I think the main difference is that back then the show actually had more than one story going on simultaneously. Even Ridge's waffling between first Caroline and Brooke and then between Taylor and Brooke never dominated the show so completely as Liam's waffling does now.
It's amazing that this is still going on. (The complaining about players grunting)
I remember that this was an issue already 30 years ago with Monica Seles. There was even talk that the reason she was so thrashed by Graf at Wimbledon 1992 was because she tried to keep her grunting down after opponents earlier in the tournament had complained, and that it affected her play.