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Strange Days Vol. 2; My Say in Salem (DOOL column)
Topic Started: Sep 22 2007, 04:56 AM (725 Views)
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After all... tomorrow is another day!

Strange Days: My Say on Salem
By: IMissAremid
Volume No. 2

Ed. Note: Some spoilers for the week of Sept. 24 discussed.

“My love-hate (but mostly hate) relationship with Hogan Sheffer”

Perusing the various soap boards this evening, I’m noticing that hostility toward “Days of our Lives” Head Writer Hogan Sheffer is at a fever pitch.

A confluence of factors has contributed to this latest storm of criticism, perhaps the biggest catalyst for this vitriol being the release of last week’s ratings showing “Days” in dead last in the soap standings, below even “Guiding Light,” now that “Passions” has gone to that great DirecTV in the sky.

To some gloating John and Marlena fans this is vindication that the show has ignored their pleas for more screentime for their faves at its own peril, while to some bitter Lucas and Sami fans fearful that their couple is slipping away this provides an opportunity for them to once again lay blame for the show’s woes on “the rapist.” (Me: Which one?)

But for me, it’s not the ratings that have me frustrated with Hogan – it’s the show he’s putting on the screen. It’s the missed opportunities in his stories. It’s the lack of variety and balance to his canvas. It’s the dearth of romance and overabundance of melodrama. It’s the lack of respect for the integrity of the characters and their histories.

And it’s the despair in the knowledge that it doesn’t have to be this way.

You see, the truth is I want to love Hogan Sheffer. For whatever reason, and surely Hogan has to have something to do with it, I am more invested in this soap than I have been at any time during my life. Just about every “Days” character I’ve ever cared deeply about save Vivian Alamain is on the canvas right now and the current characters I like best, E.J. and Sami, are leading in the episode counts and I have even been treated to their look-alike ancestors this summer. I feel like I should be extremely happy with the show right now and its Brady-DiMera focus.

But I’m not. Because I don’t trust Hogan Sheffer to keep me consistently happy given the way he has burned me in the past and given all the times I’ve gotten my hopes up about a promising spoiler or curious twist that just fizzled with no payoff in the end. Especially after this generally mediocre, bland week that seemed to have squandered all the excitement and tension built up over the past several weeks in the Brady-DiMera feud storyline, I feel like I am justified in expecting little from him.

There’s also the way that he always seems to find a new way to tweak me when I hear him speak.

First, there were his comments on this week’s episode of “I Wanna Be A Soap Star” where he was trying to determine whether to eliminate Travis or Yves from the slew of reality show contestants vying for a 13-week contract on “Days.”

In the end, Hogan decided it best to eliminate Travis despite the fact he thought him a more gifted actor and despite the fact he would rather write a character taking advantage of his talents. He kept Yves, he said, because “I know” that “Days” viewers would rather see the model-looking guy than the best possible actor. I simply don’t believe that’s true, and if it was I think “Days” would have a much larger audience and less fan antipathy for its stories centered around the exploits of characters portrayed by an ex-Abercrombie and Fitch model and Playgirl centerfold moonlighting as a stripper.

Then there were his infuriating remarks in the “Days” cover story on the feud storyline resolution published in this week’s Soap Opera Digest.

At the end of the article, Hogan speculated on the undetermined future of Lucas and Sami and in doing so tossed out the spurious claim that Sami and Lucas “always seem to end up right back where they started – blissfully together.”

Give me a break! When have Sami and Lucas ever been “blissful” during their years on the show? And even if they’ve been “together” off and on over the past few years, they certainly didn’t “start” out that way.

If Hogan really thinks Lucas and Sami are the couple this show should feature then the very least he could do is write both characters true to whom they actually are, with angst and dysfunction and a volatile relationship that is honest to their history rather than trying to manufacture some cookie cutter happily ever after relationship for them.

Hogan also acknowledged in the SOD article that Lumi fans “will be livid” by the latest developments in their couple’s story. Well, duh. Did he think that simply acknowledging their outrage was going to make Lumi fans happy? Did he think giving them a shoutout would pacify them? It won’t. And it’s just pathetic that a head writer who should care about all fans of the show would single out any fan base this way or so brazenly acknowledge the way that fan base reaction apparently figures into his writing.

