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Article: Y&R: Y&R: The Good, the Bad, the Excellent, and the Unwatchable


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This two-part article covers what in my opinion was the last year that Y&R was really good, despite all its flaws and setting up problems the show still faces today:

The First Article:

Y&R: The Good, the Bad, the Excellent, and the Unwatchable

By Tom Smith

Daytime News and Commentary

January 7, 2004

Despite its’ flaws, The Young and the Restless is the one show that I make a point to tape and watch every single day. As opposed to other shows which I can let pile up for weeks. (Hello, GH tape!) And there’s really only one reason why. Even if every other story sucked on this show, it would still be worth watching for...

THE NEWMAN/JABOT WAR.

When soaps do corporate intrigue and do it well, this is exactly what you get. The Newman/Jabot War is a brilliant, near flawless example of good corporate intrigue, compelling family drama, and effective umbrella storytelling all rolled into one. In fact, it’s so good, I only wonder what took them so long to get this story rolling in the first place. The stage has been set for years.

On the Newman side, you have: Victor Newman, head of Newman Enterprises, multi-billionaire, and Genoa City’s most lovable megalomaniac. There’s his daughter Victoria, the company’s under appreciated cosmetics guru. His son, Nick, Victor’s long appointed heir apparent, who can’t get away from his father’s long shadow. His right hand man and favorite toadie, Neil Winters; and Phyllis Abbot, Internet marketing genius.

On the Jabot side, you have John Abbot, businessman and all-around nice old guy--even if he is prone to strokes every few years. There’s his son, Jack, Victor’s longest running and most hated enemy, and the feeling is mutual; his daughter, Ashley, Jabot’s chief chemist, and most unstable employee; Brad Carlton, Ashley’s current hubby and a top Jabot executive--executive of what, I’m not real sure; Jill, John’s ex-wife, and Jack’s ex-stepmother/booty call, another top executive whose never in the office; Nikki Newman, who earned her spot on the board by contributing $35 million of her hard earned divorce settlement money to help Jabot through some rocky financial times; and Drucilla Winters, Jabot’s top spokesmodel, who does everything but model.

At this point, the ties are already twisted: Ashley, Jack’s sister, is Victor’s ex-wife, and the one man she can’t get out of her system. Nikki, in between marriages to Victor, was married to Jack. (Nick, by the way, considers Jack to have been more of a father to him than Victor, especially lately.) Nikki was also engaged to Brad, but he left town after seeing how much Nikki still cared for Victor after he got shot a few years ago. (It didn’t hurt that Brad was also a suspect.) Nikki and Jack have remained good friends through the years, but Jack is madly in love with current wife, Phyllis--yes, that Phyllis. And Drucilla is the ex-wife of Neil--yes, that Neil.

The epicenter of Victor and Jack’s hate is that Jack feels Victor stole his father’s company, Jabot Cosmetics. Once independent, the Abbots found themselves working for Victor. Jack bided his time for years, until the day came when he was able to take advantage of Victor’s presumed death in a plane crash. Jack tracked down Brad and brought in sleazy lawyer Michael Baldwin, and the next thing you know, Jack was running Newman. Of course, Victor came back from the dead, but, by then, Michael promised to keep Victor tied up in court for years getting the company back. Jack offered an easier solution: return Jabot to his family. Victor reluctantly did so, and the Abbot clan went about borrowing money to keep Jabot up and running. But, surprise! Guess who was buying up all the loans Jabot was getting? Jabot was now indebted to Victor all over again.

Over the next few years, Jabot continued being profitable enough to meet their financial obligations. Victor became preoccupied with other matters, not the least of which was his son’s failing marriage to wife Sharon. Seeing his son on the brink of marital disaster, with two young children of his own, reminded Victor too much of his own life, and he determined to save his son’s relationship. He defended Sharon, despite the fact that she had a one-night stand--hey, Nick had long ago engaged in an affair with Sharon’s best friend! Victor was trying to make Nick see how important Sharon was, but Nick just saw it as taking her side against him. Sharon, who had become the family pariah, was grateful to have Victor defending her. One night, she showed Victor her gratitude by planting a long wet one on Victor. (Kiss, that is. Spicy, get your mind out of the gutter.) Nick witnessed it, and from his vantage point, the kiss was mutual. Victor didn’t help things by not telling Nick about the kiss, in yet another attempt to save his marriage. Nick, who had always felt inferior to his father in the business world, now felt inferior in the world of romance. When the dust settled, Sharon split town to clear her head, and left the kids with Nick. Nick’s inferiority complex had morphed into full-on daddy hatred.

