Sunday Reflections 5: The Young and the Restless, The Revamp; Reality Shows on Y&R and General Hospital; Gold Medal GH

By Marlena Delacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

The Young and the Restless:  The hardest job in the soap world is being done right now by new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and headwriter Josh Griffith as they revamp Y&R and are rumored to be paring down its expensive cast.  Marlena has always believed it’s not a critic’s job to tell producers what to do; it’s our job to react to it.  Yet, I can’t resist making some observations on the Y&R they are examining right now.

How the hell are Phelps and Griffith going to get rid of any veterans, when the greatest strength of Y&R is its plethora of actors who have been on for decades? Firing any will be an amputation, with the fans just screaming bloody murder even after just one pink slip. Look at how wrenching it was to lose Eileen Davidson as Ashley, who departed Y&R just last week for Days of Our Lives!  Almost all the older vets have proven their worth by improving the awful stories of Ms. Arena Bell and company though their great acting abilities. Examples: 

Peter Bergman

Michelle Stafford

Peter Bergman’s Jack conquering paralysis and his joke of a marriage to Melody Thomas Scott’s  Nikki; Michelle Stafford in the on-going travails of Phyllis; Doug Davidson, bravura as Paul in the father kills son Ricky story, and on and on. For whom will the bell toll?

Caution: cutting or deemphasizing the vets on Y&R would likely kill the show, as it will cause longtime viewers — its core audience — to flee.  Plus, any of these actors can be maintained or saved by improved writing for their characters.

Doug Davidson

Most likely cuts will come from the shorter-termed vets from other shows, like the Genie Francis (totally miscast as scheming Genevieve) and those who have run out of story, like Stephen Nichols (Tucker).  Please don’t cut Debbi Morgan (Harmony) and Darnell Williams (Sarge)!  Each has more than carried over their momentous acting skills from All My Children to Y&R and I’ll cry if they get the sack.

The most effective move would be to punch up or recast most of the young cast, who range from nothing more than ordinary to dreadful.  I have never been a fan of (recent Emmy winner!) Christel Khalil (Lily) and Daniel Goddard (Cane).  Lily and Cane are insipid and I don’t care to see any more about Cane’s past. The relative newbies such as Blake Hood (who plays the newly adult Kyle) and Jessica Heap (who plays Eden) don’t do much for me.  I have a feeling the show will be bringing in lots of new young people anyway, and it will be interesting if any new faces come from Phelps’ old shows, as is this veteran executive producer’s legendary want.

The Young and the Restless and General Hospital: Are daytime soap operas sleeping with the enemy when they feature reality shows in their plots? First we had the mercifully aborted Mob Princess on General Hospital (starring Kristina Corinthos) and last week we had the hilarious satire Restless Style on Y&R (the TV version of the magazine) hosted by a divinely snarky Billy Abbott (Billy Miller) who was reminded me of  Access Hollywood ’s Billy Bush, complete with the real life host’s oily smile.  Restless Style was pure  tabloid  sleaze  with Abby  revealing her father Victor’s marriage to the much younger Sharon and Billy going for the jugular aiming to reveal  magazine  editorial employee Phyllis’ long held hit and run secrets. I loved the snide “Restless Style” almost as much as I truly detest reality shows.  What do you think?

General Hospital:  Five days later I am still wiping away the tears after a SoapNet Gold Medal Moments rebroadcast of the highly emotional 1994 episode in which we watched B.J.’s heart (she had died in a school bus accident) being transplanted into her cousin Maxie’s chest, saving her life.  What soap magnificence! Everyone from mothers Bobbie and Maxie to Laura and Lucy — who heard the news from afar — was crying throughout this beautifully directed episode.  Dr. Tony Jones, B.J.’s father, played by the amazingly subtle Brad Maule, witnessed the entire operation in the operating room and held his daughter’s hand as her heart stop beating.  Sob!  Hail GH era headwriter Claire Labine and executive producer Wendy Riche, and the cast and crew once again. What pure emotional truth was shown here — the gist of great soap opera.   This was soap the way it was and ought to be!

Vintage One Life to Live: — So sad to hear this week of the death of Al Freeman Jr. who played Ed Hall on One Life to Livefrom 1972-85.  What a magnificent actor he was, bringing power, dignity and great  depth  to the police captain character who married Carla (Ellen Holly) and was the adoptive father to Josh (played by a very, very young Laurence Fishburne).

Al Freeman Jr.

