Sunday Reflections 15: Presto Chango — How the New Production and Writing Regime Reshaped Y&R in Only One Week

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

If you are a soap opera watcher who loves the soap opera behind the soap opera (as I think most Thinking Fans are), this was a tremendous week for watching The Young and the Restless.  The show’s new head writer Josh  Griffith and new new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps  made the fastest changes I’ve ever seen in Week One of a new regime.  The thing is: do you admire how efficient they were at making storyline fixes? Or as a fan who watches soaps just for the on-screen entertainment, were you confused or a bit annoyed by the sudden radical changes? To wit: 

– In the presto chango department, the instant dismissal — in one episode – of the long anticipated trial of Phyllis for attempting to run over The Bug and Paul 20 years ago by a new judge (the old one had suddenly taken sick) was the craftiest (in a good way) soap opera writing trick I have ever seem.  Loved the new judge’s comment, “I have shirts in my drawer older than this case.”  And Nick announced he is divorcing slutty lying  Phyllis.  It’s about time!

– In the aftermath of an instant auto crash in which Summer hit Adam and Chelsea, poor Chelsea had a miscarriage and was home from the hospital all in one  episode! Nonsense! Or did the miscarriage (and Adam’s secret rescuing Sharon from the fire she set in the Newman Ranch) set up much needed trouble for Adam and Chelsea, who have been too happily married for the larger part of last year?  Certainly, the show can now make better use of  the great acting  skills of Melissa Claire Egan and Michael Muhney if Adam and Chelsea are in conflict.

– Marlena has never been a fan of all the corporate intrigue on Y&R although she knows this is a traditional show motif.  I find the endless machinations over  Newman Enterprises a big bore.  In only one week, the pendulum swung again and Jack took over Newman,  firing Nick and Victoria and giving Victor a serious heart episode which rendered him unconscious on the floor.  I’m glad Smilin’ Jack has finally been given the power he’s craved for so long.  Jackie  is a lot more entertaining than dour Victor.

Sharon Case’s crazy Sharon
Burn, Baby, Burn!
(CBS Photo)

– Sharon’s  insanity was brought to a crucial turning point when she set fire to the Newman ranch.  It’s about time her crazy actions of the last year are explained by a  medical  diagnosis of her obvious  personality disorder, as  this bizarre act of arson demands.– Virtually in a week, the newer generation in Genoa City young ones was  brought more into focus.  I like the new Summer, played by Hunter Hayley King.   As demonstrated in the fact that she blamed her car crash on her mother Phyllis, Summer has finally become  every parent’s nightmare, a  teen terror.  I also like the new Noah (Robert Adamson) and the increased use of Fenn (Max Ehrich.)

– The dialogue grew sharper, and the pace of the show picked up.  The music has finally become more specific to character and story action  and  greatly enhances the drama, as it is supposed to do.  No more  soapy violins!

So what do you think?  As a veteran backstage observer of soap production, Marlena greatly admires Griffith’s and Phelps’ audacity and efficiency in making so many needed changes to the show so fast. This week’s changes point the way to a better future for Y&R, which was an unexciting show for too long.   Or as a Y&R watcher did you think  they changed too much in too little time?  Share, please.

Comments

  1. Esther says:

    Personally, I’m left shellshocked. I feel cheated by the Phyllis cop out. This story was 20 years in the making only to be dumped in an episode with NO repercussions whatsoever? That’s not soap opera! And it’s a boring choice. Why bother revisiting it only for Phyllis to be let off the hook? What happened to bad guys paying for their crimes? I have unfairness in the world around me — I want things on my soaps to be how I wish life could be. Hate it.

    Sharon is someone who could be shipped off for a year. That character jumped the shark when she chose Adam, the baby snatcher, over the child he snatched. I have no need for Chelsea or Adam. Whatever.

    I do like Jack being on top for once. I hated that Victor disappears and suddenly his whole family forgives all his sins. Again — a boring choice. And it makes Melody’s poor character look like a complete idiot, which I hate.

    I don’t recognize Kevin anymore. Speaking of not recognizing, did NOT care about the Sharon/Noah conflict since I don’t know this Noah, who I don’t like at all compared to the last one (and to be honest I can’t tell the difference between him and Fen except maybe by the clothes). New Summer is okay.

