Yesterday, I posted about The Young and the Restless, which is generating a huge amount of buzz.
Y&R has definitely delivered several old-school soap surprises, which many other shows have forgotten how to do. And they’ve dropped those buzz-generating bombs rapid fire. Mary Jane is Patty! Adam isn’t really blind! Cane isn’t a Chancellor! Phillip is ALIVE! Phillip is gay!
I definitely see Paul Rauch’s influence on the show. There are days where it reminds me of mid-1970s Another World – the sets, the tempo of the conversations. And it’s been really entertaining to watch. But not everything has clicked. Here’s a few comments from the peanut gallery about what isn’t working, or needs more work.
PRODIGAL SON RETURNS: What could be more dramatic than little Phillip – er, Phillip Chancellor III – returning from the dead! It’s a genius move that takes care of several threads. It undoes the Cane-as-a-Chancellor story (which many people liked about as much as they liked Jill and Kay being mother and daughter), and it affects so many people in town – including the newly-returned Nina.
So why was I completely underwhelmed by these scenes?
I don’t mean just the above scene. It just all felt…..muted. The performer who REALLY sold it for me, who really brought out the truth in this situation was the amazing Tricia Cast. Cast’s return, in my humble opinion, is the BIGGEST and BEST news Y&R has had all year.
I think the reason it all feels so muted is Thom Bierdz’ performance. Bierdz played Phillip over twenty years ago and is indelibly etched into our memories as Phillip. And his return to Y&R is a great personal triumph; he’s worked through a number of personal challenges and tragedies, and it’s fantastic that he’s able to overcome those issues.
But Bierdz’s performance since his return has been very muted – in some cases, almost monotone in its quiet nature. I’m not sure if he’s just rusty, or whether those personal challenges have made it harder, if not impossible, to open up and be vulnerable as an actor, but it’s affected the Phillip-is-alive story and what could have been a far more explosive impact.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS: I’ve complained about this with other shows, particularly As The World Turns. And individually, many of the stories Y&R have been telling are engaging and exciting.
But there’s been a crush of depressing, dark stories. At least 4 characters have been in prison in the last few months. Summer nearly died from her allergies (not a fun story for any moms or dads watching). Ashley’s lost her baby (and doesn’t know it). The whole Daniel/Amber/Jana/Kevin story has had few bright spots, and Deacon’s arrival made that even darker. (Making Deacon a rapist didn’t help. And yes, when he’s blackmailing Amber to sleep with him, it’s rape. If Sami was raped by EJ, then Deacon surely raped Amber.)
And now Lily’s cancer story is playing out. In and of itself? It’s a great story for Lily and Cane. It’s just when it plays on the same day that Summer is trying to learn to speak again, and Ashley is clutching a baby that doesn’t exist, it’s depressing as hell. A little balance could go a long way towards making the show more watchable.
The ironic thing? Is that Y&R has two performers who inject humor and fun into all of their scenes, and those two performers – Elizabeth Hendrickson and Billy Miller – have been back-burnered for the past few months!
MAC ATTACK: Bringing back Mac – with Clementine Ford playing her – has been problematic for the show. This nuMac has been an unpopular recast.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say: I like Clementine Ford. I know that she was a jarring recast, that it’s taken her a while to fit into the role, and that from time to time she’s still a bit awkward onscreen. But I think Bell/Rauch see what I see: there is something really interesting about her. She’s beautiful in a very unusual way.
I think part of the issue is that Mac has always been somewhat of a smart girl/tomboy. Suddenly, on this go-round, she’s wearing evening dresses and has long fussy hair (thanks to extensions). I remember watching an episode where she walked from a room in the Chancellor house to the front door, and it was painful to watch. Mac (and Ford) walked in heels about as well as I do!
But that’s partly because that’s not who Mac is. She’s not high heels and ballgowns. She’s a shy, hesitant young woman who’s still figuring out who she is. (That’s how I remember the original Mac, as played by Ashley Bashioum.) I wish Y&R would let Ford be that Mac without trying to glam her up. I think Ford could surprise us yet.
Anything you’d like to add to the “repair” list?