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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Soap Operas: The Cliff Hanger-The Backbone of the Genre

Soap Operas: The Cliff Hanger-The Backbone of the Genre
By
Theresa Chaze

The cliffhanger has been the both a source of pleasure and bane to soap opera viewer since the genre was created. It is one of the hooks that keep the viewers coming back. From radio to daytime to the emergence of primetime soaps, the cliffhanger has been the one element that has remained constant. However, in the past few years with the movement away from the traditional soap opera format to one that is more titillating, the cliffhanger has also been cast aside.

In the era of multi-media and channel options, cliff hangers have become more important than ever in the success of a soap opera. With so many choices, all shows need to give the viewers a reason to keep tuning in. Historically, cliff hangers have been the genre’s best tools to create loyal fans. According the World English dictionary, the definition of a cliffhanger is:

1. Arts literature ending left teasingly unresolved: an unresolved ending in a serialized drama or book that leaves the audience or reader desperate to know what will happen in the next part

2. Arts drama serial with suspenseful endings: a drama serial that has episodes that often end in suspenseful unresolved endings

3. Tense situation: a situation full of tension or suspense because it is not clear what will happen next

By keeping the audience guessing, the writers insure they will tune in next time to learn what happens to their favorite characters. However, the more invested the viewer is in the characters the easier it is to hook them. Yet on the flip side, it is nearly impossible to retain the interest of the viewers if they can’t identify with the character or if the plot doesn‘t fit within the perimeters the show has already established. The more the viewers care about the characters, the more likely they will be loyal to the show.

Cliff hangers need storylines that are not only well written, but also well thought out and exactly timed. Cutting the scene in the middle of the action is not a cliff hanger; it is a poorly placed cut. In order to be effective, it has to be the logical progression of the plot throughout the episode. By properly organizing and timing the sequence of scenes, the writer builds the suspense and drama. Inter-cutting the primary storyline to build a secondary, not only heightens the tension, but it also initiates the next primary storyline and helps insure the show will end at climatic moment. As with comedy, timing isn't the only thing, it's everything.

Many of the current soaps have given up writing the complicated storylines that are associated with cliff hangers in favor of gratuitous sexual scenes that aren’t based in plot or character. Instead of developing characters or stories the viewers can identify with and care about, the writers have chosen to focus shallow characters and plots that more closely resemble soft porn, which is why the genre has been slowly dying. In traditional soaps, sex was the end result of romance that was gradually created over weeks of teasing, testing and sexual tension. Instant romance and relationships give nothing for the viewer to look forward to since they already know what the end results will be sex. Until the writers return to storylines, which are based on suspense, drama, romance and humor, cliff hangers will be a thing of the past, taking with them the whole genre.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Days of Our Lives: Fans Missing the Good Old Days

Fans Missing the Good Old Days

As a writer and long time viewer of Days of our Lives, I'm more than a little saddened at the lost of my beloved soap, especially when it didn't need to be. As with all soaps, the fans of Days were known to be rabidly loyal until they are given cause not to be. Since the beginning of 2007, the viewers have been given more than just cause to change the channel. Ignoring the importance of the vets and corrupting the show’s history while pandering to the younger viewer only proved that the current writers and producers simply don't understand how soap loyalty is built. Factoring in the incomplete storylines and the endless triangles, there is little wonder why the ratings dropped from 2.7 to 1.9 in four months and never really recovered.

Like most, I started watching soaps with my mother and grandmother. It was something we shared especially through the teen years when it was sometimes the only safe topic of conversation. My Mom started me with Dark Shadows with its endless cliffhangers and spooky storylines... My grade school was five blocks from home and even through the show started the same time school ended, I was able to run fast enough to make it home before end of the opening credits, which wasn't bad for a short eight year old. During that half hour, people knew not to call or stop by unless it was an emergency; after once, they new they wouldn‘t be well received.

When Dark Shadows was cancelled in 1970, Mom switched to Days of Our Lives and Another World, I naturally followed. Although, I could only watch on sick days, holidays and summer vacations, Mom kept me updated. When The Young and the Restless premiered in 1973, I briefly watched, but it simply wasn’t the same and I went back to NBC’s soaps. Even back then, I was able to see where the storylines were gong, which used to drive my Mom nuts. She had her own in house spoiler, who would tell what was going to happen days and sometimes weeks ahead.

