By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman
I remember it well. It was in early March 1987 and I was visiting the office of the late Bill Bell Senior, the stupendously successful executive producer/headwriter of the The Young and the Restless at CBS Television City in Hollywood. Mr. Bell (“call me Bill”) was gloating because the failed soap Capitol had just been cancelled, leaving way for his new half-hour soap to debut in the afternoon line-up. The date, March 23rd, would become a milestone in soap history: The new show, The Bold and the Beautiful, the story of a fashion empire run by the Forrester family, would go on to become a crashing success over the next 27 years.
In the last year or so, B&B has become the best soap on the air. It celebrated its 7000th episode Friday with a superb documentary style show, the like of which I can’t remember ever seeing in daytime. The episode featured all the current cast, a backstage view of the making of the show, memorable scenes and great personalities from the past.
I teared up at the sight of the late, fabulous Darlene Conley, who played the one and only diva fashion designer, Sally Spectra. Like so many first rate soap actors, her roots were in the theater, and she never forgot that era of her life. Once I shared a cab with her through the New York City theater district. Stepping away from la Darlene for a moment, she was wistful and almost worshipful as she reminisced about her theater days in the 60s and 70s, when she played small roles in so many big shows.
There are many reasons why B&B is so successful. Tightly focused on the fortunes and misfortunes of two families, the Forresters and the Spencers, B&B is chock full of love stories and romantic triangles. It’s the only half hour soap and it offers a fast, easy viewing experience. The show, as executive-produced and head-written by Bill Bell’s son Bradley Jr. (after whom a studio is dedicated in this documentary) is consistently well written, and sumptuously produced.
B&B is unique in its international appeal: it is most viewed soap opera worldwide. The documentary shows screaming foreign crowds and fans on the street and in filled up stadiums greeting the B&B cast. The show spares little expense in doing frequent location shoots in such places as Paris, Amsterdam, Monaco and Dubai.
Right now, the Rick-Caroline-Ridge-Maya triangle is the storyline in the forefront. The day before the special anniversary episode, Rick, who is shacking up with Maya at the Forrester mansion, was shown firing a pistol at Ridge and Rick’s legal wife Caroline when he discovered them kissing. Was the shooting scene a fantasy or was it real? Was the gun even loaded? We’ll find out Monday.
The only regret I have about the 7,000th episode is that more was not shown or made of the show’s backbone of 25 years, namely the great Susan Flannery, who played the late Stephanie Forrester and retired about a year and a half ago. Stephanie was the show’s true matriarch. Of course Maya thinks she’s the new Forrester matriarch now, but we’ll have to see about that.