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Reflections on Head Writers

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Just some reflections, formed through opinions of various fans, of head writing tenures on each show in recent years (let's say last ~15 or so) forming a consensus on each of them. I'll just kick it off:


I won't go into JER's first stint, as that would require a far bigger debate so I'll go straight into the ones that came after that.

Sally Sussman-Morina- was very hit-and-miss. There were some decent things but others that were completely and totally ridiculous, although Days remained in the upper echelon of the ratings. It is true the teens started under her watch, but it must also be remembered that she had intended for a gradual introduction, rather than shoving them down our throats, that led to her departure.

Lorraine Broderick- was around for a very short time, same comments about SSM re the teens, and disagreements with Langan over the show's direction.

Tom Langan- becoming Head Writer proved an absolute disaster for the show, from which it would be very hard to recover. The whole teen scene took over and it was awful, and no doubt many viewers agreed with those sentiments.

Peter Brash and Paula Cwilky- they were never given the chance they deserved. They were actually doing a good job of cleaning up the mess caused under Langan only for...

Dena Higley- returned the show to awfulness, and resulted in a new low in the ratings. How she got the job on OLTL, let alone return to Days, is beyond me.

James E. Reilly (2nd time round)- a roller-coaster ride, but ultimately ruinous for the show.

Hogan Sheffer- never really hit it off it seems, and never a writer I rated that highly (see my comments on ATWT below)


We'll start in the post-Marland period

Juliet Law Packer and Richard Backus- these two had the task of continuing Marland's storylines, and introducing new storylines and characters that Marland had planned before his death. I think it's fair to say that fans expected the show to come down post-Marland, so retrospectively Packer and Backus didn't do that badly in the circumstances- they didn't really deviate from his vision of the show, IIRC, and ratings remained solid.

Richard Culliton- Caso was still EP when Culliton became HW. It started well enough, and Culliton was able to write the much-acclaimed John/Lisa storyline among other things, for which the show gained a Daytime Emmy nomination. Late in his tenure, Valente took over from Caso as EP and some much-loved and long-serving actors (such as Patricia Bruder) left the show, and Culliton would go too.

Stephen Black and Henry Stern- as everyone agrees, unspeakably awful. Shows that bringing "new blood" into Daytime writing doesn't always work (they had worked as primetime writers, esp. Falcon Crest, and haven't had any TV writing jobs since). It's really scary to think how bad the show would become in such a short time, but also amazing to think now that P&G realised what was going on and make sweeping changes. The only thing worth mentioning from that one year was the hilarious conclusion to the John/Lisa storyline when John dumped Lisa on the big screen.

Transitional team (Mel Brez, Addie Walsh, Stephen Demorest)- with Felicia Minei Behr in charge, the ratings initially spiked, but the recast of Connor Walsh proved deeply unpopular.

Jessica Klein- short-lived tenure failed to improve the quality of the show.

Transitional team (Mel Brez, Addie Walsh, Stephen Demorest)- I'm sure someone else mentioned it, but the same transitional team including the long-serving Stephen Demorest actually did a good job of trying to clean up the show in the last couple of months of 1997, after two extremely bad years. This coincided with Kathryn Hays' 25th anniversary on the show, when Kim Hughes had open-heart surgery and Jennifer visited her in her sleep- scenes that would move one to tears.

Lorraine Broderick- fans are split on her tenure, but considering the two years of stink that had come before, Broderick can be considered a definite improvement. The ratings had stabilised and even rose after a sharp decline due to poor quality.

Leah Laiman- pretty much undid that by trash storylines.

Hogan Sheffer- now, this gets interesting. Was it "right place at the right time?" Sheffer began well, his first year got a lot of attention rounded off by an Emmy win. However, the credit for this goes to the writers he worked with, including Carolyn Culliton and Stephen Demorest. In 2001, those left and Jean Passanante came in following her deeply unpopular tenure on AMC- and the quality of the show wasn't as good.

Jean Passanante- seriously, how has she held down the job for 3 years with the show clearly going nowhere?


Megan McTavish (first time)- a sucess, but that doesn't mean she is a good writer. She was VERY lucky- right show at the right time. AMC was already doing well when she came on board, and FMB was in control to keep her in check.

Lorraine Broderick- after her much-praised time in charge of GL, carried on that good work on AMC although the ratings slipped a little during this time, but critical acclaim was assured.