    I was no fan of Maria’s writing but egads…. I am not happy at all with this regime’s first week. And losing the Ranch?!?! That’d be like GH burning down the Quartermaine mansion. I’ll give it a little bit more time to straighten out but so far, not a fan.

    Marlena says: Thanks for sharing, Esther. I admit getting rid of the Phyllis case in one episode was a big cheat to many longtime Y&R fans. Sharon is just too popular to write off. I’m pretty shocked the ranch is gone. Perhaps the new regime is trying to make a definitive statement that they have arrived and are going to change things.

  2. Chris says:

    I like the new changes that the new regime did to Y&R, but how come Maria Arena Bell is still credited as the EP of the show and not Jill Farren Phelps yet? And what did you think of Duke Lavery’s evil turn to the dark side when it was revealed that he hired Joe Scully Jr. to kill Sonny Corinthos’ daughter Kristina so that Duke can inherit Sonny’s fortune on GH this past week, Marlena?

    Marlena says: I guess it must be some sort of contract thing. MAB has gone as far as to deny she wrote any of the big plot changes! I can’t believe Duke at heart is a bad guy and there must be some bigger explanation for the change in his character in the grand scheme of things.

  3. James says:

    Chere Marlena!

    This was indeed a turnaround week for Y&R. I was more glued to my TV during Y&R this week than I have been in ages. I liked much of what I saw, am scratching my head over other things.

    Love that Jack got control of Newman Enterprises. Always enjoy Jack more when he is on top and like Victor more when he’s struggling a bit. I’m sure Jack running Newman won’t last too long, but happy its happening. Also nice to John Abbott’s ghost back chastising Jack, something Ashley would have done if she was still on the show.

    Finally am enjoying the teens (gasp!!). Loved Fenn telling Micheal he had not control over who he sees, Summer lashing out at Phyllis and Fenn’s kiss with Summer. If you’re going to have teens on the show, have them act like teens! That’s something Y&R hasn’t been able to get right in the last decade. But then, they haven’t had many teens in the last 10 years as they’ve chosen to SORAS so many of the children into adults, thereby skipping the terrible teen years — Abbey and Kyle being the prime examples.

    Scratching my head over dismissing Phyllis’ case. After all that build up, the throw it away in one episode seems bizarre. I have to think that they’ll do something else with it. Cricket filing a civil case or maybe Cricket going over the deep end and seeking vengeance against Phyllis on her own. The audience deserves a payoff of some type.

    Bored to death with this gaslighting Cane with his dead sister. Never liked the story. But don’t especially like the Cane or Lilly characters. Those are ones I would have written off years ago. And the only time I’ve ever liked the Genevieve character is while she was working in the bar at the docks tending to Victor. The sooner Genevieve leaves the show, the quicker GH can get Laura back on canvas.

    I also find it odd that Maria is still listed as Executive Producer rather than JFP. I mean, episodes that Jill EPed started airing in late September. Not so odd is seeing Maria’s name still in the writing credits after Josh Griffth’s name as they are still working off some of her storyl jections.

    Marlena says: Great letter, James. I could live without Cane and Lily and Genevieve also. Genie Francis was very Laura-like when she played the waitress in the bar, no? Good point about Y&R lacking teens for the last decade because of all the SORAS’ing. It looks like there’s going to be quite a teen scene in Genoa City now. I think there should be some kind of a permanent resolution with the Phyllis/Cricket story but it looks for now like that story has been all but brushed off the canvas. Can’t see them doing a bore of a civil case.

  4. DS0816 says:

    Dear Connie/Marlena,

    I missed these new developments play out on-screen on “The Young and the Restless”! (Personal distractions. Nothing bad.)

    The notion that the show could wrap the trial in such a flash (technicality concerning Christine and credibility) tells me [the new brass at "Y&R"] didn’t want the storyline to begin with and they were anxious to abruptly kiss it good-bye.

    Has Harmony been written out? (I think actress Debbi Morgan mentioned somewhere that Oct. 5 was her final tape date. “Y&R” isn’t like “Days of Our Lives”—taping episodes numerous months in advance, correct?)

