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Article: Teens: Why Y&R Gets Them----And ABC doesn't...


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In light of recent spoilers I thought it might be appropriate to post this:

TEENS: WHY Y&R GETS THEM---

by Tom Smith

July 3, 2000

TEENS: WHY Y&R GETS THEM---

The Young and the Restless continues to show me why they are still number one for twelve years running. (Well, it won’t be twelve years until August. But who’ll beat them in the next month? OLTL?) But, the real kicker is the way Y&R is wowing me all over again--- with a teen storyline!

I’m no fan of teen storylines on the soaps in general, and especially those on Y&R. Y&R’s last major foray into the teen world about 6 years ago got everything wrong. Like most teen storylines, that one was a quartet. Who can forget Nick, Sharon....Amy,and.....what the hell was that other guy’s name? Oh, this is embarrassing. Matt! Matt Clark. I don’t know why I didn’t remember him before; he’s actually been mentioned recently.

The storyline was a flop for many reasons. 1) Only one of the characters was actually tied to a core family. (Nick) 2) Recasts. It was hard to get a bead on Sharon when they recast the part every month. 3) The storyline itself. Y&R can be very melodramatic when it wants to be, and this was no exception. TheNick/Sharon star-crossed lovers a la Romeo and Juliet was predictable, if boring. Okay, Sharon’s got a kid that she gave up for adoption. That’s an interesting touch. Matt Clark, Genoa City’s answer to Reggie Mantle, also has a thing for Sharon. Matt rapes Sharon. Sharon is too scared to come forward but does warn friend Amy about Matt. Amy doesn’t listen. Matt rapes Amy. Amy retaliates with a gun. Amy flees and ends up in a hospital in a state of mental breakdown. Nick enters the scene. Nick is arrested and tried for Matt’s attempted murder. Nick goes to jail. Nick does hard time, until Amy recovers, and Nick is proven innocent. Matt escapes for parts unknown; Amy leaves town. Both are promptly forgotten.

The story started off bland and dull, and degenerated into a melodramatic mess. Worse, this story was featured nearly every day, leading some to ask where was the Restless portion of The Young and the Restless? (Remember when Jeanne Cooper (Kay)disappeared for about two years? How did they get along without her?)

So, when Y&R began laying the groundwork for another teen quartet last year, my antenna went up. How outrageous where we going to be this time? Which would count more--character or story? Would the casting process value talent over beauty? (Y&R’s casting department has never been the best period.) This cynic was prepared to have his cynicism validated.

Ah, but I was wrong! I forgot I was watching a show that can learn from its’ mistakes. At the center of this quartet is Billy Abbott and Mackenzie Browning. Billy is a somewhat spoiled rich kid; Mac is a hard-nosed waif who just found out she was rich, upon learning she was granddaughter of Kay Chancellor. Billy is the son of Jill Foster Abbott (whatever her last name is these days.) Jill and Kay genuinely hate each other. Not made-up, plot convenient hate; I’m talking hate that has been built up, on-screen, from the beginning for a quarter of a century. Billy and Mac act like they can’t stand each other, but it’s a classic love disguised as hate relationship. The reason they think they can’t stand each other is they’re too much alike. Both neglected by their parents, feeling like they really didn’t fit in. (Of course, Billy did have his father. Mac’s father didn’t know she existed until late last year.) Billy has alcohol abuse problems, though they seem to have ended, now that he’s recovered from a recent alcohol-induced coma. Mac ran away to escape a troubled life with her mother and stepfather. (A life which may contain more serious problems than have been revealed yet.) Thinking they have no business together, Mac and Billy have gravitated to other relationships that seem more suited to them. Mac has taken up with the genuinely nice, working class Raul (Billy’s old friend from grade school.) Billy is dating Brittany, the spoiled, upper class snot. But, you know Billy and Mac are going to hook up in the end.