Megan McTavish (second time)- a disaster. She showed how poor a writer she really was, and this was reflected in the fact ratings would sink to their lowest levels in years- AMC had been consistently in the top 6 for about 25 years, and would fall as low as 7th then.

Agnes Nixon- returning to the HW job, her legacy in this tenure would be Bianca coming out.

Jean Passanante- a very unpopular tenure, confirming she was a lousy writer.

Richard Culliton- hit and miss even if it was an improvement on Passanante.

Gordon Rayfield and Anna Cascio- some fans seem to view this positively, but more opinions?

Megan McTavish (third time)- like her second stint, a disaster.

James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten- what direction, exactly, will they take the show?

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Okay I am going to start with the shows I watched.

All My Children

Megan McTavish:(1992-1995) Megan McTavish 1st time as HW at AMC was a huge sucess. The storylines made sense and her most sucessful storyline was the Tornado that hit Pine Valley. That was when AMC rocked. Also at that time Felicia Minei Behr was executive producer. Felicia Minei Behr knew what AMC was. Without Felicia Minei Behr during Megan McTavish 1st stint I do not know what AMC would be today.

Lorraine Broderick : (1995-1997) Lorraine Broderick as HW was EXCELLENT. I loved that she gave Erica an actual storyline. Erica's drug addiction was one of the best storylines for Erica. Also Erica going to the Betty Ford Center for treatment was good. Also during her stint I remember Lorraine Broderick writing a storyline for Myrtal. Also we had Julia/Noah. One of the best couples in AMC history.

Megan McTavish: (1997-1999) During this time I would have hoped Megan would learn her lesson. The only good thing during this period was when Dixie came back. Other then that all her SL did not make sense. During this period I was tempted to quit AMC.

Agnes Nixon/Jean Passanante: (1999-2001) During this period I loved. I remember the Crystal Ball. That was so fun to watch. Bianca's coming out storyline was groundbreaking and I am glad Agnes was able to pull this off. But when Jean was at the helm things quickly turned for the worse. Also I loved the Leo/Greenlee pairing! :) Also I was happy when Finola Hughes came aboard.

Richard Culliton: (2001-2002) I think during Culliton's tenture at AMC it was underrated. It was not as bad people made it as. I remember this was the last time we got Pheobe in a storyline. :(

Gordon Rayfield/Anna Cascio: (2002-2003) During this time I really felt that AMC was getting bad. The only thing I loved was David/Anna.

Megan McTavish: (2003-2007) This was the wrost period for AMC. Things were well with AMC from 2003-2005. In 2006 things got BAD. Satin Slayer, Unabortion. WTF?! I was so mad when she killed off Dixie AGAIN!!!!! :angry:

James Harmon Brown/Barbara Esensten: (2007-2008) Agian B&E made AMC BORING. We got more of Kendall/Zach/Annie/Ryan/Greenlee/Aidan. Too much!! The only bright spot was Angie/Jesse.

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I'm just going to do DAYS since that's the one show that I've been watching through numerous head writer changes.

James E. Reilly (1993-1997)

Reilly's style of writing was completely different than anything that was seen on daytime before he took over on DAYS. It intrigued so many fans, particularly the younger audience. DAYS gained a lot of new blood in their viewership in the mid-90s thanks to Reilly. While some would argue that it was Reilly that was responsible for ruining DAYS in the first place, the numbers in ratings at the time would beg you to differ. I would consider Reilly's first time as head writer a complete success. The stories were exciting, while they were slow-paced. It all came together though. Yes, Reilly is a plot-driven writer, but he had a writing team at the time that knew the show and could breakdown his plots into something character-driven worthy. Yes, people did things out of character, but you understood why they did it. I can't say the same for his second time as head writer, but we'll get to that later. When Reilly was writing DAYS, you truly didn't want to miss one day because something always happened. From Carly being buried alive to John and Marlena's affair to Aremid and Masion Blanche, not to mention the infamous possession of the show's leading heroine, Marlena. I would say it was a success. It would be completely different when he came back six years later.

