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What was Bill Bell's daytime vision compared with Irna's and Nixon's??


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#1 allmc2008

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:29 AM

We know Irna is the creator and Agnes was known for its warmth, social-issues, and community but what was Bill Bell's claim to fame?? I never really watched Y&R but I found two great scenes.






From judging from these, I would have really enjoyed this show!
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#2 Cat

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 11:19 AM

Psychological and emotional complexity.

Bill Bell was fascinated by what made people tick, almost to the point of a clinical psychologist. Why do some people deceive each other -- and themselves? Why are some people auto-destructive? Why do bad things happen to good people -- sometimes with no closure or chance for reconciliation?

The two clips are a case in point. Gina singing (in her beautiful, evocative voice) as Traci and Danny look on, a wealth of different, sometimes ambiguous, emotions rolling over their faces. The second scene is very crisp; John's dialogue is especially brilliant, incisive, effective.

I just loved how Bell didn't pander to his audience. He knew they were capable of dealing with complexity and shade of grey. That's what I love about his contribution to the genre.

Edited by Cat, 01 November 2012 - 11:21 AM.

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#3 darraholic

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 09:20 PM

Bill Bell is a legend. I just wish I could get to see early Y&R and his time at DAYS.
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#4 Y&RWorldTurner

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 09:26 PM

Though Bell recycled a lot of the elements hat made his DAYS a success on his own shows, I think his DAYS felt a lot closer to a Nixon soap than his own shows really did.

I guess it was because DAYS had a much more traditional P&G soap-like foundation than his own shows did (Y&R initially did too, but focus eventually shifted).
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#5 EricMontreal22

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Posted 01 November 2012 - 10:02 PM

Some of this has been said, but from my POV, Bell's first major innovation, as mentioned, was psychology--particularly a psychosexual one. He really pushed the sex taboos, often in a rather dark and intense way--pretty much from as soon as he took over Days (while he was essentially the headwriter for World Turns for much of the 60s, he was very much under Irna's direction). The way Nixon brought in social issues and humour. Bell also seemed to take Irna's slow burn style and really intensify it--and unlike, say, Reilly and his epic slowness, Bell seems like he was a master of really prolonging a story out (5 or more years even) without just repeating it each week. Conboy gets much ofthe attention for really playing up the sex scenes when he produced Y&R but I'm certain that was Bell, too--I love soap books from the time that claim Y&R is filled with nudity (they mean shirtless guys and women in lingerie, but to them that WAS nudity).

(on the other hand, Nixon seemed to be one of the first to speed along soaps, but that may have partly been a mandate from ABC and their desire to tap into a youth, non soap audience--which worked since P&G inthe 60s really had the faithful viewer market, and it eemed close to impossible to steal them--I think this is one reason OLTL and AMC don't get much love in the soap fan magazines until the mid 70s at least--the established soap fans who wrote and read those magazines just either weren't watching them or didn't like the shift in style).
I'm always fascinated by the kinda ying/yang of Bell and Nixon who both came from Phillips, and both had deep and obvious respect for each other (as you can tell by what Nixon says in All Her Children even though she admits that's not her writing style or strength). They seem to have taken the best elements of Philips' soaps and splintered them and then run with those elements. Both did have an interest in telling more youth stories, though (while, importantly, always understanding the appeal of the soap foundsations--like the rich and poor families, the matriarchs, etc).

One interesting element is their backgrounds. Nixon trained to be an actress (with many big names like Chloris Leechman) and had a deep love for the works of playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Southern Gothic novelists like Faulkner--and then she made her name writing play like TV shows int he Golden Age of Live TV. Bell's background was more commercial in a way--he quickly became known as one of the smartest advertisement men in the business, and worked writing commercials.

I'll echo Cat's thoughts as well, and yes, I think Bell also brought an unseen of sophistication to the soaps. WHile I wouldn't call Nixon's soaps un-sophisticated by any means, it was a different style. (This isn't meant as a slight, but I also see Bell's work reflecting the classic era of Hollywood, and Nixon reflecting Broadway).

Edited by EricMontreal22, 01 November 2012 - 10:04 PM.

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#6 Cat

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 10:19 AM

I am so glad you posted on this thread, Eric! Not only because I have missed reading your posts in general, but because I know you have a real understanding of Agnes Nixon and Irma Phillips work, whereas I am just operating from my viewership of the Bell soaps.

Bell and Nixon really were ying and yang, taking what they learned under Irna's stewardship but also infusing their work with their own signature. I don't think that signature was conscious at first, merely a by-product of their own interests and tastes and basic writing style. It was then forged and found its greatest expression in AMC (for Nixon) and Y&R (for Bell).

One thing I did notice from Agnes, though, is that she could get as noir and intense as Bell when she wanted. Her writing for Alice & Steve on AW was like a pressure cooker of tension, wanting and sexual and emotional tumult. And a lot of it was written before Y&R came on the air. I wonder if AW wasn't a huge influence on early Y&R -- it was the most "water cooler" of the soaps at the time.
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#7 teplin

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:09 PM

First of all, thank you for posting the Patty Weaver clip ... I love her and her voice.

