NBC’s Days of our Lives has fired head writers Gary Tomlin and Christopher Whitesell. Emmy winning writers Dena Higley and Josh Griffith will take over as the new head writers effective February 16, 2015 reports Soap Opera Digest.
So this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Days of our Lives has been a DAYSaster disaster for months, and the ratings aren’t anything to scream home about either. It’s the change many have been calling for, but you know how the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. A change at the top was definitely necessary, however is the solution to hire not one, but two writers within the Sony soap family that have been fired more than once?
The return of Dena Higley marks 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, winning a Daytime Emmy for Best Writing at the 2008 Daytime Emmy Awards. Higley was fired in May 2011, with her final episode airing in August. The writers that replaced her were fired less than a year later.
As for Josh Griffith, his storied background in soaps has spanned numerous networks and various positions. Over the course of his two decade plus career, he’s written for Santa Barbara, One Life to Live, As the World Turns, General Hospital (very briefly) and The Young and the Restless. He also co-created the short-lived NBC soap opera Sunset Beach. Griffith served as head writer (or co-head writer) for OLTL (1992 – 1995; 2003 – 2004) and Y&R (2007 – 2008; 2012 – 2013). He was Y&R’s executive producer from October 2006 – October 2008. Griffith was re-hired by Y&R in 2012 after the ousting of Maria Arena Bell. He shocked the soap industry in August 2013 when he quit the show due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ with executive producer Jill Farren Phelps. Griffith’s name was one of the many rumored to have been in contention to take over Y&R (again) in late 2014.
Don’t expect to see any changes immediately. Given DAYS’ taping schedule (which films four months out) and writing (which is even further), the earliest we’ll see new material is late June/early July.
Our Take: If you ask 10 soap fans what their feelings are about Higley’s writing, you’ll likely get 10 different answers. The same applies with the soap press. I haven’t loved everything Higley’s done, but even when her shows are bad, they’re at least entertaining. I’d rather you be bad than boring. The worst thing for any TV show to be is boring, and Days of our Lives has been both for months. I could go on and on about the repeated decision to hire writers fired from previous creative jobs rather than go outside for new blood or promote from within (say script writer Melissa Salmons), but that’s an issue for another time. Let’s talk about what the new team of Higley and Griffith (or is it Griffith and Higley) needs to do.
- Make the show entertaining. I know that’s a rather vague statement, but it’s the truth.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel, don’t try some off-the-wall story technique, keep it simple. There’s room for classic soap storytelling with a modern flair, watch The Bold and the Beautiful if you need a crash course in how to do it.
- Viewers want to see dynamic characters in engaging and captivating stories that evoke feelings within them. Start by looking at the characters that aren’t working and cut them.
- Look at characters that could use a revamp, a freshening up if you will, and plug them into areas of the canvas left vacant by the cuts.
- Recast roles that aren’t working. This doesn’t need any more explanation. You know who they are and so do we.
- Resist the urge to bring back every DiMera, Brady and Horton (or Tom, Dick and Harry too) in Corday creation. The “great reboot” failed. Let it stay dead and gone. If there are previous characters that can fit a purpose, bring them in. But don’t have them show up and do nothing for months at a time.
There’s a lot more that they need to do, and we’ll share more of our thoughts in a feature later this month. In the meantime, tell us your thoughts on this behind the scenes news and share your ideas for what the new writing team should do going forward.