Head Writer Change!

I can’t decide if I’m surprised or not.

Today came news of a switch in head writing teams at Days, per Soap Opera DigestGary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell are out… and Dena Higley (who was fired in 2003 and 2011!) is back, along with Josh Griffith.


It has felt lately like a change was imminent. I’ve been a big Tomlin/Whitesell supporter since their return in fall 2012, but the show feels like it’s running on fumes lately. I didn’t really have any predictions on who’d replace them, but I would not have guessed Higley.

Her brief 2003 run as head writer was a boring nightmare — Bo and Hope becoming bounty hunters; everyone scrambling to find some weird goop on a Native American reservation; Shawn beaning the corrupt mayor in the head with a baseball — and led us to the return of James E. Reilly and the Salem Serial Killer saga. Her 2008-2011 run was much stronger: it gave us the Sami/Nicole baby switch, the returns of Carly and Vivian, the complicated Daniel/Chloe/Philip/Melanie/Nathan/Stephanie storyline, and Alice’s memorial. So I’d like to be optimistic about this. The kicker is that Higley’s executive producers were Ken Corday and… the just-ousted Gary Tomlin. And a lot of this current head writing stint of Tomlin and Whitesell’s has reminded me of the Higley/Tomlin Days of ’08-’11. So I’m nervous that an unchecked Higley, with Corday and Greg Meng as her EPs, could quickly go bad.

On the plus side, we’ll have those first several months of exciting changes and refreshed energy, plus all the casting switcheroos that are probably imminent. Can’t wait to see Higley and Griffith’s work onscreen when it starts airing in fall 2018 or whenever!

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19 Comments on “Head Writer Change!”

  1. Dan Says:

    I wish I could get excited about this, but I can’t.

    I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but I just don’t see how much will change with Lisa DeCazotte and Greg Mendel still producing a show without supporting the writers’ vision of the stories. I think I might feel a bit better if Tomlin was sticking around in some capacity, preferably bouncing DeCazotte from her position. Anyway, I want this to work, but I’m not convinced this is anything more than a band-aid on a bullet wound.

    Also, Griffith isn’t the most exciting writer. I’ve only seen his work on HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS, but it was fairly generic. DAYS fans will put up with insanity like Nighttime Hope, but they won’t put up with non-stories. Honestly, I might have even accepted David Kreizman and Donna Swajeski, who’s work on “Guiding Light” I despised, but who managed to develop some decent material at “All My Children.” I’m just shocked we didn’t get Marlene MacPhearson, who I figured would be back after that picture several years back of Corday, MacPherson, and Higley on an airplane.

    Hopefully, Higley will be able to restore some more emotional resonance to the show that it desperately needs. There has been some nice beats in the last week and half. Today’s resolution to Friday’s cliffhanger (Paul almost walking in on Sonny and Will) was well done. We didn’t get Paul learning about Will and Sonny, but we did get a very meaningful, and very poignant, moment between Adrienne and Paul over Paul’s feelings for Sonny. And why I’m not a Brady/Melanie fan, I thought using Sonny’s stabbing as a reflective moment for Melanie to pursue a more physical relationship with Brady was rather well done. The only thing that bothered me is that Melanie / Sonny haven’t interacted much since her return to Salem, which I would have commented on in the dialogue.

    The show needs to slow down, it needs to play with the character dynamics, and it needs to build towards something. Higley has been able to do this effectively, from time to time, but I think her work will be hindered by interference from the production team.

    • mykleraus Says:

      Yeah, I… am not sure what to think. Like I said, I do fear that Tomlin’s EP skills were a big part of Higley’s last tenure working as well as it did. Her OLTL was a sensationalistic mess, and her first Days stint was godawful. Griffith is “fine.” His recent Y&R stint (well, like two years ago) was apparently just very dull, and a lot of the credit for his success at OLTL in the 90s seems to go to Michael Malone, who was steering that ship. But perhaps they’ll balance each other out nicely.

      What I hope these writers bring is simply some kind of big, overarching story, because when there’s something like the baby switch going on, the day-to-day scripts do fine with playing various dynamics and referencing history in interesting ways. One of the biggest problems right now is that there isn’t much story drive — it’s just a bunch of situations spinning around in circles.

      • Dan Says:

        I agree re: Tomlin as EP. Yet, there were several crucial layers missing from Tomsell’s work that seemed more consistent with Higley’s work. I don’t feel the emotion that I felt the first round. I didn’t get the sense of longterm storytelling after Kristen was unearthed the first time and the Smith Island adventure in May, 2o13.