Days has always pushed the limits. Not just the typical soap, the gothic flavor kept its storylines unique. The plots were complex and well developed. The mysteries were suspenseful, with twisting plots and believable misdirection. The romances were developed in such a way that that the sexual tension drove the fans crazy--the love stories were slowly developed with so many misses and close calls that when it was consummated the fans also smoked a cigarette. The characters were written to have more shades of gray. Alice Horton, who was the perfect everything, still helped break Roman Brady out of jail, while Stefano DiMera, the epitome of evil, was still be willing risk his own life in duel with the devil for the soul of someone he loved. Whether you loved to hate or just simple loved the characters, over the decades they have become member of the family. Unlike the other soaps, humor has always been a keystone to Day’s success. From Eugene’s unique perspective on the world to the multitude of sexual innuendos of the developing relationships, humor has been used to tease and romance the audiences. By equally balancing these elements, Days became show based on suspense, romance, drama and humor, which fans were willing to suspend their disbelief even through the space alien twins whose parentage kept changing.

Although there have been dry spots when the storylines weren’t exactly up to par and many people watched out of habit instead of real interest, it was never was as bad or lasted as long as now; nor were the long-time viewers sacrificed to favor of younger. Obviously, the writers and executive don’t know or don’t understand that the new viewers have been and always be brought in by the loyal ones. With the vet being ignored and dismissed, the writers and executives are also casting aside the viewers who have stuck with the show for decades. While they are casting their net for the tweens and teens, they have forgotten that is this their parents and grandparents who not only control how the household budget is spent; they are also the ones who have the secure incomes and the buying power the advertisers are seeking.

Daytime dramas weren’t nicknamed soaps because of their clean content, but due to their advertising base that was directed toward women who were home in the middle of the afternoon. Detergents and cleaning products of all types were the primary sponsors of daytime television. With the technological, economic and life style changes, the society has changed. Women are still the primary target audience; however, the twenty-something's are no longer the power age group. Not only have popular actors aged, but so have their fans. The typical soap viewer per the Soap Opera Digest

* working woman
* 35-44 years of age
* married
* has children
* At least a high school graduate
* With a household income over $70,000.

This demographic has no interest in teeny boppers in heat or in seeing middle-aged men lusting after the barely-legal. However, seeing older women, who still have romance and adventure in their lives gives these women hope that they will have the same. They don’t fantasize about being a whiny teen, but growing older with passion, love and adventure. Marlena and John, Bo and Hope, Maggie and Mickey, and Kayla and Steve represent this demographic’s ideal. Kate is every single woman heroine; she is intelligent, powerful and sexy enough to get the attention of every man in the room. This demographic is also the ones with the spending power to buy the cars, take the trips, and buy the luxury items as well as the household products.

With the writers strike in 2007, all the soaps suffered; however, Days took the biggest hit. Writing first as a scab, Dena Higley officially joined the staff as the head writer in March. Previously Higley had been fired from One Life to Live; her writing style not only dropped the show in the rankings, but also put her at odds with both the cast members and fans alike. Emmy Award winning actress and grand dame of One Live to Live, Erika Slezak was quotes as saying, "‘Dena doesn't care about the rich history of the show, which is evident in what she writes,’ and that Higley ‘wants to write stories that she thinks are interesting but nobody else does.’" Evidently, Higley learned nothing from her dismissal as she has carried this same thought process to Days as within weeks of her taking the helm, the ratings nosed dived from 2.7 to 1.9. Instead of competing for the top spot, Days is now found at the bottom, frequently tying for last place.

As with OLTL, Higley has totally disregarded the show’s history and established characters. Her storyline are incomplete and make no sense. From the rape victim falling in love with her attacker to the incestuous relationship between Stephanie and Max to sex in the elevator, her vision of romance more closely resembles soft porn than a soap opera. Storylines were launched only to be dropped. Neither murder mystery ever had much mystery nor did any one care about the victims or if the killers were caught. The clues made no sense as did the revelation of the murderer. She turned the strongest younger character to a psycho-stalker in a matter of weeks without any build up. Hope’s statement that she saw it coming for almost a year has no basis in fact. It was only after the fans starting pointing the finger at Melanie’s mother, who would have been portrayed by Eve Plumb, did Nick start loosing his grip on reality. Writing Alison Sweeny’s pregnancy into the show only proves how little respect Higley has for her fans. The most obvious mistake was the timing. A teen or an obese woman may not notice they are five months pregnant, but most women, especially those who had children before, would have known after their second missed moon time. Time is also a factor in the Abe for mayor storyline. Although it’s great for the character, the illogic behind the plot is staggering. There is no way a political campaign could be launched in three weeks much less the candidate win.


