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News for the week of 01-Oct-2012

by Carol Banks Weber

CBS senior vice president of daytime, Angelica McDaniel, reassured fans somewhat by saying Y&R and “flagship program” in one sentence, signaling longevity and not cancellation as suffered by ABC Daytime soaps. In a September 27th Variety piece by Michael Maloney, McDaniel responded to mention of Maria Arena Bell’s ouster as EP/HW with the same edict new EP Jill Farren Phelps brought up in an earlier interview: this is merely a means to update the soap, not take it away. “These kinds of changes are not something you take lightly,” explained McDaniel, who was on board with the regime change. “This was about asking, ‘How do we modernize the show a little bit and continue to tell relevant stories as times have changed?’”

For the longest time under EP/HW Maria Arena Bell, fans, some actors, and the soap media’s critics complained about the lack of cohesion, too many new characters, not enough of the core, and a misdirected focus on stupid plot points that went nowhere. With the regime change in executive producer Jill Farren Phelps and head writer Josh Griffith, all that will change, back to basics, yet modernized and for the better. At least, that’s what Griffith promised in a brief preview interview with TV Guide columnist Michael Logan [“Exclusive: New Young and the Restless Head Writer Josh Griffith Talks About the Future,” September 24, 2012].

The number one priority for Griffith is to refocus back on the core characters and core families that made Y&R the number one soap. That was hard to do with so many other characters coming onto the canvas, he admitted. “You can't get into really meaty, juicy, rich storytelling when you have to cover so much ground and serve so many characters. We also came in with a budgetary mandate from Sony and really had to tighten the belt. We looked at the characters that didn't have long-reaching history and connection to the heart of the show and made the tough call to cut them loose so we can focus on the core.”

Once the core characters are back in place and ready to go with stories, Griffith and Phelps intend to beef up certain families too – Neil’s, a new Latin community, give Sharon a grand redemptive love story without sacrificing the Newmans in any way (think of Victor as King Lear), give Jack something else to think about (sounds like he’ll remove the bullet and suffer from a flaccid penis), giving Katherine and Jill a juicy business-related story, when Katherine decides to get out of retirement and helm Chancellor. It’s too bad the previous regime got rid of Eileen Davidson (ex-Ashley), because she belongs to that group of core, legacy characters Griffith’s dying to write for.

Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki) is an old-school Y&R veteran actress trained under the great, late Bill Bell. As such, Thomas Scott let TPTB do their jobs, while she kept her head down and did hers as an actress. Even with the new regime – she recently attended a meeting at their request – she will continue onwards as she’s been, doing her acting job while the EP/head writer do theirs. (Although, she wouldn’t complain if they sought to bring back Nikki’s alcoholism.) On the event of Y&R’s 10,000th episode (last Thursday), the beloved actress spoke briefly with Michael Fairman for a September 27th-posted interview. At the mere mention of their names, Thomas Scott gushed over her on-screen children, Joshua Morrow (Nick) and Amelia Heinle (Victoria) thusly: “Amelia is an angel straight from heaven. I love just being in her air space. Whatever problem you might have, it seems a little better when Amelia is present. It is so true. She is magical! I don’t think she even knows she is doing this. It just happens. Amelia can do no wrong in my eyes, and she is an amazing actress to boot. Joshua is also a very special soul, who can make you double over with laughter. Ah, if I only I were younger and he weren’t my son … but rehearsals, that’s another story. [Laughs]”

Jennifer Landon (Heather) isn’t a part of the group of core characters. Hence, she was recently let go as rumored. Head writer Josh Griffith confirmed this. He did, however, add that the cast cutting is done for the time being.

Joshua Morrow (Nick) and Sharon Case (Sharon) relived their smoking hot chemistry on The Talk’s September 26th show—but at the expense of the Phyllis & Nick fans, and maybe Michelle Stafford. They appeared as guests on the CBS talk show to promote their soap’s 10,000th episode last Thursday, when talk went to their characters’ love storied past. This is when Morrow spoke up for the pairing, making Phick fans probably feel like chopped liver on behalf of Phyllis: “It’s kind of like a Romeo and Juliet situation. These two characters literally grew up together as their first love. I truly believe in my heart they belong together at the end of the day.” Cognizant of how that might’ve come off, Morrow tried to do damage control on Twitter by apologizing to Stafford for the gaffe. Stafford, in return, tweeted that she was fine with it. See Y&R Gossip below for what fans really thought.

Christel Khalil (Lily) re-signed, sticking around for an as-yet-revealed time.

