The Young and the Restless: Marlena says, “You, Sir, Are No Irwin Allen!”

Jess Walton’s Jill has survived the Y&R plane crash

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

It’s way too early to judge the work of The Young and the Restless’ new executive producer Charles Pratt Jr. We’re familiar with his resume (head writer/executive/producer of All My Children, General Hospital, Santa Barbara and Sunset Beach, primetime producer of Melrose Place et al.) But he’s only been on the Y&R  job seven weeks. Even so, there are some early hints: This past week, the controversial Pratt launched four sweeps month stunt plots simultaneously in a snow storm!  Before we discuss them, however, let’s review Y&R’s week-old disaster plot action:

Plane Crash:  A plane flies to Chicago with a secretly blind Neil, his wife Hilary, his son Devon, Jill, Colin, Cane and Lily on board.  Neil announces to all that he is  not blind anymore and he knows Hilary and Devon are in love and having an affair because he secretly witnessed them sleeping together while they  thought Neil was blind. Neil has something undisclosed in his briefcase. Suddenly, the plane crashes and all survive on the ground unharmed except for Hilary, who is severely injured and comatose.  She periodically wakes up.  Devon goes off to find help.  Neal vanishes.

Building Collapse:  At the Undergound, Victor finds out Nikki is drinking again and confronts her.  The building the Underground is in collapses with Victor, Jack, Nikki, Phyllis, Avery, Joe, Nick and Sage trapped inside. In the rubble, all are unharmed except Jack who is severely injured and comatose but who periodically wakes up.  Victor rescues Jack with CPR. Nikki, Phyllis and Avery escape while help arrives.   Victor and Jack are trapped in the basement. A semi-comatose Jack, who has secretly known Victor’s dead son Adam is alive, utters the word “Adam” and Victor knows something crucial is up.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: On Valentine’s Day Abby inexplicably invites Kevin, the young marrieds Summer and Austin along with Mariah, Courtney, Noah and Fen to a cabin in the woods.  Fen secretly spikes the punch. Everyone collapses and then wakes up.  Austin falls out of the armoire, presumably dead.  All are accused, but especially Summer. Abby is suddenly disclosed kissing Austin the night before while Mariah confronts her. Outside, Austin’s body vanishes. The youths convene to discuss what to tell the police. Will they get their story straight? Did Austin fake his own death? Ho hum!

The Towering Inferno:  A fire suddenly breaks out at Lakeview Towers in lovers Chelsea and Billy’s apartment. Chelsea and all believe Chelsea’s late husband  Adam is dead, but the audience knows Adam is alive and secretly masquerading as Gabe. Sage and Adam/Gabe live next store to Billy and Chelsea  but  are absent when the fire starts.   Chelsea escapes with Katie and Johnny. Billy remains in the burning apartment with Connor. Billy is periodically comatose but wakes up.  Adam/Gabe arrives and rescues Connor  but leaves his enemy Billy in the smoke.  Later he returns and rescues Billy.  When last seen, Adam and Billy are escaping the burning building.

Oy vey!  Can you say overkill? The four disaster plots are achingly piled on.  Every daytime soap headwriter interweaves character storylines and hypes them in some shocking manner for sweeps month, but this is way too much of a fun thing.  A great role model for Pratt would be the late, great headwriter Jim Reilly (Days of Our Lives), a master creative genius at stunts, who was always original and never dreamed of doing his vastly entertaining and oft- hilarious sweeps stunt plots more than  one at a time.

Worse I’m incredibly annoyed that Pratt is copying his 2008-9 All My Children debut.  On that show, after his debut under the umbrella of a stunt tornado story, Pratt set the world’s soap stunt record with six, count’em six, starring such characters as Kendall, Bianca and Zach. Pratt’s entire AMC stint was much despised. .

