• Read Teddi's Best and Worst of Y&R 2013 column.
• Listen to our special two-part year-end podcasts: The Best of 2013 and The Worst of 2013
Record setting ratings at The Young and the Restless proved one thing for certain: without a doubt, once we get hooked on a soap, we don't stop watching. No matter how bad it gets and no matter how much we protest, we cannot give up our guilty pleasure. I think that's because we are optimists who never stop hoping that the family of characters that we have come to love over time as our own will eventually conquer all obstacles.
That certainly seems to be the case with Y&R, whose ratings and fan dissatisfaction -- if email is a valid indication -- are both at an all-time high. There is no doubt -- in my opinion (IMO) -- that Y&R deserves an overall failing grade for 2013, a year where the lows seriously outnumbered the highs. On the bright side, I can say that Y&R soared like an eagle as most depressing soap.
Only one of the storylines gets an eagle from me, because few of them soared. The best of the bunch was Jack's drug addiction and his reunion with Phyllis. The "Summer is Jack's daughter" story would be great if it weren't for the big problem that Sharon changed the DNA test -- or at least thinks she did. That little detail is out there and casts a pall over everything else. I'd like to think that Nick and Sharon could go back to being a supercouple, like they were when Noah was young, but it's really hard to invest in a relationship that I know is doomed as long as the truth remains hidden.
The Dylan/Nikki storyline would be a contender if the show had not rewritten history, force-fed us Dylan, and then bored us by dragging out the reveal until long after everybody knew. Y&R has definitely refined the art of the anti-climax and the red herring. I can't count the number of times I've been fooled at the end of a Friday episode, only to have the hook left unexplained on Monday and the thread not picked up again until weeks later. I find that writing technique disquieting and vaguely dissatisfying.
An example that comes to mind is how adamant Victor was to have a list of SUV owners on his desk. He even spoke to his investigator on Thanksgiving. We saw the investigator put the list on Victor's desk, and we saw Adam's name on it. The list disappeared, and so did the investigator. Victor left voicemail saying that it was urgent, but nothing happened until after Christmas.
I imagine you can all think of similar non-clues or storyline threads that got lost for a while. Another story that Y&R started and dropped is the one about Gus's letters, which led Neil and Leslie to Evanston, Rose, and eventually Hilary. What we still don't know is, what was Gus's relationship to Rose? What did the letters mean? Why did Gus leave a legacy for Rose? Why does the description of Hilary's father sound so much like Gus?
That leads me to the blogger story, my pick for the worst storyline and top turkey of the year. (Though Delia's death is a close second.) As far as I can tell, the blogger story had no purpose other than to bring Hilary to town. The vindictiveness and level of mean was over the top, and I though that it was unrealistic for Hilary to hold that grudge for more than six years. I find it very difficult to believe that a poor girl from Evanston managed not only to hang on to to her anger but remain focused enough to get a college education, move to London, change her identity, and fund her vendetta without ever being objective enough to think that she might be wrong or need grief counseling to help deal with her unreasonable rage.
That the Winters gang was so slow on the uptake was equally excruciating. It's as though the writers can't create a coherent, realistic story for this family group, so they figure they'll just drag out the one that's not working anyway or substitute something predictable, like pairing Devon with Hilary -- who didn't see that coming a mile away? IMO, Y&R telegraphs too much for too long and teases us with suggestions that never come to fruition. Kind of like a gold-digger who doesn't want to put out after the money has changed hands.
I do like the actress that plays Hilary. I think that she has a lot of potential. As an actor, I fear Devon is way under-matched. Hilary will chew him up and spit him out. It's like putting a tamed tomcat in a cage with a tigress. But perhaps a story will grow from this, and we will finally get a good reason why Katherine left all that money to Devon and apparently stiffed Jill.
