The Young and the Restless: When a Good Cliffhanger is Far From Enough

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

I just finished watching Friday’s episode of The Young and the Restless.  Paul discovered  Ricky holding  Eden in his bathroom, his son’s bloody knife held firmly to her throat.  She had  passed out due to hitting her head on the bathtub. When Ricky wouldn’t drop the knife, a shocked  P.I. Paul tearfully aimed his gun at his son, as Ricky

Y&R has been rudderless and boring since Paul Rauch left as co-executive producer. It’s been stuck with an uncreative writing team that should have been sent packing long ago.   Does the perpetual number one soap really have to be so bad, especially now that the death of soaps is in the air?

confessed also to the recent murder of Daisy. Rotten Ricky carried on that Paul was never there for him when he was growing up.  The episode ended as a conflicted-to- the-core Paul was ready to fire.

Pretty good suspense and not bad for a Friday cliffhanger, no? Will the guilt-ridden perpetual good guy Paul really shoot his own son?

But, I know already Paul is going to blow Ricky away, as a cautionary shot to his shoulder accidentally sends Ricky tumbling out the window to his death. You see, last night I read the detailed spoiler for this story online.  Why should I tune in Monday when I already know what’s going to happen? Marlena doesn’t get off on luridness, especially watching a father shooting a son, no matter how much Y&R needs a shocking over-the-top story to hype the ratings, and the always vastly underrated Doug Davidson needs a story.  I really am disgusted by this story.

But darlings, don’t you think it should be illegal in all 50 states for a critic to review a story in advance?  I do!  Excuse moi.  The older Marlena has grown, the more I hate spoilers.  Now I know you’re wondering whether this is going to be a rant against spoilers, or a long review of Y&R which says what has been said times, many times before: that it has been a bad soap opera for a while now. For today, let’s try a soupcon of both. I happen to remember soaps before spoilers (and even as a novice, worked for the soap journalist, who started them in the late 70s) and of course I liked soaps much better then.  The suspense — especially Friday cliffhangers — kept me tuning in tomorrow and every day for years as a young viewer. I’ve been watching General Hospital spoiler-free lately and it really does add to my day to day soap watching experience to be again surprised by plot turns I have no advance knowledge of. But I confess, I find avoiding spoilers when doing my daily soap column and site reading is even harder than erasing lines from my face without Estee Lauder.

Now back to Y&R, a soap that has been rudderless and boring since Paul Rauch left as co-executive producer. It’s been stuck with an uncreative writing team (that also includes continuing its executive producer Maria Arena Bell) that should have been sent packing long ago.   Does the perpetual number one soap really have to be so bad, especially now that the death of soaps is in the air?  I’m extra sad because I’m reliving the decades of  the glorious, character-driven (not plot-driven)  Y&R of old through Bill Bell’s new biography, The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell, Creator of The Young and the Restless and the Bold and the Beautiful by Michael Maloney and Lee Philip Bell ( Source Books) which I am reviewing  for my next column.  There’s no comparison between Mr. Bell’s always engrossing master accomplishment and the drone of a show we see today.

Of course, one column is not enough to review all of Y&R, but now let me say at least, I keep Y&R tuned in the background every day because I still very much appreciate its rich, rich, excellent veteran cast.  That actors like Peter Bergman (Jack) and Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) and on and on are almost washed into the sea by dull, dull scripts is a soap opera crime.  A few weeks ago, I even watched in horror as Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott, without whom there is no show) and Sharon (Sharon Case) even had a barn-based catfight over Victor. Veteran Marlena readers know that the cat fight has always been my least favorite soap device.  To me, cat fights have always been sickeningly anti-woman.  Roughly it means, at least to me, that a show can’t go much lower.

Oh well, cheery, aren’t I?  I want all soaps to live, but a perpetually number one show like Y&R should at least make itself – and us viewers — live well.  Instead of cheering at the show, we viewers find ourselves cheering that villains Ricky and Daisy (roles played by two of the weakest young soap actors I’ve ever seen as soap leads) are goners. We deserve a vastly better show that at the very least can hold our full interest.  A good Friday cliffhanger isn’t enough.

Comments

  1. SZima says:

    Marlena, I don’t think Eden is actually dead. She knocked her head on the bathtub, but I’m pretty sure she’s still alive. Not that I would mind if she was dead…LOL…but if she is, it wasn’t “spoiled” on any of the sites I read.

    Excellent column. I too miss the spoiler days of yore. It was much more fun to watch when you didn’t know that someone was going to be killed, or leave the show, or sleep with some very inappropriate person. I still don’t read the spoilers, at least intentionally, but they are hard to miss most of the time. If it’s some big story coming up, there are articles written about it that you can’t avoid.

    I just started reading your column again so I’m looking forward to going backward and reading the ones I missed!

    Sally

    Marlena says: Thanks a lot Sally. Happy back reading!

  2. Daniel says:

    I remember the first time The Phoenix rose from the ashes, or when Lucky was shown to be alive but maybe not so well, and those were some exciting reveals! They packed an emotional wallop that doesn’t seem to happen much, if at all, anymore.

    I want these four soaps to not just survive but to thrive, and I don’t know how that can happen if the people in charge don’t listen to the fans, or if they stay afraid of going back a little and trying to recreate what worked, instead of always wanting to do something new and flashy.
    Soaps used to be must watch now TV, and they could be again.

    Marlena says: I loved the emotional wallops of the big reveal too! My favorite was on Another World when Walter Curtin (the ever fabulous Val Dufour) was seen on a Friday caressing a hidden scarf, the evidence that he was the real murderer of Robert Milli’s Wayne Addison. Walter had let his lovely innocent wife Lenore (Judith Barcroft) go on trial for the deed. Dufour really played the crucial reveal moment to the melodramatic hilt! Pow!