Clearly Pratt’s muse for all of this is the late Irwin Allen, creator such 1970s classics as The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, all of them unabashedly cheesy, over-the-top movie fun. His name identifies the disaster movie genre embraced by so many imitators then and since. But even Allen, who pioneered the burning set and the rock and roll camera to simulate thunderous explosions and building collapse, confined his story-telling to one disaster at a time. His formula called for intersecting human dramas of marriages saved and parents and children reconciled played out against the disaster du jour, in a world saved ultimately by heroic first responders and the selfless sacrifice of military personnel who die trying to save people.

Sentimental, exciting, romantic, heart-warming and even a bit tear-jerky. Pratt provides dollops of all these elements, and evidently the stew is tasty to some viewers – he did well in the coveted 18-34 ratings category two weeks ago.

But for moi, a soap must have some grounding in real life to be believable, and these unoriginal plots don’t make it. Pratt throws in everything including the kitchen sink, much of it disconnected and out of the blue. For example, this week, apropos of nothing, Police assistant Kevin in the cabin plot revealed he is also a short story writer who has written a story with a murder scenario that is similar to Austin’s death.   What?

Even worse is the fact that these multiple disaster plots are being produced by Jill Farren Phelps, who has done swell sweeps plots on six soaps. (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light, Another World, One Life to Live, General Hospital and Y&R ).  Her 35 year soap career is a soap phenomenon!   While some dislike her, I’ve always admired Phelps, if not all her plots. It is she who hired Pratt for Y&R after working with him on GH.  Phelps often has exquisite taste in her hires. Time will tell if this is one of those times.

Beside Phelps, what also redeems poorly written plots like these is the high quality of the actors and the production crew. Y&R has always had some of the best!   The sets, particularly the plane crash and building collapse, are wonderfully Irwin Allen-esque.  But the disaster plots are not at all organic to past or present Y&R, as created and headwritten by the late Bill Bell, who would NEVER do stunt plots, though some have been tried since he stepped down from the show in 1998.

Overall plot-saving kudos have to go to the actors, most of whom are longtime Y&R veterans and soap superstars like Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott who play Jack, Victor and Nikki in the building collapse plot.  I’d also like to single out Kristoff St. John who is always great as Neil, but has been dynamite here and in his entire blind, wife Hilary unfaithful to Neil with his son Devon, plot.  The work of longtime vets like these and Tristan Rogers (Colin) and Jill (Jess Walton) in the plane crash plot, or Joshua  Morrow (Nick) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) also in the building collapse plot, or Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) in the Towering Inferno plot, make Pratt’s stale disaster stunt plots more  palatable.

And so this week the building collapse and plane crash aftermath go on.  Will I be watching?  Yes, I can’t take my eyes off Pratt’s own four-ring circus of disaster stunt plots. They are that bad,  By the end of his entire Y&R stint, will I have to ask if has there ever been a daytime headwriter who is as creatively impoverished as Pratt?   Hope not for all our sakes!

Comments

  1. DS0816 says:

    Marlena writes, “‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’: On Valentine’s Day Abby inexplicably invites Kevin, the young marrieds Summer and Austin along with Mariah, Courtney, Noah and Fen to a cabin in the woods. Someone secretly spikes the punch. Everyone collapses and then wakes up. Austin falls out of the armoire, presumably dead. All are accused, but especially Summer. Abby is suddenly disclosed kissing Austin the night before while Mariah confronts her. Outside, Austin’s body vanishes. The youths convene to discuss what to tell the police. Will they get their story straight? Did Austin fake his own death? Ho hum!”

    I have dismissed it for trash. And I did that very quickly. It was completely manufactured. There was no concern for continuity in characterizations. It was not believable that Courtney would throw away being a cop. It was not believable that Abby would make out with Austin. And, between these characters, the only ones who are generally worth following are Abby, Kevin, and Mariah because the actors in those roles—Melissa Ordway and Emmy winners Greg Rikaart and Camryn Grimes—are appealing, have range, and that their characters are necessary.

