Readers of daytimeconfidential can discern the truth of Jamey Giddens' recent critique of Y&R. The state of the show is appalling...but it is also curious. All the elements -- from production to writing to acting -- are THERE...so why is the show so bad?
In short, the problem is the absence of heart...of emotion, nostalgia, or sincere feeling. Even remarkable actors who have bled on the stage for us in the past are clearly not connecting to the rushed, plotty show they're putting on.
My credentials: I have watched Y&R since 1973 (I was a wee 8 year old, but mom put it on). Y&R is so ingrained in the narrative of my life that I view it not from a "technical" perspective, but as someone who knows intuitively when the show is true to its nature. Or when -- as now -- it is not.
Right now, we have a canvas filled with original or veteran faces (Kay, Victor, Jack, Paul, Phyllis, Nick, Sharon, Ashley, Kevin) and characters we saw born on this show (Billy, Victoria, Chloe, Ronan)...but it all feels so flat. Characters are doing things they'd NEVER do (Kay annulling her son's marriage out of spite, Victor throwing a woman out of an ambulance and taking a son away from his father).
This happened once before. After a promising start, Lynn Latham's second year got seriously off the rails, as Nikki (Nikki!) ran for Senate and the entire town clustered around some rural village that was being turned into a resort (Clear Springs). Little made sense. Ratings began to decline precipitously during this period, and continued to do so well into Maria Bell's "rescue regime".
It is curious that Maria Bell's Y&R feels so off right now. We know she's capable of heart. Her nadir-story was "the death of Kay". Kay's funeral and eventual reunion were the ultimate of "heart", as a touching romance bloomed with Murphy, old friends and rivals reunited at Kay's funeral, and Marge got a touching "ghostly farewell" to the tune of Perry Como's "Papa Loves Mambo". Greatness!
But then the Silver Chipmunk happened. It is fair to say that, since then, Y&R has progressively devolved back into a crime riddled (Richard Hightower! Skye's multiple deaths! Patty's reign of terror! Corporate shenanigans!, Diane's murder! Baby stealing! Over-the-top Australian mobsters!) mess. Not only do these stories not elicit feeling or emotion...emotion is decisively left out. Examples:
Diane -- a character with a thirty year tie to Jack -- gets nary a tear (except, maybe, from the terrific Christian Leblanc's Michael). Adam is betrayed by Sharon, and embarks on a spree of revenge (thank heavens Michael Muhney -- and his eyes!! -- work against the malevolence of the tale). Three touching couples are made -- well -- not touching.
- Billy and Victoria: The story here would have been to see them stay together -- fight together -- against obstacles. Instead, they folded as soon as the first marital assault hit them. Where's the rooting value in that?
- Nick and Phyllis: Apparently they're sex buddies again. Okay. The actors still FIRE UP the room in every scene when they're together. So why is there no emotion or tenderness or motivation in their scenes?
- Lily and Daniel: (Controversial here--I know Cane/Lily have major fans). There's something beautifully touching in a pair that damaged their union through youthful mistakes rediscovering each other from a grown up perspective. Daniel feels he doesn't want to be a father (shadows of his own damaged childhood and paternity/maternity issues??)...but could Lily make him feel secure in his nurturing skills, so that he would be a good stepdad to her kids...and even dad to his own Lucy?
There WERE promising emotional stories.
The Lear-esque "Fall of the House of Newman" was especially good...and it really made the most out of Marcy Rylan/Eric Braeden's terrific chemistry. The family was fractured. This promised YEARS of rivalry and reconciliation. Instead...it is over. Forgotten. Done. Huh?
Phyllis -- inexplicably -- tried to pull baby Lucy from the secure loving parents who were raising her. (I guess I get it...it has to do with making up for her own previous shortcomings as a mom). Everyone picked sides. It was an agonizing story. Then...Phyllis got Lucy, was ostracized for week, then Nick and Michael seemed to mostly forgive her...and it's over. Forgotten. Done. Huh?
The Y&R canvas is OVER-STUFFED. The show seems to have little motivation to write for Tricia Cast/Doug Davidson, Kristoff St. John ... Yet the show also refuses to decisively clean house, and to commit to protracted story arcs we can invest in.
These days, I find little compelling material to draw me to the show. There are a few very capable actors (Muhney, Leblanc, Rylan, Thomas-Scott, E. Davidson) who are still finding emotion in every scene they do. There are a few others who rise to the occasion when they can connect with the material (Bergman, Braeden, Heinle, D. Davidson, Stafford). Still others seem utterly emotionally disconnected from this plotty show...even actors who have given us AMAZING performances in the past.
I still check in every day, but more and more reluctantly. My thoughts stray to cable (Breaking Bad, Torchwood, True Blood, Big C, Weeds). B&B (that's another blog post) --always my also-ran soap--has become my first soap of choice!. I guess I'm waiting for Genoa City to welcome me back to a big, nostalgic, sloppy, feel-good-or-feel-bad-BUT-FEEL-SOMETHING homecoming.