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Sara Bibel interview with Dena Higley
Topic Started: Apr 28 2010, 10:59 AM (6,444 Views)
Ellie


http://www.fancast.com/blogs/2010/deep-soap/deep-soap-days-headwriter-dena-higley-i-was-given-a-blank-check

Deep Soap: ‘Days’ Headwriter Dena Higley: ‘I Was Given A Blank Check’

by Sara Bibel
Apr 28th, 2010 | 7:45 AM

Monday, the ‘Days of Our Lives‘ cast and Powers-That-Be gathered for a cocktail party as part of NBC’s summer press day, an event featuring panels about NBC-Universal’s spring and summer programming. That’s right. The network that was ready to get out of the soap biz now considers DOOL important enough to merit a cocktail party with fancy hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. The official occasion was the show’s 45th anniversary. I spoke with headwriter Dena Higley about her inspiration for Hope’s (Kristian Alfonso’s) surprising new storyline, writing Alice Horton’s (Frances Reid) memorial service and DOOL’s writing process.

Why is Salem going to be sizzling this summer?

Because of couples breaking apart, yearning, coming back together, finding each other, big secrets being revealed, supercouples rediscovering passion, and some surprise bombs dropping.

You are the only daytime soap whose total audience is growing. What do you think the secret to your success is?

I think we have to make people want to watch tomorrow. Why do you want to watch tomorrow? Because you love these people and something’s going to happen and I have to make sure that everything’s going to be okay. We try to make sure everybody’s just a little bit annoyed with us at the end of an episode because if they’re a little bit annoyed, a little bit unsatisfied, then they’ll watch tomorrow. But eventually we want to fill them with satisfaction. And then they start it up again.

As a viewer, I had one of those,”Wait, what the heck?” moments when Hope’s new storyline about her double life started last week. What is going on with her?

All my favorite storylines come out of just waking up in the middle of the night and going, “I know what I want to do.” It’s not doing research or trying to read books or watch movies. It’s just I woke up and I knew I wanted to tell that Hope storyline and it just fell into place. I picked up the phone, called [Co-Executive Producer] Gary Tomlin, and said, “This is what I want to do.” He’s like,”That’s the craziest idea you’ve ever had, and I love it.” So it came out of the blue. It just hit me that we would have so much fun with Hope because it’s coming out of the kidnapping and the drama with Bo. I think that’s all very relatable to women. You have trouble with your husband and you get angry and what do you do with that anger? What if all of your anger in your life took on a life of its own? What would that look like? I wanted it to be kind of a fun “woo woo” story and at the same time I wanted it to be a relatable woman’s story. I think we’re all going to be cheering because we all can relate, I think. I’ve been angry at a few men in my time.

Do the pills that Hope is taking have anything to do with her double life?

Yes, absolutely. That’s where we’re going. Right before I went to bed I watched something on TV that was talking about that kind of medicinal thing.

Are Hope and Dr. Baker going to become more than alternate life friends?

Not the Hope that loves Bo, but the Hope that’s angry at Bo finds a friend in Dr. Baker (John Callahan) .

What was it like writing Alice Horton’s memorial service?

Tears. Tears. It was so cathartic. I’ve been on the show since 1985. I remember MacDonald Carey (Tom). I remember with sweet fondness Frances. I was given a blank check and [asked],”Dena, who do you want to bring back?” I started making lists and they started making phone calls. People were so generous and gracious to want to come back and pay tribute to her. We wrote the scenes. We cried. It’s like doing a funeral for your most beloved family member. If you could do it perfectly, what would it look like? We’re not one hundred percent,but I think we came pretty close.

What is Days of Our Lives overall writing process?

I write a long story. I send that to my producer and then we talk about it and then I send it to my co-head writer Chris [Whitesell]. We meet with the network and the producers. We agree on where they’re going to go and then once a week we sit down and we break that weekly story into bits and pieces. We have a great staff. They’re awesome.

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darraholic
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It's about time we hear from her. She's about as boring as she writes.
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Kiren
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Some people are alive only because it’s illegal to kill them.

Why is Salem going to be sizzling this summer?
Because of couples breaking apart, yearning, coming back together, finding each other, big secrets being revealed, supercouples rediscovering passion, and some surprise bombs dropping.


Supercouples....Bope?

Secrets... Sydnapping, Hope's SL...

What huge bomb? I don't trust DH so we'll see..

Thanks Ellie!
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Ellie


darraholic
Apr 28 2010, 11:05 AM
She's about as boring as she writes.
LOL I know; remember her blog from a few years back?
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Kiren
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Some people are alive only because it’s illegal to kill them.

darraholic
Apr 28 2010, 11:05 AM
It's about time we hear from her. She's about as boring as she writes.
:lol:
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lysie
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Ellie
Apr 28 2010, 10:59 AM
All my favorite storylines come out of just waking up in the middle of the night and going, “I know what I want to do.” It’s not doing research or trying to read books or watch movies. It’s just I woke up and I knew I wanted to tell that Hope storyline and it just fell into place.
And the last few years all make sense now.