Sally Sussman Morina (1998-1999)

Under Sussman Morina, the show continued to be a success, however it was not as exciting as it was under Reilly. But that was because Sussman Morina and Reilly are two entirely different writers. While TPTB at DAYS wanted Sussman Morina to continue the outrageous storylines that Reilly was so critically acclaimed for, she did it, but they weren't the same as before. And I don't fault Sussman Morina for that. She was being forced to write something she clearly didn't want to write, nor did she know how to write how they wanted her to write. That's not her fault. She did have a few successes like Franco Kelly's murder leading up to Sami's execution. That was an amazing story and was truly the story that was supposed to mature Sami into a woman (until Reilly came back four years later and made Sami a 15 year old child again). And it did work. It was great. She got DAYS Emmy nominations for the two years that she was there. But while that storyline is truly her claim to fame as the DAYS head writer, she had a lot of misses. I thought the Princess Gina storyline was good, but it did alienate a lot of fans when they started pairing John and Hope together. Longtime fans that always saw John and Hope in more of a sibling capacity were not pleased by this, like new fans may have been. And a lot of fans thought the Princess Gina storyline went on longer than it should have. Plus you had the brain chips and all that mess that was just bad. That's a little hint of the sci-fi that was probably pressured on Sussman Morina that she just couldn't execute well at all. This storyline also sprung off into other storylines like Billie's stillborn baby (who wouldn't stay dead for long) and the introduction of Swamp Girl (Greta), leading fans to wonder if the Hope we've been calling Hope for so long was really Hope at all. I loved that story and the mystery behind it. Others did not. Then there were a lot of boring characters under her pen, like Nicole when she first came on. She was a complete bore, and her sister, Taylor, was even worse. Eric was even boring under Sussman Morina, but actually Eric was a boring character in general. And while Sussman Morina did SORAS Belle, she is not responsible for the teen invasion that would happen later that year and on into the new millenium. Like others have said, Sussman Morina wanted to gradually introduce the teens through their family (the vets) like you should to get viewers interested and allow them to care for these characters. Sussman Morina was only responsible for bringing on Belle and Mimi, who was nothing more than a day player at the time. Sussman Morina also only had Belle in scenes with her parents and siblings, etc. That's how it should be done. Unfortunately, Corday and Langan were not satisfied with this and she was released.

Lorraine Broderick (1999)

If you blinked, you missed Broderick's time as the head writer. It lasted less than a month. But in that month, Broderick re-introduced us to teenagers Shawn Brady and Philip Kiriakis. Again, DAYS had a head writer that wanted to slowl phase in the teen set with help of the older characters that fans were familiar with because that's how you introduce new characters and make people care about the new characters. Broderick did this. If you remember, when Shawn and Philip were first brought on, we didn't immediately get scenes with just teens. They were still in scenes with their parents and other characters that viewers were familiar with. I remember Brandon Tyler's first few scenes on the show as Philip being with only Lauren Koslow, Louise Sorel and Krista Allen and that was it. But Langan, who was Co-EP at the time, was not listening. And since Broderick refused to be forced to write something she didn't want to like Sussman Morina did, she parted ways with DAYS, leading us to what many fans say was the beginning of the end for DAYS.

I'll continue in a little bit with the rest of the head writers.

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I can do OLTL for those that are interested. I am going to guess a little on the dates. Hopefully I am not too off on the storylines... Forgive me if I am.

Michael Malone & Josh Griffith: 1991-1995. Absolutely fantastic with very few complaints from this viewer. Many stories were told that went down in the history books such as the homophobia storyline and the AIDS quilt, Megan's death, Marty's gang rape, Viki's alternate personalities, Todd & Blair, Max & Luna, Bo & Nora, and the introduction of David Vikers.

Leah Laiman and Jean Passante 1995-1996. Focus on couples... Marty & Patrick and Antonio & Andy. Although there was plenty of romance, the show fell flat and so did the ratings. These writers basically ignored social issues and the show's history to focus on a few select favorites of theirs.

Claire and Matt Labine: 1996-1998. An improvement over the past writers, but still hit or miss. Some bright spots, the introduction of Mel Hayes and an indepth look at Dorian's history that provided viewers with some insight into why Dorian responded to the world in the manner she did. Ratings continued to decline.

Pamela K Long: 1998. Very short stint. I don't believe this writer was given much chance. Correct me if I am wrong, but she introduced Lindsay, Sam, and their children, Jenn and Will?

Megan McTavish: 1999-2001. Similar to her other stints at other shows, she started off strong and then kind of fell apart. I recall that she wrote during the JFP era which in my opinion, produced a number of entertaining storylines. I was particularly intrigued by Jessica's pregnancy and baby Megan's death. Jessica's stalking of Dorian was particularly well written in my opinion. I also enjoyed the Bo/Nora/Sam/Lindsay quadrange; however after Bo found out about Lindsay's deception, the storyline fell off course. Although there were some bright spots, most of the other stories were rather terrible. However, McTavish was able to goose the ratings a few times during her stint... making OLTL somewhat more competitive with its ABC cohorts.

