Days employ people who have not stepped into the real world out from under their typewriters to get some inspiration, and insight in what fans want?

    The fact is, Days will cont to chase their tails until they have permanently disfigured every original character on the show, murdered the actors careers, and drove us away kicking and biting for the door.

    And THEY will have to deal with that.

  7. BTW: There's always room for a shameless plug.

  8. LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!!!!!!!! I LOL-ed at several comments because I feel the same way. Sami looked AWFUL (hair and skirt...it did not match the top)...also patrick muldoon DOES LOOK LIKE FRANKENSTEIN!!!! Am also sick of Dannifer PDA....and yes, if Jack does not fall into the cake today, i want to stop watching. Its just too damn fake that he is a few meters away from people that he KNOWS and NO ONE sees him!

    And yes, i love that you drew the world "lame" when sami was hiding under the desk. She's like a big CHILD. I cant stand her. She's a whiney brat (recall scenes between her and lexi).

    And love your comment about Will being gay...they'd better not move at a snail's pace on this.

    chantalsunita (we just became twitter friends this morning!)

  9. don't forget Logan and Veronica : most 'epic' pairing on tv by far !