There’s a number of things that work in this story:

1) The story itself. The basic setup could easily lead Y&R to ripoff its’ earlier, disastrous 1994 story, or virtually every other teen story on soapsever. And, though it was obvious what was happening from the beginning, the writers took the time to let us get to know Billy, Mac, Raul, and Brittany from the beginning as characters by themselves. That way, we can genuinely care and be interested, not just in the quadrangle itself, but in the characters who make it up. I care about Billy. I don’t want him to drink anymore. I want him to have a good relationship with his parents. I want Mac to be happy, not just with Billy, but by herself. I want her to trust her grandmother and father and not feel isolated. I cringe when I think about how Raul will feel when he learns of the attraction between Billy and Mac. And Brittany? I’m not sure what to think of her. Is she completely shallow and self-absorbed? Is there a heart in there somewhere? What’s her story?

2) Social relevance. Billy’s a teenage alcoholic. Mac had a terrible home life, and lived on the streets for months. This could easily be an Afterschool Special. But it’s not. Instead, these issues are played as backstory for the characters, facts that add to and give insight into why they are the way they are. This story manages to have some social relevancy, while still making the story about the characters, instead of being a giant P.S.A.

3) The actors. David Tom (Billy) is a find. I rolled the eyes a bit when hearing that Heather Tom(Victoria)’s brother was being hired, but the only thing I learned was that talent runs in the family. And can I say enough about Ashley Bashioum (Mac)? Mac has to be a very tough character to play--secretive and untrusting, yet still vulnerable, wanting to be happy, wanting to reach out. And the point I made earlier about talent before beauty? I want to put this very delicately. Bashioum is a very attractive girl, yet she is not tv-pretty, and definitely not Y&R pretty. In fact, Bashioum sports a gap in her front teeth that I didn’t expect to see on CBS before 11:30at night. But, for once, TPTB have put talent before model-perfect looks, and everyone has been greatly rewarded as a result. Mac’s beauty comes from her spirit and her strong will, something that comes from Bashioum as much as the writers. David Lago (Raul) is very convincing as the eager best friend/ boy next door Raul. And I want to pay credit to the newly recast Brittany, but I can’t find the actress’ name. (Help!) And, don’t forget our vets! Jeanne Cooper as Kay and Jess Walton as Jill, futhering their own storyline as they support the teens. Beau Kauser as Brock, Mac’s father, desperate to reach out to the daughter he just found out he had. And with Jill’s recent attempts to push Brittany as the next model for cosmetics company, Jabot, we have Peter Bergman and Eillen Davidson getting into the act. Actually, as Billy’s half-brother and sister, Jack and Ashley, Bergman and Davidson have had supporting roles all along. Which leads me to...

4) Mixing it up! No storyline should be an island,but too often, soaps compartmentalize themselves. The teen story is over here, the spy story is over there, the business story there--and there’s no mixing. The teen story is not just connected to veteran characters, it’s feeding into and off of their stories. Good job.

In short, Y&R has slowly built up a teen storyline well-written, well-layered, and well-cast. It’s at the point where it’s no longer a teen story, it’s a major story, worthy of being followed along with any other front-burner plot. That’s the highest praise I can give it.

.

...AND ABC DOESN’T

Would it be a column without a little ranting? You may or may not have heard of a new campaign ABC Daytime has started in a shameless demo grab attempting to lure 16-22 year old viewers. Going with the reasoning, “if you’re not hooked by 25, you never will be”--no data given to verify this by the way, it’s just thrown out there--ABC has instituted a TV campaign that showcases it’s teen characters. First, we see a shot of a teen character on the screen for about 3 seconds, grooving around or whatever. Then, we see a word that describes the character--for OLTL’s Jessica, we get spunky, or GH’s Juan gets dreamer. Then, it cuts back to character who says something pithy. (OLTL’s Jessica: “Don’t underestimate me.” GH’s Juan: “I’m goin places.”) The end.

Yep, that’s it. A desperate ABC daytime, practically willing to prostitute itself for young viewers, spends a year developing ad campaigns to target the young,and we get ten second glamour shots featuring characters that can be summed up in one word. I’ve been summing up ABC Daytime’s teens in one word for years now: BORING. And a series of commercials that scream how vapid and one-dimensional they are ain’t gonna change my mind. And I doubt it will change anyone else’s.

The sad thing is that Y&R is on old-fogy network CBS, yet they’ve learned how to do younger stories better than the network that brought young people to daytime. Lest you forget, it was ABC that turned it’s struggling soap lineup around in the 1960’s with the help of teens, and adolescents. It was on ABC in the Summer of 1966, that a little phenomenon called DarkShadows was born. And it was January 5, 1970 that ABC launched All My Children, a soap that broke new ground by featuring a teenage love story and playing it with equal weight. It wasn’t just a teen story, it was a love story, as important as any other on the show.