She hasn't gotten any more interesting, and I am shocked that they let her speak.
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OliveAnn


The audience is growing? Really? This interview must have been done two months ago.
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LuvingLumi
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♥ Thanks to Reese for the Avi♥

^^I was just about to say the same thing. Clearly since February they have lost annual viewers every single week....so they had gained throughout 2009 but 2010 isn't doing very well for them...
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DOOLFan85


They let Dena out the birdcage for two minutes and she's already talking nonsense. Growing audience, lol... We'll see how she, Chris and Gary writes this show during the summer.
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aimees76
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Horse puckey!

I don't know, I just wanted to say that ... what IS horse puckey, anyway? Anyone know? I would find the answer to that more interesting than this interview ... or the show .. . :P
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Paxton
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Dreaming of a Melanie-free Days

Ellie
Apr 28 2010, 10:59 AM

Why is Salem going to be sizzling this summer?

Because of couples breaking apart, yearning, coming back together, finding each other, big secrets being revealed, supercouples rediscovering passion, and some surprise bombs dropping.

You are the only daytime soap whose total audience is growing. What do you think the secret to your success is?

I think we have to make people want to watch tomorrow. Why do you want to watch tomorrow? Because you love these people and something’s going to happen and I have to make sure that everything’s going to be okay. We try to make sure everybody’s just a little bit annoyed with us at the end of an episode because if they’re a little bit annoyed, a little bit unsatisfied, then they’ll watch tomorrow. But eventually we want to fill them with satisfaction. And then they start it up again.
[/b]
CROFL. Seriously, this interview is just made of fail. First of all, supercoupleS, plural? Who? And she seems to have confused couples "breaking apart, yearning, coming back together" with an actual story. There's just no there there, with anyone, which is why I'm on hiatus until something interesting happens and/or a couple exists that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out.

But, I am intrigued by her admission that "We try to make sure everybody's just a little bit annoyed . . . ." Where the show fails is that people are more than a just a little annoyed and unsatisfied. She claims that "eventually" they want people satisfied--but "then they start it up again." Why should I, the viewer, emotionally invest in a show in which I'm going to be unhappy most of the time until I get a brief spell of a happy "ending," only to have it taken away almost immediately thereafter? I don't mind not getting a couple I want and I don't mind a couple I like ending. What I DO mind is the merry-go-round of nobody ever really being together or really being over. In trying to appease all existing fanbases and create new ones they're simply going to end up alienating more viewers.

As noted, either this interview was conducted a couple of months ago or Sara Bibel hasn't checked the stat sheet, because ratings have been dropping for weeks, not just from the week prior from as compared to last year. That should suggest to TPTB that what they've been doing isn't working.

Thanks for posting, Ellie!
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six
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So, they haven't really quietly put her out to pasture? :shrug:

"It’s not doing research"

Well that much has been clear from the beginning. How else did we get the "bone marrow recipient donates to the same woman who wasn't a match for her back when she needed marrow" story?
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SocRMum1
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Much prefers sweevil, snarky EJ over Father Figure Fucktard Eejiot.

So they are pretending she still writes for the show? Interesting.

Thanks for posting, Ellie. :)
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uclan
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Ellie
Apr 28 2010, 10:59 AM

All my favorite storylines come out of just waking up in the middle of the night and going, “I know what I want to do.” It’s not doing research or trying to read books or watch movies. It’s just I woke up and I knew I wanted to tell that Hope storyline and it just fell into place.


Well, this explains the ADD writing style. And probably why all of her storylines fall flat.
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Ellie


Paxton
Apr 28 2010, 11:42 AM
Why should I, the viewer, emotionally invest in a show in which I'm going to be unhappy most of the time until I get a brief spell of a happy "ending," only to have it taken away almost immediately thereafter? I don't mind not getting a couple I want and I don't mind a couple I like ending. What I DO mind is the merry-go-round of nobody ever really being together or really being over.
Perfectly put. I think Higley is confusing her "strategy" (in quotes for a reason) with that of writers like JER, who moved the story towards a singular goal, but gave viewers bumps in the road along the way. Viewers knew the general ending of a story; did anyone think Hope would really die in the avalanche in 1995? Would she really end up with Jude St. Clair? Of course not. But as viewers watched the story unfold, yes, they were annoyed and frustrated at times with the impediments to the happy ending. As you're saying, Paxton, that's vastly different than the "constant viewer annoyance" that Higley seems to think is key to viewer retention. As you point out, it's so ironic that at the time of this interview (done Monday night!), it was apparent that Higley's "strategy" is going nowhere.
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jane1978


Good interview. I especially like the end about the writing process and how the idea about nightime Hope started. Seems she is still alowed to bring in story ideas, but has to immediatelly consult them with Tomlin who is the deciding faxctor. Very telling she didn´t mention Corday at all. As for the ratings, the fall last few weeks is still just a fluctuation. No reason to talk about it, especially when every professional writer/producer know there are always peaks and slumps in story telling. You cannot stay up all the time. GH is a prime example of that.
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SocRMum1
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Much prefers sweevil, snarky EJ over Father Figure Fucktard Eejiot.