Back at Jabot, word had gotten around that a smaller cosmetics company named Safra was going under. Safra was aimed specifically at the African-American market, which Jabot had been looking to break into; Jack figured they could raise the cash easy, and contacted not-so-super-anymore model Drucilla about being the chief spokesperson. At this point, Drucilla was back to sleeping with the enemy (Neil), and, hey--loose lips sink acquisition deals. Neil told Victoria who told Victor who wasn’t interested until he found out Jack wanted it, than he couldn’t hand out the blank checks fast enough. Newman got Safra, and Jack got mad. Damn the cost! He was going to start his own line called Tuvia, and he was going head to head with Newman.

The next tug of war was over Safra’s chief chemist, Mr. Damon Porter. Damon was not only a respected chemist, but also a fine hunk of African-American man who claimed the dearly departed Malcolm’s macdaddy throne quicker than you can say “Wes who?” After getting burned by Neil, Drucilla repaid him by intercepting Damon’s contact info and bringing him to Jabot before Neil could finish his breakfast. Victor was so ticked he had Dru barred from the building!

With the two lines set to roll out their product on the same day, Victor “I can’t lose to that damn Jack Abbott” Newman came up with a scheme to give Safra the edge. Victor contacted sleazy lawyer Michael Baldwin about offering department store executives certain “insensitive” to give preferential shelf space to his cosmetics. Now, Michael is sleazy, but he’s not stupid. He’d already done jail time and lost his license for previous activities, and didn’t want to risk it again. Victor, nice guy that he is, subtly told Michael that he was aware of Michael’s involvement in covering up evidence that linked Michael’s ex-fiancée to a certain murder. (Unfortunately, more on that next week). Before you knew it, Michael was passing out suitcases full of cash, and Safra was hitting the department store shelves right at eye level.

Meanwhile, the very pregnant Ashley had taken a leave of absence from Jabot and was relaxing at a cabin. Victor, cause he’s such a sweetheart, contacted Ashley and told her that she should concentrate solely on her baby. That sent up a red flag to Ashley, who contacted her family about early sales. When they evaded her questions, she jumped in the car, head for home, and sped straight into the side of a semi. Ashley barely survived, but the baby did not. And suddenly, this was about a hell of a lot more than cosmetics.

Things have only intensified from there. It seems half the town blames Victor for the accident, even though he insists he was only trying to help Ashley, even as he put her family’s company on the brink of ruin. Even Ashley’s father, the normally docile John, punched Victor square in the face. It seems the only one who insists on not blaming Victor is Ashley herself. This incenses hubby Brad most of all, because, the accident damaged Ashley so severely she can never have children. Ashley’s only child is Abby, who is the biological child of Victor. (But, Victor doesn’t know this.) Brad can’t even get mad at Ashley because she continues to teeter on the brink of mental illness, imagining her baby is still alive, and that she’s still married to Victor.

Victor’s actions further cemented Nick’s hatred of him. Nick had suspected monkey business from the start, and it didn’t take much investigating to uncover the real story. Nick turned over his evidence to the authorities who kicked the case to Genoa City’s newest Asst. DA, Christine Blair (who also happens to be Michael’s ex-fiancee). Victoria was so appalled by both men’s behavior, she left town and took the nearest train to Llanview. Nikki was similarly appalled. Victor’s actions definitely reveal him to be an insensitive jackass (so, what’s new?), but Nick took a matter that could have been “handled within the family” and went public, all because of his vendetta.

While Nikki is pissed at Victor, she hasn’t dumped him--yet. Jack’s marriage, however, is a couple of signatures away from obliteration. For months, Jack had been telling anyone who would listen that Victor’s been playing dirty pool in their latest war. Phyllis, however, was insulted. She felt Safra was successful on its own merits, and that she was integral to said success. When she learned the truth, she still kept quiet, apparently to cover for best friend (and ex-lover) Michael Baldwin. When Jack found out, he was less than thrilled. It doesn’t help that Jabot is only staying afloat right now because of a cash bailout by Jack’s ex-fiancee Diane Jenkins, who recently tried to frame Phyllis for arson and attempted murder.

Meanwhile, in a last-ditch attempt to save Jabot, Jack has become embroiled in an escapade with Damon and his old “friend” Vanessa. It seems Vanessa discovered a rare orchid that can be used in a process that straightens African-American hair. Throw in overbearing Dru muscling her way into the hunt, and other assorted hijinks, and the writers have added the perfect touch of lightness to all the engrossing but heavy drama.

