In a stunning change of direction, The Young and the Restless will be getting a new head writer and executive producer. Jill Farren Phelps has been named as the show's executive producer, and Josh Griffith is returning to the show as head writer. Maria Arena Bell, who has served as both head writer and executive producer, will no longer be involved with The Young and the Restless.
Sony Pictures Television, the company that distributes The Young and the Restless, made the announcement slightly more than 24 hours after reports surfaced that big changes were imminent.
"We are excited to have such a talented daytime veteran leading our team at Y&R. Jill has a stellar record of success in the daytime genre," Steve Kent, Senior Executive Vice President, U.S. Programming at Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement. "We are also happy to welcome Josh back to The Young and the Restless and are looking forward to his creative input and ideas."
Phelps has been the executive producer of five daytime programs -- Another World, General Hospital, Guiding Light, One Life to Live, and Santa Barbara. She also served as EP of General Hospital's primetime SOAPnet spinoff, General Hospital: Night Shift.
Late last year, Phelps was let go as the executive producer of General Hospital, a position she'd held since January 2001. Under her guidance, General Hospital earned four Daytime Emmy wins as Outstanding Drama Series, including a win at this year's Emmy ceremony.
As an executive producer, Phelps has been nominated for 14 Daytime Emmy Awards and has won seven times.
News that Phelps was close to being signed to Y&R was first reported yesterday by Daytime Confidential.
Josh Griffith first joined The Young and the Restless in 2006 as creative consultant and later became part of the writing team. In 2007, during the Writer Guild of America's work stoppage, Griffith served as head writer and interim executive producer. He was later promoted to the role of full-time executive producer when the WGA strike concluded in 2008; Maria Arena Bell was named co-head writer at that time.
Later that same year, Griffith became entangled in a scandal that claimed that Ed Scott, a former Y&R EP and then-executive producer of Days of our Lives, was trying to force DAYS head writer Dena Higley out of her job so that Scott could give the job to Griffith. Soon after, Griffith left his posts at The Young and the Restless. Upon his departure, Bell was promoted to co-executive producer under veteran show-runner Paul Rauch.
Griffith earned critical acclaim for his work as head writer on One Life to Live. In 1993, Griffith co-wrote a storyline of a teenage boy's coming to terms with his homosexuality. As the storyline progressed, it tackled homophobia and touched on the AIDS epidemic. Griffith's work on One Life to Live won an Emmy in 1994.
Griffith has also been part of the writing teams of Santa Barbara and As the World Turns.
This is not the first time that Griffith and Phelps have worked together. Phelps currently presided over the Nickelodeon soap, Hollywood Heights, and Griffith served as head writer. Their tenures at General Hospital and One Life to Live also overlapped.
The changes mean that Maria Arena Bell, who has helmed of The Young and the Restless since 2007 and first joined the show's writing team in 1988, will no longer be affiliated with the show.
"On behalf of everyone at Y&R, we extend our sincere thanks to Emmy Award-winning Maria Bell for her contributions to the show over the last five years," Sony's Kent added. "We wish her the best of luck and continued success."
Bell earned a Daytime Emmy as part of the Y&R writing team in 2011.
To read Bell's reaction to her dismissal, click here.