I'd like to see more Jill. Give Jess Walton an eagle for acting because she always soars for me. Also give an eagle to Y&R for best acquisition from another soap for the return of Tristan Rogers. I can hardly wait for him to appear on-screen. I hope he teams up with Jill, and they finally solve the puzzle of that dastardly music box. I'd really like Jill to get everything she wants, at least once in her life, so that she will have no excuse to be dissatisfied -- though I'm sure she'll find one, anyway, because she's Jill, and being bitchy is what she does -- but I'd still like her to have the opportunity to change and grow, even if she doesn't.
Jill's not the only one who gets an eagle for acting. With a few exceptions, the cast soared. Great acting is one of the expectations we have of Y&R, and they did not disappoint. Not only were the vets spot-on, but with a few exceptions, the rest of the cast was as well. The actors made the best of the material that they were given. My wish for the new year is that we get some happy scenes with a lighter touch. I would really like to see Y&R present a more balanced storytelling approach that includes an equal mix of drama, romance, comedy, and tragedy.
Please, Y&R, don't make it all tragedy, like last year, when even Lily and Cole, the only happy couple at the time, had to endure a brief cancer scare just before the holidays. I definitely give you a gobble-gobble for that unnecessary Thanksgiving turkey.
Admittedly, 2013 was a difficult year for Y&R, which suffered the real-life loss of Jeanne Cooper. Not only did the show have to deal with that on-screen -- they do get an eagle for that soaring tribute episode to the actress -- but they also have to deal with the loss of several other actors in key roles, including Michelle Stafford, Billy Miller, and most recently, Michael Muhney.
I'm not sure if Muhney's firing deserves a turkey or an eagle. Like most of the hundreds of fans that wrote in -- and I answered! -- I was shocked by that decision and believed that CBS and Sony had made a terrible blunder. I did a Google search on Michael Muhney to find insider articles about what had happened to cause the firing.
What I found surprised me, and the allegations, if true, would indicate that Y&R had cause to act as they did. In fact, if the allegations that I read are true, Y&R deserves an eagle for firing him. There are two sides to every story, and I would do well to remember that the next time I'm ready to rush to judgment.
Stafford, Miller, and Muhney are powerhouse actors, and they will definitely be missed. It remains to be seen if their replacements can fill their shoes or, in Stafford's case, her stilettos -- if and when Phyllis is recast.
Somebody who will not be missed is NuKyle. Hands=down, he gets the golden turkey for worst actor, maybe even worst ever. I think the only question here is "Why has it taken so long?" I could say the same about Devon and Fen, though in Fen's case, it's the character I don't like. He is such a cowardly weasel.
I can't figure out how Fen can think that he can hide from the law without money or resources in an unfamiliar town. Fen can't support himself now; how does he expect to do it on the run? -- I know, I know, that's way too complicated for a Baldwin to consider. The Baldwins do get an eagle because they soar in stupidity. Since Carmine started stalking Lauren, the Baldwins have done nothing right. Their own actions created problems where none existed.
Some time ago, I speculated that Carmine might still be alive. I really hope he isn't, but unless Womack, the prison, and all those hang-ups that Lauren has been getting are more red herrings, I fear I will have to give another golden turkey to Y&R for dragging out something that should be over. Why can't the writers figure out a scenario for Michael and Lauren that doesn't put Lauren in physical jeopardy?
Why couldn't Michael and Lauren team up to stop a ruthless corporate raider -- Victor, Adam, or Jack anyone? -- from taking over Fenmore's? Perhaps Fen could develop talents as a brilliant analyst or designer. Or Lauren could steal Chelsea from Jabot. All I'm saying is end Carmine and move on.
For 2013, a soaring eagle for best couple goes to Jack and ghost John, who is always around to give Jack support, comfort, and great advice. I wish I had a ghost like that in my life. I once mentioned to my doctor about hearing the little voice in my head. She asked how long I had been hearing voices and then prescribed medication. I wonder what she'd do if Jack told her about ghost John?