This is the perfect umbrella storyline, because it ties nearly all the major players in Genoa City together in amazing yet believable ways that are true to its’ history. In fact, it’s the history that makes it so rich. Whether it was a few months ago, or twenty years past, every little plot detail ties in to some piece of history. The long running ties between the Newmans and the Abbots are obvious, but there are finer points too. Getting Diane to bail out Jabot was obviously a slap in the face of Phyllis, but it was also a slap to Victor, since Diane wouldn’t have the money if she hadn’t gotten it from Victor in the divorce settlement years ago! Phyllis may think she was just keeping the peace and protecting Michael by covering for Victor’s actions, but wasn’t she really sparing herself because her work was really the only thing she was good at? She had already failed as a wife and a mother--if her job was bogus too, what would she have? And doesn’t the constant espionage between Neil and Dru prove daughter Lily’s point? The two will always be focused on their careers, and Neil will always see his career as more worthy than Dru’s-- a throwback to when Neil wanted another child and Dru was taking birth control.

I know its’ in vogue to obliterate history these days, either figuratively (DAYS’ serial vet-killing spree) or literally (GL’s mind-bendingly awful continuity-smashing Ghost Story rip-off), but I appreciate Y&R using their history in such a way that doesn’t make viewers feel like they’ve invested their time for nothing. Whether they’ve been watching for a few months or since decades, there’s a little nod to everyone.

I’ll go further and say that this is the most suspenseful story in daytime right now. Not the most shocking, or the most frightening, but the most genuinely suspenseful and unpredictable storyline in a genre that used to trade heavily in both. While other folks seem to think that the only way to generate suspense is by long-lost secrets or giant body piles, Y&R does it the old-fashioned way: they do it with character and emotion. And have the emotional stakes ever been higher for these characters? What will become of the already strained Newman family? Will Nick realize that his quest for justice is really revenge? Will Victor go to prison? And, if he doesn’t, how will he get out of it? Will Victoria ever come back? And whose going to run Newman in the interim? And what about Jabot? Even if Victor goes up the river, it won’t save them from financial disaster? Will Damon and Vanessa’s discovery work? Will Damon and Vanessa end up together, or does he end up with Dru, Phyllis, or any of the other characters he’s been flirting with? Can Neil and Dru continue to be on opposing sides and make their second marriage work? It hasn’t worked for Jack and Phyllis! And how long can Brad keep together his marriage to Ashley? Whether she’s lucid or not, she still beats the same drum: leave Victor alone! Will Brad be overcome his belief that Ashley wants to set up house with Victor and Abby? Should he? And what happens when Victor not only learns Abby is his daughter, but of all the people who knew it-like Nikki? Oh, she won’t be so high and mighty then will she?

These are just some of the questions, dear reader, that this storyline raises. And that’s what soaps are supposed to do: raise questions that the viewer wants answered. And not just finite ones like who’s the killer, but questions of the heart. Questions that can’t be answered by a mere police investigation, but by watching your favorite characters live, love, lie, and struggle for that ultimate goal: to be happy an fulfilled. Questions that can only be answered by tuning in everyday, which is why the viewers will tune in everyday for years to come. That’s soap opera.

And that’s the column for today. Next week, I’ll focus on the rest of Y&R: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, the writers still maker room for other storylines and I’ll dissect those as well. Also we'll look at how soap operas celebrated the recent holiday season.

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Part Two of Smith's in-depth column:

Greetings, and welcome to part two of my look at The Young and the Restless. Last time, I focused on the excellent umbrella storyline of the Newman/Jabot war. As spellbinding and dominating as that storyline is, there are other storylines which the show is also featuring. Some of those stories are good, and others....well, that’s why this week I’m focusing on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s run ‘em down:

THE GOOD: Lily/Kevin

Come on. Admit it. When you heard Y&R was going to be using its’ teen characters in a summer storyline dealing with internet stalking, your eyes glazed over just like mine did. The annoying Lily Winters, upset because she didn’t have a man in her life (or much of a life to begin with), entered the world of the internet chat rooms, and soon became smitten with the screen name “fishin4luv”. Lily, with friends Colleen and Sierra at her side agreed to meet her internet beau at Genoa City’s favorite hotspot, Crimson Lights. To all’s surprise, “fishin4luv” was Kevin Fisher, a college graduate in his twenties, who had a job as an accountant. Even more surprising, he was still willing to go out with fifteen-year old Lily. This immediately signaled “perv” to her friends, especially Colleen. Lily reminded Colleen about glass houses, since she was dating J. T., an older college boy, and that relationship had caused a lot of problems within her family. Still, something was particularly not right about Kevin.

Kevin wasn’t dating Lily because of her personality or her body or her smile. Kevin is a predator who targeted underage girls because he thought they were easier to dominate. See, Kevin is a control freak who can’t handle women with their own thoughts and minds, or have interests outside of him. Kevin’s idea of a date is having his girlfriend come over to his apartment, listen to some music, have sex with him, then leave. Lily’s worried about losing her friends? Kevin tells her she doesn’t need them. Lily’s worried about her parents? She doesn’t have to worry about them, because she’s with Kevin, and he treats her like the adult everyone should recognize her as.