    Quick comments on other silliness:

    Neil revealing he isn’t blind and knows about his son and wife: HOORAY! But, that will be short-lived. “The Young and the Restless” still isolates its black characters as if to say, “In order to give a black character a love interest, we must match that black character with another black character. There is no other option.” So, this is why we viewers have had to suffer with the forced Devon/Hillary affair and, with that, Hillary supposedly having to also love and be loyal (because of convenient blindness) to Neil. It’s as if that storyline was executed by numbers. The Hillary character is not a good one. But who is even worse is the long-running Lily character. She has been portrayed to have a sick attachment to her father and brother. You know “Y&R” is having writing problems when you, as a viewer, want the show to kill off a character—played by an Emmy winning actress—who has been present for a good 10 years. (I also felt like wanting to see Summer—also played by an Emmy winning actress—bite the dust. Internet speculation had it that either Austin or Joe were going to die.) One line did make me laugh: Neil having said that his daughter, Lily, was “innocent” while Jill was present and also had no idea of the affair (and her husband’s blackmailing with the knowledge of that affair). How tacky.

    The fires are a laugh. The way Billy was portrayed as such a scared deer—”Should I respond to this?”—was stupid. It’s common for the damsel to be in distress. (In this case, it would be Chelsea.) But, having Billy be blindsided (for lack of a better word) is a just a set-up to possibly reward penance to Adam (still in disguise as Gabe, the suddenly emerging college buddy of Nick’s).

    I also had a good laugh over Jack getting all fussy with Victor over which of the two of them would become the first to crawl out of the collapsed building. I’m sure most people in such position would want to make fighting over lifelong rivalry their primary focus.

    I have enjoyed two delights out of this whole development: the excellent Kelly Sullivan who, as Sage, has wonderful chemistry with Joshua Morrow’s Nick. Sullivan is an inspired talent. She displayed courage and range in her Emmy nominated turn as Connie Falconeri on “General Hospital.” On “Y&R,” her character is different because, while “GH’s” Connie relished in going psycho, Sage is desperate in wanting to have a life that may not be worth having. (Nick suggested this to her. He is correct.) Given that Sullivan isn’t listed in the [“Y&R”] credits as a contract player, she nevertheless sneaks up on you and makes you want to see what’s next. In reality, I’m into the talent of this actress no matter whether there is anything next for her character.… I will also single out Melody Thomas Scott who, as Nikki, is letting it now hang out as her character no longer gives a damn to hide her nightmare return from sobriety. She [Nikki] had a hellish 2014 with the intrusive and abusive Ian Ward. (That story should have catapulted Scott to challenge “Days of Our Lives'” Alison Sweeney, who left her soap, for this year’s 2014-15 lead-actress Emmy. But, as has become typical in recent years, the opportunity is lost because a pre-nom slot was not made available to possibly and officially nominate Scott.) Here in 2015, Nikki cannot hide her return to the bottle from her family. It seems she doesn’t care to do that anymore. The disastrous building collapse is secondary to the collapse in Nikki’s life. It’s intriguing stuff for one of daytime’s longest-running female lead characters (and for the actress playing the part). From all these “Disaster Themes” we’re seeing on “The Young and the Restless,” I am glad to find these two saving graces shining some light.

    • Aurora says:

      I have to agree with your overall view of what is happening on Y&R. Charles Pratt, Jr. is a disaster and has harmed many a soap. Why let him destroy Y&R? I cannot believe there are a more than a few writers out there that would give &YR some punch while maintaining the character as we have basically gotten to know them. Charles Pratt, Jr. put the nails in the coffin of more than one soap and he’s at it again..

  2. tess says:

    I thought disaster week on Y&R was dreadful. It’s funny, but not amusingly so that for years Y&R under the late, great Bill Bell and his protege, Kay Alden pretty much eschewed the gimmicks that many soaps employed and Y&R stayed on top by writing character-driven stories. The tales on Y&R always had the verisimilitude of reality. Now people like Pratt comes along and bombards Y&R with gimmicky stories and events. The show has managed to do quite nicely sans such madness, so why change the show’s tone and style at this point?