 Freeman had such a distinguished career — starring in the landmark TV movie My Sweet Charlie with Patty Duke in 1970, the mini-series Roots, performing on Broadway in various productions, and eventually teaching and chairing the theatre department at Howard University.  And of course, he was the first African-American to win the Emmy for Outstanding Actor.  He was 78.

Marlena De Lacroix: As of last February, “moi” has been a soap journalist for 32 years (minus a few for grad school).  If you have any questions about soaps past and present, please send them to me in the “Comments” section.   I’ll answer the questions and perhaps use them to springboard more midweek columns.  Merci beaucoup, darlings.

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    BREAKING NEWS: Ron Moss (Ridge) is leaving the CBS daytime soap “The Bold And The Beautiful” after 25 years with the show due to a salary dispute!!! Thoughts on this Marlena?

    Marlena says: Marlena doesn’t get involved in salary disputes. However, this should really hurt B&B, especially internationally. Moss is a superstar in Europe, particularly in Italy. Marlena swooned over Ridge in the beginning of the show (coining the description “perfectly symmetrical cheekbones”) and found Moss very down to earth when she interviewed him. But some actors/people are very sensitive about money. It should be interesting to see what the Bell-Phillips’ production company’s longterm reaction is to this sudden move.

  2. SZima says:

    I’m very nervous about where the axe will fall on Y&R. I agree with your choices of relative newbie’s that should go. There are many more of the younger set, besides those you mentioned, that should also go. But if Ms. Phelps starts getting rid of the long-term vets, then this viewer is out the door. And you’re right, the ratings would fall miserably and the show would probably get canceled.

    RE: Ronn Moss…I’ve only watched B&B for two very short stints in the last couple months, and from what I’ve seen, it’s no great loss. I’m sure he’s a nice person, but not a good actor. I have no history with the show, but I’ve been rather surprised at all the negative comments I’ve read online about him.

    Marlena, with the soaps in such a sad state right now, do you honestly believe they will last beyond 2013?
    I have my doubts.

    Marlena says I honestly don’t know what to believe. But I think Y&R and B&B should survive possibly past that. Who knows what will happen to Days and GH next year?

  3. Daniel says:

    I have been enjoying General Hospital more lately than I have in years. When the mobsters are featured it is more about their personal lives, which makes them slightly less repugnant, and I like how the stories are intertwining.
    Of course I wish it would be fun again, maybe bringing back the best of the best, Lucy Coe, to lighten the mood and liven things up.

    Marlena says: So glad you are enjoying GH! I’d love to see Lucy Coe again too. I guess for now the humor on GH is mostly coming from Todd, whose remarks are often very funny. I’d like to see more humor on the show too.

  4. Chris says:

    As an avid follower of Y&R (26 years strong!!!!) I want to wish Jill Farren Phelps and Josh Griffith all the best! I am familiar with JFP’s work from her GL days. I hope we get that kind of result in what is a necessary revamping of my old favorite.

    One of the biggest things that needs to happen is the humanity needs to come through again. Under Maria Bell characters like Victor became one note and vapid. Victor was always shrewd and ruthless but he had a heart. I remember vividly his romance with Hope Newman back in ’93. He moved her…and us. In return we fell in love with them. Or how about that amazing death bed marriage to Nikki? Or the wonderful friendship he had with Colonel Douglas Austin? It’s been so long since we have seen Victor’s heart. Under MAB she took the Black Knight meaning too literally. We got a man that paid to have Patty change her face into someone he didn’t know (Emily) all so he could hurt Jack. He was directly responsible for Colleens death. He crucified Adam mercifully. The emotional abuse towards Nikki has been relentless. He’s escaped punishment for his numerous crimes and now he has married his former daughter in law. I don’t care about Old Vic anymore. I want so badly for him to get hit by a mack truck. He is no longer an interesting three dimensional character. I think a reboot of Victor should involve his transplanted heart failing him. He needs to introspect and become relevant again.

    Sharon is another character that has become too one note for me. She may not have always been a good wife to Nick but she loved her children. Under MAB Sharon fell love with the guy who stole her kid. She jumped into the bed of any man who rubbed against her. She was tried for a pointless murder and basically abandoned Noah and Faith’s best interest over her own. She’s become self-centered and selfish. Sharon needs to find herself…without a man. I would love the new regime to bring back an absent Noah, in a re-casted role with a stronger actor, and carefully examine what it’s meant to him to have Sharon and NIck as parents. There is so much done wrong over the last several years to play off.