Soon, Lily was consumed with thoughts of nothing but Kevin and their relationship. She was staying up to chat with him, sneaking out to visit his apartment, and not returning until 4 am. And she was in further withdrawal from her friends and family. In real-life cases like these, you wonder where the parents are and why don’t they notice these things. On Y&R, you didn’t have to wonder, because the writers couldn’t have picked two better examples than the well-meaning but hopelessly self-absorbed Neil and Drucilla Winters. As these two titans played out their corporate and domestic battles (see Part One), they were barely cognizant of their child’s troubles. Dru was writing off Lily as a moody mouthy teenager, while Neil didn’t know how to re-connect after bring out of her life for so long. By the time they learned that Lily was dating an older man she’d met over the internet, they were already (temporarily) broken up.

Colleen, for her part, was determined to prove Kevin was a creep. She went back into the chat room where it all began, donned a screen name, and came on to Kevin, who was still “fishin4luv”. Kevin even agreed to meet Colleen in the park for another night of jailbait fun. When she relayed this information to Lily, Kevin denied all, and said that Colleen came on to him, and he rebuffed her! Lily sided with Kevin, but quickly realized that Kevin’s version of events made no sense. Worse, Lily’s non-sexual attempts to get close to Kevin were constantly shot down. And when Lily suggested leaving some personal articles at Kevin’s apartment in case she ever spent the night, you’d have thought she’d suggested casting Brooke Logan as Virgin Mary in the Christmas pageant!

At their wits’ end, Colleen and Sierra informed Lily’s parents that the relationship was continuing. Before you knew it, Neil was accosting Kevin, J. T. was accosting Kevin, Bob Costas was accosting Kevin--it was a bad scene. Throw in a STD scare, and Lily’s excursion into the world of chat room romance was over.

But, that was only the end of Act One. What started as a PSA-type story of Kevin and Lily has now blown into a full-blown psychodrama--and they don’t come more psycho than Kevin. Kevin, out for revenge against Colleen and J. T., who he thought blew his good thing, set about trashing J. T.’s apartment. Then, he lured Colleen into Genoa City’s landmark restaurant, Gina’s, and locked her in the freezer. Then, he set the place on fire! The blaze afforded J. T. an opportunity to rescue the frozen female, finally bringing an end to the animosity between him and her father, Brad. But, poor Gina was not only out of a business, but a home, since she lived atop the restaurant.

And everyone knew Kevin did it.

And no one can prove it.

At this point, it became more imperative that Lily press charges against Kevin for statutory, especially since she had an STD, which would strengthen her case if Kevin had the same STD. Unfortunately, Kevin delayed taking the test long enough to get hold of medicine which caused the disease not to be detected when he did take the test. Now it appeared that Lily was the skanky ho, and she could have given Kevin something!

Of course, that legal scare gave Kevin incentive enough to look up his half-brother, legal eagle Michael Baldwin. Yep. In the hands-down best twist of the year, Kevin and Michael are siblings. This was surprising, yet believable and organic to the show itself (unlike another twist which we’ll discuss later). Of course, Michael wants nothing to do with him, and his legal advice mainly consists of telling Kevin to leave town.

These days, Kevin walks around free for his crimes, but now J. T. and Colleen have turned to private investigator extraordinaire, Paul Williams, whose turning up the heat on Kevin. (The implications of Kevin being brought to justice by Paul, given Paul’s recent storylines, are enough for another column. But, I won’t write it.) Paul’s already convinced Kevin’s main employer, strip club owner Bobby Marsino, to fire him. See, Bobby’s had his own legal woes as of late, and he doesn’t need a child molester in his employ on top of everything else. As if that wasn’t enough, just as Kevin thought he was making time with top stripper Brittany, J. T. showed up, and informed her about Kevin’s underage antics!

Kevin has managed to make one new friend: Lauren Fenmore, owner of the main boutique in town, and so reminiscent of Kevin’s mother--but much nicer! Kevin considered asking Lauren if she could use an accountant, but didn’t--he didn’t want to taint their special relationship, which has mainly consisted of Lauren listening to him and commenting on his good manners.

Did I mention Lauren is Paul’s ex-wife and current girlfriend?

The beauty of this story’s second act is that it gives you a look into Kevin’s mind. Act One asked the audience to understand Lily and how she was drawn into Kevin’s world. Well, it’s easy to understand and feel for the victim, especially one as immature as Lily. Now, we’re being asked to understand the victimizer: What makes Kevin tick? The recent discussions of Kevin and Michael’s upbringing lay out the story: an abusive father, an inattentive mother. Kevin Fisher is a classic text-book bully--he picks on others smaller than him, because he was picked on by others bigger than him. What is a bully but someone who was bullied?