    All those movie ripoffs are threadbare and cliche. I want to see how Sharon’s bipolar condition impacts her life and affects her relationship with her children. Let’s deal with Nkki’s MS.

    Charles Pratt and Jill Farren Phelps are not good fits for Y&R. Surprisingly, Jill Phelps hasn’t totally annihilated and dismantled the show. Yet.

    Finally, Charles Pratt worked under the Dobsons on SANTA BARBARA. He apparently flunked their fast-pace, get to the point quickly brand of story telling. On Y&R, Valentine’s Day has been going on for almost two weeks.

  3. Denise says:

    Marlena, Chelsea got out Johnny and Katie, Billy’s kids with Victoria (yes,I know Johnny is Chelsea’s bio kid but Vic adopted him) and Billy was going to get Connor from upstairs. I also I agree it’s too much at once! One disaster would have been enough until next sweeps!

  4. jasonsb89 says:

    I, too, am a longtime fan of Jill Farren Phelps. I still watch clips of SB and GL (the 1991-94 years are my favorite soap ever) online, and I even enjoyed much of her work at AW, OLTL, and GH. However, I think she was the wrong person to take over Y&R in 2012. She has never produced anything resembling Y&R, which has always been a unique bird, and even though her work there, pre-Pratt, has been passable-to-good and typically well-made, it just hasn’t been Y&R. Her decision now to hire (or lobby for) schlockmeister Pratt is further proof that she doesn’t get this show. In the family tree of soapmakers, JFP is a clear descendant of big, bold, sometimes outlandish storytellers like Gloria Monty (who hired her at GH) and the Dobsons (who hired her at SB). She is only distantly related to the others–Labine, Nixon, Marland, Slesar, Bell–and is demonstrating now how far apart those branches of the tree are.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Marlena, Fen was the one who spiked the punch at the Abbott cabin because he confessed to it to the others in the cabin!

  6. Chris says:

    Oh Marlena;

    For me, last week was not only a low point in Y&R’s 42 year history, it was a low point for daytime in general. How did the show that was once coined, Daytime’s Crown Jewel, become such a crass mess of plane crashes, buildings collapsing, towering infernos and trite teenage murder mayhem? It is television for the mindless. I kept waiting for the actors to start chanting, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” to commemorate this tasteless production. This wasn’t honoring the house of integrity that Bill Bell built but low class entertainment the likes that would make Jerry Springer proud. I don’t think we need to wait to ask the question, Is Pratt daytime’s most impoverished writer, the answer seems to be slapping us in the face.

    Y&R needed a shot of B-12 but not the kind it got. This is energy on methamphetamine levels. It’s not just the stunt, but what happened story wise that compounded its horrific nature. This essentially brought most existing story to a screeching hault and reset the shows creative button. From what I can tell, not for the better. Daytime’s once elite families, the Newman’s and Abbott’s have scaled down their venues from the Colonnade Room to low class joints like the Underground. The intimate nature that once made up Y&R where characters would converse in private settings their most private feelings are now discussed in group settings with other characters standing within ear shot of each other. The most offensive plot to play out was the, Cabin the Woods crap. Here we have most of Y&R’s younger set, most who’ve served no purpose in years and the big story is, Who killed Austin? Does anyone care? Does Pratt really think the ill conceived Austin was so incredibly important to the canvas anyone watching would be interested in who offed him? The story is told no better than a slasher flick with cringe worthy dialogue to boot. And now this revelation that Abby was having an affair with Austin is absurd. There is no reason for her to turn on Summer that way .It is not a believable story twist. This only serves to further massacre the integrity of the characters. Then there is the plane crash. I don’t know who that was posing as Jill Abbott but I’m not buying it. The woman who slept her way to 20% percent of Jabot cosmetics calling out Hilary and Devon like shes lived her life as a mennonite. I’m tired of these HW’s who don’t bother to learn their vets and write them in the most out of character ways. This was not the most interesting way to tell the Hilary/Neil/Devon fallout. The story had enough organic drama inherit in it without further piling on the bullshit. Now the story is about, will Hilary live or die? and then one everyone is asking, are GC residents really immune to the effects of hypothermia? Yes Pratt, lets write characters trapped outdoors in a snow storm for days on end and bypass logical questions. Even for a soap opera this is too much. Charles Dickens this man is not! In all my years watching daytime, I’ve never seen a writer detonate his bombs faster than Pratt. This stunt looks like that of a HW/EP who is trying to bring the house down. Literally. Last week was a major blow to the brand and daytime.