    I hope these new changes will be a satisfying improvement. Part of the proof would be the eventual return of Jill that would be accompanied by story for both that character and Katherine. (Jess Walton has been so underused it’s a wonder she hasn’t called it quits.)

    Marlena says: Jess Walton has been on a leave of absence the last six months but is due back soon. I’m sad bravura actress Debbi Morgan is leaving soon; however, the character of Harmony was ill–conceived from the start. DSO, I think now is the time for you to tune back into Y&R; it could have quite the interesting future.

  5. JONNYSBRO says:

    The show is much improved already in one week.

    The show was so bad for so long under MAB. It was the worst miscast of soap veterans I have ever seen, bad stories that went nowhere, plot driven, and ZERO vision. Also it seems MAB was paying more attention to her champagne rich friends and her museum job to even care about Y&R. Its no secret MAB loves publicity as can’t stop talking about her Y&R exit. She still is mysterfied she was ever let go because in her mind her Y&R was nothing short of brilliant. She lives in complete delusion and u could tell she had zero experience as a producer.

    Jill has come in as a pro and I know Jill has had her hits/misses over the years. Her GL was glorious but her OLTL don’t even get me started. When Jill is paired with a strong head writer ala Josh Griffith she excels.

    She has consistently been employed in this biz for 34 years and has more emmys/executive producing experience than anyone in this biz. How in one year she went from being unemployed from GH, getting Hollywood Heights and then securing the biggest executive producer gig in town shows the woman is the teflon queen. Marlena is this woman the toughest balliest woman in daytime?In this past week you can tell a pro is behind the scenes pushing her producing/directing teams and doing everything to make Y&R a much better produced show and written show with JG.

    It was great they decided to resolve alot of this stuff and move onto there stuff. I have big hopes for the new Y&R because we have two veterans that actually care about the show.

    Marlena saysL I’m sure Jill and Josh would appreciate your comments; MAB not so much. Here’s to an improved Y&R!

  6. Chris says:

    Greetings Marlena;

    Week one of Jill Faren Phelps and Josh Griffith’s Y&R and all I can say is, WOW. The changes have been quick, drastic and commanded my attention. Normally, I would never condone a soap abruptly wrapping up this many plots so quickly. In this case I fully support it. I did not like Maria Bell’s Y&R. I campaigned online, along with other disgruntled fans, for her dismissal. I despise what she did to this show. If improving Y&R means closing her chapter quickly and swiftly, I say go for it! I don’t think the abrupt changes will hurt the show especially once we start to see JG’s stories develop. And besides, why would any of us want to be reminded of the ineptness that was Maria Bell? For the new regime to try and make sense of the holes in her stories would only remind the viewer of why they hated it. There is no good reason to ever go back and draw on the plots that she developed. They were mostly bottom of the barrel kinda tales that weren’t grounded in any realism and deeply convoluted by the time they wrapped up. I’m perfectly ok acting like the last several years never happened. Sometimes you just have to move on.

    Ultimately, I hope the changes haven’t made viewers too uncomfortable and they stick with it. I LOVE how much more realistic everyone sounded this week. LOVED IT!!! They all seem like people we can share a laugh or cry with again. They sound human!! The recast of Summer and Noah have been spot on. The writers still have some of Maria Bells garbage to deal with but so far so good.

    I also loved the changes in the shows production model, most notably the directing. This style of directing is a first for the series. I like how much more grown-up it feels…more prime-time. I love a classic soap look but I do think Y&R is doing a smart thing amping that part of itself up. And how cool was Avery’s loft? It’s modern and brightens the show up. I hope they do something with Adam and Chelsae’s place. What a dark and depressing set. Burning down the Newman ranch was a bold move and one I support. It’s without question the most dramatic “death” to hit Genoa City in years. So long Newman Ranch! Lots of memories there. There were also changes to music. I have to admit I’m not digging some of the contemporary, 90210 tunes used as they felt very anti-Y&R to me. I’m all for using other artists work on soaps but I hope they don’t make it sound too young. Y&R is glamorous! It’s intoxicating! I hope JFP is more sensitive to the parts of the show that do work for most viewers. The musical score (which I know you’re not a big fan of) is one of the hallmarks of Y&R and is often lauded by fans. If they are going to improve on that model, they should be going for the kind of sound you’d here in an Aaron Sorkin or Alan Ball production. Not an ABC afternoon special. However, I love how they scored Wednesdays cliffhanger when Victor collapsed in his office. I cheered! It felt so soapy goodness to me. It’s obvious professionals are behind the wheel again. They also scored Sharon’s meltdown well.