        I cannot help but enjoy Higley’s work. I think her first DAYS stint was a fluke, and she quickly recovered with both her OLTL run and her second DAYS run. Her first DAYS run was still during the JER-lite years, which explains crap like the Goop and some of the other awfulness. Her OLTL was more miss than hit, but she raised on DAYS and it was clear in her writing. Some of the trademarks of her second DAYS run were present on OLTL and were more effective on DAYS.

        I did enjoy Jen Rappaport’s death and the entire denouement of the Daniel Coulson saga. I really enjoyed Adriana and Rex’s angsty romance and hints that Margaret Cochrane’s scheming niece Ginger might get her claws into Duke Buchanan. I thought Robin Strasser had some remarkable material that portrayed Dorian as more human than cartoonish as she would be in the final years. I enjoyed Asa throwing Blair in the mental hospital and dealing with Thom Christopher’s character. I thought Marcie and Hugh had potential, and I was disappointed that ended fairly quickly.

        Then I think of something like Nighttime Hope, which had many interesting layers and compelling elements, but that was ultimately just such a bizarre decision to take. Maybe Griffith will tame Higley the way he tamed Malone, who could be equally bizarre in his own right.

      • mykleraus Says:

        The stuff you mention from her OLTL stint was decent. I remember it also being a big ol’ mess, but there was also the Frons-ification of ABC Daytime going on at that time, so it’s hard to tell what was what. (The Jessica-has-DID storyline, while maybe okay in concept, was a big fat turkey in execution, but Jessica/Nash were good…)

        I liked Nighttime Hope! Some of it was dopey, and the sleeping pills thing was absurd, but I thought the concept worked, and the story was fun and accomplished a bunch of stuff.

        That’s a good point about Griffith’s effect. He might not be dynamic on his own, but as Malone’s second stint on OLTL proved, he needed someone to rein him in!

  2. Andie Says:

    I’m trying to be postive as well. I’m not familar with Griffith’s work. I know fellow fans have mixed opinions; personally, I can’t really judge too much bc I wasn’t watching Days as regularly during her second tenure in the late ’00s. I know from time to time whenever I watched I didn’t know who some of the characters were as she brought in a barrage of new characters with no ties to the core families of Salem OR rewrote history in many ways most notably to insert Melanie (as Carly/Daniels kid and Maggie’s grandchild). I can thank Higley for Rafe though, perhaps he will be on more often. 😃 I’m wondering if Theo’s autism will resurface after he’s been “normal” for the most part these past few years? Hey, maybe Higley will come up with some disorder Parker has to explain why a kid who is almost 6 years old can barely utter two words. Parker is still carried around like an infant, he often just sits there looking quirky and unresponsive unless he’s tickled.

    • mykleraus Says:

      It would be nice if they could find some damn writers who hadn’t been fired from this exact job before, but since that apparently is not an option…

      Good point about Theo’s autism. I know that was a bit of a pet cause for Higley, since she has an autistic son. I bet we will see Abe and Theo a bit more.

      I didn’t mind Melanie being looped in as Carly and Daniel’s kid. I actually enjoyed that little family unit. It was the Daniel-is-Maggie’s-son rewrite under MarDar that made it all stupid and unbearable to me. And yeah, she invented Rafe. I’m kind of hoping she pairs him and Nicole — mostly as a vehicle for giving Nicole some damn happiness!

    • Dan Says:

      To be fair, Higley featured a lot of new faces because of budgetary reasons, but rarely were they without ties. Daniel was introduced as Victor’s godson and Melanie was originally Max’s half-sister. Only Rafe was without ties, but the show desperately needed to expand it canvas outside the Hortons, the Bradys, and the Dimeras. I like how characters like Nicole and Chloe flourished under Higley after spending years in secondary roles.

      I thought the situation with Daniel / Carly / Melanie was brilliant. IT made it clear to the audience that Daniel / Carly would be endgame before Bo / Carly really even started and there was potential conflict for Victor / Vivian depending on how far Vivian was willing to go to hurt Melanie, who would be Phillip’s wife and the daughter of Victor’s godson. There was a lot of potential with this, but things wouldn’t develop. Daniel and Melanie fell into parent/child relationship too easily, while Carly was played as a pariah.

      Higley did love using the children so I suspect we’ll see Parker kidnapped, fall ill, and run away in the course of Higley’s first six months.