Billy and Victoria deserve an eagle, too, for all that they've been through, but I'm bummed that Billy Miller is leaving. And now that it appears that he will have grief sex with Kelly, I wonder how long he and Victoria can survive and how much Victoria will forgive. I guess that will give the couple a reason to break up if Victoria and the NuBilly don't have chemistry to go with their acting skills.
Esther and Jill still make a good couple, but romance-wise, the pickings are slim. It's amazing that Nikki and Victor are still together after almost a year (LOL). The Baldwins have weathered a storm, and the Ashbys seem happier than ever. I love the growing bond between Adam and Chelsea, but that's not going to last past Muhney's departure.
Chloe's friendship with Chelsea has a lot of chemistry, and I sense that Chloe will eventually get delusional about Connor. The first time she took him, it was a red herring, but this latest misstep, taking a piece of Connor's clothing, may be the beginning of obsession. I can see a good story about the effects of unresolved grief. It may eventually be a child-stealing story, but I realized that all soaps are rife with them -- soap kids rarely get to spend the first few months of their lives without experiencing a kidnapping or two, and since soap kids don't seem to get traumatized, I can sacrifice the story device for the drama.
Golden turkey for worst couple goes to Avery and Dylan, who don't fit at all. I realize that she is the rebound girl, and rebound girls never last -- she was also Nick's rebound girl -- and I suspect that perpetually unlucky in love is the role that Avery's character is meant to fill. I'm not particularly drawn to either the character or her portrayer, which can probably be attributed to the writing. But at least Avery is a perky optimist, and Genoa City can certainly use a few of those. NuKyle and Summer also qualify for worst couple and worst retelling of an old story. It was done better by at least two or three sets of previous actors.
I did like Dylan and Chelsea's relationship. Too bad it was based on a lie. I liked both Chelsea and Dylan best when they were parents dealing with a child they both loved. Perhaps when Adam rides off into the sunset for a while, Dylan can step in. That would really get in Victor's grill, especially if he was preparing to swoop in and take Connor from Chelsea.
A soaring eagle for best new character goes to Connor Newman for surviving and thriving. With any luck, by this time next year, he will be Noah's age and competing with him for Victor's attention and empire. A golden turkey goes to Dylan McAvoy as worst new character. It's no secret that I followed Steve Burton to the show. I wanted to like his character, I really, really did, but I am not feeling the love for Dylan McAvoy -- mostly because he was shoved down my throat and advanced to the front-line so quickly that my head is still spinning.
He went from poor ex-vet working odd jobs to café owner and homeowner to scion of a wealthy core family in a flash. After freaking out and taking Connor away, Dylan was magically cured of PTSD after a visit to a VA shrink. Now Dylan is Mr. Nice Guy, who opened his business and fed Christmas dinner to those who had no place else to go. What a saint. What a great human being. Why then is he rejecting his mother, Nikki, and refusing Victoria's offer of friendship?
You'd think that such a paragon would be touched to know that his birth mother was alive, especially since his adoptive parents were dead. If I were alone and found out that I was related to a respected family in town that was reaching out to me, I think I would at least be open to giving them a chance -- even if I had been shocked to find out I was adopted. (In my case, it wouldn't be so much of a shock as it would be a welcome relief! -- Just kidding, Dad!)
Dylan is too much goody two-shoes and not enough backbone. I hope he shows us his spine soon. I do think that Ray Wise will make a devilish Ian Ward. I am familiar with that actor's work, and he plays comedy and drama equally well. An eagle is awarded for that casting choice, especially if it brings out a deeper level or adds a more realistic layer to the character of Dylan.
Another thing that bothers me about Dylan, and Y&R in general, is how they ignore the age factor. Dylan has to be older than 40-something Nick, so he can't possibly be a 33-year-old war vet. I know that we have to give the soaps a lot of leeway in this area, which I am willing to do, but not in all areas. For instance, if I give up the age thing, I don't want to see anyone rising from the dead or faking paternity tests. I want good storytelling that doesn't depend on gimmicks. I have another soap for that. Y&R has always held a more realistic mirror to life than some of the other soaps, and I don't want to see that change.