Higley gutted the veterans with an old, rusty knife, inflicting pain on both the actors and viewers alike. With little or nor regard for what the fans want, the veterans and favorite couples were shoved aside to give air time to younger characters. She would only have to read the boards to learn what and who the fans want and don’t want. Repeatedly the fans asked for better storylines and more air time with the vets--the real vets: Marlena, John, Bo, Hope, Kayla and Steve. By no stretch of the imagination could EJ be considered a vet; he’s only been on the show for two years. We also miss Francis Reid. We were told she was scheduled to appear, but had to decline for health reasons. It makes me wonder if she was really ill or if what was happening on the screen was making her sick. There was even a tongue-in-cheek thread where posters were asked to describe the best ways to get rid of the characters they hated. Max, Chelsea, Stephanie, and Melanie were those most often killed off, yet these are the ones Higley put front and center.

She turned the strong women of Days into spineless, wimps who have lost all direction in life. Higley simply doesn’t have a clue how to write for strong women. She turned Sami, who used take no prisoners--I’m going to get my man character into one who was indecisive and inconsistent. The real Sami wouldn’t have jumped into bed with EJ when she received Lucas letter; she would have jumped into her car and drove to the prison. Even if she would have had to break in, Sami would have gone to Lucas. Sami being Sami, she would have gotten caught. I can see it now: Roman clicking his tongue and saying, “Sami, Sami. Breaking into prison? I taught you better than that.” Not only would have it be character consistent, but if well written, it could have also been hilarious. Stephanie went from a world-class racer to worrying about where Max was; at least the scripts were ecologically responsible; they just recycled them day after day. When Marlena was given a storyline, she was either trying to save John or used as a crutch to prop up the younger characters.

I wondered why way Ken Corday keeps trying to kill John Black; you would think he has a personal grudge against the character--almost as if Corday has the same obsession with Marlena that Stefano had and is jealous of their relationship. However, Corday should be aware that Higley has ripped Stefano’s balls off and has turned him from a powerful character that controls his world into a simpering, goo-gooing secondary caricature of his former self. She has also turned EJ from strong villain, who was reminiscent of Al Pacino‘s Michael Corleone, into Sami’s whipping boy, who has no life other being part of Ejamie.

In April, I started writing alternative storylines for Days and posting on the NBC boards. It was in protest to the bad writing and was only meant to be short term. I had my own writing projects to work on that didn’t leave much extra time for an off-the-cuff project. However, so many people like what I wrote that the project took on life of its own My script had more favorable comments than what was being shown on the screen and many suggested I contact executive producers. I did, but wasn’t even given basic common courtesy. It seems the industry has become so inbred and arrogant that they believe no one outside their clique could possible write for soaps. Some people claim that I’m just bitter because I’m not invited the party and that I just want the fame of being the head writer. If I wanted fame there are better and easer ways to achieve it. When head writer does their job right, they spend their career making the executive producers and the actors look good, while quietly standing in the background. The only time anyone outside the industry wants to know their name is when they really screw up. Would I still like the gig? Sure, without a doubt; however, at this rate, it would be a temp job.

Trying to make this about me doesn't change the facts. Days came into 2007 with 2.7 rating within four months, they dropped to 1.9. So congratulations Higley, everyone knows your name; however, your career will always be credited with the death of an icon. By tanking Days, you have done the same to your career. Only a moron would hire you after Days is done. The cast and crew, especially the vets, will always be loved enough for the fans to not only look for them but to also follow them to whichever show picks them up. As for me, I've gone back to my projects and will have another novel coming out by the end of the year; as time and energy permits, I'll continue what I started, at least until after the ghost story.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Days of Our Lives: Why it will be Cancelled

Days of Our Lives: The Numbers Don't Lie
By
Theresa Chaze

Even though the ink isn’t even dry the new agreement, which renews Days of Our Lives until September 2010, there are already rumors that the soap is living on borrowed time. The non-traditional 18-month contract along with executive producer, Ken Corday, agreeing to make onscreen changes, including adjustments to the cast list, could herald the end of Days as the long-time fans’ wishes continue to be ignored.

Days was the top ranking soap for years, placing first or second in the overall standings until March 2007. With the disappearance of John Black (Drake Hogestyn), the attempted forced pairing of a rapist and victim, who's the daddy and the Colleen/Santo storylines offended many of the viewers. Their dissatisfaction was dramatically reflected in the ratings. While Days came into 2008 with a high of 2.7 and a low of 2.5, by April, the highest ranking was 2.1 with a low of 1.9.












Dena Higley officially joining the Days staff as the head writer in March 2008; however, it was reported that she was one of the scab writers who ghost wrote Days during the strike. Although she inherited rankings that ranged from 2.0 to 2.4, her writing style has only served hasten the drop in the rankings. Even though she was able to bring back both John Black and Stefano, her propensity to focus on romantic triangles and to only write for the characters or couples she likes gained her no favor with the viewers.