Character and story first. Advertising gimmicks and shameless demograbs second. Learn this, ABC. Y&R did. From you.

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It's funny, because I was much more caught up in the Sharon/Matt/Nick/Amy story than in anything with Billy or Mac. Sharon was, after they hired Sharon Case, a very sympathetic and fairly complicated young woman, Matt was totally believable as the young sociopath, Nick was a square-jawed hero with feet of clay, and Amy was a decent supporting figure who played a big role at the climax of the story.

I never cared about Billy/Mac. I resented that this story was done on the back of Jill. If they did have chemistry it was lost under Mac's lower lip - she was nicknamed Mackenzie Frown. Billy verbally abusing Jill day in and day out. I stopped watching Y&R regularly because of how manipulative this was and how unpleasant it was for me to watch.

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Sharon was, after they hired Sharon Case, a very sympathetic and fairly complicated young woman, Matt was totally believable as the young sociopath, Nick was a square-jawed hero with feet of clay, and Amy was a decent supporting figure who played a big role at the climax of the story.

Good as that story (and Bill's writing) was it succeeded mainly due to the actors (especially Case & Cibrian).

I resented that this story was done on the back of Jill.

It really wasn't.

In fact it was the best stuff Jess & Jill had in YEARS.

If they did have chemistry it was lost under Mac's lower lip - she was nicknamed Mackenzie Frown.

They EASILY had as much chemistry as Nick/Sharon or ANY ABC couple (especially the beloved Liz/Lucky)

Billy verbally abusing Jill day in and day out.

That wasn't ever the case though.

They BOTH gave as good as they got & was some of best work of both actors careers.

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I think at the time I was just so tired of various people yelling at Jill or telling her she was wrong, as she dug up dirt on Mac, and all the stuff with Billy yelling at her about not being a good enough mother. It seemed contrived to me.

I will admit I am biased in Jill's favor and I can see where it was not so one-sided. But I remember at the time one of the soap magazines asked why John did not step in when Billy was viciously tearing into his mother.

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I think at the time I was just so tired of various people yelling at Jill or telling her she was wrong, as she dug up dirt on Mac, and all the stuff with Billy yelling at her about not being a good enough mother. It seemed contrived to me.

But it wasn't contrived (in the least) & she WAS wrong.

Also Billy didn't yell at Jill about being a good enough mother just to yell at her. He had real issues with her (some her doing & some not) made worse by HER stubborn need to control him (just like she did with Phillip).

And for everyone that yelled at Jill she yelled right back at & often attacked (usually unprovoked) so again she gave as good as she got.

I will admit I am biased in Jill's favor and I can see where it was not so one-sided.

That's the thing it was never one sided.

Billy was a jerk to EVERYONE not just Jill for a LONG time.

But I remember at the time one of the soap magazines asked why John did not step in when Billy was viciously tearing into his mother.

John DID step in MANY times when Billy became out of control especially toward Jill.

And the show constantly reinforced John wanting them (Jill & Billy) to grow close & his willingness to work with Jill to parent Billy on both their terms.

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I see what you mean. I sometimes think I have some chemical dislike towards the Billy Abbott character...I don't know.

I do realize that Jill had a much better time in that period than she has in the last decade.

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I sometimes think I have some chemical dislike towards the Billy Abbott character...I don't know.

Which is understandable but Billy was a jerk then cause he was a teenager & was doing what teenagers do (be jerks). :lol:

The difference is that he had in character reasons (insecurity) in addition to being a jerk for his nastiness.

I do realize that Jill had a much better time in that period than she has in the last decade.

Alden did an awesome job with Jill (as she did most of Y&R's female characters) & Jess played the hell out of her.

But she always avoided making Jill a convenient punching bag & always tried to keep Jill sympathetic (if not always likeable).

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so this Y&R teens of 10-15 years ago and not the ones today? Good bc if they were making that comparison for the recent crop of young characters, that would be completely laughable bc as poor as ABC has been, what they have had has been better than Y&R's pathetic, lame attempts

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