The golden turkey for big, bad bully goes to Victor, who managed to go from likable and loving to overbearing and controlling in the blink of an episode. One week, I'm praising him for standing behind Adam and demonstrating unconditional love, and the next week, he's the bossiest Father Knows Best on the planet. A priceless original Bach musical score was a terrific Christmas gift for Nikki, but it did not make up for going behind Nikki's back to alter her will and cut Dylan out of it -- is that even possible or legal? All I can gobble out about Victor is that when he's good, he's very, very good, and when he's bad, he's horrid!
Nick gets the baby bully award. He tends to huff and puff just like Victor but eventually regrets going off half-cocked and does the right thing, unlike Victor. Despite his cockiness with Dylan, Nick and Dylan have dynamic chemistry in their scenes together, and I think that these two brothers will forge a dynamite bond in the near future, once Dylan finally accepts his biological family, and they accept him.
The perpetually nice guy is Paul, so he gets the eagle, though not exactly soaring. For the life of me, I can't understand why it was so important to solve Carmine's murder. Paul could have let it remain unsolved. By the time Carmine was dead -- and the jury's still out on that -- Carmine had done awful things, including trying to murder Lauren and Michael.
His death was no great loss, and Paul could have done his usual shoddy job, but instead, he dug deeper and arrested Fen. I applaud Christine and Paul for getting the Baldwin men out of jail, but face it: Christine and Paul were also the ones who put them in jail in the first place, so maybe that eagle just gobbled.
Jack soared like an eagle when he gave advice. He was terrific with Adam, Billy, Kyle, Summer, Hilary, and anybody else he spoke with. Jack shines with family, and I really hope that someday he overcomes his obsession with beating Victor, thus defeating his own demons as well as defeating Victor. I fear that Victor will once again outfox Jack. I just hope that ghost John gets to Jack in time to prevent a meltdown if things don't go the way that Jack is anticipating they will.
Chloe has to get the turkey for worst advice. I would blame it on grief, but her early advice to Chelsea to pass Connor off as Dylan's kid was very ill-advised, and so are her constant putdowns of Adam. The fact that she may eventually appear to be correct when Adam is accused of killing Delia is a mitigating, "I-told-you-so" factor, but right now, we all know that Adam is sincere, and we would really like to see this happy little family happy for a while.
I'm still not sure that Adam is actually responsible for the hit-and-run, particularly after I saw the name "Kelly White" in the list on Victor's desk. I tried to find the Kelly character's last name but couldn't. Was "Kelly White" a red herring, or was Y&R telegraphing a real clue? I guess they deserve an eagle for that bit of razzle-dazzle! Or maybe I'm the only one fooled!
IMO, the problem with Y&R is writing, which deserves a big flopping turkey. There is little original happening. The writing is lazy, sloppy, and derivative. It is an insult to loyal and supportive fans -- not the ones who threaten to quit, but don't, but the ones that are there day after day, who don't complain, but want to, who've seen producers and writers come and go but have never wavered in their support. You fans get a soaring eagle from me, and so do you complainers, because the complainers matter, too, especially if you want to cause change. Just make sure that when you complain to me, you send a cc to CBS, Sony, and Y&R, so they know how you feel also, because I have no control over the program -- I'm just a fan like you are.
A few months ago, a reader asked me if I thought that the powers that be disrespected the viewers. I said, "Yes," because I do believe that the current owners, producers, and/or writers of Y&R indeed think we are stupid and will swallow anything that they put out there for us. Why do I think this? Because of the experience I had when I shared what I considered good news -- that I had been asked to write a Two Scoops -- with friends and relatives. Several of them seemed very surprised by my interest in the genre and hastened to tell me why they weren't interested in soap opera and how they thought that people who watched soaps had a screw loose. Needless to say, while you can't choose your relatives, friends are another matter.
