Was Dena Higley the inspiration for Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”?

Bridges Burned
: The behind-the-scenes machinations at Days of Our Lives and Soap Opera Weekly are proving to be soapier than anything we’ve seen on daytime in the last decade-okay save for the climax of Rosie vs. Elisabeth – and that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

While it’s okay to see the darkest components of human nature played out on Gossip Girl, when it’s real people on a Jossip thread, it can become a bit scary. I mean seriously, it was a job at a soap opera magazine people. If she was that much of a bitch, why not just quit instead of putting cyber hexes on the heads of her first born children? It’s really not that serious.

A lot of fans are furious that Days executive producer Ken Corday allegedly buckled under fear and pressure in "choosing" lamented Days scribe Dena Higley over famed daytime exec Ed Scott (formerly of The Young and the Restless). From what we’re hearing, Corday didn’t have much of a choice if he wanted to keep his already troubled soap from coming under fire from the Writers Guild of America.

Ed Scott’s rumored re-writing of Higley’s scripts and alleged encouragment of several of the show’s actors to do the same, put the Corday soap in a very precarious position with the WGA.

Whether or not Ed Scott is the greatest producer since Jehovah made man out of dust  isn’t really the issue here, nor is whether or not Dena Higley is even fit to write traffic tickets in downtown Peapack, New Jersey – where my fave GL actresses are unfortunately still "sweating their balls off" (but Ellen‘s gonna save daytime just you watch!).

The issue is that actors should not, I repeat not be allowed to re-write storylines. I’m not talking about ad-libbing or changing dialogue to make it fit your style, I am talking complete and utter re-writing stories that CHANGE direction of long term narrative, which is reportedly what was happening at Days of Our Lives. It’s not right, it costly and above all else it is beyond arrogant and if Scott encouraged this behavior, he was wrong, wrong a thousand times wrong. 

I can readily understand an actor’s frustration with a new writer who reportedly refuses to take meetings with the actors. The Days vets have been playing their characters on and off for decades, so it is beyond ridiculous that a writer wouldn’t want to discuss potential stories with them. Who other than we rabid daytime fans know these characters better than the actors who play them? That being said, there is protocol, checks and balances at any place of business, and that is what a soap is, a business. The actors should have complained to Scott and Corday, who then should have reigned Higley in the right way.

If I don’t like the assignments I am given at a celeb magazine, I can’t go to the copy editor and tell them I’m doing a new feature I’ve developed all on my own without the section editor’s approval. Even if the editor is about as in touch with current pop culture as Richard Simmons, I would be no doubt tossed on my bootylicious ass. So what gives an actor the right to do that on the set of a soap?

A lot of fans tend to act like if what is seen onscreen in entertaining then the backstage stuff be damned, well I am sorry, it is about more than whether or not Bo and Fancy Face (who, did I mention, are one of my two all-time favorite couples?  Peter and Kiki lets have drinks!) have a storyline.

These writers, actors, directors, hair stylists, etc. are all human beings with families to feed and careers to protect. How would you feel if someone else was doing shoddy work, yet turned it in with your name on it? That’s basically what happens if actors re-write storylines that turn out to be duds. The fans aren’t going to blame the actors, because they don’t know what’s going on. They will blame the person whose name appears in the credits scroll. 

If Ed Scott didn’t like the stories Higley was spinning –  and lets face it,  who could blame him because any writer who doesn’t watch her own show shouldn’t be working in this industry –  why not simply FIRE her. Now see that would have been "too much like right" as my grandmother used to say.

Instead Scott allegedly jeopardized the show’s integrity and bottom line by letting actors with red pens run amok and afoul of the WGA. The doggone ink hasn’t even dried on the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement with the producers and here Days execs are acting a plum fool when the show is on cancellation watch! I’m sorry but this makes absolutely no sense.

Of course the bitter irony in all of this is that Higley, who went Fi-Core to write for Days during the Writer’s Strike of 2007-08, only to be rewarded with the head writer job at the Strike’s end, has basically been thrown a lifeline by a Guild she didn’t support. Meanwhile several then-Days writers who walked the picket lines were fired. Luckily for Higley, the Guild had more grace in this situation than she did during the Strike.

