The Hit List
For better or worse, another 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: Carly, Vivian, Quinn, Taylor, and Chloe. They were replaced by John, Marlena, Carrie, Austin, Jack, and Madison. Then, when “MarDar” were out the following summer, we swiftly lost Carrie, Austin, Jack, Madison, and Ian, plus Melanie and Bo, whose actors chose to exit. And then Kristen and Nick joined the show as Tomlin and Whitesell set up their material. Point being, there tends to be cast turnover at a juncture like this, and since new/old writer Dena Higley has history with the show, why not speculate about what that might look like?
Putting this behind a cut for the (moderate casting) spoiler-averse…
We all know that Chrishell Stause (Jordan “Tammy Sue” Ridgeway) exits next month, and by all accounts, the role is not being recast. It seems as though James Read (Clyde) and Robert Scott Wilson (Ben) are still shooting, so perhaps by the time Higley and Josh Griffith’s material kicks in, the Saga of Poplar Bluff will actually be working onscreen. If not, I could definitely see Jordan’s brother and stepdaddy being shown the door, too.
During Higley’s last reign, she wrote out John, Marlena, Kayla (along with Steve), and Lucas — but there are some big caveats here. She was actually writing for all those characters for close to a year or more before they exited. The budget adjustment and accompanying cast cuts came when Gary Tomlin took over for Ed Scott as EP, and axing some expensive players seemed to be necessary. All four of these characters are now firmly settled into supporting roles; Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn clearly have lower guarantees than before, and Mary Beth Evans and Bryan Dattilo are both on recurring, so if you ask me, all four are probably safe.
She also brought in Shawn Christian as Daniel (blech) and Molly Burnett as Melanie. Given that history and the overall show’s apparent obsession with him, I’ll be pessimistic and venture that we’re probably stuck with Daniel. As for Mel, the facts that Burnett just returned and that Higley wrote heavily for her before and that there’s now a Sami-sized hole in the canvas all seem to add up to her being in the clear, too. Tomlin and Whitesell’s newest addition/obsession, Serena (played by Melissa Archer), is a total wild card: on one hand, the story she’s been thrust into clearly isn’t working, and Higley seemed to love Nicole during her 2008-11 run, but on the other hand, Higley wrote heavily for Archer when she was at One Life to Live. Maybe she can find something palatable to do with her, at least.
I will dare to dream and offer up a prayer that True O’Brien (Paige) is also on the chopping block. The character is weak, and the actress hasn’t been able to elevate the writing; Paige has dragged down both JJ and Eve, characters with historical use on the show portrayed by talented performers who have been subjected to months of utter crap. The way they’ve drawn out the JJ/Eve thing into an affair suggests that they know the young romance of JJ and Paige is dead in the water, so with any luck, Higley will put the final bullets in it. Kassie dePaiva’s Eve can stay, provided they find an actual story with grown-ups for her.
Who else? As I said above, Nicole (Arianne Zucker) should be safe, since Higley seemed to love writing for her; I hope she picks up the thread of Nicole’s desire to be a mother. I’m a little concerned about Jennifer, whose role has been weirdly minimized of late, but it also occurs to me that if Melissa Reeves signed a four-year contract when she returned in 2010, it was probably just up for renegotiation, so maybe she took a lower guarantee. Still weird. Kate Mansi (Abigail) could be out of her own volition, since her original contract from 2011 would be up soon, but if she stays, Higley and Griffith would be wise to invest in Abigail as a next-generation lead. After a promising setup with the EJ affair, she’s been cast back into supporting territory, lost in this whole Poplar Bluff storyline. There’s also Rafe (Galen Gering), who has sort of been adrift since he and Sami split up; he had the affair with Kate (which was really part of the larger Sami-centric story), then that long coma, and the relationship with Jordan, which flopped. Plugging him into Victor’s world has been interesting but hasn’t amounted to much yet. If any writer is going to find something to do with him, it’ll be Higley — a pairing with Nicole, perhaps?
No one else is jumping out at me as being decidedly not safe. Some people online seem to have the idea that the gay story is going to be wiped away, since “Tomlin brought in Sonny,” but I haven’t seen much indication of that — especially since Will’s coming-out was clearly being set up by Higley and Tomlin before MarDar came in. Christopher Sean (Paul) is too good a find to cut loose. If anything, I hope they find a way to recast Will with an actor stronger than Guy Wilson, who’s had his opportunity and hasn’t shined.
And, finally, there’s the matter of who could return. The most obvious one is Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe), around whom Higley previously centered a lot of story, though I’m not sure Bjorlin wants to be tied down to Days at the moment. I’m mostly fearful that we’re going to excise a bunch of crappy newer characters and then just replace them with different, newer, crappier characters.
Thoughts? Fears? Anything I missed?