Soaps

‘Days of our Lives’ Head Writer Shake-Up: Dena Higley Out, Ron Carlivati In; Sheri Anderson Returns as Consultant

With its future in question again, Days of our Lives has made yet another major change to its creative team in what’s seemingly become an annual (or semi-annual) tradition. The long-running sudser has fired co-head writer Dena Higley, tapping Emmy winning scribe Ron Carlivati to replace her effective immediately.

As first reported by Soap Opera Digest, the controversial fan favorite will serve as sole head writer. Higley’s current co-head writer, Ryan Quan, will remain with DAYS under the new title of creative consultant. Daytime Emmy-winner Sheri Anderson Thomas, previously served on DAYS’ writing team as head writer and co-head writer in the ’80s and ’90s, will also hold the creative consultant title.

“We look forward to the fresh and compelling stories these changes will bring to Salem,” the show said in a statement.

Carlivati is best known for his work on the now defunct One Life To Live. The ABC daytime drama surged to high ratings during his tenure as head writer from 2007 to 2012, winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series in 2008. The show went off the air on a good note, garnering both critical acclaim and fanfare. After OLTL wrapped production, Carlivati took over as head writer for General Hospital. Taking over GH wasn’t without its challenges, as the series was facing cancellation heading into fall 2012. Thanks in part to improving ratings and the failure of the shows tapped to replaced the canceled ABC soaps, Ron and his team ushered GH into a new creative era. His work at GH earned him two Writers Guild of America Awards. Carlivati exited GH in the summer of 2015.

Days of our Lives is up for renewal this year, and its future has been put into question thanks to the hiring of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. The news anchor is slated to play a big role in the NBC News division, including hosting her own daytime program. Exactly where she’ll fit into the schedule has yet to be determined, but as reported last week, the future of the long-running NBC soap is not tied to Kelly’s show, and renewal chances are “about 60-40 in favor of renewal.”

“We haven’t made decisions, but we like that show,” NBC chair Bob Greenblatt told Deadline at TCA. “I think we will know more in couple of months. As they age, these shows diminish, there is a lot of delayed viewing and very little linear viewing anymore, you have to keep looking at that.”

In another interview with TVLine, Greenblatt said NBC would do it’s best to give fans a head’s up if they do decide not to renew but noted that the filming schedule could make that a bit tricky. “Unfortunately, soap operas are written so far ahead… But yeah, we would try to be respectful.”

For DAYS fans this may seem a bit like de ja vu given all the creative changes in recent years. Dena Higley’s last stint marked her third run as the head (or co-head) of creative for the NBC soap, previously serving from March 2003 – August 2003 and April 2008 – August 2011 (note: these refer to dates her episodes aired). She also served as head writer for ABC’s One Life to Live from December 2004 – September 2007.

Higley was previously fired in May 2011, with her final episode airing in August. The writers that replaced her were fired less than a year later. Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell replaced those writers, only to be fired three years later in favor of the team of Josh Griffith and Higley. After Griffith quit the soap last February, Higley remained as head writer with breakdown writer Quan becoming co-head.

A Twitter exchange with a fan suggests that this third time may be the last for Higley:

Current contracts for the DAYS cast and producers run through the end of this year. Hopefully there will be some good news on the production schedule, which currently films six months in advance.

My Take: Carlivati’s writing style is very comparable to ‘90s DAYS. The show and the scribe could be a very good fit for each other. Having Quan and Anderson Thomas as creative consults is a smart move and will ensure a quality product. This new ‘Plan To Save DAYS’ may actually have some merit. I’m interested to see what the new Salem looks like…in six months.

About the author

Jenn Bishop

Jenn Bishop is TVSource Magazine's Soap Editor. She's a thirty-something fan girl of soapy television and anything involving Joss Whedon. She began sharing her views on daytime soaps in 2012 with her blog Save Our Suds. A former philosophy major, she loves discussing different view points with fellow TV addicts and aficionados. When not watching television, she enjoys art, live music, exploring the Midwest food scene, and drinking too many lattes. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceJenn.

About the author

Ryan White-Nobles

Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TVSource Magazine. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.