  7. Chris says:

    Marlena, Fen was the one who spiked the punch because he confessed that fact to the others at the Abbott Cabin!

  8. Brandon says:

    Chere Marlena:

    Mr. Pratt very explicitly did NOT take the blame for ALL MY CHILDREN’s cancellation in his recent chat with Soap Opera Digest. His exact quote, when asked if he had any regrets about the AMC experience: “The only thing I did not like is. . . when the show was canceled a year and a half, two years later, that people blamed me, and I said, ‘I don’t know how you could do that.'”

    Also, I’m not entirely sure I agree with your idea that Bill Bell never wrote ratings-goosing stunts on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. True, Mr. Bell’s stunts were hardly ever so easily identifiable as stale disaster and/or slasher movie ripoffs, but think back on such moments as Danny Romalotti’s multi-episode rock concerts (which Lauren and Traci used to sing at regularly), or Brad Carlton’s theretofore-unseen ex-wife suddenly locking him shirtless in a cage in her living room for months on end, or that diabolical bitch Sheila Carter hopping back and forth between Los Angeles and Wisconsin — most of those pilgrimages timed to coincide with the sweeps months of February, May, and November, natch. It’s not at all fair to say that our dear Mr. Bell NEVER wrote stunts; the difference between Bell’s stunts and most others’ was that he was deft and savvy enough a soap writer to simultaneously allow his stunts to function as and blend in with high engrossing drama.

    All of that said, Y&R has been deadly dull for the largest majority of Jill Farren Phelps’ inexplicably leaden tenure as its executive producer — all the more stunning when you understand that Phelps’ calling card in this genre of television for nearly thirty years now has been high-octane, pulse-pounding drama. It’s certainly and decidedly NOT dull now, Marlena! I’m not sure it’s fair to judge Y&R’s ultimate “new” identity based on one week of shows, particularly when you catch the long view and see what a massive creative hole the powers that be in charge of that show have dug themselves into of late. I suspect that, even in the ideal set of circumstances, it’s going to take at least six to nine months for Y&R to be back on any sort of solid footing creatively, and if it takes a fair bit of mad plot-driven foolishness to jolt that canvas back to life in the meantime, I say so be it. I’m willing to give the show a pass for now while it attempts to put itself back together in full view of the audience, and I suspect a lot of longtime Y&R fans feel that way as well.

  9. rcade says:

    All My Children never recovered from the disaster of hiring Charles Pratt Jr. as headwriter. Susan Lucci wrote in her book that Pratt told the AMC cast he didn’t believe in character-driven stories. His work showed it, and by the time he was through with those characters Pine Valley was populated by hollow husks with familiar faces.

    Can you imagine what Irna Phillips or Douglas Marland would have said to someone who claimed soaps didn’t need to be character driven?

  10. SZima says:

    Really Pratt? Really? Four disaster? Shoulda stuck with one and done it right. As it is, all of them are laughable. My husband occasionally watches with me and his question was…”Some idiot actually gets paid to write this shit?”

    (BTW…Pratt is head writer, not EP.)

    • tess says:

      Actually, Pratt is billed as an executive producer, which makes me wonder if he will replace Jill Farren Phelps in that role.

      • jasonsb89 says:

        No. They have said in interviews that JFP will run the production side of things, and Pratt will run the writing. They’re old pals; I don’t think either is going anywhere.

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