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!

Many Questions As a New Headwriter Comes to The Young and the Restless

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

Christian LeBlanc, too good to waste

The Young and the Restless is getting a new headwriter. He is veteran Chuck Pratt, who wrote for Santa Barbara, General Hospital, and All My Children, amassing an uneven record with enough successes to give Y&R fans hope for improvement of their show. Anything is likely to be better than what has been happening on Y&R.  To put it mildly, the show hasn’t been very entertaining lately because so many storylines have left viewers scratching their heads. I count four ill-conceived tangles in the plot department that desperately need to be fixed.

Whose idea was it to stage a gigantic weeks-long catfight between Phyllis (Gina Tognoni) and Kelly (Cady McClain) over Jack (Peter Bergman)?   As you know, Kelly was living with Jack when Phyllis came out of her year-long hospital stay in a coma in France, came back to Genoa City and  promptly reclaimed her man.  Since then Phyllis has done all sorts of crazy things to torture and trick Kelly, including slapping her and luring her into a hotel room ambush while Jack, that wimp, stood passively by. It’s just a garden variety clichéd exercise in two women clawing at each other over a man – a storyline is so sexist it’s offensive to any thinking woman.

Then there’s the yucky storyline in which Devon (Bryton James) is romancing his blind father Neil’s wife Hilary (Mishael Morgan), and has had sex more than once with her. All the while, Devon is  telling his father stories of a made-up girlfriend.  Neil (Kristoff St. John) was blinded by electrocution while renovating the house he bought to surprise Hilary. But Devon and Hilary’s deception may be undone: lately, Neal is seeing beams of light and is beginning to doubt his son’s accounts of the pretend squeeze. Whose twisted idea was this, anyway? This storyline can only end badly, perhaps in tragedy.

Then there’s Michael, who got a diagnosis of prostate cancer and withheld the knowledge of it for weeks from his wife Lauren, confiding only in his brother Kevin.  What kind of man does this?  Christian LeBlanc plays this sensitive soul masterfully and is wasted on this kind of folly. Michael is very much in love with and close to Lauren (Tracy Bregman). But having him keep this secret from her is jarringly out of character.   I guess you have to give Y&R points for doing a prostate cancer storyline (which I can’t recall ever being done on daytime before).  But how will this storyline end?  Will Michael die because the cancer has spread because of his failure to take action?  Yikes!  Many times Emmy nominated Leblanc is too valuable to Y&R to lose him.

Then there’s perennially alcoholic Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) who is proud of the fact that she hasn’t had a drink since Thanksgiving.  So, why, why, why does she keep a bottle of liquor and a glass permanently on display in the Newman living room?  All she does is endlessly stare at it. No real recovering alcoholic would do this. Of course, husband Victor (Eric Braeden) is obnoxious enough to drive any woman to drink, but Nikki has put up with him through all these years and through many marriages. Just for the heck of it,  (“It’s business’) Victor has seized control of the district which houses Nikki’s son Dylan’s (Steve Burton) coffee house Crimson Lights and wants to tear it down.   Nikki is furious at him. But will she leave Victor once again? Will she again succumb to the bottle’s lure? What do you think?

We’re rooting for you, Chuck. Get this once reliable vehicle out of the mud and on the road again. 


The Bold and the Beautiful Reaches a Pinnacle of Soapy Goodness!

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

Every soap generation has its touchstone moment. It usually happens when a plot turn is so soapy good it earns your allegiance to its characters for decades.  Mine occurred on Another World in the 70s when Alice (Jacqueline Courtney), engaged to Steve (George Reinholt), found out her sister-in-law Rachel (Robin Strasser) was pregnant with Steve’s baby.  Oh, the magnificent melodramatic pain and heartbreak of it all!

Hasty horndogs Brooke and Bill

For younger soap viewers, such a touchstone moment may have occurred this week on The Bold and the Beautiful.  At Brooke’s birthday party, Taylor interrupted all the testimonials to Brooke’s virtue by blurting out the truth — that Brooke had slept with her brother-in-law Bill, getting pregnant.  At the time, wife Katie had taken off her wedding ring and lay unconscious in the hospital. Did horndogs Brooke and Bill have to hop into bed so fast? Quelle horreur!

These revelation scenes were so fantastic because they were almost a year in coming, and the actors really milked the episodes of emotions for all they were worth.  Exhibiting the talent and passion that brought Heather Tom three Best Actress Emmys, Katie wept piteously and became entirely bitter.  The excellent Katharine Kelly Lang as the cringewowrthy Brooke also cried, overwhelmed by the shame the character had truly earned. Most interestingly, Don Diamont as the ever arrogant Bill went on the defensive, saying Katie had driven him to sleep wIth Brooke by constantly throwing them together.  How could Katie – or any other woman — care for this incredible nasty bastard ever again? Playing the villainy it for all it was worth, Diamont was the perfect slime.  

Such great soap moments can only come together though the seamless work of cast, writers, producers and crew. The headwriter here was Bradley Bell, and Bell is also the show’s executive producer.   Individual episodes during the week were written by Adam Dusevoir and the great Patrick Mulcahey, an Emmy-winning veteran of Santa Barbara and General Hospital.