What any of this means for the future of Days of Our Lives,  Soap God Agnes Nixon only knows, but one thing is for damn sure. Ken Corday is going to have to step up and begin playing an active role in steering this beloved soap opera, or find someone capable and scrupulous enough to do it. He’s going to have to find a writer who understands that this genre was founded on character, home, hearth, love and romance, not plot points, ripped-from-the-headline spectactulars and/or putting  teens with bad Southern accents on the front burner for months ad nauseum while the show’s iconic supercouples pour coffee and give advice on who their SORAS’ed children should or should not screw.

In general Corday and the rest of TPTB who control this dying genre are going to have to produce SOAP OPERAS. They’re going to have to get over their fantasies of being Scorcese or Stephen King and tell the type of stories this genre does best.

If they need reference points, just turn on primetime and watch Mad Men, Brothers and Sisters, Damages, Ugly Betty, Army Wives or any of the number of hit serials that have successfully borrowed from the format daytime soaps invented, while the traditonal "soaps" are still resorting to mind control and having vixens become pregnant by children with two fathers.

If you want to write for Maury Povich, please, do all of us who love this genre a favor and go do that. There is nothing wrong with writing cartoonish smut, lots of people like cartoonish smut, but the fans of this genre, who have hung on to the bitter (almost) end want and deserve more. Rant over.

16 Responses

  1. Profile photo of Tripp

    I can only pray for Days, I think Ed was just trying to fix Dena’s mess and the show was improving of late.

    And I have to find it ironic you think this was the inspiration for the song “Ironic” which really….doesn’t describe irony in any way (or the irony is that the song Ironic isn’t about Irony.)

  2. Profile photo of angmc

    Thanks for putting this in perspective Jamey. I’m disappointed that Ed is gone and I can only hope that Higley’s work is being closely watched. Days doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room at this point and they need to put the best product they can on NBC every day.
    This past week of Days was wonderful! Which makes me question who wrote the excellent Stefano, John, Marlena and EJ/Sami stuff?? Will we ever know?

  3. Profile photo of Luke Kerr
    Luke Kerr

    You are so right. It’s one thing to ad lib on occasion but actors who are not members of the Writers Guild should not be rewriting scripts and overriding the writers.

    If this is an industry problem and not just a Days problem it’s no wonder some of these shows seem like they have personality disorders and the writing fluctuates like a rollercoaster.

    No way in hell would the actresses on Desperate Housewives, KS on 24, the actors of Mad Men or the stars of Battlestar Galactica get away with this kind of stuff or be allowed to, no matter how well they know their  characters. If daytime wants to be respected like their counterparts  in primetime they need to behave like them.

    Sure actors should be asked for input about their characters BUT they should not be able to dictate storyline as has been alleged.

  4. Profile photo of Luke Kerr
    Luke Kerr

    I just thought of something else….if we try making lemonade out of lemons at least now we "should" have a pretty good idea of what Higley is writing so that she can be fairly blamed or not for the direction of the show. Because there is so much confusion for who is writing what it is practically impossible to determine who wrote what? Days has been really good these last couple weeks but no one has a clue who wrote it or is truely responsible.

    It will be nice to be able to judge Higley on her actual work as opposed to what we believe to be or not to be her work.

  5. Profile photo of miajere

    I don’t think Scott is an idiot- I think he knew what he was doing and saw this as an opportunity to exit DOOL. How can someone who’s been in the industry for such a long time, be fired for something that seems immature- encouraging actors to rewrite their lines? It’s obvious he doesn’t have much respect for Higley, and felt she represented what’s wrong with the soap writing, and probably felt his boundaries were crossed after the former writing team was fired and replaced by Higley. This isn’t about money, or a dying industry- it’s about professional integrity and what many from Jossip have been claiming- this industry is running low on integrity- for whatever reasons- ratings, advertisers, networks, threats of cancellation. Everyone has to make their choices, and Scott made his- same as Hinsey, Higley, and all the actors on Days.
    I don’t understand this rant, seeing that Jamey is apart of a creative industry himself, he knows what talentless big egos look like, what it’s like to watch talented people get tossed aside, and people to lie about work they did and didn’t do. There is nothing new under the sun.would this situation even matter if the show wasn’t rumored to be close to cancellation?
    As for “what this genre does best”- For some that means, doing the same stories over again, and for others that only means trying to model primetime. It’s all a bit confusing, and I don’t think one person has the answer- I’m getting tired of this Y2K approach to daytime, and referring to every move as its last- what are we holding onto? I hope it wasn’t some integrity in the soap industry. Are we even watching the shows like we use to? No, we’re just grading who’s writing is better, which actor is front burnered, and which exec is tanking which show the fastest.