    Jill Farren Phelps came out to the playing field like the Joe Montana of soap opera EP’s. Her Y&R is making a statement. It’s exactly what this soap needed. I’m sure JFP realizes this is likely her last opportunity to helm a soap. Based on her Emmy acceptance speech earlier this year I think she gets it’s time to be done with the nonsense. Soaps need to relate to the audience again if they are to survive. They need to become more modern to compete with all that’s out there. Her and JG’s changes had me rewinding and re-watching several scenes this week. Good for them!!! I hope they continue to make bold choices that excite. Y&R rolled up its sleeves and showed us its biceps again.

    I often joke with a friend of mine that Y&R needed to pull a Bobby Ewing in the shower plot device. In this scenario Katherine would wake up from the coma she’s been in since the auto accident that killed Marge and the audience would realize all the nonsense following was just Kay’s bad dream. Who would of thought an awakening, presented differently, was about to be thrust upon the show to save it? Phelps and Griffith took the figurative approach to the Bobby Ewing in the shower scene and merely “woke” the entire production up. In one week they gave us a more grounded and realistic narrative complete with a prime-time look and acting to salivate by. If this isn’t proof there are people in the industry who still have fight in them, I don’t know what is. Here’s toasting to the possibilities. :raise glass everyone:

    Marlena says: What an excellent, well-written letter. I love the analogy of JFP and Joe Montana. And you picked the right word to describe the show now: realistic. This is all so very refreshing when you are a longtime soap watcher and especially one of the very stale Y&R of MAB years. I’ll add to your toast: let’s hope the show gets better and better as the weeks and months go by.

  7. tess says:

    I was disappointed with how abruptly Phyllis’ attempted murder trial ended. I wanted to see Phyllis get hers. She is a liar and a criminal. She ran down two people and I don’t care if it happened a quarter of a century ago, Phyllis should have stood trial and been punished. And when the trail ended the way it did, I thought, I hung around for this.

    I was LIVID, to say the least. I feel that I was gypped. I would have been satisfied had Phyllis and Christine got into it in court and Chris angrily told Phyllis that she was a failure. “I’m a failure?” Phyllis shouted in disbelief. She chuckled without mirth.

    “That’s what I said,” Christine stated nastily.

    “You tried to send me to prison,” Phyllis said.

    “That’s where you belong.”

    “But the judge threw the case out. He saw it for what it was, the rantings of a spiteful, jealous woman. So you’re the failure, Christine.”

    Christine who tells Phyllis that she is pathetic, that Nick walked out on her and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. “You’re so disgusting,” Christine said, “that your own daughter doesn’t want you around.”

    Phyllis loses it and punches Christine in front of four witnesses. Christine responds by filing assault charges against Phyllis, who ends up spending two weeks in jail, followed by three months of community service, working at the Genoa City Gap Farm. One of Phyllis’ tasks is cleaning up duck poo.

    Maybe Christine could return to town permanently. Danny, the love of her life is killed in an automobile accident, leaving Christine heartbroken and inconsolable. Nicholas comforts her and via Nicholas, Summer meets Christine, who becomes the troubled girl’s friend and confidante. Math could be Summer’s most difficult subject and Chris could be a wiz in math and Christine helps her.

    Christine begins dating Nick. They do the strolls through the botanical gardens, candlelit dinners, evenings at the comedy club thing. They have serious conversations about life and love and disappointment. Nick eventually proposes and Chris accepts.

    Ha. Nick is engaged to Christine and Phyllis’ daughter calls Christine her best friend. Now, if that happens, which it isn’t going to, I’d feel Phyllis finally got her comeuppance.

    Marlena says: So many fans want Phyllis to get her comeuppance and you have certainly come up with a creative solution, duck poo and all!