    Noah should come back as both gay and addicted to drugs. The drug element stemming primarily from growing up a screwed up Newman. It would also give the show a topical social issue story. The type of story that was so lacking during the Maria years when she was busy scrapping the bottom of the barrel for her inspiration. Jack, Kay, Nikki and Phyllis are also characters that need refocusing, just to name a few. I am aware there is more to heal but it all starts somewhere.

    Lastly I don’t know if you saw Maria Bells postings to her facebook account following her firing? If one thing was made clear to this viewer it’s that she was wearing blinders on to what was playing out on our screens day in and day out. Her delusional assessment of her tenure was laughable. She is also someone who would benefit from some introspecting. I hope no one ever encourages her to write for television again. I saw what she’s made of. Loud and clear!!! I don’t wish or want to be beat over the head with her anemic talents ever again.

    Marlena says: Wow, what a great letter. You certainly hit in the head–the show needs its humanity back. Every show needs an antagonist, but, as you say Victor was more than that, a man with a heart. He is so bust scheming, we see so little of it–just give me a glimmer in the midst of all his shenanigans. Many fans argue that Sharon, once a heroine, has been completely ruined. I just think she’s lost whatever brain she had through her multiple problems and travails. Marrying Victor! Her ex-father in law! (Although I ove the bitch scenes between her and Nikki!) As far as Ms. Arena Bell, her statements upon being fired were painful to read–it’s incredible any daytime executive could be so blind to the state of their own show. Here’s a real example of what makes the soap business so interesting! Hopefully, things will improve with the new executive regime. I’m sure Phelps/Griffith will give us plenty to write about.

  5. DS0816 says:

    Dear Connie/Marlena,

    The death of 1979 Emmy winner Al Freeman Jr. saddens me. But I’m glad he had a lengthy life. (I recently learned of a fellow high-school classmate who died at age 40.) Freeman was a top-quality actor and was brilliant in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X.” (I recall either or both of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert having suggested him for a 1992 supporting-actor Oscar nomination, with their “For Your Consideration” special on their syndicated “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.”) He was an actor with strong characterization and whose work was grounded in reality.

    I don’t want to lose any of the vets on “The Young and the Restless.” Lately, the one who has impressed me most is Doug Davison who, for a good couple decades, was one of those long-underappreciated actors whose acting seemed effortless. He has been very believable as a father so profoundly shocked and saddened by the end of his son’s sickened life. Davison should be in the hunt for a 2013 Emmy. (He may be a frontrunner.)

    —DS0816

    Marlena says: Hi DSO! I agree, Davidson deserves a nomination. I usually dislike when actors submit scenes of themselves crying at the melodramatic heights of their storylines just to demonstrate that they are “act-oors.” But Davidson is never one to cry crocodile tears. He was so good and so authentic in this story as a man in real torment here. It’s sad Davidson’s formidable talents are so often overlooked. Maybe not this time! Thanks for telling us about Siskel and Ebert’s feelings about that great actor Al Freeman Jr. in Malcolm X. What a tremendous performance!

  6. tess says:

    Marlena, back in the 80′s, AS THE WORLD TURNS Karen Haines, a scheming social climber blackmailed James Stenbeck into marrying her. At the time, James was engaged to Dee Stewart and Karen discovered that James wasn’t the real heir to the Stenbeck fortune. James’ mother was a nanny and Gunnar was the true Stenbeck scion.

    She threatened to reveal this tidbit to the world if James didn’t join her in holy matrimony. James was livid. He categorically refused to allow this viper to take advantage of him. He wanted dirt of Karen. He wanted information that would stop her madness. He ordered Nels, his yes-man, who I think had a secret crush on James to do a background check on Karen.

    Nels ascertained that Karen’s brother, a school teacher had made a porno movie–maybe when he was a wild and crazy collegian. James told Karen that if she didn’t back off that he’d destroy her brother professionally. Karen said that her brother had created this hellish situation for himself and he would have to live with the consequences.

    It was a scrumptious Jackie Collins type story written by the stupendously talented Bridget and Jerome Dobson.

    My question to you is who played Karen’s brother? For years, I’ve been trying to get this question answered.

    Marlena says: Well, I’ve researched your question and there’s no listing for what I think was a non-contract role in Julie Poll’s definitive book “As the World Turns,a 40th Anniversary Edition.” I have a so far unanswered request in from a former P&G adjunct press person. But Karen Haines Stenbeck Dixon was played by the delightful Kathy McNeil from 1981-1984. She was a relative of Cynthia Haines, who was played by our Linda Dano from 1981-82. Anyone know the answer to this question? Write in!