Lorraine Broderick and Christopher Whitesell 2001-2003. I thought the show was rather boring during this period of time. OLTL did pick up an emmy win for best drama during their tenure, but in my opinion it was not deserved. I believe the production values picked up a bit during their time. I also think they were responsible for the awful Santi storyline that basically ruined the Vegas.

Michael Malone: 2003-2004. Very hit or miss. Malone was responsible for the re-introduction of Mitch Lawerence and Alison Perkins. The story used history well and included the introduction of Natalie and Rex, but resulted in the change in paternity of Jessica. Malone's second tenure also included Victor Lord back from the dead, the most unforgivable history re-write ever!

Dena Higley: 2004-2007. Eh...

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Natalie and the De-Buching of Jess were done prior to Malone II. It was done when Gary Tomlin was EP . I guess it was Broderick and Whitsell. Also Malone II initially was Griffin and Malone if I remember correctly. Malone was solo at the end, but I do not remember if he and JG were both writing when the Santis were introduced.

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Had to have been. Sonia and Tico were in the Summer/Fall of 2004. I remember because Sonia was included with the first update to OLTL's current Opening credits format, and Tico was never added. This format of opening started June 2004, so the Santis were under the Malone period.

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Malone's second stint was interfered with, he a hand tied behind his back and had to write something he normally wouldn't write, IIRC.

The problems on Days can be traced to the following things:

1.Nobody can execute JER-type sotrylines like JER can. That's a problem that afflicted not only subsequent writers but also the whole of Daytime, which explains in part the mess the whole genre is in.

2.Because of the tone JER set on the show, there was next-to-no character development, no motivations or anything relatable. And that's why subsequent writers have had such a difficult time imposing their stamp on the show.

3.Days has an identity crisis. On one hand, longtime fans love the show for family, couples, etc whereas other fans came to love it for the wacky storylines JER et al penned.

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As far as Sally Sussman Morina goes I think she was the best headwriter DAYS had since JER's first run (which, we all must admit, was a popular success)...she had some of JER's style mixed in with a Bell style sensibility (having written for Y&R for a number of years)...I loved her run and I LOVED The Killing Pool.

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I pretty much agree with your assessment, Drew. I think we're on par with Langan, B&C, Higley 1, JER 2, Hogan, Higley 2 too, so I'm eagerly waiting for your write up. LOL

I wouldn't say there was no motiviations - his plots wouldn't have worked if there was non. The characters' motivations were simple: I want this person and I'm going to scheme to get him/her. There. Simple. LOL And it worked. People watched to see the schemers get busted and for secrets to come out. It wasn't deep or anything. JER 1 was never boring. There was always something happening because he rotated his 5 stories very well - everyone had their turn at being front burner. It was 5 awesome straight years and every single year had amazing and memorable stories. There was never a down year. JER is the 90's was just brilliant.

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Bill Bell (1973-1997)

I started watching right at the end of his tenure as head writer, so I can't comment, but the concensus is that he's a genius.

Kay Alden (1998-2002)

She had some good storylines, but some stinkers too. And the pace was nauseatingly slow.

Jack Smith (2002-2006)

My favorite of the bunch. He made the show more modern (without changing too much), sped up the pace and introduced humor to the show. The dialogue was better under Smith too. He was also the genius who hired Michael Graziadei, Judith Chapman, Amelia Heinle, Christel Khalil, John Enos, Rachel Kimsey and Greg Rikaart.

Lynn Marie Latham (2006-2007)

She was almost as good as Jack Smith. She sped up the pace even more and implemented great, witty dialogue. She also brought in some great new cast members: Emily O'Brien, Adrienne Frantz, Daniel Goddard, Nia Peeples, Tammin Sursok, Vail Bloom, and the return of Christel Khalil. Some of her new characters were stinkers (David Chow, Adrian Korbel), and she made the mistake of firing Rachel Kimsey and hiring Scott Seymour, and don't even get me started on the background music she used in mid-2007, but overall, she was good.

Maria Arena Bell (2008-present)

Better than LML, and reminiscent of the Smith era.


Bradley Bell (1994-2008, 2008-present)

Terrible. His co-HWs and associate HWs are the ones who do the work.

Kay Alden (2008)

Did a much better job at B&B than she did at Y&R. The woman could write circles around Bell.

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