But perhaps that explains why this Brady-DiMera feud storyline in the end is being revealed now when all is said and done as nothing more than an extremely unsatisfying attempt at multi-generational EJami fan fiction masquerading as an all-encompassing umbrella story using 25 years of “Days” history as window-dressing to quickly pave the way for an E.J. and Sami pairing rather than actually address the mistakes the show has made in the couple’s story of the past year and fix them.

In the article, Hogan says:

“If I’d chosen to put something else in the folio, the stakes would have changed drastically. The vendetta might still have ended, but the vendetta is not really important at the end of the day. What’s important is that Sami, married to, and in love with, Lucas, now has to face the possibility of marrying EJ, her nemesis and most tantalizing temptation, in order to stop the violence against her family.”
(SOD Oct. 2)

So the vendetta storyline, featured in blaring promos as a “big summer story” is apparently “not really important at the end of the day” to the head writer who penned it. If the person writing the show doesn’t find the storyline “really important at the end of the day,” why should any of the show’s viewers? I mean, I’ve felt like the fact that Hogan didn’t think this storyline was all that important did show through in his careless writing at times, but I never expected to see him admit it in print.

Is it any wonder if “Days” fans are wishing that SoapNet was airing “I Wanna Be A Soap Head Writer” instead of “I Wanna Be A Soap Star” this season?


This week in Salem:

Performer of the week – Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) … I loved her tough love for Jeremy and Stephanie. The intensity she brought to her scenes brought out the best in young actors, Trevor Donovan and Shelley Hennig, who are stuck playing somewhat less than likable characters a lot of the time. She also really struck all the right notes in Pocket’s health scare and handling Steve’s guilt over that. Kayla just rocks so hard right now.

Script Writer of the week – Jodie Scholz (Monday) … I admit this is mostly just by default as none of the other episodes this week really caught my attention.

Scene of the week – EJ/Sami/Lucas at the hospital (Monday) … I can’t help it. The “she loves me, she loves me not” fiddling with the rose petals before the love declaration that was quickly taken back as just a joke after Sami scolded E.J. was the highlight of the week for me.

Couple of the week – Steve and Stefano … That alternately humorous and menacing confrontation between the two of them in Thursday’s episode was some pretty good stuff. Too bad the rest of this week didn’t hold the same appeal.

Salem stooge of the week #1 – Shawn … While you aren’t suppose to put fire extinguishers in freezers, I guess it’s a good thing some other stooge did it for Shawn’s sake after he got punch-drunk on his Molotov cocktail and started a fire in the locked room holding him and his fiancé after a psycho twice his age kicked his ass. But at least Shawn didn’t have the humiliation of Andre being in drag or a clown suit when he was laying the smackdown on him, I guess.

Salem stooge of the week #2 – Steve … It’s hard to hand out only one of these awards this week (OK I admit most weeks on DOOL) when a baby at Patch’s daycare got poisoned and he got stabbed as the result of his rash decision to participate in Bo’s stupid scheme to try to entrap Andre so I’ll go with him this week, too.

Scene-stealer of the week – Andre’s disembodied voice (Monday) … If only they would let Andre start killing people again for real. *sigh*

Line of the week – “Well, I don't see why I have to leave just because Lucas here insists on acting like a child.” (E.J. - Monday)
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Steve Frame
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Good job Mary. Very good thoughts and very well stated.
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i have been a hogan doubter/turned active hater/then almost could stand him..which lasted a week or so..i have detested every interview he has given starting with the "ej and kate are gonna f--k"

and i freely admit it is due to the presence of james scott that i have continued to watch ..this actor has created more interest than any six that have ever been on the show, so how does hogan utilize this gift he was handed by the prior writer?

his ego has shown in this from the get go--he took a premise of ej should be a dimera to use it as ej should be a demented pyscho..showing no presence or understanding of the dimera's through days history..

first he spends months showing us a "hairy arm" as stefano, then when he gets the real deal, he has no clue how to write for the man..it is joe mascolos genius that has defeated the clumsiness of hogan once again, just as james scott did..

i will give him the clown moment as being quite good..but whatever else he is putting out is sucky..and the remarks he made on iwbass show what an imbecile he is...corday and scott should fire him as soon as that series concludes before his idiocy is further revealed.

in other words mary..right on!
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Great article again Mary.

It is very frustrating to watch the show and see that positive improvements that Edward Scott has made but at the same time hear such ridiculous and ignorant words come out of the mouth of the head writer. It makes me worry that Mr. Scott's influence might not be enough.