  3. Abbey says:

    The Y&R needs to be taken out behind the barn and shot, thus ending it’s suffering and ours. What the hell has happened to this show? I know it is a “soap” and yes, we are to suspend our belief but come on. With the steaming mess they’re trying to pass off as daytime drama, one must now also suspend any intelligence or logic to sit through this crapfest. The storyline with Adam, Sharon and Ashley and the subsequent baby switching was dispicable enough but to have Sharon not only forgive him, but jump into bed with him AND consider marriage, was truly one the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen on daytime. Why does MAB and her fellow knuckle-draggers always portray women in the worst possible light? Making them all stupid, clingy sex pots who will screw any man who smiles at them and of course, not use birth control.

    No one is ever punished for their crimes and when someone is arrested, people come and go to visit them like Grand Central Station. Look at Chloe – they took a character who was a smart, independent career woman and made her a dumb slut who after tricking a guy to knock her up, is now, well, now, just Psycho Kevin’s wife. Sharon became a kleptomaniac, drunken skank who is now banging her kids’ grandfather. How this shit is still on the air astounds me. No wonder daytime TV is dying!

    Marlena says: Some pretty heavy criticism here; I agree with you on Sharon’s ruination and her terrible love affair with (yikes!) Victor. I’ve never seen Y&R berated for its treatment of women before! Also, I like that you mention lack of birth control. Daytime has always been centuries behind on this because accidental pregnancies make such ‘good’ storylines. Not many characters (save for poor innocent Maxie and the guilty Matt recently on GH and guilty Deacon on Y&R) have been made to pay for their crimes on all soaps for years now, a major, major mistake. Much more on Y&R here anon.

  4. Aaron says:

    I have been watching Y&R since the early 90′s (my grandmother got me hooked on it!) and I loved the “strictly storyline” aspect of Bill Bell and later Kay Alden’s writing. They could make two characters in a scene talking so compelling! In the last 5 years or so of the show, I have noticed less attention to story and more “event” type plots. I miss the storylines that begin, have a middle and then end. Then the ending will start a new story for characters!

    I still find Y&R enjoyable though – Adam/Cheslea falling in love, Doug Davidson’s performance, and Phyllis’s hit and run being relooked at are some recent highlights. Like Marlena, I am pleased that veterans are used relatively well and I am happy to see characters like Nina, Christine and Danny make return appearances.

    Marlena says: Of course there are wonderful things on Y&R too. I l-o-v-e Michael Mulney (Adam), who has deserved an Emmy during the years he’s been on. Fascinating actor!! I remember the original Phyllis hit and run story like it was yesterday, so it was kind of neat to revisit it. And as I thought he would, Doug Davidson as Paul is delivering the goods in the killing Ricky story. Abby stowing away in that trunk is a story I’m not very interested in though. I find the character unbearingly obnoxious. Getting rid of Eileen Davidson (core character Ashley) is certainly questionable. Who know if there will ever be a regime change on this show? A return to being entirely character- oriented would boost Y&R’s ratings considerably I think . Yeah, like that is ever going to happen!

  5. Abbey says:

    If you go on some message boards, like Television Without Pity, people are constantly talking about how the show degrades women.

    I agree about Abby. I find her so annoying that I always fast forward when she comes on. That actress sucks – her idea of “acting” is to make stupid faces and whine.

    Marlena says: Thanks Abbey will do. Misogyny on soaps is a special interest of mine and I’ve spoken out about it for years. You may want to read some of my back columns on One Life to Live, General Hospital and ABC Daytime.

  6. Brandon says:

    What bugs me most about Y&R is that entire character configurations — Neil and Sofia, Katherine and Murphy, Carmine, Gloria and Jeffrey, Paul and Nina, Adam and Chelsea, and isn’t Jack’s son back in town and living at Victor’s house?? — disappear for days and even WEEKS at a time, and then all of a sudden pop back up with little or no explanation. Maria clearly has NO idea how to create a great umbrella story that enfolds her entire canvas into the action the way Mr. Carlivati is doing so well on “General Hospital” right now (and the way my old favorite Michael Malone did back in the day on “One Life”), and so all of the dropped character/story threads only serve to make the air show feel all the more herky-jerky and airless.

    I’ve heard whispers from a couple of people who would know (and I’m sure vous have as well, Marlena) that Maria is working without any kind of long-term “bible,” and as you and I have discussed before, she tends to let her plots snowball on her, with climaxes that just appear out of nowhere (i.e. the initial Adam reveal, or the decision to suddenly make Ricky irretrievably evil, or Sharon vs. the volcano, or the whole Sarah Smythe doppelganger mess). It’s pretty clear — to this viewer, at least — that the show is not the deliberately plotted soap we all grew up watching, and while it’s still quite entertaining in its own way, thanks largely to the contributions of the still-great actors (Stafford, Davidson, Bregman, Bergman, LeBlanc, Morgan, Cooper, et al), it’s no longer the genre’s gold standard. And doesn’t that make you a little… sad?

    Marlena says: No, I hadn’t heard that rumor but it makes a lot of sense. How long can the show go on this way? I felt especially bad about the current state of the show while reading Bill Bell’s biography (reviewed here in my post “The Classy, Megasuccessful World Of Bill Bell,”) because it describes in detail how committed Bell was to writing a character-based show, and how meticulously he worked on making sure that everything came from the psyches and motivations of his characters. That’s how he made them so rich. I feel bad for the veteran actors, who have to put life into this plot oriented, sloppy mess. The worst story I’ve ever seen on the show was Sharon and the volcano, which was bad in enough itself, but worse, the facts about what really happened were changed most illogically from month to month. An hour of soap opera these days is such prime and rare real estate that I also really hate to see what’s happening to this once great show.


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