Ellie
Apr 28 2010, 11:51 AM
Paxton
Apr 28 2010, 11:42 AM
Why should I, the viewer, emotionally invest in a show in which I'm going to be unhappy most of the time until I get a brief spell of a happy "ending," only to have it taken away almost immediately thereafter? I don't mind not getting a couple I want and I don't mind a couple I like ending. What I DO mind is the merry-go-round of nobody ever really being together or really being over.
Perfectly put. I think Higley is confusing her "strategy" (in quotes for a reason) with that of writers like JER, who moved the story towards a singular goal, but gave viewers bumps in the road along the way. Viewers knew the general ending of a story; did anyone think Hope would really die in the avalanche in 1995? Would she really end up with Jude St. Clair? Of course not. But as viewers watched the story unfold, yes, they were annoyed and frustrated at times with the impediments to the happy ending. As you're saying, Paxton, that's vastly different than the "constant viewer annoyance" that Higley seems to think is key to viewer retention. As you point out, it's so ironic that at the time of this interview (done Monday night!), it was apparent that Higley's "strategy" is going nowhere.
I could swear I've heard or read somewhere that this 'strategy' is something preached by Gary Tomlin and something he's focused on since he came back to the show. It sounds to me like DH is parroting what GT has been saying...following the party line.
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Ellie


SocRMum1
Apr 28 2010, 12:05 PM
I could swear I've heard or read somewhere that this 'strategy' is something preached by Gary Tomlin and something he's focused on since he came back to the show. It sounds to me like DH is parroting what GT has been saying...following the party line.
I don't remember that, but I wouldn't doubt it. The show really has no investment in any particular couple or story right now. They just hope the viewers keep watching long enough so that their favorites will get their turn again.
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LuvingLumi
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♥ Thanks to Reese for the Avi♥

SocRMum1
Apr 28 2010, 12:05 PM
Ellie
Apr 28 2010, 11:51 AM
Paxton
Apr 28 2010, 11:42 AM
Why should I, the viewer, emotionally invest in a show in which I'm going to be unhappy most of the time until I get a brief spell of a happy "ending," only to have it taken away almost immediately thereafter? I don't mind not getting a couple I want and I don't mind a couple I like ending. What I DO mind is the merry-go-round of nobody ever really being together or really being over.
Perfectly put. I think Higley is confusing her "strategy" (in quotes for a reason) with that of writers like JER, who moved the story towards a singular goal, but gave viewers bumps in the road along the way. Viewers knew the general ending of a story; did anyone think Hope would really die in the avalanche in 1995? Would she really end up with Jude St. Clair? Of course not. But as viewers watched the story unfold, yes, they were annoyed and frustrated at times with the impediments to the happy ending. As you're saying, Paxton, that's vastly different than the "constant viewer annoyance" that Higley seems to think is key to viewer retention. As you point out, it's so ironic that at the time of this interview (done Monday night!), it was apparent that Higley's "strategy" is going nowhere.
I could swear I've heard or read somewhere that this 'strategy' is something preached by Gary Tomlin and something he's focused on since he came back to the show. It sounds to me like DH is parroting what GT has been saying...following the party line.
Well it does seem that everyone there is following GT's party line doesn't it. It's either go with the flow or go home. I still don't think she's in charge of the writing...she's just there... ;)
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Paxton
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Dreaming of a Melanie-free Days

jane1978
Apr 28 2010, 12:00 PM
As for the ratings, the fall last few weeks is still just a fluctuation. No reason to talk about it, especially when every professional writer/producer know there are always peaks and slumps in story telling.
Excuse me? Please don't tell me or other people there is "no reason to talk about" something that was brought up in the very same fucking interview that is the subject of this thread. Sara Bibel is the one who made the claim that Days is the only soap whose "total audience is growing"--her words. Given that they've been losing viewers from the year prior for some weeks now, that clearly is not a true statement. There may be peaks and slumps in storytelling, but you don't know that Days is going to rebound any more than I know that they aren't. You're assuming that these past weeks of dropping ratings are a mere aberration but you have no proof that they actually are. Maybe Days will rebound for May sweeps and beyond and maybe they won't, but telling people not to talk about a subject for which there is a factual basis for disagreement with the interviewer is quite infuriating.
Edited by Paxton, Apr 28 2010, 12:19 PM.
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