  6. Profile photo of Jamey Giddens
    Jamey Giddens

    I’m getting tired of this Y2K approach to daytime, and referring to every move as its last-
    Okay, if you follow my coverage at all-which I’m not egotistical to think you do, it still amazes me that anyone listens to me, LOL- but you would find that I too am not a fan of announcing the funeral rights for this genre. HOWEVER, even the biggest Daytime Pollyanna has to realize that when this genre is registering 1.0’s, something jess taint right. I can pretend all I want that the soap industry isn’t on bleed out, but what good will that do??? Should we all just sit quietly and watch, one, two, maybe five more soaps go the way of Another World, Port Charles, Santa Barbara and (gasp) even Passions? I’m sorry, it is high time someone call these people to the carpet and I would much rather do that than talk about who looks cuter in there tank top Maxie or Lulu.

  7. Profile photo of haydeertz

    I am so glad that Scott is gone!! You are so right no matter how much you get along with someone if a job is done incorrectly and it jeprodizes the ethics of the show in such a way that it can be cancelled that person should be let go!!! so rant away!!!

  8. Profile photo of angelatil

    I am glad Ed Scott is not there as I liked the storylines that Dena was writing. What Ed Scott did was unethical and I only pray that Dena will get back to writing her storylines that she started and she can fix the mess that Mr. Scott left behind.

  9. Profile photo of miajere

    Jamey- my frustrations lie in the fact that none of this sits in our hands- the actors, writers, producers? This was decisions made by a collection of people that thought nothing of the viewers. I know many are frustrated about the industry at this time, but it’s not what it use to be….or what we thought it was. When writers like DH can tank one show and immediately find work at another, that shows how red the carpet can get. What are we trying to get back to…a time when the execs were soap enthusiasts that cared about producing quality television…because it’s not going there…

    egotistical? NO, but the people in charge seem to be, and enough so to live their lives for themselves… But what to expect? These are people- they do things, some good, some full of integrity, and some unethical things. Funeral rights? We’ve watched, stuck bad situations out, written in,but I can’t make a horse drink.JMVHO

  10. Profile photo of DS9Sisko


    Oops, nevermind me. But Mr. Giddens, you hit a number of points on a number of heads brilliantly. And that in turn has pushed a few of my buttons as a soap viewer, fan and observer.

    For many who solely are thinking about who or who is not writing about Days more or less misses the point you were so eloquently making about the state of the genre at large. The masturbatory glee by which a number of determined so-called internet posters engaged in on the Jossip board (where I posted under the screen name “Mason Capwell” and my real name) undercuts the very real criticism of Hinsey’s journalistic integrity or lack thereof and reinforced the most negative stereotypes about soap fans. Her role as editor of Soap Opera Weekly was a gatekeeper position of sorts, and she did a lot more harm to the genre than good in my opinion as a reader. But that’s only part of it. In fact, I would take your excellent analysis one step further:

    The state of soaps is not only about the fabled “powers that be” or the writers or the producers. It is also not solely about the state or the soap press, which by all rights now ought to be called “soap media” as it encompasses magazines, bloggers, fan sites, YouTube and other video sharing sites and even a titular network. It is ALSO a fan problem, both for those viewers with often years of investment in certain programs who feel they have been jerked around for the last decade or so and also because the worst elements among those who call themselves “fans” who claim a sense of blinding entitlement from the shows, writers and producers that eschews any other worldview other than their own often contradictory myopic (and sometimes disturbingly personal) agendas.