But, just as you don’t excuse a bully’s behavior, Y&R’s writers are not letting Kevin off the hook by delving into what motivates him. In fact, the more we know about Kevin, the more pathetic he is. But, he is also all too human. In his own way, he has a lot in common with Lily, except that the people around Lily cared about her and they were all able to snap out of their own self-absorption; not so for Kevin. Even now, big brother Mikey would like to place him back under the rock he’s been buried under, not because of Kevin’s behavior, but because it reminds him of his own past behavior and personal failings. (Yet again building on Y&R’s history).

I’ve said before that the best villains are not the invincible Stefano Dimera types, but the realistic ones. And Kevin is as realistic and believable as they come. I could use this to go on another rant about Helena Cassadine or James Stenbeck, but as I was writing this, I was struck by something else: how far could Ellen Weston have gotten if she hadn’t treated Ben’s molestation as a tacked-on explanation for his serial killing spree, but actually used it in the manner that Y&R’s writers are treating Kevin? Guess that’s why Y&R is still number 1--and Guiding Light isn’t.

Which isn’t to say that Y&R is perfect.

THE BAD: Raul/Brittany

Is there a more boring story on the show right now than the diabetic and his stripper girlfriend? The oddball pairing of rich girl Brittany and poverty-stricken Raul was an amusing sideshow a couple of years ago, but the charm wore off somewhere around the time Brittany’s drunken joyride ended in a car accident that left Raul temporarily paralyzed.

Brittany is selfish, self-absorbed, and demands to be the center of attention. These actually aren’t bad qualities for a soap character to have, provided they’re backed up by good writing. But, there’s no compelling reason to be interested in or care about Brittany. In the current storyline, our would-be heroine goes to work as a singer for Bobby Marsino--provided she strip her clothes off while she sings. Brittany plays indignant at first, but soon agrees, and becomes Marilyn the singing stripper, an the star attraction at Marsino’s. She keeps this hidden from all the significant people in her life, but, one by one, they find out, and, shockingly, they think it’s a bad idea! Brittany defends herself with the same speech: “It’s my body, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just a stepping stone to a bigger career.” Brittany, if it’s no big deal, then why hide it from everyone? And why did you say no when Raul asked if it was okay to come down every night and watch you strip?

Bobby continues to lead Brittany on with promises of introducing her to music bigwigs, and even set up a meeting for her with an evil Howie Mandel lookalike a while back. Of course, this guy was more concerned with how Brittany’s father was causing trouble for Marsino’s, which he has an interest in. Yeah, all those big music types spend their days worrying about their investment in small town strip joints, don’t they?

It has been hinted at that Brittany didn’t get enough attention as she was growing up, from her father, town banker Frederick Hodges. Awwww! Cry me a river. Perhaps the writers are so busy crafting the psychological underpinnings of every other character that they’re just spent when they get around to ol’ Britt. Because the “Daddy didn’t read me enough bedtime stories” motivation is pencil thin. And Bobby’s “I’m gonna make you a star” crap is so absurd, Brittany would have to be the dumbest woman in Genoa City to believe it--and Sharon is not ready to give up that crown!

Raul isn’t much better. Understandably, he is not thrilled at everyone being able to see his girlfriend’s goodies on display twice nightly. Like most normal men, he wants that pleasure reserved for himself and a few close friends. (Kidding!--At least that’s what my editors tell me to say.) But, why doesn’t he just get a spine and dump Brittany once and for all? One day, he’s through with her, the next day, they’re having sex. Recently, Raul hit a new low by enlisting his diabetes in the fight against stripping, by not eating right and letting his blood sugar drop to low levels, causing Brittany to have to take care of him. when that quickly fell apart, Raul said it was all due to stress over the stripping. Raul, just throw her out of the apartment, and padlock it already!

The story hasn’t been all bad. It’s served as a backdrop for the twisted tale of Kevin Fisher, allowing more insight into his female hang-ups. The side story of Frederick’s battles with Bobby have also been interesting. Frederick has the respect of the community, and was able to temporarily close the place down, and cut off the cash flow to Bobby, even though he makes his current loan payments on time. But, Bobby’s got friends in low places, and they’re ready to put the squeeze on Mr. Hodges.

And, of course, the crowd scenes at Brittany’s performances are always a hoot. How do you go about coaching a bunch of extras in a strip joint scene anyway? “Okay gang, remember to whoop it up! Yeah, I know you can see her ribs, but act like she’s the hottest thing going! And, remember--this is for scale!” The way these guys carry on, you’d think Janet Jackson had unleashed both boobies.