      Of course, if Higley decides to make Lauren Boles the new star of ‘Days of our Lives’ I would watch more faithfully 🙂

      • mykleraus Says:

        I loved the little family unit of Daniel, Carly, and Melanie. It tied three random characters in nicely, and it made Carly relevant to today’s Salem in a way that didn’t require her to be tethered to Bo. I wouldn’t mind having her back in Salem, though I guess we don’t need more women of that age floating around. It’s still odd to me that Daniel and Melanie act like they’ve been father and daughter their entire lives now.

        I’m trying to be optimistic about Higley. Like I said, at least the transition period will be interesting, which is better than being bored to death.

  3. Jayme Says:

    I guess this is the team they want in place for the 50th anniversary. I don’t know what that says about the 5-6 months we have left under the old regime, though. I’m cringing at the thought of another Days bloodbath.

    • mykleraus Says:

      Yeah, it’s interesting that they did this when they must be SO close to writing the anniversary. That makes me a little nervous.

      Hopefully there won’t be too many major cast cuts. A lot of the people who will likely go (since they seem like projects of the current writers) feel like dead weight anyway. And the people Higley minimized last time — John, Marlena, Kayla, Lucas — are either playing very supporting roles and/or on recurring anyway.

      • Jayme Says:

        I’ll bet you that elephant statue is what did them in.

      • Dan Says:

        For the past few years, Sony has been hiring and firing writers at the end of the contract rather than at the end of a cycle. If you look at the last three regimes at Y&R, they have all worked a year. MarDar were fired at the end of year. Tomsell’s last episodes will air on their third anniversary. It’s clear this is more business as usual than “Oh my God, our ratings are horrible!”

        I actually liked Higley’s last storyline for John / Marlena with RoboJohn and that crazy psychiatrist played by Sandra Ferguson. I thought this was well played and I was looking forward to Marlena and John reuniting. With that said, I don’t need to see them front and center again.

        Lucas was heavily featured in the Chloe story, but Lucas was never leading man material. Even in the current story, Lucas and Adrienne is clearly B-material.

        Higley effectively used Kayla in the Parker reveal worrying about Caroline, going after Carly, and comforting Stephanie.

      • mykleraus Says:

        That’s a good point about the contracts. It’s pretty clear that Tomlin & Whitesell are either burnt out or that the disagreements between them and the EPs have become overwhelming. I still wish these shows were training and grooming younger writers to be able to step into these lead roles.

        I really don’t see her dropping any of those four. They’re all comfortably in supporting roles. Kayla and Lucas theoretically don’t even cost anything except when they’re actually used, so what’s the point in sending Lucas out of Salem when you can show him when needed as Will’s dad/Kate’s son and have him pop up for Christmas?

  4. Farah Says:

    Josh was very good at writing and respecting vets on Y&R. So maybe he can balance out Highly’s hatred of history.
    SIDE NOTE: Why couldn’t they just promote Loraine Broderick? A combo of Griffith and Broderick could’ve been fire.

    One good thing about Dena being back is it’ll mean more Nicole. Dena LOVES Nicole/Ari. She also has a thing for Brady/Nicole.

    • mykleraus Says:

      That was one of the first things I thought: Nicole/Ari is going to get much better material. I bet they’ll finally pick up the thread of her desire to be a mother.

      I don’t think Lorraine Broderick wants the pressure of headwriting. AMC had to work really hard to agree to get her to do even a short transitional stint near the end.

      • Andie Says:

        I read on Soap central and other sources that there was a soapy vendetta between Ed Scott the EP, predecessor to Tomlin and Dena Higley during the early part of her last tenure as Head Writer. Scott worked during the writer’s strike but, he allegedly rewrote much of Higley’s scripts and allowed actors to tweak their scripts as well. Interestingly enough Scott was responsible for introducing the illustrious Dr. Jonas. I’m wondering if perhaps Higley, Griffith, and team will dump if not, back burn this multi-purpose surgeon/physician; Daniel was only intended to be temporary (one year contract). I don’t know if KC would permit that but, hey people who had it with Taniel being shoved in their faces can dream, right? 😉

      • mykleraus Says:

        Yeah, that whole period was a mess. I think Higley was actually a scab writer during the strike — Hogan Sheffer was officially the HW when it began, but the show miraculously kept going on, and then HS and crew were fired at the end of the strike and Higley was appointed HW.

        I’m hoping Higley reverts Daniel back to who he was in 2008-10 (decent guy, bit of a womanizer) instead of SALEM JESUS.

  5. […] head writing regime — and, with it, probably a change in direction for the show — is inbound. When Higley and Tomlin left in mid-2011, we saw quick exits for a whole crew of characters: […]

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