Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Harding & Fisher: Making the Case for a 'Harder' Story on 'The Young and the Restless'

If you've seen the hashtag #Harder on Facebook and Twitter, you may already know about the social media response to the potential pairing of longtime The Young and the Restless character Kevin Fisher (Greg Rikaart) with handsome newcomer Det. Mark Harding (Chris L. McKenna). Fans have noticed chemistry between the actors, especially during recent scenes where Kevin was was questioned by "Officer Yummy Pants."

The hashtag is filled with innuendo (Harder? Insert teenaged Beavis and Butthead laugh here) but it's rallied some fans around the idea of a romance. A social media campaign is one thing, but could a story like this become a reality? Would a romance between Kevin and Mark Harding be too big a leap?

In a Twitter discussion a few weeks ago, I heard from some users that it was too sharp of a turn for Kevin, a character who's been embroiled in several heterosexual romances (and marriages). It's too farfetched, they said, for a straight man to suddenly “turn” gay.

But I think there's something there to explore. I think there's a way to make this story happen that honors Kevin's history and yet opens new possibilities for him.

And for that, we need to get aboard the Big Purple Dream bus, and revisit the romance of Olivia and Natalia -- "Otalia" -- at the late and lamented Guiding Light.

GL just marked its fifth cancelversary (sob!) this month, and the Otalia story was a huge part of its final season. While fans were rightfully disappointed in many aspects of the ending of Otalia, the beginnings of the couple would be a great template for "Harder."


Guiding Light's Natalia and Oliva.
Well, to borrow a line from another TV lesbian (Grey's Anatomy's Callie Torres), GL's Olivia Spencer (Crystal Chappell) was a big fan of the penis. She had hot romances with Josh and Bill. On several occasions she pulled a Reva Shayne special, keeping it all in the family; she married both Alan and Phillip, and dated both Buzz and Frank.

And yet, Olivia and Natalia met, moved in together, opened their hearts to each other, and it all made sense. It was told so slowly, and so beautifully, that it made perfect sense for these characters to fall for each other. (Adorable Emma helped the process, of course.)

I think the character of Kevin Fisher would be ideal for a similar exploration. Kevin's had a very active love life, with two marriages (not counting Angelina here) and a lot of escapades.

But there's always been something unexplored or unresolved in the character. A better word might be "unsettled." Kevin's never really had a moment where he could "exhale."

He's always had a squirrely nervousness. (That reminds me of that chipmunk head…..)

That's undoubtedly due to the abuse that Kevin suffered as a kid at the hands of "Terrible Tom," and it's an aspect of the character that Greg Rikaart plays so beautifully. I could see a story where the bond between Kevin and Harding grows stronger, and Harding becomes someone that Kevin trusts, and vice versa.  Harding's work focuses on crime and the afteraffects of abuse, and Kevin has lived in those shadows -- and sometimes been overwhelmed by his own foolish actions and ideas.

Great soap romances often portray one half of the couple changing the other's life in a profound way, and I feel like Harding's strength could convince Kevin to pull down some of the bricks in the wall that he usually throws up with other people to protect himself.

Harding gives Fisher a hard time at the GCPD.
I think there's so much that could be done with this idea -- far more potential than a possible romance with Mariah, the Cassie look-alike. (Kevin and Mariah as friends? Great idea. But the late thirties Kevin paired with the years-younger Mariah? Uh, no.)

So is such a romance possible? Maybe. But #Harder may have the deck stacked against it.

First of all, this is The Young and the Restless, a soap not known for its gay romances. It's a Bell soap, after all, a world where a show about the fashion world and couture is utterly absent of gay men.

Y&R took a shot at this 40 years ago with Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) and her friend Joann (Kay Heberle), and the show backed away from the idea after one quick handholding session. There's been one recurring LGBT character (Rafe) and a brief moment of Adam's, shall we say, situational bisexuality, but would the show be ready for a full time gay couple?

It's been rare for many of our shows to show LGBT stories that didn't focus on characters who were in the process of coming out. Almost all the characters -- from Luke Synder, to Lucas Jones, to Bianca Montgomery -- have been children of a show's tentpole characters. Otalia was a rare exception to that rule.

There's also Y&R's experience from a few years ago, where the character of Phillip Chancellor (Thom Bierdz) came out of two closets - one as a person who'd faked his own death, and another as a gay man. (Bierdz is also gay.)

Despite a potential for a story with rich context and resonance, the sudden nature of that revelation left viewers with mixed feelings. Y&R could be gunshy about going down that road a second time.

Rikaart shared details of his own life as a gay man in 2013, but I don't believe Kevin should become a gay character solely because he might share that with the actor who portrays him. I think it makes for good story, and would be a fascinating way to dig deeper into Kevin's life, and the ways his childhood and family have shaped Kevin as an adult -- with all of his quirks and faults.

There's a few other question marks now hanging over #Harder -- the fact that Chris McKenna just landed a recurring role on NBC's upcoming nighttime drama State of Affairs, for one. And of course, the shocking news that Chuck Pratt is Y&R's new head writer. (That's a WHOLE other column, for another day.)

Much has been made of Pratt's chops as a nighttime writer. I hope when he thinks “nighttime” he looks at shows like Scandal, where people can be unlikeable and sexy and flawed and evil and generous and ruthless -- and in metamorphosis.

Dynamic nighttime characters can be all these complicated things and more, not the penny-deep ideas and advertising images that pass for some characters on daytime shows these days.

There's still a lot to know about Kevin, and about "Officer Yummy." Here's hoping a #Harder pairing gets to explore that.


  1. I truly think that this prospective story could work. I do!

    Brian :-)

  2. Do the people posting against this potential couple really understand gay? I know lots of guys who were in heterosexual relations, some with kids, who had a repressed sexuality and were actually gay. They finally came out. Some even had kids. This is a "reality" of being gay that many people cannot seem to get their heads around. Things are almost never black and white, most times they're gray ... or in the case of gays: a rainbow of colors!

    1. I meant relationships. BTW I repeated they had kids, but maybe that's okay to emphasize that gay people can indeed have their own kids as that seems to be debated sometimes as well. Straight people don't suddenly turn gay, agreed, but sometimes people in straight relationships "aren't" . . . and are living a lie for one of many reasons. I'll just say it: Being gay isn't as complicated as society often makes it. Period.

  3. Very well written piece and I couldn't agree more! So sad that Y&R will now have Jill Farren Phelps AND Chuck Pratt at the helm! Y&R is in terrible creative shape, the worst of all four remaining soaps and the worst it's been it's run.

  4. I'm a fan of the couple he formed with Chloe, but I think it's a good thing both for Kevin as The Young and the Restless

  5. In early scenes between Kevin and Detective Harding, there was this heated chemistry. The actors were so intense with each other...I thought, WOW, I wonder if they will bring these two together. Kevin has had three failed marriages, and the females never seemed fully satisfied with Kevin as a partner, maybe that is why...plus, Harding has that "puppy love" for Paul, he could have those inner feelings that is why he is so stern..Bringing them together would be a perfect fit because they already have a love/hate relationship brewing...and just on the cusp it is intriguing to watch the two actors together.