But, every time this story focuses on the two principles, Genoa City becomes Snooze City.

THE BAD: Sharon and the Body.

Just when you thought Sharon was losing her neurosis and gaining her spine, comes the twisted tale of Sharon and Cameron Kirsten. Cameron is a major businessman looking to forge an alliance with Newman Enterprises. Current NE head Nick Newman is working to make that happen. As part of that goal, Nick decided to schmooze Cameron with a lovely dinner between Cameron, himself, and his wife Sharon. He even asked Sharon to wear something a little sexy, cause, you know, he wants to show her off. (See, editors. I said we like to share)

One problem with that. Remember when Sharon was away from Nick, trying to find herself? It seems that one night she found herself in a hotel bar in Seattle. She found herself engaged in conversation with a lonely man. Then she found herself engaging in rough sex in the man’s hotel room. Then she found herself being smacked around, and nearly smothered to death by the man. You see, when Cameron likes it rough...

Sharon escaped from the room, and, not surprisingly, quickly decided to file this incident under “Things I Won’t Tell My Husband”. But now, Mr. Kirsten is in Genoa City and doing business with Nick. In short order, Cameron discovered that Nick’s wife is his Seattle siren, and begin to taunt Sharon about whether he was going to reveal the truth. When Cameron hinted that he might reveal it at an upcoming dinner Nick arranged for Cameron, Sharon, and himself, Sharon did what anyone in her position would do--she brought along her two small kids and used them as human pervert shields, hoping Cameron wouldn’t be dastardly enough to reveal such sordid details in front of impressionable youngsters. She was right. Cameron may be a sick pervert, but he’s no Justin Timberlake.

In truth, Cameron was perfectly willing to never tell Nick the truth--provided that Sharon enter into a continuing affair with him. Cameron coerced Sharon into helping him throw a New Year’s Eve party, so he could meet all of Genoa City’s wheelers and dealers. After the party, Cameron left and instructed Sharon to come to his hotel room for some excitement. Sharon arrived, and informed him she would not be participating in anything with him. Cameron pushed Sharon to the bed, and repeatedly ordered her to take off her dress, implying that bad things would happen if she didn’t. As a response, Sharon reached for the nearest champagne bottle and busted Cameron’s head wide open.

Sharon, still clearly in shock, did what anyone who had just killed a man in self-defense would do--she lugged the body out of the hotel, down to an alley, and buried it under snow. Then, she went back to the hotel room and straightened it, cause nothing says “non-premeditation” like moving bodies and tampering with crime scenes.

Acting as the voice of the audience throughout all this is Sharon’s attorney, Michael Baldwin (yes, he does get around), who begged Sharon to tell the truth about Cameron to Nick--then begged her to threaten to press charges against Cameron if he threatened to tell Nick; then begged her to immediately go to the police when she killed Cameron; then begged her to go to the police even though she moved the body; then, begged her not to move it again--you get the idea.

This is like a bad Bette Davis movie without Bette Davis. A woman has a secret, yet rather than tell the secret, she ends up committing murder to protect it. I don’t know what Sharon Case did to deserve such contempt, but the writing for Sharon Newman has been largely hideous ever since the return of Matt Clark story from about three years ago. No matter what other people around her do, especially husband Nick, we’re only supposed to see Sharon’s flaws and Sharon’s stupidity. When Sharon returned last summer, there were quotes to the soap mags, to the effect of: “Can Nick--and the audience--ever forgive Sharon for what she’s done?” Can I forgive her for putting up with years of emotional abuse at the hands of her husband and his lunkhead family? Is that what they meant? Sharon’s return showed a woman who had definitely made mistakes, and had to deal with the consequences. But, it was also a woman who knew that, save her children, there were no innocents in this situation. Sharon gave as good as she got, and was willing to take her lumps for what she did--but not a bit more. That Sharon was interesting, believable, and a natural outgrowth of the storyline. Why that person has been chucked for dumber-than-ever Sharon, and a repeat of the late show is beyond me.

THE UGLY: Kay/Jill

Did I say ugly? Could a storyline steeped in history, featuring the show’s two biggest veteran characters, acted by such talents as Jeanne Cooper and Jess Walton possibly be ugly?

Yep.

For the uninitiated, a brief recap of recent events:

Kay and Jill are mortal enemies. (If you don’t know the history behind that, ask your neighbor, cause this column is running over budget already). There have been moments where they’ve been cordial to each other, even concerned about each other, but they are few and far between. Jill’s son, Billy, fell for Kay’s granddaughter, Mackenzie and the two had plans to be married.