I did enjoy quite a few of the episodes last week even though my favourite characters were not featured very much but it is the articles and interviews in the soap magazines that make me scratch my head and wonder if they've learned anything from the disaster of the past year.

The thing I am most disappointed with is the ending of the Santo and Colleen saga. They had in their hands a beautiful and romantic story and in the end, they ruin it by turning the romantic hero into a lying, manipulative player. We already knew that Colleen would die or be presumed dead (my theory is that she is still alive - I think it would be a very compelling story for EJ and Sami to find Colleen alive and well somewhere in the present day) so the tragic end to the Santo and Colleen story was not a surprise but there was no need to ruin Santo in order to make sense of the vendetta but apparently, Hogan doesn't want James to ever portray a real romantic hero on the show.

Based on his Soap Star comments, I wonder if he perhaps resents the fact that James is "pretty" and that resentment clouds his judgment on how great of an actor James really is since he seems to believe that acting talent and good looks can not exist within the same being. Not every actor who looks like a model is a terrible actor and as you say Mary, a pretty face is NOT all the viewers want to see. If that pretty face can't act, I have no interest in the character. There have been many great looking guys on Days over the years who were not good actors and as a result, their characters were not popular. Actors who have both looks and talent are very popular but given the choice between the two, I'd go with talent because a talented actor can get you invested in his character no matter what he looks like. Joe Mascolo is not drop dead gorgeous but his character is probably the most popular on the show - why? Because he's a great actor and he gets viewers invested in the character.
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I consider myself one of Hogan's bigger supporters, but even I'm not particularly happy with him right now - especially after reading his comments.
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Great article Mary! And thanks for pointing me to this site. :)

I had high hopes for HS when he started on Days. I assumed that it would take awhile for him to clean up the mess left by JER. Under Hogan, the flashbacks did stop making a three-times an episode appearance, characters began having conversations that were above the level of a ten-year old and the supernatural crap disappeared -- at least for a little while. JER had left the building and I couldn't have been happier.

But then came December 29th--the big-o mistake-o, the tarot card, Steve as the looney, EJ terrorizing the residents of Salem (I love how James Scott has played him BTW), Sami becoming a whiny Stepford wife to a clueless husband, the neverending Shelle on-the-run saga, etc. Like has been stated before, if it weren't for the actors and some excellent dialogue, I would have had a very hard time sticking around and watching. Good, witty dialogue for me personally makes up for a lot of other flaws. But for the general audience, that doesn't cut it.

Storytelling and connecting characters . . . that to me those are HS's problems. He doesn't finish ANY story that gives viewers a payoff. Even a story that starts off rottenly can be saved if the build and the final payoff is well-written and executed. But that doesn't seem to be HS's style. He throws new characters into the mix without allowing them to interact in a meaningful way with well-established characters to get the general audience warmed up to them.

HS has so many good elements to work with on Days. Plenty of good actors, a show with a well-established history, and some exceptional scriptwriters. And although HS has served up his share of crap, he has also had a few brilliant episodes. I think of the Dimera/Brady dinner episode. There actually have been quite a few good individual episodes during his time, but that's the one that stands out for me as near perfection. Watching it left me with a lot of hope for the show. Episodes like that one kept me from condemning HS completely. But, as time wore on, the quality started slipping again and that particular episode, like many other good ones, seemed to be more isolated than one that people refer back to as part of a whole, if that makes sense. I also think about the whole Lumi/EJami storyline. I love EJ and Sami together, but even I got to the point of saying "dammit, make a decision HS -- one or the other and stop this back and forth! I'm getting sick of this fuckin' merry-go-round!" That frustrates me about this writer. And his recent comments on Soapstar didn't help. I really turned negative toward him after that.

Enough of my babble. Mary, great points, great article. I look forward to reading more.
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Captain Kirk

After reading Sheffer's comments and watching him on IWTBASS(or whatever its called) I have lost just about all respect from him as a writer. I want Beth Milesten or someone else, whats to lose because DAYS is already at an all time low in viewers? I still don't want JER back though! Even though I am loving DAYS I know its thisclose from being even better. Sheffer doesn't get DAYS, Marlena should be front and center with Stefano, not Sami. I could go on and on but I will stop here. Great job IMA!
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