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1978 DAYS Behind the Scenes (writers)


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Days With the Hayes

What Makes a TV Show Go?

BILL & SUSAN TAKE YOU BEHIND THE SCENES OF "Days of Our Lives"

"The play's the thing..." Hamlet ACT II, Scene 2. Shakespeare said it, back in 1601. And today, 376 years later, the Bard's thought - expressed originally through his character Hamlet - still rings true.

Days of Our Lives is a play, too - presented in a continuing serial format, of course, but nonetheless a play. So, Days of Our Lives is our thing. It reflects today's society and cultures, and it comments on all our lives through the plots, characters and conflicts it chooses to bring into focus. Who determines what social problems shall be spotlighted? Who determines what types of characters are relevant to our time in the world? Who determines what dramatic ingredients shall unfold in our play? Why, our writers. Our storytellers. Our authors.

Okay, so let's see, who are our writers? How do they do their jobs? What is the process by which our stories are plotted and our scripts become written?

First of all, we have a head writer - Ann Marcus, a pretty lady from Little Falls, New York. Ann has had an interestingly varied writing career, working as a reporter for the New York Daily News, and then for Life Magazine during its heyday, when she followed John Foster Dulles and Harry Truman around the country! Ann wrote for many TV situation comedies working her way towards the soap opera format through the original (nighttime) Peyton Place. She wrote for daytime serials (Search For Tomorrow, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, et al) and was co-creator of both Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and All That Glitters.

So, it is Ann Marcus who has the primary responsibility for determining what characters, social situations and storylines will be shown on our daily episodes. If she chooses well, then we have a chance. If everybody else does his job well, too, then we please our audience and we all come up smelling like roses. On the other hand, if Ann goofs, we all go gliding gloriously down the drain with egg glistening on our sad faces. Of course, Ann can't do it all herself. But she does initiate the creative processes.

Her first step is to plan the basic story. She writes a long-term projection of story probabilities for all our characters, a long-term which must be acceptable to our producers, Betty Corday, Wes Kenny and Jack Herzberg, and to the NBC executives who plan our network's daytime programming.

Once all those folks agree that Ann's plot projections are right, then she may proceed to her next step. That is to outline, in 10 pages or so, what will happen in each specific episode. Now, that's like doing a crazy puzzle! Certain plots are on the front burner, other plots are just getting started, others are just finishing up, certain scenes need to include exposition to help newer viewers know what's going on, actors do go on vacations, and many actors are under contract to work a certain number of times each week (sometimes it's a case of "Who do we have next week?" Or "Is there anyone we have to use?"). There are budges to be observed, so we may not have all actors on all shows. Also, working an actor every day may be too hard on him, physically and mentally. And, too, serial hooks from one scene to another, one show to the next and one week to the next are important to the art form. So, as you may begin to imagine, there's a lot more to outlining than just telling the story.

Ann Marcus generally plans five outlines all at once - an entire week's set of shows. Each outline lays out what will happen in every scene. Then the outlines are given to the writers to execute into script form, dialogue and scenes, scenery and action, with parenthetical suggestions to the directors and actors, etc. Each writer will be given an outline for one day's script. And he must be able to produce that scripts in about two days' time! Sound impossible? Somehow they do it.

We have six writers who service us in this way, and theirs is an extremely tough job. First they must know the background and back-story of every character and every plot which has been shown during our 13-year run. This, therefore, is a far more demanding job than writing for Quincy, Barnaby Jones, or Grandpa Goes to Washington, etc., where background is never a part of an episode. So, not only does the writer have to know how to write well, but he has to be quick to call up information from the previous 3,000-plus episodes, and he has to be fast! Really, it's an incredible job. Many experienced and talented writers have never had the guts to try writing for a soap. We feel that our writers are the best in the business.

Our six writers all live and work in Los Angeles, as does Ann Marcus.

Rocci Chatfield, originally from Colorado, worked mostly nighttime shows, before joining our team. She wrote for My Three Sons, Family Affair, many situation comedies, and more recently Little House on the Prairie.

Michael Robert David, from New York City, won the coveted Eugene O'Neill Playwright Award in 1970, for his work at Theater de Lys. Mike previously wrote for soaps on One Life to Live and Love of Life.