August 6, 2007 Corday Productions announced the Emmy award winning producer, Ed Scott, would be joining the Day of Our Lives team as co-executive producer. Ken Corday was quoted as saying, "Ed comes with more than 20 years experience with The Young and the Restless and brings a new, vibrant, creative energy and strength to this all-important position of leadership,"

Instead of working together to improve Days, Higley and Scott chose to ignore both the shows history and the fans favorite characters.. The Colleen/Santo story, although it had the potential of being a wonderfully romantic and suspenseful tale in its own right, was instead turned into a way of forcing the pairing of EJ and Sami down the viewers' throats. The DiMera Vendetta was not only another ploy to support Ejamie as the couple had been nicknamed, but it was also used to kill off Shawn Sr. and John Black. It also totally disregarded the show's history and characters' family backgrounds. The viewers expressed their displeasure as the ratings continued to drop.

In addition the veteran actors were pushed aside in favor of the younger generation; the campus rapist and the Sorority house was intended to attract younger viewers. Intention and reality were never on the same page. Instead of attracting younger viewers, the storyline drove away the loyal long-time fans. September, October and November registered the worse ratings of 2008 with September and October bottoming out at 1.8 while November did little better with 1.9. With the return of the vets, John Black as well as Tony and Anna DiMera, the ratings once again began to climb. January through April of 2008, Days gained .4, bringing it to a high of 2.4 and returning it to third place.


With the backstage conflicts between Scott and Higley spilling out not only on the set but out into rumor mill, the personality and professional conflicts between them came to a head when Higley reportedly quit, accusing Scott of rewriting her scripts and encouraging the actors to do the same. Corday convinced Higley to remain; Scott was fired. .

Gary Tomlin was chosen as Scott’s replacement. A soap opera veteran, Tomlin has worked as an actor, director, writer and producer. Again, Corday expressed his utmost confidence and faith in his new choice, promising that Tomlin‘s "...long successful history of being an actor's producer and a writer's producer to our cast and crew and I know the viewers will see the immediate results of this change for the better." However, months later that promise has yet to be fulfilled.

Except for a brief bump in the ratings that herald the return of Stefano, portrayed by Joseph Mascolo, the ratings remain flat and near the bottom of the list. Instead, leading the genre in ratings and awards, Days suddenly finds itself at the bottom with their highest rankings in 2008 equaling that of it’s lows in 2006. In the three months Tomlin has acted as the co-executive producer, Days’ ratings haven’t risen above a 2.0 and fourth place. From the two murder whodunits where no one cares who did or who died to the once again back burning vets in favor of new characters, the fans have had few kind words for either Higley or Tomlin.

Corday Productions seem to have difficulty learning from their past mistakes. With the soap on life support, Corday has chosen once again to shake up the cast by releasing popular actors, while adding younger talent. It has been recently rumored that Drake Hogestyn will be once again leaving the show along with Jay Kenneth Johnson. At the beginning of 2007 when Corday disregarded the fans wishes, Days fell from first to fourth (2.7 to 1.9) within four months; at this point, there is no place left to fall except off the air.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Days of Our Lives:Saving Days

With the firing of Deidre and Drake with only more to come for budgetary concerns, Ken Corday is announcing the death of Days of Our Lives. It is not the actors or crew who have brought Days to the brink of cancellation, but the bad writing, the corruption of beloved characters and the endless triangles. The fans want Days to go back to the basics of romance, suspense, drama and humor. Corday Productions produced a show few people wanted to watch and couldn’t understand why the ratings tanked.

If money is Corday’s main concern, it is the perfect way to get his attention. These are sweeps weeks. Ratings are calculated and recorded not only daily but hourly,. It’s this rapid return that can be turned to the fans’ favor. For the rest of the week, boycott Days. The storylines suck anyway. If there is a rapid, sudden drop in ratings Corday will be held accountable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dedrie Hall and Drake Hogestyn Fired: Stand Up and Speak Out

One thing I've been always good as is finding things. You give me a little time and access to a phone or a computer--and there isn't anything that exists that I can't eventually find.

This is the way it lays out.

Jeffrey Zucker is head of NBC
the corporate phone number is 212-669-4444. They won't put you through, but if enough people call eventually they will take notice.