Jill’s mother, Liz, enters the picture with bad news: she has a brain tumor, and may not survive surgery. Jill can barely recover from this, when Liz drops the other bomb--Liz isn’t Jill’s biological mother. See, after Liz had Greg, she couldn’t have any more children. And she really wanted a girl, so her husband obtained Jill.

After the sufficient amount of red tape, Jill discovered that her biological mother was an alcoholic named Charlotte. Because it was her mother, and she saw good qualities in her, Jill tried to help Charlotte recover. Besides, Charlotte seemed to be the only person who agreed with her that Billy and Mac should not get married. Hell, Charlotte was more upset at the prospect than she was!

And with good reason: It turned out that Charlotte was an old friend of Kay’s. During a period of separation from her first husband, Kay had an affair, which resulted in a pregnancy. Kay had the baby, and paid off Charlotte to make arrangements for it to be adopted. I bet those of you playing at home can guess the rest.

The shock of learning that Jill was Kay’s daughter was so horrible that Kay had a stroke. Jill convinced Brock that she could see to Kay’s care--Kay is her mother, after all, and she’s had a stroke! In reality, Jill was trying to figure out how to get a piece of Mrs. C’s estate. Jill also wanted to ship her to a nice sanitarium, until Kay, who had largely recovered from the stroke a while ago, begged Jill not to do it. Kay was testing Jill to see if there could ever be a true mother/daughter connection.

Further tests ensued, leading to Kay’s decision to move out, giving free reign to the Chancellor estate. Not surprisingly, Jill, whose been calling the place a mausoleum for years, decided to have the place completely remodeled. When Kay saw her living room in ruins, she fell right off the wagon.

This is not just bad, this is frighteningly bad. Y&R has a well-deserved reputation for preserving its’ history, and carefully planning its’ stories. This storyline does neither. With a few pen strokes, decades of history has been thrown out for a cheap plot twist. And for what purpose? To facilitate an end to the Kay/Jill feud? There were already strong hints that Jill was drinking a little too much, and that Kay was going to help her. Why not just do that story, without the insult of another DNA do-over? It damn sure beats Kay hitting the bottle because her house is getting an extreme makeover.

This story isn’t doing Jeanne Cooper any favors either. Her snarling drunk scenes are perfect--for a Broadway play. But, this is soap opera, so will she kindly stop acting to the back of the room? Wait, never mind--she is acting to the back of the room. The back of the room the Daytime Emmy judges sit in when they’re reviewing the clip reels. As we all know, too often those that scream the loudest and keep the judges awake, get the Emmy. In fact, this whole story looks like such a shameless Emmy grab, that I had to check the credits and make sure Jill Farren Phelps wasn’t consulting.

And that’s the problem. This story looks like a lot of things--a buzz inducer, a ratings stunt, a Emmy grabber--it looks like any number of things but a good solid storyline.

THE UGLIEST: Paul/Christine/etc...

What else is there to say about these two? They leave destruction in their wake, taking down whoever’s in their path. After the 2002 “rape”, which I believe the Y&R staffers have now conceded was a rape, things got worse. Let me give the lowlights as quickly way possible:

--After spending a few months out of town, Chris returned, in disguise, sporting a stupid southern accent. She did this to spy on Michael and Paul, as well as trick Isabella into giving up info on her “deadly” ex-husband. Paul confessed his sins to this mystery woman, who revealed herself and forgave him. Awwww.

--Chris decided to marry Michael, but Michael had an uncharacteristic, out-of-nowhere, left field, deus ex machina change of heart, and confessed he and Isabella had plotted Chris and Paul’s breakup all along.

---Paul and Isabella decided to pack up and move to LA, and Paul went ahead to find a place to live. Chris hopped on the plane, told Paul everything, and the two had (consensual) sex on the beach. They returned to Genoa City, and Paul moved for a divorce. Isabella continued to be a bitch, which brought out the homicidal tendencies in Paul and Chris. In one scene, Isabella accidentally cut herself, and became very fixated on her own blood.

--Soon, Izzy disappeared. The apartment was a mess, and blood stains were everywhere. Chris had blacked out, and only had vague memories of fighting with Isabella. Evidence suggested that Chris killed her, rented a boat, and rowed her body out to the lake. Michael paid the boat person to keep quiet, which came in handy for Victor’s blackmail.

--Seeing the writing on the wall, Chris knew she’d have to submit to the legal system. So, she decided to enjoy one last evening of freedom, with a nice warm bath, set to classical music on a Bose system. Okay, they didn’t say Bose--but that sound was so rich, it had to be! (I’m not above product placement). Just as Chris was relaxing, she looked up to find an unexpected visitor. SHOCKER--it was Isabella! See, Izzy had drugged Chris, faked her murder, planted evidence, all to get her out of Paul’s life once and for all. Unfortunately, sometime during those weeks she was in seclusion, it dawned on Isabella that as long as she played dead, she couldn’t have Paul or her son. But, if she came back, then Chris would be released from jail, etc. So what’s a needy maniac to do? Kill Chris, and pass it off as suicide, that’s what. Before she could succeed, Paul, the other needy maniac, returned, found Isabella, and punched her out. Just add “wife beater” to Paul’s resume.