Thom Bierdz (ex-Phillip Chancellor III, circa 1980s) campaigned creatively to new executive producer Jill Farren Phelps for a chance to return as a core character and play out a major gay love story. Bierdz took to YouTube to sing/rap (“There is no gay love on the number one soap,” “Why can’t the Gay Chancellor have a date?”) his job application, complete with clips from his past on Y&R. The down-to-earth, unconventional actor isn’t plugged into Hollywood at all. He lives in Lake Arrowhead (where the YouTube video took place), sells his portraiture and himself as an artist solely on Facebook and YouTube, and figured this video application was his best bet to catch JFP’s attention. “I have 8,000 Facebook friends and they keep urging me to talk to Jill but I do not have an agent and have no way of getting in contact with her,” Bierdz told Soap Opera Digest online. “So I thought, ‘Why not YouTube an intro to her?’” Bierdz took to YouTube before to find a boyfriend—and did, btw—and makes no apologies for it. “I don't care if people misinterpret my videos as desperate. I live alone in a secluded forest paradise and make my living as a portrait artist strictly through Facebook. The only way I market myself is via FB and YouTube, so I think it's convenient and enterprising, not desperate. But I am fine with people thinking I am desperate. I told you that after my mid-life crisis, I care a lot less what people think of me. I really like me at this point.”

A fan petition is fast making the rounds online, to encourage executive producer Jill Farren Phelps to rehire Thom Bierdz II (ex-Phillip Chancellor). Put together by huge fan Rita E. Henderson September 27—with the actor’s backing—the petition reads in part: “It is with the utmost respect that we petition you Ms. Phelps to bring Phillip Chancellor III, Thom Bierdz back to the Young & The Restless. We have been enjoying Phillip since 1986, and love his work. Days of Our Lives is doing a gay storyline and the actor won a Daytime Emmy, but this is about Thom, who is an asset to the show. Daytime Confidential, Soap Opera Digest, Michael Fairman, and many many more soap opera media are behind him. All of us cannot be wrong. We do not wish to offend you, but only to show our love for Thom's work as Phillip Chancellor III. Please bring him back in any capacity, even if recurring just to test the waters. Respectfully, signed, the friends and fans of Thom Bierdz II.” If JFP hires Bierdz on contract and gives him a full-blown gay love story, I will be her cheerleader from now on. That’s a promise.

Gossip for the week of 01-Oct-2012

by Carol Banks Weber

Word on the street is Victoria Rowell will soon reprise her role as Drucilla, prompting the  probable immediate and voluntary exits of Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) and Christel Khalil (Lily). Khalil may have re-signed only for a short while until Rowell hits the screen. Rumor has it that Rowell’s return is a deal-breaker for Khalil and Stafford. Bad blood. Rowell tweeted last week that she hadn’t heard a peep out of TPTB.

Eric Braeden (Victor) finally joined Twitter—and immediately got in hot water by putting Michael Muhney (Adam) in his place for tweeting a negative remark about the current storyline featuring Victor presumed dead: “4 an actor who has been on Y&R a mere 3yrs to suggest the present storyline involving a 30yr veteran is ‘insulting’ is delusional arrogance.” Muhney’s tweet, made earlier September 24th, was: “The fact that basically every resident of Genoa City believes Victor is dead for the 148th time is insulting to the actors & the audience.” Muhney never learns to stop grandstanding for attention, does he? Read the comment frivolity over at Daytime Confidential.

Joshua Morrow (Nick) – a nice guy IRL too, how rare – thought he put his foot in his mouth after his joint guest appearance with Sharon Case (Sharon) on The Talk last week. He told the talk show co-hosts that he believed Nick and Sharon were each other’s true loves and should be together in the end. Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) tweeted and RT’d with fans around that very topic, prompting Morrow to apologize profusely for hurting his friend: “I bothered some people 2day & my amazing co star @TheRealStafford by sayin I thot Nick&Sharon belong 2gether - Red Tornado ya know I love ya.” She tweeted that she was fine with it, even encouraging the Shick pairing (“I totally hope @JoshuaMorrowYR gets to play the story he wants. He's a doll and it has totally been my pleasure working with him everyday:)”), if that was his heart’s desire. Fans are calling her RTs and replies passive-aggressive. She says get over it: “And for all u Tweeps who think I am mad at @JoshuaMorrowYR or am hurt by him...get over it... I forever have mad love for him...” What do you think? Damn, drama behind the scenes is better than the show.

Read in Daytime Confidential’s comments section (I’m telling you guys, it’s the best part) that the Avery/Nick sex romp may have been cut short by Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), and that Stafford prefers the Phick couple to Phack (Phyllis & Jack), because it looks better on-screen for her to be with a hot, younger guy? LaDivaYR posted September 27th this juicy opinion: “Michelle Stafford is getting desperate. Someone just mentioned on Twitter that she keeps asking for younger and younger leading men. First Nick, then Ronan, maybe Kyle next? She's almost 50 years old, kissing a hot guy 15 years her junior (Ronan) won't change that! I think she's freaking out because the new writer told TV Guide that Phyllis is going back to Jack and she doesn't want to work with an old(er) guy like Peter Bergman? I don't know but she's acting like a fool right now. I hope JFP schools her once and for all!” Stafford doesn’t age, so I’m not sure how much merit these slams have.

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