  7. DF says:

    Happy 32nd Anniversary! (Well, I’m off by a few months).

    Al Freeman, Jr. was a special actor. I remember seeing him in several black and white television shows when he was in his twenties, but the first role that had a big impact on me was his star turn in Baraka’s “Dutchman.” He got great reviews and I think everyone expected him to be a star at a time when Sidney Poitier was the only African-American who could front a movie. It never happened, unfortunately. I had the opportunity to meet Al a few times, and I think he had a love/hate relationship with OLTL. He appreciated the steady paycheck, and the ability to do theater and the occasional movie or nighttime show while working on the soap, but I think he always resented that he wasn’t a bigger star, and sometimes it showed in his work on OLTL. Still, when given good material, and the Ed/Carla/Sadie storyline was certainly that, he shined brightly.

    Marlena says: Thanks DF both for your anniversary wishes and your special insights into Al Freeman, Jr. I hope he appreciated that even though soaps were a relatively small part of show business, he was a star of the first magnitude in our little world.

  8. Happy Anniversary Marlena! Here’s to 32 more years!

    I’m going a bit off topic here to add on to what’s been said in the comments re: Ronn Moss. I know he’s meg-popular, especially overseas, but I think the character of Ridge is out of gas. If Brad Bell were wise, he’d follow his father’s genius and slowly incorporate a new family tied to the Forresters, as Bill Bill did by incorporating the Abbotts and Newmans.

    I’ve read suggestions that Jon Hensley should come to B&B full time and I think that would be a great idea (if the story is there). Though B&B always frustrates me with its inability to focus on more than one story or character set at a time. I get that it’s only a half hour.

    Marlena says: Thanks so much, darling Patrick. Interesting suggestion, but Jon Hensley isn’t my Ridge. I think Ridge should be played by a more commanding actor; a character who could project the huge power of Ridge’s professional and familial positions–and his great and classic looks. And an actor capable of showing some real vulnerability for a change. I have a wild suggestion–how about Michael E. Knight? He could really act the fuller role. (He’s NOT Tad.) I guess, though, they’ll be looking for a perfect face like Moss’ and as all soaps do. The show’s choice should–and could– be very interesting.

  9. Kevin says:

    There is a huge article in last week’s Globe magazine about Jill Farren Phelps coming to the show and that insiders in the soap world are predicting this will literally kill “Young and the Restless.”

    They are saying that it is a sure thing that both Melody Thomas Scott and Jeanne Cooper will be fired within the next two years very similar to what Phelps did with Jacklyn Zeman and Anna Lee on “General Hospital” a decade ago. We will also never again see Jess Walton nor Kate Linder.

    As much as I don’t want to believe it, I am bracing myself for the worse. I have seen the destruction Phelps has left behind over the past 20 years.

    Marlena says: Can one really believe what’s in the Globe? I think not. Hang in to see what really happens.

  10. Brandon says:

    La Phelps certainly has her work cut out for her as the takes the Y&R reins this fall, Marlena! (You didn’t even mention the character of Heather, who has been played by two of the most exciting young female soap actresses of the last half-century — Eden Riegel and Jennifer Landon, who have a combined total of roughly a million Emmys and zillion nominations between them — and yet is still a boring BOMB of a character! Yes, Doug Davidson is doing terrific work in what is an inane storyline, but why don’t they do a story from character — say, Paul and his children finally and truly coming to terms with the fact that his paternal skills have never been up to snuff — than from plot (father shoots son in cold blood, news at 11!)?)

    Marlena says: I’m intrigued why the character of Heather is such a bomb. Is it because she’s not written for adequately? Jennifer Landon is a superb actress, and I’ve been waiting for her to blossom in this role. But there’s not a lot for her to play, save for externals. Re: Paul and his kids: it’s a shame Y&R–which used to be the most pychological of soaps–is so plot-oriented now. Sign of the soap times!

  11. janet says:

    I do not watch Young&restless.To much evil Victor getting away with EVERYTHING>.Now finding out the one person who has ruined every show I ever loved,is coming,I won’t be watching. JFP ruined Santa Barbara for me.Guiding light the same ,others GH mostly. I hope for the people who do watch Y&R she has learned her lesson. If not all the females on that show will be on their way out. Genie can come back to GH now that Guza and Frons are gone..
    I hope soaps are not on their way out because sometimes I enjoy GH when the mob is not on,and Anna is.
    I also hate reality shows.Most of the ones I have seen seem to be scripted no matter what they say. No one is as stupid as these people act.

Speak Your Mind