Isabella was shipped off to jail, and no, we never learned the true origins of the connection between her and Michael, so thanks for that dropped thread. After things died down, it looked like Chris and Paul were going to get back together, but Chris stopped short of committing to him. Paul’s priest brother came back, heard his tale of woe, and suggested that the two crazy kids might be obsessed with each other instead of in love, which was a nice attempt at covering the corner they’d been written into. See, it was all deeply psychological!

Currently, Paul is dating Lauren, and Chris is dallying with ex-hubby Danny. Yep, Danny’s back, and it’s official: this story can’t get any worse. Yeah, Danny lied about having a thriving career, and abandoned a kid that’s not even his in an European boarding school, but it beats rapist and wife beater any day of the week!

That concludes this column. (Aren’t you glad?) Reading through the good, the bad, and the ugly of America’s no. 1 soap could be taxing for anybody. But, if you absolutely, positively, haven’t had your fix, then read our Best and Worst of 2003 article.

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Thanks for posting this. I popped in and out of Y&R in 2003 (I mostly wanted to see the Katherine/Jill stuff -- I was never offended by the idea of their being related as long as it provided some decent story, which I think it did for about a year or so) and didn't get the full picture. Now I have more of an overall glimpse.

It's funny the things that are taken for granted at that time, like Nick hating his father (NEVER allowed today), or Kevin being seen as a pariah (now he's not only accepted, he's treated as a town saint and moral arbiter!). I was also reminded of how complex Michael used to be.

So was Damon ever very popular with fans? This article basically says he easily filled Malcolm's place but I seem to remember he was drummed out after not all that long.

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So was Damon ever very popular with fans? This article basically says he easily filled Malcolm's place but I seem to remember he was drummed out after not all that long.

I liked Damon, even if was just there to fill Y&R's quota for having an AA hunk(and hunk he was!) but in the end they ended up not using Damon's full potential with him, Dru, and Phyllis and wrote him out with the utterly bad Adrienne story in 2005.

It was Smith's missteps of 2004 that caused Y&R to lose the momentum(dropping storylines, lame returns) it had built up in 2003. Of course came 2005 and it all went downhill fast.

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Sad to think that no character on Y&R can bring up Kevin's past or that his victims can't get angry without being chastised by fans. I remember the huge amount of vile towards Adrienne Leon's Colleen when she was pissed at Kevin for trying to kill her. I've even read post where people actually blamed Lily for what Kevin did to her.

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I think with Kevin, you need one good character to say to him. Have you look in the mirror. You can't judge until you pay for what you had done.

The thing with Lily is that people didn't like CK. So it was alright that Kevin did what he did. CKLily was so needy & she didn't want to be by herself. & people like LFColleen & she warn her. But CKLily didn't care that her friend, who would put her life on the line for her. That also probably got people upset with CKLily. They probably blame CKLily for Colleen getting caught up in that burning resturant.

I really didn't mind Jill & Katherine being family. It's what LML & now MAB are doing that makes me hate Jill not being rlated to Katherine.

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Y&R really went downhill following Bell's death. Even though Bell was no longer HW, his influence was still there behind Alden and Smith. In a way you can compare that to ATWT post-Marland, in that the show could never be quite the same or subsequent writers ruining a legacy.

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I don’t know what Sharon Case did to deserve such contempt, but the writing for Sharon Newman has been largely hideous ever since the return of Matt Clark story from about three years ago. No matter what other people around her do, especially husband Nick, we’re only supposed to see Sharon’s flaws and Sharon’s stupidity. When Sharon returned last summer, there were quotes to the soap mags, to the effect of: “Can Nick--and the audience--ever forgive Sharon for what she’s done?” Can I forgive her for putting up with years of emotional abuse at the hands of her husband and his lunkhead family? Is that what they meant? Sharon’s return showed a woman who had definitely made mistakes, and had to deal with the consequences. But, it was also a woman who knew that, save her children, there were no innocents in this situation. Sharon gave as good as she got, and was willing to take her lumps for what she did--but not a bit more. That Sharon was interesting, believable, and a natural outgrowth of the storyline. Why that person has been chucked for dumber-than-ever Sharon, and a repeat of the late show is beyond me.

Poor Sharon has been on a downhill for a while hasn't she? It's still better than what has become of her now. I wonder what Tom Smith would say about the show now?

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