There are two fax numbers: 212-669-4426 and 212-669-5705

NBC is owned by GE who is run by Jeffrey Immelt
I haven't been able to find yet the corporate phone numbers but his house address is 705 W. Rd New Canaan Ct 06840


Sony Pictures owns part of Days
Michael Lynton is had of Sony Pictures
310-244-5722

Corday Productions
Production phone number 818-295-2820
Calling your local station will also do a little good. They do have connects at corporate.


I found three addresses for Ken Corday

1035 Santa Monica Blvd
130 LA CA 90025

10343 Valley Springs
Toluca Lake, CA 91602-2933

285 Ocean Park Blvd 300
Santa Monica CA 90405

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Days of Our Lives 11-15-08

Days of Our Lives

Alternative Storyline for Days of Our Lives
Here is the next installment of my alternative storylines for Days of Our Lives.

This is what I previously posted on the NBC Days boards http://geocities.com/tirgana/daysofourlives.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/Days10-16.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days10-26-08.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days10-31-08.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days11-2-08.pdf

The newest entry is at http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days11-15-08.pdf


The last three entries aren't in the proper format; I'll fix it later.

If you like what you are reading, please leave me a comment here or on the NBC message boards. Or better yet contact the executive producers at

Gary Tomlin or Ken Corday
Corday Productions
3400 W. Olive Avenue
suite 170 Burbank CA
91505-4630

818-295-2821

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Viewers' Opinion of Days of Our Lives

I am doing research about what you think about Days both current and past shows. If I can't write for Days, I'll write about it. These questions aren't about me or fan bases but the show in general. By answering the questions, not only will you help me, but through the article you might clue in the executive producers and writers. In order to quote you in the article, I will need your legal name and the state you live in.

How long have you watched Days?

Why did you start?

Are you happy with what you are seeing on your screen? Why?

How many times a week do you watch?

Has your viewing increased or decreased?

When and why did you change your viewing habit?

What has been your favorite storyline? Why?

What has been your least favorite storyline? Why?

In comparing the show from when you first started watching to now. which did you enjoy more? Why?

If you suddenly became the owner of Days, what changes would you make? Why?

What things would you keep? Why?


Is there anything you would like to say about Days?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gary Tomlin Happy with Days of Our Lives Being 4th

Okay, I'm believer in elves, dragons, and miracle. So I made one final phone call to Gary Tomlin to make my case to join the writing staff. Gary, you guard dog did her job. I was told to please not to call the number again because it is very private.

I pointed out that with Days being in last place more often than not and with their fan bases crumbling that it was time to start thinking outside the box, she told me that they were in fourth and the rest didn't matter. She was more concern about my calling than what I had to say.

So being fourth is good enough and what the fans want....well, you can see that on the screen. Can you just imagine what Betty Corday or Irna Philips would say? Betty loved Days; It was her pride and joy. It's too bad Ken or Gary can't say the same.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Days of Our Lives

Today, I once again called Gary Tomlin to ask for a job. According to his assistant, he was in a meeting. When I explained why I wanted to talk to him, she gave me very little hope that he would call me back. The show needs a head writer who cannot only do her own work, but who knows the characters and the show's history enough to be able to write storylines that will honor both. Day's used to be able suspense, drama, romance and humor; it hasn't been that way in a long time. I have already proven that I do that. Your kind words and support have proven that you enjoy my work. Unfortunately, I need a job and I need it now. I've done my best to storm the gates both directly and indirectly. I have used time and energy that I could have used to provide for my family to work towards getting the gig. It's not that I'm giving up, I still want the gig; it's just that I'm running out of road. If I wanted to be bitch about it, I would post the phone number of his direct line that I found; however, ethically I can't go there.

I will post more story when time and energy allow me too. But I'm leaving it up to those who love my work and want to see it on the screen to make it happen. Corday's Production line is public knowledge; it is 818-295-2821. The publicity line is 818-840-2810. Sony Pictures number is 310-244-5722.

I'm leaving my destiny up to the Fates and those who loved my work enough to make a difference. Whatever happens, I am very grateful to everyone who have supported me; it has meant the world to me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Days of Our Lives

Alternative Storyline for Days of Our Lives
Here is the next installment of my alternative storylines for Days of Our Lives.

This is what I previously posted on the NBC Days boards http://geocities.com/tirgana/daysofourlives.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/Days10-16.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days10-26-08.pdf

http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days10-31-08.pdf

The newest entry is at http://www.geocities.com/tirgana/days11-2-08.pdf


The last three entries aren't in the proper format; I'll fix it later.

If you like what you are reading, please leave me a comment here or on the NBC message boards. Or better yet contact the executive producers at

Gary Tomlin or Ken Corday
Corday Productions
3400 W. Olive Avenue
suite 170 Burbank CA
91505-4630

818-295-2821


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