  8. Brandon says:

    I’m still working my way through last week’s episodes, and while I have (very cautiously) liked what I’ve seen thus far, I think it’s clear that we’re going to have to wait weeks (and maybe even months) before we can truly judge the results of this bold experiment. (There is still SO much dead weight populating the show, and I greatly look forward to seeing how tightly the canvas gets woven after blah characters like Genevieve, Harmony, Heather, et al, have hightailed it out of Genoa City permanently.)

    There was one thing that jumped out at me from last week’s work, and that was the ridiculous scene in which Jack stomped into Newman Enterprises and informed Nick and Victoria that he was be assuming control of the company, and one of them (I think it was Nick) whined that they couldn’t believe that Jack was effectively and glibly stealing their father’s lifework. Gee, isn’t that exactly what Victor did to John Abbott some two decades ago when he yanked Jabot Cosmetics right out from under the Abbott family under the guise of “it’s just business”?!

    Peter Bergman is an ace actor (and he looks positively ELATED that clear and obvious professionals are back in charge of this show, non?) who has ferociously guarded the continuity of the character of Jack Abbott through some horrifically shaky writing over the last number of years, and he has always been brilliant at conveying what drives his character: Jack’s consistent throughline and reason for living has always been to get back for his family (and for his beloved FATHER) what he feels is rightfully theirs, and to avenge the fact that his own foolishness and naivete left them all vulnerable to Victor’s perceived ruthlessness, and Jack’s latest victory (no pun intended) over King Newman — however hollow it’ll probably turn out to be in time — plays spectacularly into that character thread. So I was flabbergasted that Jack (and Bergman) let Nick and Victoria’s whining float right past him without responding, because I was at home SCREAMING at the television for Jack to toss off a quippy bon mot at those brats, and I couldn’t believe that Bergman didn’t throw in a little ad lib (even just something as simple as “…just like YOUR father did to MINE all those years ago, you sniveling, entitled twits!”). I don’t know if this was a simple oversight or a badly misinformed script writer, but as a Y/R watcher of thirty-ish years who has been waiting with bated breath for Jack to finally get one over on Victor — for REAL, for once — I was extremely disappointed that Jack (and Bergman, and the writers) let an easy one slip past the goalie. It’s a little thing but a big thing.

    Marlena says: Brandon dear, this is not a small point at all, but a major one for veteran Y&R fans. The Abbotts vs. the Newmans is a long-standing show staple and the writers should remember the fine points of the feud.

  9. Kevin says:

    Marlena, you have good taste in music.

    How are YOU going to APOLOGIZE for Jill Farren Phelps shoving BAD JAZZ MUSIC (this isn’t 1/10 as good as Melody Gardot, etc.) to make amends for the transition period. If I have said it once, I will say it a million times, JILL FARREN PHELPS will destroy this show like she has done all her past shows. Wake up, Marlena.

    These poor souls will wish Maria Arena Bell was back.

  10. Johnny says:

    I am truly amazed at what a difference there has been in this show in such a short time!!! It is classic Y and R again!! The show looks, sounds, and feels different! The actors seem lit from within as they are finally being go en quality material to play! They are acting again!! The stakes are higher, the drama is bigger! I liked a lot of Maria’s work…what worked worked very well. But what didn’t work tanked royally. The last 6 months have been awful!

    It is sad to see any actors lose their jobs, but I don’t really disagree with any of the firings except for Marcy and Jennifer. They are legacy characters. It is apparent that some of that salary money hasbeen redirected towards production values!!

    I cannot recall a time when this show had such excitement to it…the backstage shake up was HUGE news, and the anticipation of how the show will change has been bracing. No matter what, I am certain there will be a ratings surge, and hopefully they can keep the momentum.

    I am a little concerned that today’s show ended with Nick and Avery discussing cupcakes…not exactly a Friday cliffhanger folks…but there is much more good stuff to come. I think everyone should just settle in ad give the new regime a chance. Things are crisper, clea.ner, more focused. The scenes move with a sense of purpose. There is a renewed sense of urgency and pacing that was totally lacking before. I can’t wait until the messes have been cleaned up and they can move forward with their vision. I will be along for the ride.

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