I agree with most everything that's been said. Also, I've always thought that Bill Bell emphasized the "opera" part of soap operas -- that is, everything was bigger than life, most especially the emotions. People on Bell shows loved more passionately, hated more intensely and suffered more grandly. Irna and Agnes, on the other hand, focused on the "soap" part of the equation -- they wrote domestic dramas featuring more grounded characters with more grounded lives and problems.
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#8 Y&RWorldTurner

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:21 PM

I think Bell wrote a larger than life show, but it was also deeply grounded in reality (for the most part).
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#9 EricMontreal22

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:54 PM

Thanks, Cat, without this sounding like a suck thread, I feel the same way about your posts--particularly about Bell, someone whose style I know far less about than you. (I've been pretty busy with a lot of personal things, but will try to post here more).

I think you're completely right, that it was not a conscious direction either took at first, but just was formed over the years--and Bell's vision was crystalized in Y&R, Nixon's in AMC. In a world where soap writers seem to divide people, I really did appreciate how much respect they had for each other's styles-- In All Her Children there's a bit where someone asks Nixon about Y&R (the book says "a new soap" but it's obvious which they mean) was ripping her off with a story about a woman getting a facelift to attract a man and keeps on looking at a gun. Nixon replies (and I paraphrase) that the man who writes that show is a genius and knows what he's doing, and that he tells his stories slowly but with a great deal of detail that she described as being like a Chekov slow burn drama.

Nixon did have a thing for some dark stuff--and seemed to have a somewhat secret love for the gothic (I only say secret, because when people talk about her work it never seems to come up). Obviously she had success with it (the Cortland's introduction), and arguable failures (the Faust story on Loving), but you can tell she had a lot of fun with it.

Y&RTurner said:
"I think Bell wrote a larger than life show, but it was also deeply grounded in reality (for the most part)."

I agree--I think this is why both he and Nixon had such large success--and why soaps based on their style (or later headwriters) have not had as much success. There still is some semblance of reality--usually focused on a family basis, something we can all relate to, which many more recent soap writers seem to not care about.
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#10 allmc2008

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 02:30 PM

Thanks, Cat, without this sounding like a suck thread, I feel the same way about your posts--particularly about Bell, someone whose style I know far less about than you. (I've been pretty busy with a lot of personal things, but will try to post here more).

I think you're completely right, that it was not a conscious direction either took at first, but just was formed over the years--and Bell's vision was crystalized in Y&R, Nixon's in AMC. In a world where soap writers seem to divide people, I really did appreciate how much respect they had for each other's styles-- In All Her Children there's a bit where someone asks Nixon about Y&R (the book says "a new soap" but it's obvious which they mean) was ripping her off with a story about a woman getting a facelift to attract a man and keeps on looking at a gun. Nixon replies (and I paraphrase) that the man who writes that show is a genius and knows what he's doing, and that he tells his stories slowly but with a great deal of detail that she described as being like a Chekov slow burn drama.

Nixon did have a thing for some dark stuff--and seemed to have a somewhat secret love for the gothic (I only say secret, because when people talk about her work it never seems to come up). Obviously she had success with it (the Cortland's introduction), and arguable failures (the Faust story on Loving), but you can tell she had a lot of fun with it.

Y&RTurner said:
"I think Bell wrote a larger than life show, but it was also deeply grounded in reality (for the most part)."

I agree--I think this is why both he and Nixon had such large success--and why soaps based on their style (or later headwriters) have not had as much success. There still is some semblance of reality--usually focused on a family basis, something we can all relate to, which many more recent soap writers seem to not care about.

The thing we need to consider is that Bill Bell and Agnes Nixon wrote and created there shows at the best of there ability. Y&R was the epitome of of Bell's talent and AMC was the epitome of Nixon's talent. Even if Agnes/Bell left there respective series' on good terms with the networks and the networks actually cared about the soaps today it would be nearly impossible to find someone to write at there capabilities. Granted, It would be easier for someone to write for AMC than Y&R because Y&R seems like a hard soap to write for. AMC is traditional but Y&R is more of a soap noir. Maybe there should have been more of a transition period between Bell and his successor and Agnes and her's. Actually, I think the problem is that both creators wrote for there shows for many years and there successors wrote for a short time. There successors should have been given a long term contract (10 years or so) and if they chose to resign they had to have there own protege's that could handle the responsibility and able to learn about the shows writing style. To me the Soap genre seems it should be more like a trade and a profession. Almost like a "Practice" were you go to medical school and "practice" medicine. A trade because you need a protege to hand the keys over too.
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#11 Susan Hunter

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 03:17 PM

Five things I love about Bill Bell:

1) He never wrote to sweeps.

2) He planted seeds that wouldn't bear fruit for years.

3) He had a keen eye to know when something wasn't working and the ability to stop it, change it, or completely get rid of it before it did too much damage.

4) He did his own thing. He copied from Bill Bell, not from other shows. During the height of Luke and Laura mania in daytime, Y&R remained Y&R.

5) He loved soap opera and the idea of soap opera. He appreciated that you had 250 episodes a year to tell a story and could play every beat of the story. He didn't skip ahead. LIke in life sometimes characters had the same conversation 80 different times. Stories moved at a glacial pace, but you can do that with soap opera.
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