I would expect the same kind of disdain from the higher-ups at Sony, who, after all, are in it for the money and have no actual interest in the show, the characters, or any of the things that have kept us watching all these years. We are addicted. It's the same as if we smoked cigarettes, shot heroin, or gambled away the family farm for a handful of magic beans. Statistics, and by that I mean the ratings, prove it. For the 25th year in a row, Y&R is still the number one soap, and viewership has increased, not decreased, despite having the most depressing, slow-moving year that I can recall.
As long as viewership grows, there is no urgency for CBS or Sony to fix what they don't see as broken. I do, however, believe that they hear the rumbling growl of discontent, which must be flooding their Facebook and web pages, so I expect to see a lot of improvement by this time next year, especially if we keep grumbling, because there is nothing that the overlords like less than rebellion in the ranks.
So keep writing and making comments, but don't threaten to quit watching unless you really mean it. Make positive suggestions for change, like less tragedy and more comedy, or spend less money on henna and more money on better writers. Give us some sparkling dialogue, take us on an adventure, or buy some combs and brushes!
Some people feel that you need a tragedy to showcase acting ability, but I'm not one of them. I think believable comedy is even harder to pull off, and for me, romantic comedy is the best, especially if there's a little mystery and some surprise mixed in.
It may be time to face the fact that Bill Bell is gone, and his vision is fading. Y&R needs to embrace a new vision and reinvent itself, and so do its fans. I believe that the ultimate goal of the producing team is to create that vision. I am more than willing to give them another year to bring that goal to fruition, especially if what they do is reinvent Bell's original vision, just like J.J. Abrams did with the Star Trek franchise. However, if by this time next year, Y&R is still more King Lear than Much Ado About Nothing, or if I still feel like I'm watching a second rate rerun of General Hospital, I may rethink my position.
Meanwhile, I've added B&B as a backup. It's only been three days, and I'm almost caught up! Watch out, DAYS, I may be coming for you, next. (Shh! Keep this between us! Maybe we could outfox the powers that be if we all recorded or watched all the soaps! Then it would be easy to stop watching the one that was not paying off. Or would that make me a fair-weather watcher?)
I don't know if it's the boring writing, me being old and cranky, or the new big-screen, high definition TV I got a few months ago, but I can't help but notice a bunch of picky little stuff that I might not gripe about if Y&R were more interesting. For instance, the henna heads outnumber the non-henna heads. I noticed that one of the servers in Crimson Lights had the same color hair as the wood, which coincidentally is similar to the color of the wood in the Athletic Club. Now I'm thinking that the set decorators got a deal on wood stain, which they passed on to the hair stylists who used it on Dylan, Nick, Esther, Michael, Chloe, and countless others. They do match the sets perfectly, and that's certainly a big impressive yawn.
The other thing I noticed on the big screen -- I sit really close -- was that at least two of the women with long hair had hair weaves. I could see the weaves, and I didn't like it. I started wondering if those weaves could be seen on a smaller screen or in regular definition. At the least, I thought that the stylist could comb hair over the weave so it didn't show, and then I noticed that nobody's hair is combed, at least not the women's.
That made me want to take a brush and reach right through the screen and grab somebody and start combing, so a big turkey to the hairstylists -- I hear you reader Rita, I'm repeating after you...It's only a soap, It's only a soap, It's only a soap!--It's not only a soap it's a part of our everyday life and a medium for change and communication that I will probably watch every day of my life until they pry the remote out of my cold, dead hand! Whew! Sure felt good to get that off my chest!
The Young and Restless has been number one for a reason, and that's its fans -- fans who definitely deserve better storytelling than they had in 2013. Yes, folks, "It's only a soap," but it's our soap to love, hate, and cherish. So for next year, fellow fan addicts, I wish you more compelling stories and scenes in 2014 than the recycled leftovers you endured in 2013! Until then, keep soapin'!
If you missed Teddi's Best and Worst of Y&R 2013 column last week, click here to read it.
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