Ray Goldstone, out of upstate New York, has a varied background, including publishing, editing, and teaching. Ray was head writer for Love of Live and Search for Tomorrow, wrote the screenplay for Irwin Allen's new film The Bridge.

Elizabeth Harrower, form the San Francisco Bay area, was a professional actress (radio, theater, films and TV) until about five years ago. She wrote for Photoplay and Daytime TV, then began writing for The Young and the Restless.

Laura Olsher, from Evanston, Illinois, wrote for many other media: radio (two Peabody Awards in Children's Programming), theater (4 plays produced, 6 more published), and record (10 for Disney, for which she did all voices) before Days.

And Joyce Perry, from Newburyport, Mass., was an actress for 10 years, before turning to writing. Of all the shows Joyce has written (Ironside, Room 222, Star Trek, Grizzly Adams, Waltons), she is most proud of Days of Our Lives.

There. Now you have a thumbnail background on each of our six fantastic writers.

So, what's the next step in the evolution of our play? Each writer, as we indicated, must turn his 10-page outline into a 60-page script - in two days. He has very little time to think about it. He gets his outline, sits down at the typewriter and stars clicking away.

How do they work? All writers work differently. Some say all the lines out loud, acting them out as they go along. Some close their eyes and envision the sets and the actors, and imagine the lines being spoken. Some get so involved they laugh when the characters are funny and they cry when the situation is sad. They get angry, and they frown and pout and worry and ache right along with the fictional characters. Writers are a wonderfully strange combination of hard erudition and soft emotion.

When a writer has completed a script, it is returned to Ann Marcus for final editing and maybe a few finishing touches. Ann will then run each script by all the producers, for a final approval. The edited script will then be sent to a mimeographer to be retyped and copied. And, finally, 50 copies of that script will be distributed to the Production Staff and the actors who will be involved in the taping of that particular episode.

It's still a long time before it becomes "...Like the sands through the hourglass,..." - did we say a long time? Well, let's put it this way: Within a week's time the script has ceased to be an imaginary blueprint of what might be. It has now, by the magic of television and its creative artists, become scenery and costumes and the Horton Family, and tears of joy. It has become our play, permanent, on videotape.

In Queen Elizabeth's time, William Shakespear's stage plays were unequivocally the good drama of the day. Ann Marcus told us last week that she believes the TV soap to be the closest thing to good drama today. And she went on to say that included all the entertainment - films, theater, everything.

And then she threw all caution to the wind and said, "And you can also tell them that I"m in love with all the Days of Our Lives personnel, among whom are the most talented people I know."

We've told you before, right? Working on our show is just wonderful. It's kicks! It's one big happy loving family. And if you don't think so, just ask any one of the writers. Only, please, don't call them while they're writing our scripts. Okay?

See you next time.

Bill and Susan

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"Elizabeth Harrower, form the San Francisco Bay area, was a professional actress (radio, theater, films and TV) until about five years ago. She wrote for Photoplay and Daytime TV, then began writing for The Young and the Restless."

She's also Susan's dear, sainted mother who led a smear campaign to get Ann Marcus fired from the show (thanks, Mother!).

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Ann Marcus likes to say DAYS's ratings stayed high with her as HW, but I don't see how. IIRC, in Waggett's "Soap Opera Encyclopedia," the two years she served as HW, DAYS was locked in the number-ten position in the ratings, whereas Pat Falken Smith's DAYS was, at one point, tied w/ ANOTHER WORLD and ATWT at number-one.

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"Elizabeth Harrower, form the San Francisco Bay area, was a professional actress (radio, theater, films and TV) until about five years ago. She wrote for Photoplay and Daytime TV, then began writing for The Young and the Restless."

She's also Susan's dear, sainted mother who led a smear campaign to get Ann Marcus fired from the show (thanks, Mother!).

Really? Wow. I knew she was Susan's mother but I didn't know that about what happened with Ann.

This article was close to the end of Ann's tenure right? Then it was Harrower, and then Nina Llaemle?

I wonder how long these other writers lasted.

Schemering seemed to give the impression that the show just got increasingly dull and then floundered between Pat Falken Smith's stints as HW. Do you think that's true?