It was just another great week of well-acted, nicely written and hard-hitting drama on B&B — not to be forgotten, perhaps, by a new generation of viewers. And it’s not even sweeps month!

Paul Rauch, R.I.P.

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

Paul Rauch, surely the greatest executive producer in daytime soap history, died today in Manhattan at 79 following an illness.  

Paul Rauch
Nobody did soaps better

Marlena had the honor of covering and knowing Paul from 1980 onward, during which he was executive producer of Another World, Texas, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara. Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless. He generously taught me so much about soaps during our many interviews.  In the industry, Rauch was known as intimidating, but I found him to be a tremendously charismatic and complicated man who was great creative leader and a premier innovator in the art of soaps. No one knew soap production better than Paul.  He was always moving with the soap times. I always maintained he was a genius — which he loved.  Rest in peace, Mr. Rauch.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist/playwright Israela Margalit, two children, two stepchildren and three granddaughters.

When Paul became executive producer of his last soap, Y&R, in 2008 (the job lasted until 2011). Marlena wrote this column about having known him over the years:



September 19, 2008

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

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001.

I’ve always maintained that, despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

I knew him when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, Texas, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say no one could intimidate a young girl reporter better than Paul) but then again I had incredibly engaging and enlightening conversations with him over the years, too.

Ironically, it is the same young students of soap opera out there cursing at him on the net who would probably die to have to chance to have an audience with him.  Every time I interviewed Paul, I learned more in 20 minutes about the fine art of making soap opera than I ever could any other way. A serious art collector (it always cracked me up that Paul had a print of Edward  Hopper’s classic painting “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” in his office at Guiding Light), he has an incredible eye for the visual composition and texture of the image on screen.  Between that and his up-to-the-second technical knowledge, his explanations of such things as his lighting ideas, why he photographed scenes in radical new ways, and his innovative location shooting techniques, made you appreciate what he was after in a fresh way. Or he could make you understand why soaps are now casting models with perfectly beautiful faces by explaining why the technicalities of cable competition (which was new in the late 90s) called for such a (to me, awful) thing.

And he has amazing taste in actors.  Before you scream “Kim Zimmer” at me, this is the man who gave great actors like Ray Liotta (he grew up on Another World) their show-biz starts.  I used to see him all the time at the New York theater in the 80s scouting talent.  He recognized and relished using superb leading actors like Vicky Wyndham (AW), Beverlee McKinsey (AW and Texas) and Erika Slezak (One Life To Live).

He’s produced soaps for 40 years (two Emmys), moving with the times from style to style.  There were the classic, almost Shakespearean quality of AW (which was soap opera nirvana for the Thinking Fan); the campy, high budget days of OLTL, and even the very early days of GL (before he and those boobs Brown and Esensten poisoned us with the clone story).

Because he moves with the times and is a genuine Thinking Producer, Paul is a great choice for Y&R.  Among other things, the show needs a definitive post-Bill Bell style, since it’s been drifting all over the place since Bill’s death. Y&R is his kind of show: it is rich in dramatic texture and has many sophisticated characters (the Abbots, the Newmans) that are tastefully wealthy.  Although I haven’t seen Paul in years, I’m sure he still approaches his work with all the intensity and meticulous attention a show like Y&R badly needs to stay on top in these troubled, troubled soap times.

Welcome back, Paul!

A Letter to Marlena De Lacroix (a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman)

Dear Ms. Passalacqua Hayman: 

I wanted to write to tell you how much I enjoy reading your columns and your insights into the soaps.  You are the reason I started buying Soap Opera Weekly so many years ago and I was sad when you left.  I bought that magazine every week, at first for your columns, but then cause I just loved it.  I would not get a subscription

I hope something comes along and saves our shows from themselves, but that alarm has been ringing for a long time.  Why can’t those in charge hear it?

because I wanted to buy it every week so the cover would not be damaged with those damn postal stickers.  Their covers used to be so good — those were the days!  I was pleasantly surprised to find your web site recently and am excited to read what you have to say about the state of soaps today. 

I, too, am just saddened by the state of the soap business these days.  I, of course, do not pretend to know all it takes to make soaps or [Read more…]

For Valentine’s Day, 5 Soap Couples Who Were Really Super

By Patrick Erwin

I  want to observe Valentine’s Day by discussing some of my favorite soap couples. I know soaps are famous for their “supercouples,” those pairs that keep coming back to each other through sleet, snow, and psychotic ex-spouses. Most shows have had these grand couples:  Luke and Laura,  Bo and Hope, Josh and Reva, and so on. But I’d like to honor Another Worldfive couples that had the most impact on me — the ones that moved me, made me laugh, made me sigh and made me believe in love — or as Marlena would say, l’amour!

Rachel and Mac, Another World:  Mac and Rachel were one of the most believable stories ever to play out on our screens. A theater director I worked with once said the magic of any performance was when you really believed, and I really believed that Mac [Read more…]