    We are not, as we like to think, all in this together. There are many, many agendas that often work at cross purposes. The advertisers want certain demographics in order to spend their money on commercial time. The networks want to deliver the demanded eyeballs and demos for them. Producers are often at odds with their own writers to tell the stories they want to tell. The fans often say they want A, B, C, or D but are usually at war with each other over “Ejami vs. _____” or “Liason vs. _____,” this character is a slut/saint, that story sucks/is great, that actor is hot/a hot mess and on and on and on. And the serials have to compete in an ever demanding marketplace that is evolving at warp speed, while the one thing it seems the majority fans of soaps more or less want is that soaps remain basically “the same.” It is a wonder and a miracle, with all the competing ideas about what a show-character-stories is or should be that our serials get made at all. And it seems to me that instead of some meetings of minds among all these various factions that each camp seems to be digging in their heels more than ever.

    What I am trying to get at is that it is my opinion that in no particular order and including but certainly not limited to Higely, Scott, Jossip, falling ratings, the Maddog McTavishes and the Lord Carlivatis, new production formats, location shooting, compressed storytelling, the much heralded returns of the Andrea Evanses/Genie Francises and the shameful treatments of the Martha Brynes/Pick Your Favorite Quartermaines, head writing revolving doors, whether “Nuke” kisses and for how many days, strong producers and weak producers, and endless bitching about how “bad” soaps are now compared to gilded age of yesteryear (Mendorra anybody?), we are faced with one singular, burning question:

    Do we — the COLLECTIVE “we” — REALLY want our broadcast soaps to survive?

    On this very site, I predicted that no matter what one’s opinion of GL’s production format (more cost effective location shooting and less studio time) would be the future of daytime and that it would pave the way for soaps on the Internet. I was thinking 5 years down the line; we’re seeing that gravel rapidly being steamrolled in a matter of months as more and more soaps go online (even if it is in rebroadcast) or those being created specifically for the Internet a la Imaginary Bitches. And I think the day is fast approaching when our beloved daytime broadcast serials will be only online or available for paid download like Days of Our Lives was on iTunes or the ABC soaps only on SoapNet or in the format of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible. This might not be a bad thing, but is it what we as soap fans want?

    The numbers of the gilded yesteryear are long gone and never to return unless lighting strikes again as it did in the 80’s. No one should reasonably expect 10 million viewers per show again. And if that were to happen again by some miracle, I urge a little perspective: when soaps were at their most popular they also had undergone the most radical changes in format exceeding the switch from live to tape and black & white to color. Gloria Monty’s production changes were as radical and initially widely reviled as Ellen Wheeler’s, but there was no internet to beat Monty to a pulp, either. GH lost many fans due to those changes, but gained legions of new ones. And the old time fans who stuck around did something anathema to today’s soap culture: they got used to and eventually embraced it. I’m not defending Ellen Wheeler on that score, but merely pointing out that the action-adventure/super couple dominated/theme park rides that soaps became in 80’s and 90’s were radically different from the daily stage plays and morality tales of the 60’s and 70’s. That was then. What about now??

    To that end, I would argue that for the tiny portion of fans who YouTube their soaps, or for those who can get SoapNe or the ever increasing numbers who DVR their soaps that the days of broadcast soaps as we know them are limited.

    As a certain Presidential candidate might say, now is the moment and now is the time for fans to not only think about what it is about their soaps they want to change (and soap fans have wanted their own form of “change” before “change” was cool) but to start seriously and soberly entertain why or even if they want them around in whatever form or format.

    This is just me venting. Don’t pay me too much mind…

  11. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    I do feel that old days of soaps are over, but they can still be on if they listen to the fans and go back to the character driven, well written s/ls that fans and critics love about this genre


  12. Profile photo of SoapSnob

    I enjoyed and appreciated your eloquent “discussions” on Jossip, that brutal but fascinating Carlyn Hinsey trainwreck. Your post above is equally eloquent. And heartfelt. You, like me and many, Many, MANY others who visit these sites daily, are a true-blue soap fan. And, in the words of the much respected and much loved Marlena de LaCroix, you are obviously a Thinking Soap Fan.

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