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From my site, here's the writer's info from that time frame:

Writer.............................................Tenure (Airdates).....First/Last Episode #...(Total # of Episodes)

Pat Falken Smith..................................5/7/75-4/19/77...............2379-2880 (502)

Ann Marcus..........................................4/20/77-2/26/79.............2881-3362 (482)

Elizabeth Harrower................................2/27/79-3/14/80.............3363-3633 (271)

Ruth Brooks Flippen..............................3/17/80-4/18/80.............3634-3658 (25)

Nina Laemmle.......................................4/21/80-10/9/80.............3659-3782 (124)

Michelle Poteet-Lisanti...........................10/10/80-10/17/80 ........3783-3788 (6)

Gary Tomlin & Michelle Poteet-Lisanti.....10/20/80-10/20/81.........3789-4044 (256)

Pat Falken Smith..................................10/21/81-4/16/82...........4045-4170 (126)

http://www.jason47.com

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Schemering seemed to give the impression that [DAYS] just got increasingly dull and then floundered between Pat Falken Smith's stints as HW. Do you think that's true?

Given everything I've read in terms of histories and backstories and whatnot? I think so. IMO, the introduction of the Chandlers, coupled with Marlena's rape (by Kellam), just seems to be a real low point in the show's history. Even Alex and Marie's past affair, which produced Jessica; as well as Jessica's battle with multiple personalities (no, we're not talking about OLTL now, we're still on DAYS) sounds like stuff that must've put a lot of viewers to sleep (no, really, we're still talking about DAYS). I do think, though, Gary Tomlin and Michelle Poteet Lisanti don't get enough credit for getting the show back on-track before PFS returned. (Here's a "what if" for you: what if PFS hadn't returned? Huh? Huh?)

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From my site, here's the writer's info from that time frame:

Writer.............................................Tenure (Airdates).....First/Last Episode #...(Total # of Episodes)

Pat Falken Smith..................................5/7/75-4/19/77...............2379-2880 (502)

Ann Marcus..........................................4/20/77-2/26/79.............2881-3362 (482)

Elizabeth Harrower................................2/27/79-3/14/80.............3363-3633 (271)

Ruth Brooks Flippen..............................3/17/80-4/18/80.............3634-3658 (25)

Nina Laemmle.......................................4/21/80-10/9/80.............3659-3782 (124)

Michelle Poteet-Lisanti...........................10/10/80-10/17/80 ........3783-3788 (6)

Gary Tomlin & Michelle Poteet-Lisanti.....10/20/80-10/20/81.........3789-4044 (256)

Pat Falken Smith..................................10/21/81-4/16/82...........4045-4170 (126)

http://www.jason47.com

Six episodes for Michelle Poteet Lisanti before she gets a Co-Head? What happened, lol? Betty Corday: "Honey, I can tell you already, you're gonna need some help!"

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Thanks, Jason. I hope I didn't overlap anything from your site, I checked to see if the article was already there. It's a great site, love the scripts.

So what was going on with Ruth Brooks Flippen? Why did she only last a month?

Who was it who wrote the stories about Julie being burned in a fire and running away, and Laura attempting suicide due to her mental illness? Just from reading them I never cared for them...perhaps they were better onscreen.

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I also wonder exactly why the DAYS backstage area often seems to be the subject of bloodsports. What is it in the air? I mean all these lawsuits, and this with Ann Marcus, and producers going on a firing spree because of "negativism", then the later clashes involving Langan and Reilly and so on. Do they have a steel cage back there? Which writers and producers have actually worked harmoniously?

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Who was it who wrote the stories about Julie being burned in a fire and running away, and Laura attempting suicide due to her mental illness? Just from reading them I never cared for them...perhaps they were better onscreen.

Wasn't Laura one of the "victims" of the so-called "Valentine Day's Massacre"? If so, then I think Nina Laemmle wrote Laura's suicide attempt and subsequent confinement to an insane asylum. As for Julie's accident and subsequent divorce from Doug, I want to say it was Ann Marcus...? But I'm not sure. (In their book, IIRC, SSH talks about how her mother immediately set out to reunite Doug and Julie after she became the show's new HW.)

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Do they have a steel cage back there?

"Welcome...to Thunderdome!"

Which writers and producers have actually worked harmoniously?

Maybe Al Rabin/Shelley Curtis and Sheri Anderson/Leah Laiman/Thom Racina? It seems like every regime at DAYS has produced some strife BTS, but you never hear a lot of bad stories involving the ones mentioned.

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