|Y&R has featured memorable performances from Sophie|
Pollono (Delia) and Billy Miller (Billy).
In the last decade on daytime soap operas, many of the story decisions have seemed more about event-based drama rather than a true attempt to tell a long-term story in a way that only this genre can. That may be one of the issues. Since the 1980s daytime execs have stopped appreciating what makes a five-day-a-week drama special and have tried various approaches to become more like nighttime, such as CGI, blowing things up, shooting outdoors and on location, and even becoming more episodic in some cases (also known as "Pulling a Chris Goutman"). Not all of these things are bad, it's just taken daytime drama away from being a writers medium to a writing-by-committee medium. And, sadly, that committee is usually not one that appreciates the genre or even the history of the show they are working on at the moment.
Specifically about THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in 2013, here are my observations:
* Genoa City is quite a depressing place. Viewers were still dealing with the fact that Kay Chancellor had died, even if the writers had forgotten, when Carmine was killed. Now Delia has been mowed down by someone's car, probably Adam's, although I'm hoping for a surprise twist. Carmine's death was a waste because the character could have been a next great town playboy. But even if the actor had to go for whatever reason, killing him off in a very self-contained story with Michael-Lauren-Fen just isolated them from the rest of the canvas. When someone dies on a soap and half the characters don't even know or care about him, the writers have failed.
* Many stories go nowhere, or nowhere fast. The Neil/Rose/Hilary/blogger storyline has gone on for months. Y&R cast a very appealing actress in Mishael Morgan to play Hilary but the story has gone on for months and months, dragging horribly at times, and has made me not care at all about the outcome. While Mason, the sexy Lamon Archey, being shirtless is always a treat, it really shouldn't be the main highlight of a story that has gone on for ages.
* Characters come and go so much, any momentum built is lost. The death of Katherine Chancellor should have put Jill (Jess Walton) front and center for the next year but instead she left the country to go on a scavenger hunt. With her granddaughter, Delia, now dead, will she finally return? Summer finding out Jack was her dad (but not really) was a big deal for a while but now she's all but disappeared. Devon inherited billions from Kay but he doesn't know what to do with it, and the writers don't seem very invested in him anyway. Then there's Traci (Beth Maitland), who came back to town and gave the show a much needed boost. We found out about her marital troubles, got invested in her again, and then she vanished. She wasn't even at Kay's funeral.
* The actors are bringing it. Jess Walton, Tracey Bregman, Melody Thomas Scott, Eric Braeden, Peter Bergman, Billy Miller, Elizabeth Hendrickson, Michael Muhney, Beth Maitland and the Y&R cast have taken some pretty bad writing in 2013 and spun it into gold, or at least something watchable on days when lesser actors would have made even the most loyal fans turn off their TVs off.
So far, Y&R has blown it big-time with the fallout of Katherine Chancellor's death: Jill is gone, Esther has disappeared, Cane has left Chancellor, Brock was barely seen, and Phillips III and IV weren't even brought back. Now Delia Abbott has been killed off and will likely be the cornea donor for Adam and Chelsea's baby (the second time in four years an Abbott grandchild has died ultimately saving a Newman). Will Jill and Esther be heavily involved in the fallout? How will they react to losing a grandchild so soon after losing Kay? As much as I don't like the choice to kill Delia, the story has the potential to impact Genoa City for years. But did Y&R need yet another depressing storyline to watch? Escapism via a TV show doesn't have to be sunshine and light all the time, but occasionally a little light doesn't hurt.
After just a few days we've already seen, as we've come to expect, amazing performances by this all-star cast. But it hit me today that this is the kind of thing I used to say a lot about AS THE WORLD TURNS or GUIDING LIGHT in their final years, especially ATWT. "I don't really like the story, or the setup, but man, the actors are going to win an Emmy!" As loyal as most of us are as viewers, and as much as we love our favorite daytime actors, it's the long-term stories that make the genre special and keep fans watching. Does CBS Daytime, Y&R executive producer Jill Farren Phelps or the writing staff really understand why fans fell in love with Y&R and took it to #1?
I would imagine Y&R will get a bump in the ratings for a couple of weeks because of the promotion and shock value of this story. But what is the long-term impact? When Kay died it became obvious how much heart was missing from a show that had killed off John Abbott, Liz Foster, Colleen Carlton, etc in the past several years. Which brings me to my original point. Y&R is being written like many a canceled soap from the past these days, living for the moment and trying to create momentary drama in order to sustain its ratings, with no regard to future consequences.
Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for Y&R to succeed. But the last decade has chipped away at what made the show unique and special. Now it's an everyshow with scenes taking place in public park sets and houses that look like bad IKEA displays. And don't get me started on the Y&R score, the best in soap opera history, which has been replaced by muzak. New sets, new score, and feels like a totally new, but not improved show most days.
Brand new head writers are on the way. Can they make a difference? Possibly. But a writing-by-committee process is still in place with the Y&R writing team, CBS and Sony trying to agree on stories. Any change is likely only short-term.
What can we do as fans and lifelong viewers? It's hard to say. Even when a sharp new daytime executive comes along at CBS, the same exact people from canceled soaps get hired to write and produce Y&R. And we end up with the same results. Where is the next Bill Bell or Agnes Nixon? The next Douglas Marland or even Harding Lemay? And if they came along would they be allowed to tell the stories they wanted to tell?
All we can do is keep watching and hoping for the best. We've all seen our favorite daytime soaps go through ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and come out of it with new stories and stars and excitement. Even though these look like dark days for Y&R, you never know when magic will happen. The show is maintaining its ratings and is still on the air, one of four broadcast daytime soaps left, which gives us hope for a turnaround. Cross your fingers for that, and keep your tissues handy this week.
Take the We Love Soaps Y&R survey below to help gauge how viewers are feeling about the show. We will take responses until midnight ET on Tuesday, October 22nd and publish the results on Wednesday, October 23rd.
- The State of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS Survey Results: Favorite & Least Favorite Characters, and Fan Response To Killing Delia